Evolution: Fact or fiction?

In the scientific community, evolution has been determined to be both fact and theory. That is, it is a fact that organisms have changed throughout time as seen through data. The theory of evolution is a well-supported and accepted explanation of this fact. However, AIG argues that evolution is not actually supported, and anyone who believes in this fails to see the reality of creation. In this post, I aim to take a look at AIG’s claims and respond to them.

…we have never observed, repeated, or been able to test animal kind A turning into animal kind B—at all. Sure, there’s some genetic “do-si-do” going on through mutations and gene drift, but there’s no way fish are going to sprout hair and opposable thumbs. Just in case you think by “no way” we mean there’s still a chance, there’s not—none, zilch, nada, not going to happen. What if we add billions of years and cool artistic renderings? Still no.

-Answers in Genesis

AIG starts off their argument against evolution by demonstrating that they have a profound misunderstanding in how evolution works. For instance, this quote shows that they believe that evolution is supposed to occur spontaneously with individuals in a population. The rhetoric of a fish sprouting hair and opposable thumbs is simply a rather apparent attempt to invoke an impossible image in order to make evolution seem ludicrous. Yet, all scientists understand that evolution does not occur at an individual level. No, fish do not just sprout hair and opposable thumbs. Instead, mutations, gene drift, natural selection, and gene flow help change the alleles in a given population over a long period of time, resulting in observable phenotypic changes. This doesn’t result in fish sprouting hair or growing opposable thumbs because mutations and changes in alleles happen slowly over time. Instead of adding brand new features like opposable thumbs, evolution actually occurs by altering existing structures. Michael Coates from the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago explains that the evolutionary perspective actually holds that vertebrate limbs are actually a specialized subset or kind of paired fins we see in fish and other animals. The HOX genes which specify the layout of the embryonic body plan in early development of animals are conserved between most animals, demonstrating a common ancestry with mutations over time that have provided variations between species. This demonstrates the evolutionary change from fins to limbs is not a spontaneous addition as AIG proposes, but rather an evolutionary transition which is an example of changing patterns and processes resulting in morphological change.

In looking at AIG’s other claims against evolution, I see they returned to the fossil record and the idea that C-14 dating demonstrates the earth is not actually old… I’m going to not address that here because I already did. If you’re curious, please check out my response here.

Finally, AIG makes the infamous claim that life cannot begin spontaneously. They argue that scientists cannot reasonably explain how life first began, and that scientists bend the rules of chemistry to fit their argument. They further propose that the idea that RNA was the first genetic material giving rise to living organisms is wrong because there was no cellular machinery to transcribe the code, making RNA useless. They then conclude that the Bible has more evidence than scientists and that it should be believed that God created the earth and life as we know it in 6 days.

I will admit, this is the hardest argument to refute because the origins of life remain a complicated matter even today for scientists. We have experiments such as the famous Miller-Urey study that discovered that under the right conditions, amino acids are relatively easy to make. Therefore, the leading theory regarding the origins of life involve the earth’s primordial chemicals as well as catalyzing events such as lightning and asteroid impacts. The graphic below summarizes what many scientists currently think.

As you can see from this infographic from Scientific American, the chemicals and conditions of the early Earth are thought to have allowed for the construction of nucleotides, simple sugars, and eventually RNA. This remains an exciting field of discovery as we are continuously making progress in repeating these experiments and discovering how life began. In fact, where AIG is wrong is when they suggest that RNA couldn’t have been the first molecule involved in life because there was no cell machinery to transcribe RNA. It is important to remember that all proteins are made from the catalytic activity or RNA subunits that make of the ribosome as well. Therefore, since all life forms using RNA to even translate RNA, it demonstrates that the information-storing and enzymatic processes of RNA were most likely used in the earliest of life forms, passing this down to every life form on earth today.

