Atheism vs. Christianity: Two Competing Worldviews
One of the basic questions of life is, “How did we humans get here?” We cannot rely on science alone to answer this question because we can’t directly observe and test historical events. Therefore, we’re forced to make some assumptions about the past based upon our worldview.
The atheist worldview is built upon a philosophy of naturalism/materialism, which says that the natural/material realm is all that exists. Atheists also believe in uniformitarianism, which says that the natural processes we observe today have always existed in the same way (i.e. the present is the key to the past). The atheist worldview automatically rules out any possibility of the supernatural, so the starting assumption is that the Biblical account of creation cannot be true.
The Christian worldview is built upon the Bible, and the Bible itself claims to be the infallible Word of God (see Bible Summary). Therefore, the Christian worldview is not based on man’s fallible opinion or unverifiable assumptions, but instead is based on the eyewitness testimony of an inerrant God.
To contrast these competing worldviews, let’s take an in-depth look at how each one explains our existence.
History according to Atheism
Origin of the Universe
The Steady-State Theory teaches that the universe has always existed. This theory is appealing because it allows atheists to avoid the pesky problem of having to explain how everything came from nothing. They don’t have to explain how life got started either because they can just argue that life arrived on Earth via comets. If the universe is eternal, then life itself would also be eternal.
However, the Steady-State Theory faces several problems. First, the universe itself appears to be expanding, which would rule out the possibility of an eternal universe. After all, if everything is expanding then everything must have started from a single point (i.e. a beginning). Steady-State supporters argue that the universe has always been expanding, and they claim that new matter and energy are constantly forming out of nothing to fill in the gaps and keep the machine running forever. Of course they’re unable to present any evidence for the formation of new matter and energy, presumably because it violates the First Law of Thermodynamics.
Second, there is an uneven distribution of quasars throughout the known universe–they are much more common in distant galaxies than they are in nearby galaxies. In an eternal universe we would expect to see a much more homogeneous distribution of quasars, since there would have been plenty of time for the universe to reach equilibrium.
Third, although we see star deaths (supernovas) quite often, we never see star births. Wouldn’t an eternal universe have at least as many stars forming as exploding to maintain equilibrium?
Finally, scientists have detected Cosmic Background Radiation (CBR), which seems to originate evenly from all directions at once at once. The discovery of CBR was predicted by the Big Bang Theory, leading most scientists to abandon the Steady-State Theory in favor of the Big Bang.
Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang Theory states that about 13.8 billion years ago all the matter and energy in the universe used to be squished down into a single point called a gravitational singularity (an infinitely small, infinitely dense, and extremely hot region). This tiny dot expanded exponentially in just a few seconds, cooling as it expanded. Shortly after the initial expansion, all the atomic and subatomic particles formed, and then stars began forming as gravity pulled clouds of matter together in spots throughout the universe.
This theory is appealing because it explains the expansion of the universe that we observe today, and it also provides an explanation for how the cooling of the universe could have produced the CBR. However, the Big Bang Theory also faces several problems.
First, the CBR is very evenly distributed throughout the universe, but such a uniform temperature could only be achieved by exchanging light between all points in space. There simply isn’t enough time according to the Big Bang model for light on one side of the known universe to be exchanged with light on the opposite side.
To get around this problem, some Big Bang supporters claim that our current laws of physics weren’t yet established during the earliest moments of the Big Bang, so light could have traveled at faster than normal speed. However, most supporters appeal to another rescuing device known as cosmic inflation. Basically they claim that the initial phase of expansion during the Big Bang was slow enough for the temperature to reach uniformity throughout, and then a second phase of faster-than-light expansion proceeded, followed by the final phase of normal-speed expansion that we see continuing today. This exponential phase of expansion was possible because it was space itself that was expanding, which is not bounded by the speed of light.
Second, a 13.8-billion-year-old universe is too young for life to exist. I’ll circle back to this problem in the Origin of Life section below.
Third, the distant galaxies that we observe are much more mature than Big Bang models predicted they should be. Astronomers observe galaxies that are more than 12 billion light-years away from us. If the Big Bang were true, that would mean that light from these distant galaxies started travelling toward us about 1 billion years after the Big Bang occurred (in other words we are looking 12 billion years into the past). Scientific models predicted that these galaxies should still be in the very early stages of development, and yet what we observe are fully formed, mature-looking galaxies similar to our own Milky Way.
Fourth, scientific models cannot explain how the Big Bang would have created any elements other than hydrogen, helium, and possibly lithium. Scientists theorize that when the first stars formed (Population III) , they fused these lighter elements together to form the heavier elements on our periodic table. Therefore, scientists predicted that if they could observe extremely distant stars (i.e. look extremely far back into the past) they would see many Population III stars containing only hydrogen, helium, and lithium. However, all of the stars they have observed so far contain heavier elements like oxygen, silicon, and iron.
Finally, the Big Bang Theory cannot explain what created the initial singularity. Supporters appeal to several possibilities:
- Nothing existed prior to the singularity, and the universe created itself out of nothing. They have absolutely no evidence for this claim, but their blind dedication to naturalism forces them to avoid any possibility that God created everything.
- The universe is in an endless cycle of oscillation: one day everything will be squished back down into a singularity (The Big Crunch), which will lead to another Big Bang, which will lead to another Big Crunch, and so on. This claim is appealing since it re-establishes the infinite timeline necessary for life to exist. However, the expansion of the universe seems to be speeding up rather than slowing down, which contradicts this theory.
