Some years ago, NASA released the first deep-space photographs of the beautiful cloud-swirled blue-green agate we call earth. A reporter showed one of them to the late Samuel Shenton, then president of International Flat Earth Research Society. Shenton studied it for a moment and said, "It's easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye."
Well-trained eyes (and minds) are characteristic of pseudoscientists. Shenton rejected the spherical earth as conflicting with a literal interpretation of the Bible, and he trained his eyes and his mind to reject evidence that contradicted his view. Scientific creationists must similarly train their minds to reject the overwhelming evidence from geology, biology, physics, and astronomy which contradicts their interpretation of the Bible. In a public forum, the best way to demonstrate that creationism is pseudoscience is to show just how well-trained creationist minds are.
Pseudoscience differs from science in several fundamental ways but most notably in its attitude toward hypothesis testing. In science, hypotheses are ideas proposed to explain the facts, and they're not considered much good unless they can survive rigorous tests. In pseudoscience, hypotheses are erected as defenses against the facts. Pseudoscientists frequently offer hypotheses flatly contradicted by well-known facts which can be ignored only by well-trained minds. Therefore, to demonstrate that creationists are pseudoscientists, one need only carry some creationist hypotheses about Noah's flood to their logical conclusions. The following six arguments will do just that, giving a sampling of the major difficulties in creationist "flood geology."
Scientific creationists interpret the fossils found in the earth's rocks as the remains of animals that perished in the Noachian Deluge.
Ironically, they often cite the sheer number of fossils in "fossil graveyards" as evidence for the Flood. In particular, creationists seem enamored by the Karroo Formation in Africa, which is estimated to contain the remains of 800 billion vertebrate animals (see Whitcomb and Morris, p. 160; Gish, p. 61). As pseudoscientists, creationists dare not test this major hypothesis that all of the fossilized animals died in the Flood.
Robert E. Sloan, a paleontologist at the University of Minnesota, has studied the Karroo Formation. He asserts that the animals fossilized there range from the size of a small lizard to the size of a cow, with the average animal perhaps the size of a fox. A minute's work with a calculator shows that, if the 800 billion animals in the Karroo Formation could be resurrected, there would be twenty-one of them for every acre of land on earth. Suppose we assume (conservatively, I think) that the Karroo Formation contains 1 percent of the vertebrate fossils on earth. Then when the Flood began, there must have been at least 2,100 living animals per acre, ranging from tiny shrews to immense dinosaurs. To a noncreationist mind, that seems a bit crowded.
I sprang this argument on Duane Gish during a joint appearance on WHO radio in Des Moines, Iowa, on October 21, 1980. Dr. Gish did the only thing he could: he stonewalled by challenging my figures, in essence calling me a liar. I didn't have a calculator with me, but I duplicated the calculation with pencil and paper and hit him with it again. His reply was that creationists can't answer everything. He further stated that it has been estimated that there are 100 billion billion herring in the sea and asked how I account for that. I tried this number on a calculator and discovered that it amounts to about 27,000 herring per square foot of ocean surface. I concluded (a) that all of the herring are red and (b) that they were created ex nihilo by Duane Gish on the evening of October 21, 1980.
The continents are, on an average, covered with sedimentary rock to a depth of about one mile. Some of the rock (chalk, for instance) is essentially 100 percent fossils and many limestones also contain high percentages of marine fossils. On the other hand, some rock is barren. Suppose that, on an average, marine fossils comprise 0.1 percent of the volume of the rock. If all of the fossilized animals could be resurrected, they would cover the entire planet to a depth of at least 1.5 feet. What did they eat?
Creationists can't appeal to the tropical paradise they imagine existed below the pre-Flood canopy, because the laws of thermodynamics prohibit the earth from supporting that much animal biomass. The first law says that energy can't be created, so the animals would have to get their energy from the sun. The second law limits the efficiency with which solar energy can be converted into food. The amount of solar energy available is not nearly sufficient.
The famous Green River Formation (including shale and limestone) covers tens of thousands of square miles. In at least one place, it contains about twenty million varves, each varve consisting of a thin layer of fine light sediment and an even thinner layer of finer dark sediment. According to the conventional geologic interpretation, the layers are sediments laid down in a complex of ancient freshwater lakes. The coarser light sediments were laid down during the summer, when streams poured run-off water into the lake. The fine dark sediments were laid down in the winter when there was less run-off. (This process can be observed in modern freshwater lakes.) If this interpretation is correct, the varves of the Green River Formation must have formed over a period of about twenty million years.
Creationists insist that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old and that the geologic strata were laid down by the Flood. Whitcomb and Morris therefore attempt to attribute the Green River varves to "a complex of shallow turbidity currents ..." (p. 427). Turbidity currents—flows of mud-laden water—generally occur in the ocean, resulting from underwater landslides. If the Green River shales were laid down during the Flood, there must have been forty million turbidity currents, alternately light and dark, over about three hundred days. A simple calculation (which creationists have avoided for twenty years) shows that the layers must have formed at the rate of about three layers every two seconds. A sequence of forty million turbidity currents covering tens of thousands of square miles every two-thirds of a second seems a bit unlikely.
Henry Morris apparently has no answer to this. Biologist Kenneth Miller of Brown University dropped this bombshell on Morris during a debate in Tampa, Florida, on September 19, 1981, and Morris didn't attempt a reply. Fred Edwords used essentially the same argument against Duane Gish in a debate on February 2, 1982, at the University of Guelph, Ontario. In rebuttal, Gish claimed that some of the fossilized fishes project through several layers of sediment and that therefore the layers can't be semiannual.
