Rebutting creationist arguments for a young earth

In 2009, Australian creationist Dr. Don Batten, “Ph.D. in Plant Science,” wrote a compendium of evidence for a young earth, “101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe” for Creation Ministries International.

RationalWiki has just published a point-by-point refutation of each of these arguments (some of which are truly moronic) in their new article with the same title as Batten’s. (I’d suggest they add the word “rebuttal” to their title!).  I’m pointing out their piece here for two reasons: so you can have a convenient place to go if, God help you, you need to refute a young-earth creationist; but also because they’re seeking input from readers.  If you find any mistakes or unclear issues in their piece, post it as a comment below.

If you’ve dealt with creationists, you’ll be familiar with some of these arguments, but it’s nice to see them dealt with in one place.

Note that RationalWiki also has another article that’s partly but not completely overlapping, “Evidence against a recent creation.” You might want to have a look to see just what kind of arguments this extra-loony brand of creationism employs

32 Comments

  1. Posted March 29, 2012 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    Thank you very much for this 🙂

    Note that the intended audience is third parties who aren’t invested in the battle. Think “smart kid who’s been fed creationism but has an internet connection.”

    This means the replies have to be very calm and understated and just address the claims. e.g. we can’t really call lying liars the liars they are, even when they totally are.

    Also, skeptic jargon has to be kept to a minimum. (I’m even unsure about saying “Gish Gallop” in the first paragraph, for example.)

    Any help making this as high-quality and casual-reader-friendly as possible will be much appreciated. Feel free to hit “edit” 🙂

    • Posted March 29, 2012 at 4:47 am | Permalink

      BTW, I’m seeking to verify the existence of a creationist paper the article uses as a reference:

      Lalomov, A.V., 2007. Mineral deposits as an example of geological rates. CRSQ 44(1):64–66.

      I’ve checked the CRS Quarterly archive and there’s no evidence of the paper’s existence. I’ve emailed both CRSQ and CMI asking about it.

      Would there be anyone reading this who would happen to have access to a paper copy of CRSQ v44n1?

      • Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        And a reliable source has kindly sent me a scan 😀 Thank you, unnameable reliable source!

  2. veroxitatis
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    Am I alone in thinking that YEC’s need psychiatric intervention rather than scientific refutation?

    • Posted March 29, 2012 at 4:59 am | Permalink

      In 1862, it was quite possible for an intelligent, reasonable, educated and informed person to doubt evolution – it was a new theory and quite a shocking one.

      In 2012, a hundred and fifty years later, creationism is strictly for the woefully misinformed and the hard of thinking.

      • DV
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 7:02 am | Permalink

        as well as the willfully ignorant.

    • kagekiri
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Sigh…as a former YEC, well, I guess there’s not much excuse except that you’re raised in a culture of BS, and indoctrinated into distrusting “worldly” doctors and scientists, and told not to read things that contradict God’s word or scripture, because they’re deceptive and you should inherently doubt them.

      The Bible is used to basically teach people that skepticism of God is not desireable, and they have plenty of made up evidence from “trustworthy, un-worldly scientists who are showing the real truth despite the lies of secular, anti-religious scientists”.

      I was actually even good at biology despite its evolutionary foundation, and have seen doctors graduate med-school while remaining YECs. The brain-washing is hard to escape in those kinds of communities, and even bio majors can just memorize instead of believing the stuff on evolution.

      Of course, when I heard one of my own church’s pastors say that the Genesis story was probably allegory, and realized that even the first two chapters were contradictory…well, that threw a wrench in things. The doubts were always there, lurking, just suppressed by faith and fear of falling away.

      When I finally realized God was fake or an asshole (it took a while for me to formulate the problem of theodicy on my own, but it happened), well, then I could take a look at the actual evidence for evolution, and could easily see that I was just a sucker for a deceptive faith that creates guilt and shame and uses them to strong-arm you into blind beliefs.

      • Posted March 29, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        I’m interested to know: as someone who was taught creationism by people you trusted, how would you have responded to an article like this? Would it have done any good at all? And what bits would have been excuses to just stop reading? Your perspective as an ex-creationist is valuable – as a creationist who was capable of thought, you would have been just the intended target audience.

        • Newish Gnu
          Posted March 29, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

          My story isn’t much different than kagekiri so I’ll take your question as an open invitation.