I will admit, we do not have a single, solid answer as to how life began. Yet, throughout this website I have shown how AIG is unable to give real answers for everything else. The research of how chemistry gave rise to RNA-based life is one of the most exciting new fields in scientific discovery. Think about how much we have discovered in the past century in science. From discovering the double helix DNA structure in 1953 to literally sequencing the entire human genome and unlocking the secrets of what makes us human by 1999, our scientific achievements and understandings are developing faster than ever. While we have plenty of theories as to how life started, we are still learning about each one in the attempt to explain how life began. However, the current lack of hard evidence does not suggest that there is no scientific answer. That is the exciting aspect of science- there is still so much to discover. Until we discover an answer, AIG will have their Biblical scriptures as their only proof while scientists will have their theories about the origin of life based on several proven experiments and knowledge of chemistry.


Rebuttals to Presented AIG “Evidence”

Tucked away in the very depths of the AIG website, I found a shocking page titled “Six Evidences of a Young Earth.”  I decided to go through each one below and explain  how it is an example of bad science while offering a rebuttal to it using valid scientific evidence.

Before we begin, it should be explained that AIG believes the Earth to be around 6,000 years old- a number they arrived at by tracing the Biblical history. I hope as you read, you can see how they accept all “data” that supports this and disregard glaring evidence of any confounding findings.

“Evidence” 1: Radiocarbon in Diamonds

Very eager to attack the validity of radioactive dating methods, AIG questions radiocarbon dating. C-14 has a half life of only 5,730 years and is only used to date organic material less than 50,000 years old because it doesn’t last in material for long relatively speaking. However, AIG claims that scientists have found diamonds projected to be over 50,000 years old with C-14. Therefore, AIG proposes this is proof that C-14 dating techniques are wrong and the earth cannot be that old. It then sites a paper by Dr. A Snelling as proof.

In examining this paper, I immediately noticed bad science. First and foremost, of course C-14 can still exist in materials older than 50,000 years! Scientists only use C-14 dating for organic material up to 50,000 years old because the amount of C-14 remaining in materials older than that is so small that false readings can be made. Anyone who argues otherwise doesn’t understand the idea of a half-life. In the paper, Dr. Snelling dates one diamond to 55,000 years ago, 9 diamonds from the University of California to 64,900-80,000 years old, and Precambrian graphite sample at 58,400-70,100 (remember the Precambrian era is known to be 4.6 MYA). They thus conclude this shows a much younger earth. However, according to the paper, the samples only demonstrated C-14 amounts of 0.01-0.07pMC and 0.03-0.031 pMC. The reason, then, that the dating method provided dates as young as those included above is because this is exactly what happens when you try to use C-14 methods with C-14 amounts as little as this. C-14 dating is extremely inaccurate when C-14 levels are low, which is exactly why scientists only use it dating 50,000 years and less. This paper is an example of erroneous science, and the AIG claim is therefore baseless.

I’ll leave you with this: Let’s say AIG is right and that the results of this paper are correct. The diamonds are aged at around 65,000 years ago even though they are supposed to be Precambrian. Still, on their home page, they conclude that the Earth is 6,000 years old exactly as “proved” by biblical genealogy. Therefore, it seems in trying to refute scientific practices, they have literally contradicted their main argument.

“Evidence” 2: Recession of the Moon

This was an interesting one to analyze… AIG acknowledges that the gravitational pull of the moon causes a tidal bulge on the Earth that results in the moon spiraling outwards away from the Earth very slowly. However, they begin extrapolating erroneously. Their logic is that the moon should have been closer to the Earth in the past, and based on the current rate of recession, we can calculate how much the moon has moved over time. It then claims that if the Earth was over 1.2 billion years old like scientists think, the moon would have been touching the Earth- a “major dilemma”! I would first like to point out that immediately, AIG is committing another hypocritical claim. In their argument against radioactive dating (see my post Age of the Earth), one of their biggest points is that we cannot use science to try to estimate conditions at the beginning of the Earth’s conception as we were not there to directly observe them. Word for word, AIG claimed “what we observe and measure today exists only in the present.” Therefore, it seems rather ironic that now they attempt to use mathematical models to calculate the distance the moon has moved over time to strengthen their argument. This is a perfect instance of only using data when it supports your hypothesis- a poster-child example of bad science!