- Our universe is part of a multiverse: an infinite number of parallel universes spawned by the Big Bang. This claim also serves to re-establish the infinite timeline required for life, but there’s no way to find evidence to support it. If alternate universes did exist, they would by definition exist outside of our own.
Origin of the Solar System
Whether atheists believe in an eternal universe or a self-generating one their next challenge is to explain how our Solar System formed. They claim that about 4.6 billion years ago, a giant cloud of dust, ice, and gas, called the solar nebula began to collapse. As the cloud collapsed, it started spinning to conserve angular momentum, which would have caused it to flatten into a disk. At the center of the disk, the pressure and heat continued increasing until it achieved nuclear fusion and formed the Sun. The remaining material orbiting the Sun gathered into clumps of increasing size to form the planets. Small, rocky planets formed closest to the Sun where the heat burned off ice and gas, while the large gas giants formed farther out.
There are several problems with this theory. First, the gas pressure and magnetic force of this supposed solar nebula would have prevented it from collapsing.
Atheists claim that a nearby supernova would have provided the necessary impetus to overcome these forces and start a gravitational collapse at the center of mass. After that, the gravitational force would have been sufficient to keep things going. The problem with this explanation is that it requires exploding stars to produce the formation of stars. If that’s the case, then how did the first stars form?
Second, according to the conservation of angular momentum, we should see the Sun and all planets orbiting and rotating in the same direction (counterclockwise when viewed from above Earth’s North Pole). Indeed all planets orbit the Sun in a counterclockwise direction, but Venus and Pluto rotate about their axes in a clockwise direction–the opposite direction relative to Sun’s rotation. Also, Uranus has an axis of rotation that is tilted completely on its side and parallel to the plane of the Solar System. In addition, Pluto’s orbit is is unique: rather than being a near circle and within the same plane as the other planets, its orbit is elliptical, not centered around the Sun, and tilted relative to every other planet.
The atheist explanation is that the planetary orbits were much different when the Solar System was first forming. As the planets migrated to their current orbits, they either experienced a gravitational drag on their angular momentum or collided with an object that was large enough to permanently affect their rotation. However, since they have no evidence that this happened, it amounts to special pleading.
Formation of Earth
According to atheists, the Earth began as a molten mass with extreme volcanic activity and frequent collisions with comets. Earth’s initial atmosphere was mostly hydrogen, water vapor, methane, and ammonia, although most of the lighter gasses either escaped or were pushed out by solar wind. Outgassing from volcanoes replaced the escaping gas with nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and additional water vapor.
When sufficient water vapor had accumulated in the atmosphere, the Earth’s surface cooled and formed a solid crust. It was at this time that a Mars-sized object collided with Earth and kicked up enough debris to form the Moon. Meanwhile, water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere condensed to form oceans, with continued bombardment by comets providing additional sources of water.
There are several problems with this theory. First, atheists can’t decide how Earth got all of its water. Many atheists believe that the majority of Earth’s water came from its formation out of the solar nebula. However, they also believe that the Moon was created during a massive collision with the already formed Earth. If their theory on the Moon’s creation were true, then the force of that impact would have vaporized a large amount of the Earth’s water. Therefore, atheists also believe that comets provided additional sources of water. However, comets typically have a much larger ratio of heavy water (water containing the hydrogen isotope deuterium) than what we find on Earth. If a large majority of Earth’s current water supply originated from comets, why do comets have about twice the deuterium as our oceans? Shouldn’t the ratio be much closer?
Second, atheists can’t account for the rapid decay of Earth’s magnetic field. Earth’s magnetic field has lost about 10% of its strength over the past 150 years and 40% of its strength over the past 1,000 years. This decay means that the magnetic field used to be much stronger. If you extrapolate back to about 20,000 years ago, the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field at that time would have generated so much heat in the planet core that the oceans would be unable to form.
Third, the Earth’s oceans aren’t as salty as they should be. Every year the oceans absorb and retain roughly another 333 million tons of salt from runoff, seepage, and other natural processes. That means that the oceans used to be less salty. If you take today’s saltwater concentration and extrapolate backwards in time using a constant rate of salinization, then you’ll never reach an age of the Earth greater than 100 million years.
Finally, the Moon’s orbit around Earth is getting larger, which means that the Moon used to be closer in the past. If you extrapolate back to about 1.5 billion years ago, the Moon and the Earth would have be practically touching, and the Earth’s tidal forces would have ripped the Moon apart. Certainly this evidence doesn’t fit with the atheists’ 4 billion year timeline of the Earth.
Origin of Life
Since the atheist worldview rules out any possibility of the supernatural, they must come up with a natural process by which life can arise from nonliving material, a process called abiogenesis. They claim that life began about 4.1 billion years ago when the first self-replicating molecules began to chain themselves together to form the complex structures required for life, and it could have happened in several ways. Here are the two most popular theories:
- Primordial Soup – Assuming that Earth’s early atmosphere consisted of hydrogen, methane, ammonia, and water vapor, then bolts of lightning induced chemical reactions that resulted in the formation of various organic molecules. Eventually rainwater concentrated all of the various organic compounds together into a shallow pool, where over time they synthesized into more complex molecules and eventually a simple cell. The famous Miller-Urey experiment of 1952 is still cited in science textbooks today as proof of this theory.
- Hydrothermal Vents – Undersea vents are a rich source of hydrogen as well as mineral catalysts such as bicarbonates and calcium. The pH of the water, warm temperatures, and high pressure increase the probability of chemical reactions leading to formation of more complex molecules.
