Apart from the beliefs of those who wrote it, no. It is true that most Christians take the truth of at least some parts of the Bible as an article of faith, but non-Christians are not so constrained. Quoting the Bible to such a person as "evidence" will simply cause them to question the accuracy of the Bible. See the alt.atheism FAQ lists for more details.
Some things in the Bible are demonstrably true, but this does not make
the Bible evidence, since there are also things in the Bible that are demonstrably
5.2: Could the Universe have been created old?
An argument is sometimes put forward along the following lines:
We know from biblical evidence (see above) that the Universe is about 6,000 years old. Therefore God created it 6,000 years ago with fossils in the ground and light on its way from distant stars, so that there is no way of telling the real age of the Universe simply by looking at it.This is the "Omphalos" (Navel) theory of Edmund Gosse. Adam had no mother so did not need a navel, but was created by God with one, i.e. physical proof of connection with a nonexistent mother. Similarly, at the moment of Creation the world was chock-full of things that must have happened yesterday, when yesterday did not exist.
The hypothesis is unfalsifiable, and therefore not a scientific one (see the section on the scientific method). It could also be made for any date in the past (like last Tuesday). Finally it requires that God, who is alleged to speak to us through His Works, should be lying to us by setting up a misleading Creation. This seems to be rather inconsistent with Biblical claims of God being the source of all truth.
One might also argue that in creating the universe "old", God also created the past of the universe. This "fake" past must be a perfect match with the "real" past (otherwise we could spot the join). Hence the events from before the moment of "creation" are just as real as the events which have happened since. Since God is supposed to exist independently of time and space, this makes the whole idea meaningless.
Note that this argument is not put forward by creation scientists. They
hold that modern science has misinterpreted the evidence about the age
of the universe.
5.3: What about Carbon-14 dating?
Isotope dating takes advantage of the fact that radioactive materials break down at a rate independent of their environment. Any solid object that formed containing radioactive materials therefore steadily loses them to decay. If it is possible to compare the amount of radioactive material currently present with the amount originally present, one can deduce how long ago the object was formed. The amount originally present cannot, of course, be observed directly, but can be determined by indirect means, such as identifying the decay products.
C-14 dating uses an unstable isotope of carbon that is constantly being produced in the upper atmosphere by cosmic rays. This process is assumed to be in equilibrium with the decay of C-14 throughout the biosphere, so the proportion of carbon that is C-14 as opposed to the stable C-12 and C-13 isotopes is essentially constant in any living organism. When an organism dies, it stops taking up new carbon from its environment, but the C-14 in its body continues to decay. By measuring the amount of C-14 left in organic remains, one can establish how long ago the organism they came from died. Because C-14 has a half-life of only a few thousand years, C-14 dating can only be used for remains less than a few tens of thousands of years old-- after that, the C-14 is entirely gone, to all practical purposes. Other isotopic dating techniques, such as potassium-argon dating, use much longer-lived radionuclides and can reliably measure dates billions of years in the past.
Actually the production rate isn't all that constant, so the amount of C-14 in the biosphere varies somewhat with time. You also need to be sure that the only source of carbon for the organism was atmospheric carbon (via plants). The nominal date from a C-14 reading, based on the present concentration, therefore has to be corrected to get the real date --- but once the correction has been calculated using an independent dating tool like dendrochronology (see below), it can be applied to almost any sample.
There are some known anomalies in C14 dating, such as molluscs that get their carbon from water. Creationists seem to make a habit of taking samples that are known to be useless for C14 dating, presenting them to scientists for examination, representing them as other than they are, and then claiming the anomalous dates they get for them as evidence that C14 dating is all a sham.
While it is true that there may be unknown errors in some dating methods (see the note in section 0 about science "proving" things) this assertion cannot be used to write off isotope dating as evidence of an ancient Earth. This is because:
The science of dating wood by a study of annual rings.