Nevertheless, let’s look at their argument. AIG makes a dangerous claim when they assume that the rate of the moon recession is constant. First of all, the equation for the gravitational force between two objects is shown below where F is the force of gravity, G is the gravitational constant, m and M are two different masses, and r is the distance between m and M:

Any competent individual who can work with equations only needs a quick glance at this to understand the force between two objects is stronger as the distance between them, r, decreases. AIG doesn’t explain how they arrive at their estimate, but they do say “based on the current rate of recession, we can calculate how much the moon has moved over time.” With this word choice, it seems as though they erroneously extrapolated using the current rate of recession.

Regardless, it turns out there is paleontological evidence that the rate of recession has changed vastly over time. This data can demonstrate the periodicity of the tides through observing tidal rhythmites or patterns in sediment that help determine tidal frequencies in the past. By analyzing these patterns, it has been determined that the lunar retreat was around 1.95 cm/year 650 million years ago, and 1.27 cm/year around 2.5 billion years ago. Therefore, the slowing rate of recession and models predict that an old earth can coexist with the current rate of recession we see in the moon. One does not contradict the other. The tidal rhyhmites known to be millions of years old could not even have formed without tides caused by the moon. Further, the idea of a slower recession of the moon when the moon was closer to the earth millions of years ago directly correlates with the equation I provided as the force between the two masses (earth and the moon) would have been greater at a shorter distance, r, causing slower rate of moon recession away from the earth.

“Evidence” 3: Earth’s Decaying Magnetic Field

AIG argues that the Earth has a changing magnetic field that is constantly weakening as time progresses. Getting their ideas from Dr. Thomas G Barnes and using his work to support their ideas, AIG claims that each century, the magnetic field becomes 5% weaker. Thus, if the Earth was 6,000 years old, at this time the magnetic field strength would be stronger but still life-sustaining. In contrast, if the earth were many millions of years old, the magnetic field would be too strong to sustain life. Once again, AIG falls victim to contradicting themselves by using models to predict the past and at the same time saying we cannot do that. Yet again, they erroneously extrapolate, not taking into account changing conditions throughout Earth’s time.

Nevertheless, it is well-known in the scientific community that the earth has shifted polarity several times throughout its existence. In fact, paleomagnetism provides evidence of this. By determining the paramagnetism of rocks, scientists can observe and record ancient magnetic reversals which has developed into the Geomagnetic Polarity Time Scale (GPTS). Furthermore, studies like Barnes’ are completely flawed. Barnes took 25 measurements of magnetic field strength and fit them to an exponential curve, concluding that the earth must be younger than 20,000 years old. He and AIG completely disregard the fact that the earth’s polarity has shifted and instead believes erroneously that the magnetic decay can be explained exponentially. From the field of paleomagnetism, there is solid data that proves otherwise, and the methods are much more reliable than simply taking 25 data points and extrapolating based on an exponential curve.

“Evidence” 4: Dinosaur Soft Tissue

AIG claims that there have been many examples of preserved biological materials in supposedly ancient rocks and fossils. For instance, a fossilized T. rex femur with flexible connective tissue, branching blood vessels, and intact cells has recently been found. This would not make sense, according to them, if the dinosaur tissues were 65 million years old like scientists think.

The discovery that AIG is referring to was one conducted by Mary Schweitzer, an American paleontologist at North Carolina State University. When analyzing Dinosaur fossils from Montana, she discovered collagen, red blood cells, and other cells inside of the bones. It is interesting to note that Dr. Schweitzer is herself a devout Christian but does not believe that this provides evidence against evolution and still believes that the dinosaur is over 65 million years old. As she says in her interview,  she gets angry when AIG and other creationist organizations “hijack” her findings and twist her data around to fit their own. She makes the point that these organizations do not offer their own data and simply alter and interpret the hard work of scientists like her. She believes that there is much more the scientific community can learn about fossilization processes. It is known that soft tissue can survive for millions of years in the exact right conditions. In fact, she points out that after removing the bones from their original environment where they were preserved, the soft tissue quickly decays. Most bone remains in museums and exposed to the air do not have any soft tissue. Therefore, she believes it is possible for soft tissue to be preserved like that for millions of years in perfect conditions. As we know, fossilization is a rare process, and certain conditions have to be met perfectly. Perhaps, there is more to learn about the fossilization process and preservation. Yet, this does not provide evidence for a young Earth.