          My response to your article would have (I’d like think) intrigue, curiousity, and interest. There would have been some distrust, of course. I probably would have looked not only at your sources but also at the creationists sources. When you characterize the creo’s as having misread or misunderstood a paper, I would have tried to verify that you weren’t mischaracterizing yourself. Would it have convinced me as a standalone piece? Probably not. Would it have caused me to ask questions and investigate. I think so.

          I think that there are 3 critical points.

          1) The sheer quantity. That the creo’s had 101 points (well, 94) and that you refuted every one of them. When I was a YEC, it was easy to fool me once. It was easy to fool me twice. It was easy to fool me …… well, so many times that I am still embarrassed to think about. But I think — goddamn it, I sure hope — that I wouldn’t have been fooled 101 times in a row.

          2) The internet. The links. The sheer availability of information. I really can’t imagine what it would have been like then to have access to what is available now. Even if your article was only 10% as good as it is, that would have been 1000 times better than what I had 30 to 40 years ago. (And the opposite holds true today: We can’t permit a void or AIG et.al. will expand to fill the void.)

          3) This is my most important thought: I was finally swayed away from YECery because it was rejected by people whose opinions I respected very much. (I was still suseptible to arguments from authority but at least I had found knowledgeable and honest authorities.) Your article can be a powerful tool even in the hands of non-scientists such as me.

          Good job! Thank you.

          • Mark Joseph
            Posted March 29, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

            My story is once again very similar to those of kagekiri and Newish Gnu. If I’d had this resource, I’d like to think I would not have sunk quite so deep into ignorance, but knowing my history (and the omphaloskeptic nature of the fundamentalist church) who knows?

            I’m really glad this has all been put together in one place. And, I just made a very tiny correction (just the spelling of a name), but which nevertheless brings me full circle. While I was a YEC, when the ICR put their series of papers “Acts & Facts” on-line, they merely put up OCR’d scans, with no corrections, and they were pretty bad. Gratis, and without even being asked, I proofread them and e-mailed the corrections to them (if you read them and find typos, don’t blame me–I noticed that they only made about half of the corrections that I sent; no, I don’t know why). So again I’ve made a correction, but this time on behalf of the sane and rational group.

            Also, I’ve managed to get into a discussion with the pastor of the church I used to attend; I will bring this list to his attention.

        • Posted March 4, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

          I am glad I’m not the only former YEC.

          Even when I was taught it, I wanted to ask questions, but when I did I was quickly told to just trust us and study the Bible more.

          Interesting enough, it was doing what I was told (study the Bible some more) that led me to Atheism, especially after I started studying various other religions too.

          Being taught YEC though is just downright dangerous to a child I think, because it teaches you to just accept what you are being told without doing any research on your own. And once you do the research, YEC quickly falls apart.

      • Veroxitatis
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        I don’t find any of this explanation amounts to an adequate excuse.

  3. Posted March 29, 2012 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    Creationist kitteh?

    Does such a thing really exist? (Creationist canine, maybe.)

    /@

  4. Posted March 29, 2012 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    “Plant science”? Really? I guess my communications degree is in “word science.”

    • daveau
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      Hey, yeah. Me too! Thanks for the upgrade.

  5. Another Matt
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    They say in #4 that mitochondrial eve is the “most recent common female ancestor of all persons living today.” I think it should be “most recent common matrilineal ancestor of all persons living today.” That is, through their mother’s side.

    The MRCA is neither mitochondrial eve nor y-chromosome adam. MRCA could have been female, or if MRCA was male, his mother was most recent common female ancestor.

  6. derekw
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Thanks. Excellent resource to refer to when discussing with my YEC friends.

  7. Posted March 29, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Facepalm!

    Living fossils – graptolites are not living fossils, they are – well, fossils. Nice to be accurate.

    Dendrochronology, which this muppet seems to endorse, gives an age of 4789 years for the oldest living tree, the “Methusela pine”, which is *pre*-“flood”, which AIG place at 4359 BP. The recently cut down “Prometheus Pine” was even older

    • Posted March 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      Point 12, we also have dinosaur nest sites on top of other sediments – bit of a problem if you want to claim it wasn’t an ecosystem. Also, how do they explain what happened to all the trees that must have got felled during the flood. They like to talk of rapid burial, so, where are the trees? Oh, yeah, and we have fossilised tree roots. You might want to check out fossil grove near Glasgow

      • Posted March 29, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        Last one before I waste too much time on this. Hutton’s angular unconformity at Siccar point has horizontal sandstone on top of tilted Greywacke. There are greywacke pebbles embedded in the sandstone at the boundary, indicating the rock was solid when eroded and that deposition of the sandstone came from a different environment.