[These figures and references come from a longer summary e-mailed to me by <whheydt@pbhya.PacBell.com>. Any mistakes are mine. PAJ]
Everyone knows that when you cut down a tree the cut surface shows a series of concentric rings, and that one of these rings is added each year as the tree grows. The lighter part of the ring is the summer growth and the darker part is the winter growth. Hence you can date a tree by counting the rings.
But the rings are not evenly spaced. Some rings are wider than others. These correspond to good and poor growing seasons. So if you have a piece of wood cut down a few thousand years ago, you can date it by comparing the pattern of rings in your sample to known patterns in recently cut trees (Bristlecone pines exist which are over 4600 years old, and core samples allow ring counting without killing the tree).
Now for the clever bit. The tree from which your sample came may have been old before any trees now alive were even saplings. So you can extend the known pattern of rings back even further, and hence date samples of wood which are even older. By lining up samples of wood in this way, dendrochronologists have been able to produce a continuous pattern of rings going back around 9,900 years. This easily refutes the chronology of Bishop Usher, who calculated from dates and ages given in the Bible that the Earth was created in 4004 BC.
Dendrochronology is also valuable in providing calibration data for C14 and other isotope dating methods. See the previous question for more details.
"Dendrochronology of the Bristlecone Pine....." by C. W. Ferguson, 1970. Published in a book called Radiocarbon Variations and Absolute Chronology
This takes the record back 7484 years. More recently there is Bernd Becker, Bernd Kromer & Peter Timborn "A stable-isotope tree-ring timescale of the Late Glacial/Holocene boundary" Nature 353 (1991) pp. 647-649
The authors have "established a 9,928 year absolute dated dendrochronological
record of Holocene oak." Actually, their timescale goes even further back,
because by overlap with a pine tree sequence they date the end of the Late
Glacial at a minimum age op 10,970 BP.
5.5: What is evolution? Where can I find out more?
Many creationist "refutations" of evolution are based on a straw-man argument. The technique is to misrepresent the theory of evolution, putting forward an absurd theory as "what scientists claim". The absurdity of this pseudo-evolution theory is then ridiculed.
Also see Darwinism Defended: a guide to the Evolution Controversies by Michael Ruse (Addison-Wesley, 1982).
Strahler's book is heavily referenced, thoroughly indexed, and covers most of the common creationist arguments. There are only a handful of books explicitly aimed at addressing creationist claims, and this one is the best of the lot. NCSE sells Strahler's book for $47.95 ($38.55 for members).
There are no membership requirements. Membership costs $25 per year ($32 foreign, $39 foreign air delivery). All members receive the quarterly newsletter NCSE Reports and the semi-annual Creation/ Evolution Journal, as well as discounts from their book ordering service. NCSE sells a decent selection of books, taped speeches and debates, and other relevant material.
NCSE (National Center for Science Education) P.O. Box 9477 / Berkeley, CA 94709 (510) 526-1674
...that entropy is always increasing. Entropy is a measure of the randomness in a system. So the universe is getting more and more disordered. But if this is so, how can life happen, since evolutionists claim essentially that life is a system that becomes more ordered with time?"
[ The following answer was kindly contributed by Dr. Roydon A. Fraser, Associate Professor, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA. email firstname.lastname@example.org ]
This line of reasoning would be valid if it were not for the simple fact that the above is a misstatement of the second law of thermodynamics. A correct statement reads,
"The second law of thermodynamics states that the net entropy within an ISOLATED system is always increasing or remains constant."An isolated system is one that does not undergo a change of state due to external work or heat transfer. The entropy in an isolated system in equilibrium is constant at its maximum value.
The major key here to demonstrating that life on earth does not violate the second law is to realize that the earth is a NON-isolated system. The earth is continuously absorbing radiative heat transfer energy from the sun and continuously transferring thermal energy to outer-space through thermal emissions. Because the earth participates in these heat transfer processes it is non-isolated.