Red Blood Cell from Dr. Schweitzer’s sample as shown by Smithsonian Magazine

“Evidence” 5: Human Population Growth

Anthropologists, please skip this one- it might frustrate you a little too much. For their fifth piece of evidence for a young earth, AIG exclaims with the enthusiasm of a young child discovering 2+2, “It’s amazing what basic mathematics can show us about the age of the earth!” They then go on to explain that we can calculate the years of human existence by understanding that the population doubles every 150 years to get an estimate of the world’s population at a given time. It then says 6,000 years would give an answer consistent with this mathematical model whereas if the human species was 50,000 years old (much younger than what is accepted scientifically), then the number of people alive today would be 10 to the 99th power.

I’m not sure where to even begin refuting this one. I try to not be biased in my answers, but at this point it just seems as though they’ve given up and are using the worst possible examples to make a mockery of this whole argument. Without even going into science, any person educated in history can tell you that the population growth rate of mankind is not by any means constant. In fact, according to the Population Reference Bureau, a private organization supported by the US Government and the United Nations, humans evolved around 3 million years ago. Further, the vast majority of our existence was as hunter gatherers with a total world population below 10 million. As agriculture developed, population expanded, and there were around 300 million in the year 1 AD. This represents a total growth rate of 0.00006%. Now, if we look at the effects of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th and 20th centuries, there was a clear boom in population as an increase in infrastructure, urbanization, and food surplus allowed for greater populations. In the 20th century alone, the world population increased from 1.6 billion to 6.1 billion people which represents a growth rate of 3.81% per year. Obviously, the rate of human population growth has been affected by our ability to utilize technology and change the way we use our resources and inhabit the planet. Thus, the constant doubling of population growth every 150 years is completely incorrect- take a look at the graph below.

As you can see, for the majority of our existence, the population has been rather stagnate and low. It is not until much more recently that our population has significantly increased. This completely discounts the “basic mathematics” that AIG claims to use to prove a young earth. Common sense and history can refute this bad science.

“Evidence” 6: Tightly-folded Rock Strata

Finally, AIG presents their final piece of “evidence” for a young earth. AIG claims that when rock is bent, it usually cracks and breaks. Rocks can only bend without fracturing when subjected to extreme heat or if they are soft and malleable due to moisture, yet there are numerous places around the world, including the Grand Canyon, where we see evidence of rock folding without evidence of the sediments being heated. AIG claims this is a major problem for geologists who believe that these layers were laid down gradually over long periods of time. Yet it apparently makes sense when we consider these rock layers were formed during Noah’s Flood as described in Genesis. The wet conditions would explain how sedimentary rock can be folded as so.

It seems as though their main argument here is that the folding of sedimentary rock in such a way without a source of heat proves that there was a recent flood (cue Noah’s ark). However, even if this argument was true , this doesn’t prove by any means that the world is only 6,000 years old. The main problem with this argument is that AIG has left out other factors that can cause what scientists call “plastic deformation capabilities” in rocks. AIG only recognizes heat and moisture. In fact, pressure and time are huge contributing factors to deformation of rocks that AIG simply leaves out. It is known that incredible pressure (caused by the building up of rock layer upon rock layer over time) built up over time causes rocks to be deformed, causing what we notice as the folds in sedimentary rock. Scientists call strain the physical deformation that we observe, and stress is the force per unit area a rock receives.

The picture on the left is a schematic diagram of the shearing forces between rock layers in which layers of differential pressure cause altered shapes with respect to one another, creating the folding AIG is referring to. This doesn’t have anything to do with water or moisture and happens simply due to immense pressure over time. The graph on the right demonstrates how as the stress a rock experiences increases, the strain increases to a point. At lower depths of rock layers where pressure is higher, ductile deformation occurs, resulting in the folding of sedimentary layers observed. In this case, AIG leaves out other factors that can affect rock strata formation and deformations. The blatant disregard for other information and data demonstrates bad science as they attempt to provide their own explanation with obvious lack of information.