There are several insurmountable problems with the atheist explanations for abiogenesis:
- Oxygen – Initial claims were that Earth’s early atmosphere did not contain oxygen because it destroys organic molecules. However, without oxygen in the ozone layer to shield the Earth from ultraviolet light, ammonia and methane would be destroyed.
- Water – Since all evidence points to the fact that Earth has always had atmospheric oxygen, atheists have relied on hydrothermal vents as their preferred oxygen-free environment for organic molecules to assemble. However, the natural process of hydrolysis in water tends to break up polypeptides and destroy amino acids.
- Lightning – An energy source would have been necessary to trigger the synthesis of the first organic molecules. Typically atheists claim that lightning was that source. However, even if lightning succeeded in creating a few amino acids, subsequent lightning strikes would have destroyed those very same amino acids.
- Energy – All living things require an energy source for growth and reproduction, but they also require an apparatus that can harness that energy. For example, sunlight is a form of energy that can be very destructive. However, plant cells contains chloroplasts that can combine energy from sunlight with carbon dioxide and water to produce sugar and oxygen. How did the first organic molecules harness energy from the environment unless they already had the energy converter from the beginning?
- Poison – The Miller-Urey experiment proved that some of the chemical reactions supposedly responsible for the formation of organic chemicals actually end up producing poisonous byproducts like tar and carboxylic acid. It would be hard for life to get started if the building blocks had to be assembled in hazardous environments.
- Reactions – Each building block of life requires a different chemical reaction with different ingredients and catalysts. These reactions would conflict with each other if they all occurred in the same pool of water, so they would need to happen in their own separate pools of water. In addition, these reactions would burn out pretty quickly unless they received a continual supply ingredients and catalysts. Therefore, the most likely scenario would be if these reactions occurred in separate streams of water that trickled down a hill and combined in a pool at the end⸺highly unlikely.
- Complexity – Life is far too complex to to form by itself. Both left-handed and right-handed forms of amino acids exist, but only the left-handed ones are used by all living organisms. Similarly, over 300 amino acids are known, but only 20 of them are used by all living organisms. A minimum of 50-70 amino acids are required to build even the simplest proteins used in living organisms, with the simplest cells requiring hundreds of proteins. Furthermore, most proteins require hundreds or even thousands of amino acids while most cells require millions of proteins.
- DNA – DNA provides the instructions for building all of the various proteins required by living organisms, and all of the functions of DNA involve proteins. So both DNA and protein had to originate at the same time. Furthermore, DNA has an even more complex structure than proteins, so it would have been even more difficult for it to arise through natural processes.
Since we can’t observe abiogenesis, it’s important to consider the probability that life arose from nonliving matter. Let’s pretend for a moment that some unknown chemical process in the past was able to assemble a strand of 100 left-handed amino acids to form a protein. The odds of that happening would have been 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1030 or 2100). That’s the same odds as flipping a coin 100 times in a row and landing on heads every single time, and no reasonable person would believe that claim.
However, there are 20 different amino acids used in all living things, and building a protein requires assembling just the right amino acids in just the right order or else the protein is useless. Therefore, the probability is actually more like 1 in 10130 (20100). And that’s just a single protein, which is nowhere close to all of the proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids required for a living cell.
The odds of assembling a living cell out of nothing are more like 1 in 1040,000! Keep in mind that any odds less than 1 in 1050 are considered statistically impossible and that there are only 1080 atoms in the known universe. Clearly evolutionists are operating in the realm of fairy tales.
Evolutionists appeal to several rescuing devices. First, they claim that these trial-and-error combinations are not truly random since they are guided by the laws of physics. Never mind that we can’t reproduce these results even when we try to rig the system. Second, they claim that the first self-replicating molecules would have been shorter in length and therefore easier to assemble. Never mind that no one has ever observed one of these simple, self-replicating molecules, and ignore the fact that multiple environmental forces would have broken apart the chemical bonds holding this molecule together. Third, they claim that it wasn’t one process working to assemble the first cell, but rather millions of chemical reactions were taking place constantly all over Earth and probably all over the universe. However, only 1018 seconds have elapsed since the Big Bang, which means that you could assemble one correct amino acid per second since the dawn of the universe and still not complete a single cell. It is for this reason that Big Bang supporters want to believe in the oscillating universe and the multiverse theories–both of them offer the infinite timeline necessary to take the statistically impossible and make it inevitable.
In modern times, evolutionists have employed sophisticated computer simulations in an attempt to prove that evolution could occur despite these impossible odds. However, any programmer is familiar with the phrase “garbage in equals garbage out,” meaning that a program that begins with faulty assumptions will inevitably produce faulty results. If you tell a computer that 0.0001% of sunflower seeds actually produce oak trees, then you can run a simulation that gives you that result, despite the fact that no one has ever observed a sunflower seed producing an oak tree.
Origin of Humans
If abiogenesis were true, then the first life forms would have been unicellular organisms like bacteria. So where did humans come from? Atheists answer this question with the famous Theory of Evolution, which can be narrowly defined as descent with modification. They claim that through the processes of genetic inheritance, DNA mutation, and natural selection, the first life forms evolved into an ever widening array of species, eventually leading to the wonderful variety of living organisms that we observe today.
The biggest flaw in this theory is that no one has ever seen one kind of organism change into a different kind of organism. As Ray Comfort demonstrated in the movie “Evolution vs. God”, if you ask an evolutionist to give an example of an observable change in kinds (macroevolution), they will only be able to provide observable examples of a change in species (microevolution). They will tell you about Darwin’s Galapagos finches, about bacteria’s evolving metabolism, and about bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics. But notice that the finches were still finches, and the bacteria were still bacteria. The finches never became squirrels, and the bacteria never became tomato plants.