As usual, Gish's argument ignores the main issue, which is the alleged formation of millions of distinct layers of sediment in less than a year. Furthermore, Gish's argument is false, according to American Museum of Natural History paleontologist R. Lance Grande, an authority on the Green River Formation. Grande says that, while bones or fins of an individual fish may cut several layers, in general each fish is blanketed by a single layer of sediment. The few exceptions are explainable when one observes lakes where varves are forming today. It sometimes happens that a dead fish is too large to be covered by one semiannual sedimentation, and so its bones or fins end up protruding through newer layers that are later observed to form. When an object or animal is too large, this must happen, and therefore such a protrusion cannot be used as evidence against a great age for the Green River Formation.
Humankind is the only known "reservoir" for numerous communicable diseases. That is, the germs or viruses which cause these diseases can survive only in living human bodies or well-equipped laboratories. Well-known examples include measles, pneumococcal pneumonia, leprosy, typhus, typhoid fever, small pox, poliomyelitis, syphilis, and gonorrhea. The scientific creationists insist on a completed creation, in which the creator worked but six days and has been resting ever since. Thus, between them, Adam and Eve had to have been created with every disease and had to have passed them all to their children. Later, somebody must have carried them onto Noah's ark.
Note that the argument covers every disease germ or virus which can survive only in a specific host. But even if the ark was a floating pesthouse, few of these diseases could have survived. In most cases, only two animals of each "kind" are supposed to have been on the ark. Suppose the male of such a pair came down with such a disease shortly after the ark embarked. He recovered but passed the disease to his mate. She recovered, too, but had no other animal to pass the disease to, for the male was now immune. Every disease for which this cycle lasts less than a year should therefore have become extinct. Furthermore, fatal diseases would have caused both the host animals and the diseases to disappear.
Creationists cannot pin the blame for germs on Satan. If they do, the immediate question is: How do we know Satan didn't create the rest of the universe? That has frequently been proposed, and, if Satan can create one thing, he can create another. If a creationist tries to claim that germs are mutations of otherwise benign organisms (degenerate forms, of course), then he or she is arguing for evolution. Such hypothetical mutations could only be considered favorable, since only the mutated forms survived.
At all costs, creationists avoid discussing how fossils came to be stratified as they are. Out of the thousands of pages that Henry Morris has written on creationism, only a dozen or so are devoted to this critical subject, and he achieves that page count only by recycling three simple apologetics in several books. The mechanisms he offers might be called victim habitat, victim mobility, and hydraulic sorting. In practice, the victim habitat and mobility apologetics are generally combined. Creationists argue that the Flood would first engulf marine animals, then slow lowland creatures such as reptiles, while wily and speedy humans escaped to the hilltops. To a creationist, this adequately explains the order in which fossils occur in the geologic column. A scientist might test the mobility hypothesis by examining how well it explains the fact that flowering plants don't occur in the fossil record until early in the Cretaceous era.
A scenario with magnolias (a primitive plant) heading for the hills, only to be overwhelmed along with early mammals, is unconvincing. And when marine fossils are found in many places above those of land animals and plants, the victim habitat apologetic loses all credibility, too.
If explanations based on victim habitat and mobility are absurd, the hydraulic sorting apologetic is flatly contradicted by the fossil record. An object's hydrodynamic drag is directly proportional to its cross-sectional area and its drag coefficient. Therefore, when objects with the same density and the same drag coefficient move through a fluid, they are sorted according to size. (Mining engineers utilize this phenomena in some ore separation processes.) This means that all small trilobites should be found higher in the fossil record than large ones. Since this is not what we find, the hydraulic sorting argument is immediately falsified. Indeed, one wonders how Henry Morris could ever have offered it, given his background as a hydraulic engineer.
Ever since the geological arguments of George McCready Price became a mainstay of creationism in the 1920s and 1930s, many creationists have tried to point out places in the earth where fossils appear in the opposite order for evolution. They claim that reversals in the order prove that the geologic column is fiction. They then challenge scientists to come up with an explanation.
Actually, scientists have a good explanation for this reversal in the fossil order. They point to obvious signs of folding in the strata, which reveal how the ancient sediments have been flipped over. In such places, it should be expected that the geologic column would read backwards.
When it is not so obvious that this has occurred, there is another way to tell. If rock strata containing trilobites are overturned, the trilobites that are usually found belly down in the rock will now be found belly up. Other things which show geologists and paleontologists which way is up include worm and brachiopod burrows, footprints, fossilized mud cracks, raindrop craters, graded bedding, and similar evidences.
It is really creationists who have no explanation for such strata. Could the flood suddenly reverse the laws of gravity and lay up sediments and fossils instead of laying them down? Upside-down sediments are clearly a problem for the creation model. This isn't surprising, however, given that right-side-up sediments seem to be a problem for it, too.
Each of the six preceding arguments subjects a well-known creationist hypothesis to an elementary and obvious test. In each case, the hypothesis fails miserably. In each case, the failure is obvious to anyone not protected from reality by a special kind of blindness.
Studying science doesn't make one a scientist any more than studying ethics makes one honest. The studies must be applied. Forming and testing hypotheses is the foundation of science, and those who refuse to test their hypotheses cannot be called scientists—no matter what their credentials. Most persons who call themselves creationists have no scientific training and they cannot be expected to know and apply the scientific method. But the professional creationists who flog the public with their doctorates (earned, honorary, or bogus) have no excuse. Because they fail to submit their hypotheses to the most elementary tests, they fully deserve the appellation of pseudoscientist.
Gardner, Martin. 1957. Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. New York: Dover, pp. 127-133.
Gish, Duane T. 1978. Evolution: The Fossils Say No! San Diego: Creation-Life Publishers.
Whitcomb, John C., and Morris, Henry M. 1961. The Genesis Flood. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.