Mankind: Who are we?

“The Bible clearly distinguishes between man and beast- something evolution does not do.”


Central to the Answers in Genesis thought process regarding mankind is that we are superior beings with complete dominion over all other beasts of the earth. 6,000 years ago, God put us on this earth, exactly the same way we look today. AIG in fact laughs at the evolutionary claim that humans are merely more “highly evolved” than other animals. Yet, the reality is that true evolutionists would not say that humans are more highly evolved. This phrase implies that evolution is a goal-oriented, linear process. Instead, scientists understand that all creatures on this earth have been evolving for billions of years, and each species have developed different traits that enable them to survive efficiently in a unique niche or environment. For instance, imagine a polar bear trying to live in the African savannah or conversely a cold-blooded Gila monster of the southwestern United States surviving in the Arctic tundra. While both of these animals are adapted to flourish in their specific environments, they would not be able to survive in others. This does not make either of them more highly evolved than the other. It may be tempting to claim that our more complex brains and ability to reason, predict, and calculate analytically are proof that we are more highly evolved. The truth is, we are just highly specialized after billions of years of evolutionary forces gave our ancestors advantages for being able to adapt to quickly-changing environments and work together in communities.

AIG devotes much of their time discussing the differences between animals and humans to Biblical scripture. While I will not discount these, I will try to focus on their empirical evidence and scientific points which are more easily proven and addressed. AIG proposes that humans do not share any evolutionary connection to another animal on the earth because the Bible says so. Unfortunately, there is not much evidence provided to support this claim.

AIG attempts to refute existing scientific belief  that humans share common ancestors with primates. First of all, they brings up  Australopithecus sediba fossils and discuss some of the similarities scientists have found between this species and humans, including longer thumbs, bipedalism, and large brain capacity. However, AIG points out that the radiometric dating proposes it is 2 million years old. Yet, Homo habilis is dated at the same time, accounting for an overlap of 200,000-300,000 between the two species. Therefore, AIG says, how can A. sediba be a human ancestor if it was alive at the same time as H. habilis which is more closely-resembling of humans (larger brain capacity, bipedal, used tools)? This method of attacking science is interesting to me because it seems to use AIG’s own argument that the world is only 6,000 years old against itself. If the world was 6,000 years old, why are they bothering to discuss the overlap in existence of two extinct species 2 million years ago? Conceding their existence at 2 million years ago already disproves their main argument. Regardless, the fact that the two species existed at the same time changes nothing regarding the evolution of humans. Australopithecines shared a common ancestor with the Homo genus, as you can see from the phylogenetic tree below from the University of California, Berkeley. Homo habilis was simply another branch of the Homo family tree and shares a more recent common ancestor than Australopithecines. This does not mean that the two could not have existed at the same time. For instance, Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis existed at the same time before the latter went extinct.

Furthermore, AIG seems hesitant to discuss evidence found that paints a picture of the evolution of mankind over millions of years. For instance, while AIG recognizes Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis), they think that she walked on her knuckles like the “well-designed ape” she was. In the Answers in Genesis creation museum in Kentucky, an exhibit shows A. afarensis with a chimp-like face walking on all fours on her knuckles. This is a perfect example of how they choose to ignore evidence and just present a model that fits according to what they want to believe. AIG chooses to forget the plentiful evidence that suggests that Lucy walked upright like us. For instance, her distal femur is angled relative to her knee joint in such a way that demonstrates bipedalism. It is a trait that enables individuals to balance on one leg during locomotion, seen in humans and not seen in chimp-like apes. The entire pelvis is remodeled into a wider shape that enables for a wider stance- a shape that would not be beneficial for quadrupeds. Further, the spinal curvature shown in her vertebrae is a unique adaptation for bipedal walking- its shape enables upright creatures to balance their center of mass and would be greatly inhibitory to quadrupedal movements. Yet, this is just one example, AIG additionally discounts H. habilis and H. erectus, instead focusing arguments on earlier hominids or Neanderthals. They either seem to think fossils are ape-like or humans exactly. For instance, to explain the similarity between Neanderthal skeletons and human skeletons, they attempt to get around it by claiming Neanderthals are in fact Homo sapiens. While we know that Neanderthals and modern humans shared a common ancestor, the two evolved in parallel and had several distinct features. We now can compare the Neanderthal genome with our own and see that we used to interbreed and some individuals today carry up to 5% Neanderthal genes. Genetic analysis further proves that we are two distinct species, and the Neanderthals did in fact die out once H. sapien migrated into their territories. It seems this is the extent of AIG arguments regarding the origin of mankind.