Evolutionists claim that macroevolution is merely microevolution over long periods of time and that only creationists draw a distinction between micro- and macroevolution. Yet they acknowledge that no one can actually observe macroevolution since the process happens too slowly. Therefore, they appeal to the fossil record as evidence that macroevolution has occurred in the past. They claim that the rock layers we observe around the world were laid down over millions of years. Since simple life forms appear In the lowest (and therefore oldest) layers of rock, and since the progression of fossils as you come up through the rock layers matches what evolutionists assume was the evolutionary path, then that proves evolution to be true.
This argument suffers from several huge flaws:
- Petrified trees – We often observe petrified trees standing upright through several layers of rock that were supposedly laid down over millions of years. SInce we know that a tree could never stand upright for that long while rock layers slowly accumulated around it, our only conclusion is that the rock layers must all have been laid down in a very short period of time.
- Rapid burial – We often see extremely well preserved fossils of delicate organisms like jellyfish. These soft tissues would never have survived both scavengers and decomposition unless they were rapidly buried under catastrophic conditions. We also see fossils of fish in the middle of eating or giving birth. If those fish had died under normal conditions, they would have floated to the surface, been ripped apart by scavengers and decomposition, and never fossilized. We can only conclude that all of these fossils formed during a unique catastrophic event, which means that the rock layers were laid down quickly.
- Soft tissue – Since the 1960s, scientists have discovered red blood cells and collagen fibers in unfossilized dinosaur bones that are supposed to be 65 million years old. Bones should be fossilized by that time, and yet these were actual bones. Also, soft tissues should never be able survive more than 1 million years, so clearly the Earth cannot be billions of years old. Initially, atheists tried to claim that the samples were contaminated and that the findings were merely biofilm (aka bacteria). This argument was refuted when the soft tissue discovery was repeated multiple times. The atheists’ next tactic was to claim that these bones must have been uniquely preserved to prevent decomposition over millions of years. This argument was refuted when soft tissues were discovered in poorly preserved bones. The atheists’ latest tactic is to claim that iron in the blood acts as a preservative, allowing the cells to survive for millions of years. However, Mark Armitage refutes that argument by detailing the unrealistic conditions used in the lab experiments.
- Bent rock layers – We see several examples of rock layers that are bent but not broken. How could these rock layers have been laid down over millions of years and then folded without cracking? We can only conclude that all of the layers were laid down rapidly and then bent while the material was still soft.
- Bones can’t reproduce – When you find a fossil in the dirt, all you know is that the animal died. You can’t prove that the animal had any offspring, and you certainly can’t prove what the offspring looked like. So how can you say that a dead dinosaur became a chicken without seeing its offspring?
- Transitional Forms – If evolution were true and if the rock layers were truly millions of years old, then we should see more transitional fossils. To fill this gap in their theory, evolutionists have appealed to supposed missing links such as archaeopteryx and tiktaalik. Not only have these alleged missing links been consistently disproved, but living creatures such as the platypus prove that an animal that possesses traits from many kinds of animals may merely be a unique kind of creature rather than a transitional form.
Evolutionists claim that homologous structures are evidence of macroevolution. They will show you a picture of several tetrapod animals such as a mammal, a reptile, an amphibian, and a bird, and they will compare the bones in their forelimbs to the human arm. The argument is that since these tetrapods share a common forelimb structure consisting of a humerus, a radius, and an ulna, then it proves that they all evolved from a common ancestor.
Problem number one is that putting similar-looking items next to each other is not proof that they are related. You can do the same thing with cars, but all it proves is that they have a common designer.
Problem number two is that looks can be deceiving. For example, if forelimb structure among tetrapods were proof of a common ancestor, then we would expect these bones to develop from the same genes. However, these bones actually develop from completely different genes.
Furthermore, if homologous structures were proof of a common ancestor then we should be able to trace the lineage of all winged animals back to the first creature to develop wings. However, evolutionists do not believe that pterosaurs, birds, bats, and locusts all evolved from a single winged ancestor. Instead they appeal to convergent evolution, which basically says that wings evolved separately many different times. In other words, these similar structures are not in any way related nor are they evidence for macroevolution.
Evolution is supposed to be this ruthlessly efficient process that eliminates any features which don’t have a use. Therefore, when evolutionists can’t determine how a feature is used, they invent an evolutionary story to explain how it got there and then claim that it’s a vestigial organ which is evidence for macroevolution.
They commonly cite examples such as disappearing hind legs in whales, pelvic spurs in snakes, the human tailbone or coccyx, human wisdom teeth, and the human appendix. In every case, the evolutionists have been proven wrong. Just because you can’t initially determine an organ’s function doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a function at all.
Besides, the whole idea of vestigial organs goes against evolution. Evolving from pond scum to humans requires the development of countless new organs, so how would losing organs prove that macroevolution happened?
Evolutionists claim that the development of the human embryo progresses through the different stages of evolutionary ancestry (fish → amphibian → reptile → mammal) , proving that our genetic code retains some memory of its lineage. They also claim that when you line up the embryos of different tetrapods, they look strikingly similar, proving that we are all related through a universal common ancestor.