      • Posted April 20, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        It’s called coal and oil. Just how did such large amounts of fossil fuels gets so deeply burreid in the earth?

    • Posted April 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      A living fossil is the term they give to species that are alive and have fossil remains. Bacteria, fruitflies, mosquitos, dragonflies, ostrich, horshoe crab, Ceolacanth fish, ants, etc all of which are strong evidence that evolution did not take place for obvious reasons.

  8. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    While Newish Gnu offer a case study for debating denialists, the denialism blog offers its Mooney shot:

    “[title] Mooney now agrees with us – Denialists deserve ridicule, not debate [/title]

    He had to realize Nisbett’s framing was worthless and write a whole book on defective Republican reasoning to realize it but it sounds like Chris Mooney has come around to the right way to confront denialism:

    The only solution, then, is to make organized climate denial simply beyond the pale. It has to be the case that taking such a stand is tantamount to asserting that smoking is completely safe, no big deal, go ahead and have two packs a day.””

    “The solution to these problems is not in confrontations or debates or even necessarily careful fisking of their arguments every time they appear in the blogosphere. For one, it’s somewhat futile. They’re cranks. They will just go on and on, immune to any new data, scientific findings, or any evidence the real world can present. Worse, evidence suggests that repetition of false claims reinforces them even if you are debunking the claim. So debating them to supposedly educate those around you is not a legitimate reason because it’s probably making things worse, not to mention legitimizing the denialist.”

    But FWIW and recognizing that a one stop web resource is valuable in more ways, and while 101 points are too many points to cover:

    #69:

    – Mercury’s magnetic field is not large, if with enough significance to constitute an observation, it is ~ 1% of Earth’s. That is despite Mercury’s core is constituting ~ 85 % of its mass compared to Earth’s constituting ~ 40 % of mass.

    – It is not biologist’s (“evolutionist’s”) dynamo mechanism, but planetary scientist’s. This is a recurring mistake, also in #70 for example.

    #76:

    – The argument for YEC is still giving ~ 30 million years age of Enceladus active ocean.

    – The ocean is evidence for recurring eccentricity warming. (Re Carolyn Porko, who is – again – not a biologist.)

    – Using the plume ice production rate and the imaged depth of the redeposited ice, the ocean is known to be at least ~ 100 million years – old enough to accommodate any scenarios for chemical to biological evolution on Earth.

    #89:

    – Salt inclusion composition tells of ocean temperatures ~ 40 degC 3.1 billion years ago (IIRC), at a time when according to the YEC the oceans should be ~ 10 degC. There are also similar but arguable results on chert isotope ratios ~ 3 billion years ago.

    Clearly other effects than insolation affects the climate!

    #96:

    I can’t believe they missed the “Adam & Eve” (or here “sic people”) problem!

    Smallest possible human population bottleneck from genome studies is thousands of individuals. Just ask Jerry…

  9. Posted March 30, 2012 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Wow, what a BEAUTIFULLY CONSTRUCTED rebuttal resource aimed at specific YEC claims, that one at RationalWiki!

    That’s the way to do it! The time and effort to put such together is well worthwhile, for nothing beats a future time-saver like a one-stop-shopping resource of succinct,sharply-focused rebuttals to specific YEC claims that we can point-to when confronted by red-faced, white-knuckled, foaming-at-the-mouth YECs demanding (or calm, peacefully-nudging YECs too, for that matter) that we capitulate in the face of their “arguments.”

  10. Posted March 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    The volume and length of Dr. Batten’s arguments indicates he is greatly upset with the strength of scientific evidence concerning creation an evolution. It is evidence that we are making progress in the religious world, influencing and winning over creationists to scientific thinking. I attended a creationist meeting in Indianapolis where the main speaker spoke in alarm that over thirty precent of children of Creationist parents would give up their beliefs unless parents and church put more pressure on them to believe in Christ. They are worried.

  11. Beachscriber
    Posted April 1, 2012 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    Thanks, this is very useful. Young-earthers are flat-earthers.