Age of Our Earth: 6,000 or 4.5 billion years old?

Image result for big bang creationism

One of AIG’s most important arguments is that the Earth and the universe are both only 6,000 years old. This age was arrived at using the chronology given in the Bible. According to recent creationism, the creation story in Genesis is to be taken literally. Thus, God created everything in six days. This idea is based on the argument that the Hebrew word yom specifically refers to a 24 hour period, thus “proving” the words of the Bible to be true through an obscene circular argument of semantics. I’m not even going to address this argument because analyzing word meanings and definitions can become convoluted and theoretical. I’m not saying Genesis is wrong. Instead, I argue that if a strict interpretation is to be taken, shouldn’t actual, empirical evidence match these claims? Let’s take a look at how AIG refutes scientific evidence.

The Use of Radiometric Dating

If the Earth is only 6,000 years old, why does radiometric dating techniques used by geologists suggest the age is around much older? Well, AIG answers this exact question by explaining that radiometric dating is based on erroneous assumptions and cannot be trusted. It proposes that when using radiometric dating, scientists make many assumptions and “build their interpretations on these assumptions.” One of these assumptions is the idea that the rate of decay for a given radioactive material is constant. AIG suggests that while it seems constant to us, this is a massive extrapolation of data to assume that the rate would have been constant back at the beginning of the earth. However, the reality of radioactivity is that we know the rate of decay is constant based on both physics and mathematics (check out this video for how we can use mathematical proof models to demonstrate constant rates of decay). Therefore, the AIG argument that we do not know that decay rates are constant demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of empirical data and mathematical relations that describe the natural world around us. In fact, they completely disregard the many different types of dating techniques scientists use that each confirm one another. For instance, other forms of absolute dating exist such as tree ring counting, thermoluminescence, electron spin resonance, and many other different types of radiometric techniques. I encourage you to explore these techniques here and understand this for yourself. Each technique demonstrates the earth is much older than 6,000 years old and when combined with the various different techniques of relative dating using rock strata and formations, it becomes apparent that we have solid scientific evidence that the earth is much older than what AIG thinks. For instance, scientists can even use “molecular clocks” and determine when species diverged from one another well over 6,000 years ago by comparing relative DNA mutation rates that is known to correspond to a constant rate of time.

To further demonstrate how flawed their argument is, I will introduce one other aspect of their argument against using scientific methods to determine the age of the earth. The website suggests that since scientists were not present at the time of the formation of those rocks, they cannot know exactly what happened and cannot try to understand. Central to their argument is that “what we observe and measure today exists only in the present.” Therefore, they discount all use of science to make estimations of the past. With this, as they try to discount radiometric dating as evidence since we were not around back then, they invalidate their own argument as they suggest that we should accept the words of the Bible as evidence. We certainly were not alive when the Bible was written either.

The point is that science uses an enormous array of techniques and methods that supports one another, providing sound evidence that the earth is billions of years old, rather than a mere 6,000 years. AIG fails to use good science because their only arguments are to use scientifically-inaccurate claims to try to disprove scientific methods. In their attempt to do this, they fail to provide any proof or evidence of their own to demonstrate the earth is only 6,000 years as they claim. In fact, they invalidate their own argument in their attempt. AIG’s only presentable evidence is an ancient written work that is known to be filled with abstract symbolism.




Interested? For more information on dating techniques and scientific evidence, check out these sites!

United States Geological Survey

Nature: Molecular Clock Methods

Nature: Dating Rocks Using Methods