The most famous example of this argument is Ernst Haeckel’s faked drawing based upon his theory that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” Although these drawings were proven to be fraudulent over 100 years ago, they still continue to make their way into science textbooks today. Amazingly, evolutionists may even refer to the pharyngeal arches in human embryos as gill slits, even though they never develop into any structures resembling gills. Perhaps they just want to reinforce the myth that an embryo is not a baby so they can continue to support abortion.
As we’ve already pointed out, any incidental similarities in embryological development among tetrapods is merely proof of a common designer.
According to evolutionists, one of the driving forces behind macroevolution is natural selection, which is the process by which environmental factors naturally select for more favorable adaptations in a population of organisms. For example, there are both light-colored and dark-colored varieties of the peppered moth. If industrial pollution covered trees with a blanket of soot, then the dark-colored variety would have better camouflage while the light-colored variety would be more likely to be eaten by predators. The dark-colored moths would survive to pass along their genes to their offspring, leading to an increased frequency of dark-colored moths in subsequent generations.
Clearly this is just another example of microevolution being used as evidence for macroevolution. No new information is being added to the moth’s genome as a result of natural selection; it is merely selecting from traits that already exist. Dr. Kent Hovind compared natural selection to quality control in an automobile manufacturing plant: the process does a good job of eliminating defects in cars that come down the production line, but it never leads to an airplane coming off of the line.
Also, evolutionists may sometimes refer to natural selection as “survival of the fittest,” although that phrase uses circular reasoning. How do you know that an organism is the fittest? Because it survived. Why did it survive? Because it was the fittest.
Besides, survival of the luckiest is sometimes a more appropriate explanation. For example, what if a sadistic lepidopterist went searching through the soot-covered forest one day looking specifically for dark-colored peppered moths to mount in a display case? The light-colored moths would survive, but not because they were the fittest.
Since natural selection alone cannot explain the evolution of pond scum to humans, evolutionists appeal to mutations as the real secret sauce. They claim that random mutations introduce small changes to the genetic pool, which can accumulate over many generations, eventually resulting in a completely novel structure or ability in the organism.
The first problem with mutations is that they have to be beneficial, otherwise natural selection will remove them from the gene pool. You’ll notice that the vast majority of mutations we observe are harmful. For example, the mutation for sickle-cell anemia is sometimes cited as a beneficial mutation since it prevents you from contracting malaria. However, it is actually a defect in red blood cells that leads to many complications. As genome researcher Dr. Robert Carter explains in this video, the rapid rate of detrimental mutations that are accumulating in our genome proves that humans and chimpanzees cannot have evolved from a common ancestor millions of years ago.
The second problem with mutations is that they don’t produce the kind of information required to produce new structures or traits in an organism. The types of mutations we observe are classified as either substitutions, insertions, deletions, or frameshifts. In other words, we only ever observe mutations that copy, reshuffle, or delete information that already exists in the genome. Evolutionists will happily cite bacterial resistance to antibiotics as one of the few examples of a beneficial mutation. However, the mechanisms by which this feat is accomplished are either horizontal gene transfer or mutations that remove proteins from the cell. In other words, either this trait already exists among the population or the bacteria is losing the ability to produce important proteins. Both of these examples are the opposite of macroevolution.
Also, there seems to be strong evidence that mutations aren’t random after all. For example, rather than occurring in random locations scattered throughout the DNA, mutations seem to be restricted to certain “mutational hotspots.” Furthermore, it seems that some mutations may occur in response to certain environmental factors. It seems much more plausible that organisms are pre-programmed with the ability to mutate and adapt in specific ways. Therefore, the observations are more consistent with an Intelligent Designer than blind chemical processes.
Another huge hurdle for evolution is the problem of irreducible complexity, a concept from Michael Behe’s book “Darwin’s Black Box.” The idea that incremental mutations can accumulate to produce novel abilities and structures cannot possibly explain the formation of complex systems. For example, how did fish breathe before they evolved gills? How did the first land animals breathe before they evolved lungs? Which evolved first: the circulatory system, the nervous system, the digestive system, or the immune system? What was the process of intermediate steps by which dolphin and bat echolocation evolved, or spiders’ web-spinning ability, or turtle shells? It is much more plausible to believe that these complex systems appeared all at once in their entirety rather than developing stepwise over millions of years.
What about symbiotic relationships? Which evolved first: flowering plants or the insects and birds that pollinate the flowers? How did cows and termites survive without the specialized gut bacteria to help him digest cellulose? What about plants that require fungus on their roots to survive? Which of the portuguese man-of-war’s four zooids evolved first, since none of them is able to survive independently? Surely these relationships were in place from the beginning rather than waiting to develop over millions of years.
A fantastic example of irreducible complexity is the bacterial flagellum. This microscopic hair spins at 10,000 RPMs and allows the bacteria to travel up to 50 body lengths per second–twice as fast as a cheetah. Building the flagellum requires over 40 different proteins, and if any one part of the motor were missing, it would cease to function. Evolutionists have tried to come up with an incremental path by which the flagellum could have evolved by taking already existing functions and combining them together perfectly. However, this supposed evolutionary path has never been observed. Also, if proteins and functions are already being used by a bacteria, why would they ever be repurposed? How could random mutations tinker with crucial functions without destroying the bacteria? Indeed, studies have shown that roughly 70% of mutations that change the protein produced by a gene will have a harmful effect.