  12. zuma
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    The following are the various methods that are adopted by scientists to assess the age of the earth:
    a)Using sea composition to compute the age of the earth:
    Scientists used sea composition to derive the age of the earth. This method has its derivation from Edmond Halley (1656-1742). In his opinion, the rain would have dissolved all salt from the ground and would bring down to the sea with the assumption that there would be no salt in the sea initially.
    In 1910, George F. Becker found the age of the earth to be between 50 and 70 million years by means of salt clock method.
    However, the measurement by means of seawater composition does not give an accurate age of the earth on the condition if the sea might have been formed initially with much salt in the beginning. If that would be so, it is irrational to measure sea composition to determine the age of earth since much salt would have been in the sea already during its creation.
    b)Lord Kelvin in 1862 did compute the age of earth through the estimation of the coolness of the earth from its original molten state in which he concluded that the age of the earth was between 20 to 400 million years ago.
    However, its assumption that the earth would be in the molten state might not be accurate on the condition if the earth would have been formed in solid state initially instead of in molten. If that would be so, the computation of the age of this earth that is by means of the computation of the time taken for earth to be cooled down would not be reliable.
    c)Erosion method: The assessment of the age of the earth is by means of the observation with presumption that erosion would take place at about 1 ft every 5,000 years. With this method, they assess Canyon would start out flat and it would take 30,000,000 years for the Colorado river to erode 600 ft of the Grand Canyon.
    The computation above suffers a shortfall with the assumption that it would start up flat. What if the place does not start up flat or it would be that the place has already been created nearer to current condition in the beginning of its creation, the computation would not give the accurate period of erosion.
    Another query is why the erosion rate should be consistent at 1 ft every 5,000 years and not 1 ft every 4,000 years or otherwise.
    Thus, the computation of the earth by means of erosion method would be subjective and not reliable.
    d)Using radiometric dating methods to compute the age of the earth:
    The derivation of radiometric dating methods or radioactive dating methods came in the late 1940s and 1950s. These methods focus on the decay of atoms of one chemical element into another. This technique is based on a comparison between the measured amount of a naturally occurring radioactive element and its decay product, assuming a constant rate of decay – known as half-life.
    Using this technique, scientists could analyze the rock to assess the age of the earth through uranium and lead, plug those values along with the half-life into a logarithmic equation. They have arrived with the conclusion that the age of the earth should be 4.5 to 4.6 billion years.
    However, what if both the parent isotopes, i.e. Samarium-147, Rubidium-87, Rhenium-187, Lutetium-176, Thorium-232,Uranium-238, Potassium-40, Uranium-235, Beryllium-10, Chlorine-36, Carbon-14, Uranium-234 and Thorium-230, that have been commented by Scientists to be the products (daughter) of Neodymium-143, Strontium-87, Osmium-187, Hafnium-176, Lead-208, Lead-206, Argon-40, Lead-207, Boron-10, Argon-36, Nitrogen-14, Thorium-230, and Radium-226 respectively, might have co-existed in the beginning of the world during its formation, it is erroneous to comment that there would be relationship among them and to use them to assess the decay rate of half life in order to use it to compute the age of the earth or fossils since all these materials might have been created ever since the beginning of the earth. As that could be so, it is erroneous to use it to compute the age of the earth to be billion years.

    • Posted August 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      OK, I’ll bite.

      And which of these methods are actually used by modern scientists to determine age of the Earth?

      As to the last, you can’t make that supposition without also requiring that stellar nucleosynthesis, and thus nuclear physics, and thus quantum mechanics be different from what they are.

      KTHXBYE.

