CREATIONISM, A PSEUDOSCIENCE
Creationism makes two faulty claims: that the Earth is young and that the work of Creation lasted just one week. The original position of Bible literalists was that the world was made in six 24-hour days no more than six thousand years ago. As scientific thinking has progressed, however, it has become more and more obvious that these assertions undermine history, archæology, palæontology, geology, astronomy, anthropology, and nuclear physics. Consequently, most biblicists have been forced to back off and allow for longer periods of time in the creation sequence. But still, despite all proof to the contrary, many of these naive biblicists have stuck with their outdated cosmology even to the present day.
The extreme age of the Earth has become obvious even to many of the most obtuse Bible literalists in the following phenomena: the prolonged processes that have produced fossil fuels, the formation of mountains, radioactive decay rates, the enormous distance to the edges of the universe calculated in light-years, and the present positions of land masses caused by the slow drifting of continental plates. These processes cannot possibly be compressed into a six thousand year period. And so, the “young Earth” concept is now out the window along with such old notions as the Earth’s being at the center of the solar system.
Another faulty premise of some creationists is the “primordial cloud” theory. Bible literalists read into the Genesis account about “waters above the firmament” a primordial condition in which a cloud of water vapor enveloped the Earth. From this premise they adduce other theories such as a “greenhouse effect” in which the cloud filtered out harmful rays and produced a paradise (the biblical Eden) upon earth, and also that the climate was such that men could live as long as Methuselah. Furthermore, the eventual breakup of this cloud was the reason that the sun and moon were not said to be “created” until the third day of the creation week, i.e., the luminaries were not visible from the surface of the Earth until the cloud was dispersed. (Visibility of the luminaries from the surface of the Earth has no meaning, because there were no people to do the viewing.)
The time sequence for this scenario is faulty, because the third day when the primordial cloud supposedly broke up preceded the establishment of Eden on the Earth. Thus, there would have been no effect on the climate of Eden or the longevity of the antediluvians.
Also, the existence of this primordial phenomenon is disproved by the following observation:
Understanding the sources of our water is a lesson in geophysics. For decades following the realization that the Earth was at one time molten, it had been assumed that the water of the Earth’s oceans came from the condensation of steam held in a primeval cloud that surrounded the molten Earth. The geophysical constraints on the size of such a cloud are that the upper surface of the cloud had to be hot enough to maintain the water as a vapor and close enough to the Earth’s surface so that the gravitational force would keep the water vapor from escaping to space. These requirements limit the maximum possible size of the cloud. Calculations made in the early 1950s showed that the amount of water able to be held in such a cloud would account for only a small fraction of the 1,400,000,000 cubic kilometers of water contained in today’s oceans.
...Molten rock can contain approximately 5 percent of its weight as dissolved water. As the rock solidifies, however, the water is expelled as steam. The quantity of steam from the volcanoes of a cooling Earth can account for the volume of water in our oceans.*
*Genesis And The Big Bang by Gerald L. Schroeder, PhD., pp. 125-126.
Also, creationists make the mistake of claiming too much. Their teaching materials imply that (1) scientific opinion is equally divided on natural and supernatural creation, (2) the case is equally good for both models, (3) there are only two models possible, (4) the evidence supports creationism, and (5) scientific cosmologists believe absurdities. It should be obvious, however, that there are many more than just two models of cosmology and that many of the religious creation stories are highly contradictory of each other. These facts are conveniently overlooked by the extreme right wing of conservative Christianity, whose agenda is to bend scientific research to their own purposes and to force one and only one model of cosmology on the educational system of this nation. Fundamentalists will say that they love the truth, but they are guilty in this instance of practicing the worst kind of intellectual dishonesty.
The creationist demand for “equal time” in the science classroom is no more valid than granting alchemy equal time with chemistry, or astrology with astronomy, or flat earth theory with space research, or so-called “pyramid power” with modern physics, or faith healing with medicine, or disease-as-an-illusion (Christian Science teaching) with germ theory, or divining rod practice with oil-drilling technology. It is not the purpose of education to just expose students to all kinds of crackpot fringe theories at the expense of scientifically-proven knowledge.
Thus, recognizing that creationism is not valid science, it naturally follows that it should not be taught as such in the public school. However, that does not mean that it should have no place at all in the curriculum. The very fact that literal Bible interpretation is the viewpoint of a large segment of the population and that it holds a place of importance in the history of the human race (from primitive through medieval times), means that the Genesis account should be addressed in history, philosophy, humanities, and religion classes. Also, the Bible as literature should be an integral study in English classes as well.
Since Western culture is primarily Bible-based, most class time should be given to that version of creation, But in a pluralistic society it is imperative that some time be provided for other religious cosmologies, whether of Hindus, Amerindians, Mormons, or Scientologists, etc. Hopefully, even though they remain separate spheres of study, scientific concepts of the creation will be colored by the best and highest perspectives of religion. And, vice versa, religious concepts may be enhanced by giving them a scientific orientation.
Public education has been a great boon to rational thinking. And people are finding that once the old mindset in favor of prescientific folklore and fable is overcome, and is replaced with a more enlightened cosmological premise, magnificent vistas of new understanding are opened upon the human mind. In fact, with eyes to see, the wonderful expanse and intricacy of the universe greatly enlarges one’s concept of the Designer of it all.
Richard L. Atkins