Evolutionists have attempted to explain eye evolution in the same way. They claim that the first eye to evolve was nothing more than a patch of light-sensitive cells. After a while, the patch sank down slightly into a shallow depression to give the organism the ability to sense which direction that light was coming from. As the depression deepened into a concave structure, the ability to sense which direction light was coming from improved. Eventually the concavity was deep enough for the rim of the cup to close slightly and provide some sort of focusing ability like a pinhole camera. A nearly closed cup allowed mucus to form inside the cavity, improving focusing ability. If the mucus hardened into a lens it would further increase focusing ability. Eventually the lens was able to be contracted by muscles and focused even better. Along the way, the nerves attached to the structure could have attached to muscles to supply movement capabilities. As proof for this little fairy tale, evolutionists point out that we observe each of these intermediate stages of eyes in living organisms: the limpet has a patch of light-sensitive cells, the abalone has an eye cup, the nautilus has a pinhole camera eye, the marine snail has a primitive lens, and the squid has a complex camera eye.
At first, this sounds like a very convincing argument, but it has several flaws. First, none of these living organisms that they line up to show the evolution of the eye share an evolutionary lineage. In other words, evolutionists do not believe that the limpet evolved into the abalone and then into the nautilus and then the marine snail and finally into the squid. If the eye truly developed in a stepwise fashion as they are claiming, then shouldn’t it follow the same supposed evolutionary path from pond scum to humans? According to evolutionists, the answer is no because they believe that the eye developed separately over forty different times. Notice that they conveniently omit this fact from their fairy tale example.
Second, if the eye truly evolved in a stepwise fashion over millions of years, then how is it that the trilobite, which supposedly lived over 500 million years ago during the Cambrian Explosion, already possessed one of the most complex eyes that has ever existed? And why do they only give examples of fully functional eyes? The nautilus eye isn’t becoming an eye–it’s perfectly designed to fit their lifestyle. And why do they always start with a perfectly circular patch of light-sensitive cells with nerve cells already wired in and pre-programmed response to stimuli? What were the steps that let to the development of this rudimentary photosensitive patch? They have no idea how cells spontaneously developed photosensitivity.
Third, evolutionists have a tendency to want to oversimplify the complexity of life. The fairy tale of eye evolution makes it sound like the only feature involved in this stepwise progression is the patch of eye-sensitive cells. However, the organism would also have to evolve the ability to build new proteins, wire up nerve cells for each additional light-sensitive cell, and also develop new neural pathways to handle and decipher all of the additional incoming data. No amount of human ingenuity has been able to produce a camera as good as the human eye or a motor as good as the bacterial flagellum. Even something as mundane as a human knee or hip joint is much more complicated than it looks, as evidenced by the fact that artificial joints never last as long as natural ones. Just listen to pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson explain the extremely complicated sequence of processes that have to occur just to respond to a question by raising your hand. Given all of the complexity in nature, it seems extremely unlikely that a process of trial-and-error could do any better and intelligent human beings.
Evolutionists try to argue that the human eye could not have been designed by God because it’s an example of poor design. The nerves and blood cells are positioned in front of the photoreceptors, blurring the image. Also, the blood cells and nerves have to exit through the retina, creating a blind spot. The octopus eye is a much better design because all the blood vessels and nerves are behind the photoreceptors. However, an octopus lives underwater, and water happens to be much better than air at filtering out the ultraviolet sunlight that would damage these light-sensitive cells. Since our eyes don’t have water to block ultraviolet light, the nerves and blood vessels are in place to protect our retina. If we had octopus eyes, then it wouldn’t take long before we went blind.
Evolutionists who believe that the rock layers represent millions of years, have identified several boundaries that they believe represent mass extinction events. Although localized extinctions have occurred many times throughout history, evolutionists believe that five events were so major and so widespread that they resulted in the death of up to 96% of all species on the Earth. Macroevolution is such an unlikely process to begin with, and now you combine that with the fact that the entire process had to pretty much start from scratch at least five times in history, and now you’re entering the realm of ludicrous.
Clearly the atheist explanation of how we got here is fraught with problems, but let’s recap just to drive home the utter futility of their argument:
- A tiny dot created itself out of nothing and expanded to produce everything in the universe, including the laws of logic that allow us to dismantle atheist arguments.
- Thanks to a nearby star exploding, a cloud of gas and dust was able to defy physics and collapse to form the solar system and the Earth.
- A huge object smashed into Earth to produce the Moon and vaporized most of Earth’s water in the process. Thankfully an incredible number of comets arrived to replenish Earth’s water supply with normal water, even though most comets we observe today contain heavy water.
- It rained on a hill and formed several shallow pools, each containing a unique mixture of unknown chemicals. Each pool was struck by lightning only once to form a unique set of amino acids and poisonous chemical byproducts that was somehow able to survive destruction from oxygen, lightning, ultraviolet radiation, and water.
- Additional rainwater washed each set of amino acids and poisonous chemical byproducts down the hill in its own separate stream, which was great because it kept the individual reactions from cancelling each other out. As the separate streams ran down the hill, they picked up additional ingredients and catalysts to continue the chemical reaction and produce more amino acids and poisonous chemical byproducts.
- The separate streams joined together in a pool at the base of the hill, and miraculously out of the hundreds of possible amino acids, only the 20 required for life ended up in the pool. An unknown force kept the left-handed ones from bonding with their right-handed counterparts and instead pulled together chains of 50-70 amino acids in just the right order to form simple proteins. This same force also formed more complex proteins from chains of hundreds or thousands of amino acids.
- Once hundreds of just the right proteins had formed, they self-replicated for some unknown reason and started to form the complex structures of the first living cell. Thankfully one of the first structures to form was an apparatus to harness sunlight, transforming the fiery ball of radiation death into a friendly source of energy.