For instance, when you freeze water the molecules of H2O line up in beautifully organised crystals. This organisation does not violate the second law of thermodynamics because the work done by the freezer in extracting the heat from the water has caused the total entropy of the universe to rise, even though the entropy of the water has decreased.
Similarly the existence of life on earth has not decreased the entropy of the universe, so the second law has not been violated. From a classical thermodynamics perspective the universe as a whole is isolated, and hence, the net entropy (disorder) of the universe continues to increase (the situation where the universe's entropy remains constant does not exist because we live in a universe with friction).
The second law states that the entropy of the sun plus the earth's entropy plus the entropy of outer-space (i.e, the net entropy) cannot decrease. It is completely acceptable for the entropy of the earth to decrease provided the net entropy of the sun and outer-space increases. As an analogy consider the freezing of water into ice. The entropy of ice is less than that of water because ice molecules are more organized (they are in a crystal lattice) than water molecules (which move about randomly). That is, the water's entropy has decreased, but only at the expense of increasing the entropy in the room and at the expense of a net increase in the universe's entropy (i.e., by the second law the entropy increase in the room must be equal to or be greater than the entropy decrease experienced by the water).
It is interesting to observe that an enormous amount of entropy production is actually associated with the formation of life on earth. According to Plank (father of quantum mechanics) the entropy flow from the sun is proportional to the reciprocal of the sun's temperature. More precisely it is four thirds times the heat transfer from the sun all divided by the temperature of the sun (about 6000 kelvin). By the law of conservation of energy (and ignoring global warming) the heat flow from the sun to the earth is equal to the thermal radiative heat transfer from the earth to outer-space. The entropy flow from the earth is therefore four thirds times the heat transfer from the sun all divided by the temperature of the earth as seen from outer-space (about 300 kelvin = 27 celsius). Therefore, the entropy flow from the earth is greater than the entropy flow to the earth which means that entropy has been produced on earth (via friction, etc.).
In conclusion the existence of life on earth does not violate the second
law of thermodynamics.
5.7: How could living organisms arise "by chance"?
This is actually a less sophisticated version of the question above. Consider the freezing water in the example. The wonderful arrangement in crystals arises from the random movement of water molecules. But ice crystals do not require divine intervention as an explanation, and neither does the evolution of life.
Also, consider a casino. An honest casino makes a profit from roulette wheels. The result of a spin of a particular wheel is purely random, but casinos make very predictable profits. So in evolutionary theory, even though the occurrence of a particular mutation is random, the overall effect of improved adaptation to the environment over time is not.
The actual origin of life is more problematical. If you stick some ammonia, methane and a few other simple chemicals into a jar and subject them to ultraviolet light then after a week or two you get a mixture of organic molecules, including amino acids (the building blocks of protein). So current theories propose a "primordial soup" of dilute organic chemicals. Somewhere a molecule happened to form which could make copies of itself out of other molecules floating around in the soup, and the rest is history.
Ilya Prigogine's work in non-equilibrium thermodynamics (for which he received a Nobel prize) shows that thermodynamic systems far out of equilibrium tend to produce spontaneous order through what he calls "dissipative structures". Dissipative structures trade a local increase in orderliness for faster overall increase in entropy. Life can be viewed as a dissipative structure in exactly this sense --- not a wildly improbable freak of combinations but as a natural, indeed inevitable result of the laws of thermodynamics.
For more on this, see the relevant chapter in Paradigms Lost
by John L. Casti (Avon paperback, 1989).
5.8: But doesn't the human body seem to be well designed?
Not to me. Consider a few pieces of the human body for a moment. The
back for instance. The reason we poor humans suffer so much from back problems
is that the back is actually not well designed. And what about human reproduction.
Can you imagine any engineer being proud of having designed that?
5.9: What about the thousands of scientists who have become Creationists?
This outrageous claim is frequently made by creationists, but somehow these mystery scientists are never identified. It is claimed that these conversions have been caused by "the evidence", but this evidence never seems to be forthcoming either.
To test this claim, try looking up "creation" and "Bible" in any biology or paleontology journal index.
