09.30.2014

Creationists Down for the Count

In addition to running the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham writes a blog. I regularly read this blog because it provides me with a joyful cornucopia of mirth as well as unintentional revelations about how creationists think. Reading it is like eavesdropping on a conversation from an alternate universe.

Ham recently wrote about a visit of the Duggar family to his Creation “Museum.” For those of you who don’t know the Duggars—and for your sake I sincerely hope you’ve never heard of them—they are a family from Arkansas known for appearing on a reality TV show emphasizing their nineteen homeschooled children. No, that's not a typo—they have nineteen children. And the children’s names all start with the letter J, for some reason. (The Duggars also offer sex tips, one of which instructs women, “You always need to be available when he calls,” but I’m not going to touch that.)

Ham was delighted at a picture one of the Duggar children took at his Creation “Museum,” and the caption she gave it:

If there really was a worldwide flood (as the Bible speaks of), what would the evidence be? Billions of dead things buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth. And that’s exactly what we find. Billions of dead things buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth. An Evolutionist and a Creationist will look at the same thing, but come to different conclusions because of their different starting points.

This caption comes almost word for word from a catchy creationist song performed by the guitar-wielding Buddy Davis of Answers in Genesis: 

If there really was a worldwide Flood

What would the evidence be?

Billions of dead things

Buried in rock layers

Laid down by water

All over the Earth.

Let’s parse this a bit. The claim here is that if the Flood was real, then there would be many fossils buried around the world. Okay…but of course that could be true even if no Flood occurred. The young-earth creationist claim that billions of dead things buried all over the world are evidence for the Flood fails in a very fundamental way: there are other—more plausible—explanations of the same phenomena.

The hypothesis that the Flood was real entails predictions beyond many fossils being buried around the world. These fossils would also have to be buried in the same few layers of rock, and because all these animals died and were buried all at once, the bodies of many species would be collected together in these narrow layers.

Do we see that in the fossil record? Not even close.

The fossil record shows instead a progression of organisms, with deeper layers having different fossils from ones higher up. It’s clear out in the field. Indeed, at certain field sites, geology students are able to walk by a section of exposed rock that contains a sequence of fossils from one end to the other. It’s evolution on display right before your eyes and under your rock hammer.

geology students examining an outcrop

The world’s rock layers do not show all the life of the world mixed together in a few narrow layers, as would be expected from a worldwide flood. Rather, some rock layers have very distinctive fossils, while others have different ones, and many have no fossils at all. There are fossils in rocks hundreds of millions of years old and soon-to-be fossils in sediment that can barely be called rock. This isn’t what the geology of a worldwide Flood would look like.

The caption to the Duggar child’s picture repeats this hackneyed creationist trope: “An Evolutionist and a Creationist will look at the same thing, but come to different conclusions because of their different starting points.”

This is a common theme at the Creation “Museum,” but the premise is deeply flawed. The creationist approaches an outcrop with the outcome already determined; whatever is found there must conform to preconceived notions. This isn’t looking objectively at the same evidence and coming to equal, divergent opinions; indeed, it is hardly necessary for “creation geologists” to examine rocks at all, given that they already know how to interpret what will be found.

By contrast, the theory of evolution and our understanding of deep time are, in principle, both in jeopardy every time a geologist cracks open a fossiliferous rock. Will there be a rabbit fossil mixed in with trilobites? That would shatter all of our thinking and rewrite the textbooks. Evolution and deep time could be wrong; every hammer blow on a rock outcrop could spark a new revolution. And yet, over and over again, field day after field day, that doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen because the science is grounded in what is in the rocks.

geology students examining the Montenegro Formation, White Mountains, CA

Back at the Creation “Museum,” Ham crowed that the picture had received “over 16,000 likes.” Further on, Ham noted that a different Duggar picture taken at the Creation “Museum” garnered “over 33,000 likes!”

I hate to break it to him, but no matter how many visitors the Creation “Museum” receives, no matter how many people “like” pictures taken there, no amount of counting is going to change the fact that what creationists claim about Noah’s Flood is simply not reality. Scientific issues are not decided by votes or popularity contests or the opinions of reality television stars; the only thing that matters in geology is what is in the rocks. And the rocks speak clearly that a global Flood never happened.