- It was a huge blessing when a nucleic acid showed up out of nowhere with the instructions to continue building proteins in a much more organized fashion, because up to now it was just trial and error. Most likely this first nucleic acid was both DNA and RNA, since both are used in the production of proteins.
- At that point things started to get a little dicey because all of the poisonous chemical byproducts produced during earlier reactions were threatening to destroy the nascent molecules. However, a friendly lipid envelope materialized just in time to surround everything with the very first cell membrane.
- Although this first cell was primitive, it was very good at self-replicating through division, and in short order, one cell became an entire population of nearly identical cells. I say nearly identical because the copies weren’t quite as good at self-replicating as the original cell, and random mutations would occur in the new DNA strands.
- Although there was nothing guiding these mutations outside of blind chance, and even though the overwhelming majority of them resulted in gruesome disfigurement and instant death, a tiny percentage of these mutations resulted in a neutral or sometimes mildly beneficial change.
- Most mutations were achieved by simply rearranging or deleting existing information from the genome, just as we observe today. However, a fraction of them actually added information to the genome to produce novel structures and capabilities in the organism. We never observe this today, but we know that it happened in the past because we’re living proof.
- Eventually after a nonstop string of unlikely successes spanning billions of years (the evolutionary equivalent of hitting the lottery every single day for a year), humans arrived on the scene.
Now let’s contrast that ridiculous fairy tale with what the Bible teaches about history.
History according to the Bible
The Bible reveals that God has always existed (Psalm 90:2, Psalm 93:2, John 17:24, and 2 Timothy 1:9) and that He created everything out of nothing (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3, Romans 4:17, Hebrews 11:3, Colossians 1:16, and Revelation 4:11). Also, everything was created in 6 normal 24-hour days (Exodus 20:11). Therefore, humans have been on the Earth since Day 6, and they didn’t evolve slowly over millions of years. Also, it seems that God may have stretched out the heavens during Creation Week (Isaiah 40:22, Jeremiah 10:12, and Zechariah 12:1), which could account for the observed expansion of the universe that continues today.
How long ago was the Creation Week? Although the Bible doesn’t give a specific date for creation such as October 23, 4004 BC like Archbishop James Ussher’s chronology teaches, it does provide detailed genealogies. By cross-referencing those genealogies with events, we can trace backwards to get a general idea of the age of the Earth. Using this method, many other scholars besides Ussher have confirmed that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.
About 1,600 years after the Earth was created (roughly 4,400 years ago), God flooded the entire Earth and destroyed almost all life on the planet (Genesis 7:18-23). The only humans to survive were Noah and his family (eight people in all).
Since moving water will sort debris into layers, a worldwide flood would explain why we see “billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the Earth” (Ken Ham). The Flood itself could have been triggered by meteors hitting the Earth and breaking up the crust to release subterranean water. Also, the breaking up of the Earth’s crust could have kickstarted the global plate tectonics that continues today.
After the Flood, Noah’s descendents disobeyed God’s command to fill the Earth (Genesis 9:1). Instead, they decided to settle in one place and build a tower to reach the heavens. As punishment, God confused their languages and forced the people to spread out to all nations (Genesis 11:9).
The dispersion at the Tower of Babel would explain the origin of all languages and people groups, including supposedly primitive humans like Neanderthals. In addition, the global climate changes resulting from the Flood could explain why we find evidence of Ice Ages.
Arguments against a young Earth
Now let’s address some of the arguments that supposedly disprove a young Earth. First, atheists will argue that ice cores drilled in Greenland and Antarctica contain hundreds of thousands of annual rings, which would make the Earth way older than 10,000 years. However, they are assuming that the rings represent years when actually they only represent warm and cold spells. You can have many warm and cold spells throughout a single season, and each time the snow melts and refreezes you would add a new layer. The same is true for the argument that tree rings represent years, when in multiple rings can appear in a single year.
Second, atheists will argue that radiometric or radioisotope dating proves that the Earth is millions of years old. However, their argument is built on several assumptions. How do we know what were the initial amounts of parent and daughter elements? How do we know that the decay rate has remained constant? How do we know that the sample wasn’t contaminated by additional parent or daughter elements being added or removed at some point? Furthermore, we can’t trust radiometric dating because it gives us wrong ages for rocks of known age. Most people don’t hear about these wrong ages because most geologists will simply toss out any measurements that don’t fit their assumptions. Former geologist Virginia Norman confirms that it is a common and accepted practice to examine a data set and toss out any outliers.
Finally, the most frequent attack against Biblical creation is the distant starlight problem: we observe stars that are billions of light-years away, which means that their light had to start traveling billions of years ago in order to get here by now. Since the Biblical account of creation only allows for thousands of years of history, distant starlight appears to disprove the Bible. Although creationists don’t have a watertight explanation to address the distant starlight problem, we’re not completely without possible explanations either. Here are some of the possible solutions that creationists have proposed to address the distant starlight problem:
- Maybe the stars aren’t as far away as astronomers claim. This is a bad argument because observational science confirms that the stars are indeed billions of light-years away. Even if you factor in a large margin of error to your measurements, it would never be enough to reduce billions of light-years down to thousands of light-years.
- Maybe God created the universe to look mature, (i.e. with light rays already in transit). This is a poor argument because we observe distant events such as supernovas that are millions of light-years away. Since that distance is too far for the light to have reached us within a few thousand years, it would mean that God was sending us images of nonexistent objects. That scenario sounds a little deceptive and unlike the character of God as revealed in Scripture.