      /@

  13. zuma
    Posted September 1, 2012 at 3:34 am | Permalink

    Scientists have accepted the use of half-life decay rates to be in millions or billions years for radiometric dating method or radioactive dating method. Some would suggest that Noah’s ark should have caused the rocks to have accelerate decay and that would have caused the age of the earth to be misled in millions or billions years. Discuss.
    Noah’s ark that had appeared in the past might not cause the rocks to decay accelerate for the following reasons:
    a)Some rocks that have been created in the very beginning would be as hard as diamond so much so that it is impossible for these rocks to decay. As these rocks would be impossible to decay, the appearance of Noah’s ark would not cause any damage of these rocks. As these rocks could be as hard as diamond, it is irrational to suggest their decay rates to be in millions or billions of years since it would be impossible for them to decay in the first place and that the decay rate for them should be set at 0. To give the high value of decay rates, such as, billion years, for hard rocks in which they are impossible to decay, Scientists have indirectly pushed the age of fossils and the earth to billions years unrealistically.
    b)Only the soft rocks that would have created in the very beginning would decay rapidly instead of the hard one. Scientists might have observed the change of shape of the rocks and comment that they should be the cause of decaying rocks. However, they should consider also the change of shape of rocks could be the result of soft rocks instead of hard since the hard would be impossible for them to decay. Besides, the hard rocks that could have been created initially would look like the current shape. As these hard rocks could never decay since they are as solid as diamond, there is no way for Noah’s ark or wind or whatever to cause them to decay. As these hard rocks could not decay, it is irrational to suggest that the incidence of Noah’s ark would have any influence upon the shape of hard rocks.
    The reliability of radiometric dating method that has been adopted by scientists to determine the age of fossils as well as the earth would be in question on the condition of the possible existence of rocks that would be as hard as diamond so much so that there is no way for them to decay. If that would be so, there should be no reason for scientists to suggest that the decay rates of the rocks should be million or billion years since they would have been created in the beginning in such a way that there is no way for them to decay. If that could be so, to insist the value of decaying rates for hard rocks with millions or billions of years would simply be unrealistic and unreliable.
    The following is the list of isotopes that have been used by scientists to estimate the age of the earth as well as fossils:
    Samarium-147 (parent); Neodymium-143 (daughter); decaying rate: 106 billion years
    Rubidium-87 (parent); Strontium-87 (daughter); decaying rate: 50 billion years
    Uranium-238 (parent); Lead-206 (daughter); decaying rate: 4.47 billion years
    Potassium-40 (parent); Argon-40 (daughter); decaying rate: 1.3 billion years
    Uranium-235 (parent); Lead-207 (daughter); decaying rate: 704 million years
    Uranium-234 (parent); Thorium-230 (daughter); decaying rate: 80,000 years
    Carbon-14 (parent); Nitrogen-14 (daughter); decaying rate: 5,730 years
    Using radioactive dating method to date the age of fossils and the earth would be unreliable. Let’s take Samarium-147 (parent) and Neodymium-143 (daughter) to be one of the examples from above for illustration.
    a)What if Neodymium-143 would have been created in the very beginning instead of it would be the result of decaying from Samarium-147, it is irrational to link up the relationship between them and to comment that Neodymium-143 was the transformation of Samarium-147 and to establish its half-life decaying rate to be 106 billion years.
    b)What if both Samarium-147 and Neodymium-143 would have been created as hard as diamond that it would be impossible for them to decay, it is irrational to conclude that Neodymium-143 should be the daughter of Samarium-147 and to suggest that the decaying rate for Neodymium-143 from Samarium-147 to be 106 billion years. This is by virtue of the half life decay rate for Neodymium-143 from Samarium-147 should be set at 0 at the absence of the possibility of decaying.
    c)How could scientists have established the relationship between these items and comment that Neodymium-143 should have decayed from Samarium-147 instead of other source or material or substance? There would be a possibility that Neodymium-143 might decay and turn into another form of material instead of Samarium-147.
    d)How do the scientists derive the decay rate for each material and to ensure its accuracy of decay rate? For instance, the Scientists have suggested the half-life decay rate for Neodymium-143 from Samarium-147 to be 106 billion years. Why should the decay rate be 106 billion years instead of a few thousand years? How do they get this figure or whether they would have plucked from sky since nobody could live so long so as to witness this would come true for the transformation?
    e) When the scientists suggested the decay rates for various materials, such as, from Argon-40 to Potassium-40 or from Samarium-147 to Neodymium-143, how do they arrange in such a way that the decay rate for Argon-40 to Potassium-40 would be lower than Samarium-147 to Neodymium-143 and not the other way round?
    d)As nobody could live millions or billions of years to witness whether Samarium-147 would turn up to be Neodymium-143, the reliability of radioactive dating method by means of the use of isotopes is questionable.
    All the above have placed the reliability of radioactive dating method into question especially the setting of decay rate in million or billions years have indirectly pushed the age of fossils and the earth unreasonably to billion years.
    Refer to the website site address http://asa3.org/ASA/resources/Wiens.html pertaining to the mathematical formula in which it indicates how the age of fossils and the earth to be computed:
    t = h x ln[1+(argon-40)/(0.112 x (potassium-40))]/ln(2)
    where t is the time in years, h is the half-year, also in years, and ln is the natural logarithm.
    Examine the formula carefully. t, the age of the fossils or the rock or the earth, corresponds with h, that is the half-year decay rate. If the scientists intentionally push the half-year decay rate to millions of years, t, that is the age of the fossils or the rock or the earth, would be pushed up by them to millions or even billions of years.

    • Posted September 2, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      “What if both Samarium-147 and Neodymium-143 would have been created as hard as diamond that it would be impossible for them to decay…”

      Clearly you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Hardness has bugger all to do with radioactive decay. Please consult a high-school science text book.

      /@


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