Even if this claim were true, it would not be a reason to become a creationist.
The only reason for adopting creationism as a scientific theory would be
the production of convincing evidence.
5.10: Is the Speed of Light Decreasing?
The origin of this claim is a paper by Norman & Setterfield which plots various historical measurements of the speed of light and claims to show a steady decrease. Extrapolating backwards, they conclude that the Universe is only about 6,000 years old. This also conveniently explains how we can see stars more than 6,000 light-years away.
The first point about their paper is that it was originally distributed in Stanford Research Institute covers, and is sometimes described as an SRI report. However SRI did not have anything to do with the report and are tired of answering queries about it.
Norman & Setterfield appear to have selected their data in order
to support their hypothesis: graphs include only those points which are
close to the "theoretical" curve while omitting points which are not close
to the curve. This curve gives an inverse cosecant relationship between
time and the speed of light. There is no justification for such a curve:
the usual curve for a decaying value is exponential and this would have
fitted the plotted data just as well as the inverse cosecant chosen by
Norman and Setterfield.
5.11: What about Velikovsky?
In the 1950s a Russian psychologist named Immanuel Velikovsky wrote Worlds in Collision. This book and its successors are remarkable for the density of scientific, archeological and mythological howlers. There are far too many to list here, but most are sufficient to cast serious doubt on his knowledge of any of these fields, and many are so large that even one is enough to refute the entire theory.
Much of Velilovsky's proof lies in statements of the form "The reason for <X> is not known. My theory explains it as follows:". Many of these reasons were in fact known when Velikovsky wrote, and many others have been discovered since. None of these reasons bear any relationship to Velikovksy's theory. The predictive value of the theory appears to be nil.
The books lack any mathematical analysis at all, which is strange considering that mathematics is the language of science, especially physics and astronomy.
Some of the more noticeable howlers are:
For more information, see:
Worlds in Collision: Immanuel Velikovsky
Earth in Upheaval: Immanuel Velikovsky
Velikovsky Reconsidered: The Editors of Pensee (has a lot of his papers in it, along with other papers pro-V.)
Scientists Confront Velikovsky: Donald Goldsmith
Beyond Velikovsky: The History of a Public Controversy Henry H. Bauer
Broca's Brain: Carl Sagan
Jim Meritt <email@example.com> has posted a long article on talk.origins
which systematically demolishes Velikovsky's ideas. I don't know if it
is archived anywhere. This section attempts to summarise it. Most discussion
of Velikovsky occurs on talk.origins.
5.12: Are there human footprints from 250 million years ago?
Claims that human footprints have been found mixed in with dinosaur tracks have been made since the 1960s. These fall into three groups:
a: Carvings by ancient native americans.
b: Modern carvings.
c: Mis-identified dinosaur footprints.
No credible evidence exists for human footprints in strata older than a few million years.
Ingalis, A. G., 1940, The Carboniferous mystery. Scientific American, v. 162, p. 14.
Jochmans, W., 1979, Strange Relicts from the depths of the Earth. Forgotten Ages Research Society, Lincoln, NB.
Monroe, J. S., 1987, Creationism, Human Footprints, and Flood Geology. Journal of Geological Education. v. 35, p. 93.
Owen, D. D., 1842, Regarding human foot-prints in solid limestone. Journal of Science, v. 43, p. 14-32.
Sloan, R. E., 1983, The association of "human" and fossil footprints. in Evolution Versus Creationism: The Public Education Controversy, J. P. Zetterberg, ed., pp. 354-357, Oryx Press.
Strahler, A. N., 1989, Chapter 48 Out of Order Fossils. in Science and Earth History - The Evolution/Creation Controversy, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, New York.
Von Fange, E. A., 1981, Time Upside Down. Offset House Printing, Indianapolis, Indiana, 41 p.
Weber, C. G., 1981, Paluxy man - the creationist Piltdown: Creation/Evolution, v. 6, pp. 16-22.