- Maybe the speed of light was faster in the past. However, since the speed of light is foundational to the laws of physics, then any increase to the speed of light would have to be offset by corresponding adjustments to other physical constants such as gravity. These changes to physical constants could be explained by God’s supernatural means of creation, although that is an unsatisfying answer for astrophysicists.
- Perhaps the speed of light is faster heading towards Earth than heading away from it. There is no known method to measure the one-way speed of light since it is impossible to perfectly synchronize two clocks at a distance from each other. Instead we measure the round-trip speed of light and assume that the speed of light is the same in both directions. This is certainly a reasonable assumption, but an assumption nonetheless. It’s possible that the speed of light coming from distant objects is going at a much faster rate than it would in a round-trip. There’s certainly a lot of additional math required to make it work, and it’s a bit of special pleading if you use it solely to account for a young Earth.
- Maybe our calculations on the passage of time are not accurate due to some incorrect assumptions. We know that the rate at which time passes is affected by gravity, meaning that time doesn’t flow at the same rate in all places at all times. If Earth were sitting in a gravitational well, then time would flow more slowly here than elsewhere in the universe. I think this argument shows the most promise, although there are still many pieces of the puzzle to work out. For example, Earth would have to sit in the center of mass distribution (i.e. the center of the universe) for the gravitational well to have the greatest effect. Also, the gravitational well may still not be enough to allow billions of years of time to pass in distant galaxies while only thousands of years of time have passed here on Earth.
Now let’s consider some alternative Christian theories that are not based on the Bible, and therefore not true.
Squeezing Millions of Years into the Bible
As you can see, the Bible’s explanation for humanity’s origin is much simpler than the atheist alternative, and the arguments that atheists use are nowhere near as airtight as most people believe. However, the atheists’ circumstantial evidence has managed to convince some well-meaning Christians that the Bible needs to be reinterpreted to make it compatible with the atheist version of history. Here are the various reinterpretations of the Biblical creation account:
- Gap Theory – This idea teaches that a gap of time, maybe even billions of years, exists between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. After all, the Hebrew word for “formless” in verse 2 could also refer to chaos and confusion, and God wouldn’t create a world like that. Therefore, a world must have existed between verses 1 and 2 during which Satan fell from heaven and threw the world into sin and chaos.
- Day-Age Theory – This idea teaches that each of the days in the Creation Week represents a long period of time. After all, the Hebrew word for day in Genesis 1 can also mean an age or a period of time. Also, a thousand years are like a day to God (Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8), so who’s to say that these are normal 24-hour days?
- Genealogy Gap Theory – This idea teaches that there are gaps in the Genesis genealogies, and that if you filled in the missing people in the genealogies, then you would get a much older age for the Earth. After all, Matthew 1:1-17 clearly omits names from the genealogy of Jesus, so it may have been common practice among the Jews. Also, the alternate genealogy of Jesus seems to contain an extra name in Luke 3:36 which does not exist in Genesis 10:24, proving that there could be additional gaps.
- Theistic Evolution – This idea teaches that the atheist version of history, including the Big Bang, abiogenesis, and macroevolution, is all true except that God guided it all. After all, atheists still can’t prove what started the Big Bang or how abiogenesis and macroevolution could overcome the extreme hurdles to produce humans.
- Progressive Creation – This idea is the same as Theistic Evolution, except that it denies macroevolution. Instead, proponents of this theory believe that God created the different kinds of animals in a progressive fashion corresponding to the different days of the Creation Week.
- Framework Hypothesis – This idea teaches that the Creation account was written as a theological framework rather than a strictly historical, chronological account. Although this theory is dressed up in a lot of complex and intellectual language, it basically teaches that the Creation account was a myth or an allegory written to teach us some general truths about God. After all, people today are much more advanced than the primitive people who lived thousands of years ago. They would never have understood quantum physics, molecular biology, and DNA mutations, so God had to speak to them in much simpler terms.
Problems with reinterpreting the Bible
These reinterpretations of the Biblical creation account are false teachings, as demonstrated by these problems:
- Plain reading – If you allow the Bible to speak for itself (exegesis) by reading the text in a plain, straightforward fashion, there is simply no way you can come up with millions of years. The only way you can possibly get millions of years out of the Bible is if you introduce that idea into the text (eisegesis). When you notice that the Biblical account clearly contradicts your scientific model, then you need to get a new scientific model rather than reinterpreting Scripture. Why would a Christian ever place man’s fallible ideas above the authority of infallible Scripture?
- Other “days” – Just as in English, the Hebrew word for day can take several meanings, depending on the context. However, the language construction in Genesis 1 leaves no doubt that these were six normal 24-hour days. Why is it that Old Earth Christians are so eager to reinterpret the meaning of day in Genesis 1, but not elsewhere in the Bible? Why don’t they believe that Joshua marched around Jericho for 7 millions years or that Jonah was in the belly of a fish for 3 millions years?
- Old age – If you want to reinterpret the days of creation to mean long ages, then how do you reinterpret the ages of some of the earliest people? For example, Adam was 130 years old when his son Seth was born, and both of them lived to be over 900 years old. Since the days of creation are supposed to represent millions of years and a year is 365 days, then Adam must have been 365 million years old when Seth was born, and both of them must have lived to be over 328 billion years old.
- Order of events – Reinterpreting the days of Creation Week to mean long ages doesn’t solve the problem of the order of creation. For example, Big Bang cosmology states the following order of appearance: Stars → Earth → Oceans → Plants → Dinosaurs → Birds & Mammals → Whales & Humans. In contrast, the Biblical order of appearance goes like this: Earth & