Creationism is the belief that God created all of the life on Earth, as well as the Earth itself. Creationist beliefs, therefore, stem from literal interpretations of the Bible, particularly the early chapters of Genesis, and from sweeping explanations that reject all of the scientific evidence that goes against those beliefs. In particular, creationists do not believe in evolution. Over 40% of Americans subscribe to some form of creationist belief.
Some arguments that creationists use to refute the theory of evolution are that transitional fossils between life forms have never been found, that the vastly complex biological systems that make up human life are too complicated to have formed by accident, that evolution has never been proved beyond a theory, that God made everything older than 6,000 years only appear to be that old, and that humans were designed "intelligently" by a creator. These concepts, however, have little if any scientific validity.
Here are some of the most widely-held beliefs in creationism, and how science has disproved them.
Complex Biological Systems Can't Have Evolved
Creationists invented the term "irreducible complexity" to explain that things like the eye and the digestive system must have been created by God. These systems are described as "a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts [will cause] the system to effectively cease functioning." Essentially, any change in a complex system will cause the system to totally shut down - just like if you take out any part of a car's engine, it doesn't run.The problem with this concept is that it doesn't take into account how evolution actually works: countless mutations over countless generations of an organism, some of which allow the organism to function better, and others that hinder the organism and therefore aren't passed on. Also, "it's complicated, so God did it" is not a scientifically sound argument. And car engines don't reproduce. Irreducible complexity has been refuted in scientific journals, and rejected by the greater biology community.
Hominid Remains Are Actually Those of Disfigured Humans
The existence of hominid fossils, such as those of Homo sapiens ancestors like Homo erectus and Australopithecus africanus, fundamentally discredits the "God made man" model. If evolution isn't real, there's no need for such transitional species to exist. Creationists have spent centuries explaining this away by claiming these hominids are actually humans, but people who were either disfigured or suffering from bone diseases.While creationist publications have put forth extensive explanations in an effort to square this problem, no scientific evidence supports any of them. Carbon dating has clearly established the age of hominid fossils, and supports the hypothesis that the journey from pure ape to human was a long one, fraught with dead-ends and extinctions.
The Speed of Light Isn't ConstantPhoto: NASA / Wikimedia Commons
If God created the heavens and the Earth 6,000 years ago, how can light from distant galaxies be millions or billions of years old? Creationists have come up with a convenient explanation: the speed of light isn't constant, but was actually much faster in the past. So the light from these stars must have traveled much faster, in order for early man to have seen it. A number of explanations have been given by creationists to solve this "starlight problem," but none of have survived scientific scrutiny, nor do they hold up against basic logic.While there is some evidence of the existence of a variable speed of light in a vacuum, this is based mostly on theoretical research, and would explain only the movement of photons at the very beginning of the universe - a time now known to be rife with rapid expansion. The concept is nowhere near as simple as "God made the light go faster" and that belief depends on breaking some of the fundamental constants of the universe.
Evolution Is Not Compatible with the Second Law of Thermodynamics
Creationists often misinterpret the Second Law of Thermodynamics as something that prohibits evolution. The Second Law states that "the sum of the entropies of interacting thermodynamic systems increases" - essentially, the universe is constantly moving in the direction of disorder, with things falling apart over time. According to creationists, evolution is a process of constantly moving toward order - meaning it violates an inviolable law of the universe.
However, the Second Law ONLY applies to the closed system of the universe - not the open systems of individual cells, much less individual organisms. It is certainly possible to bring order to chaos, and humans do so every day in countless ways - local ways that still fulfill the need for the universe to move toward entropy, such as the generating of heat through work.Beyond that, evolution isn't necessarily a process of improvement, only one of change. Many of the mutations that occur during evolution either serve no purpose, or hamper an organism's ability to survive its environment. Some organisms become so specialized that they can't survive. All of this is evolution, and none of it is a movement toward order.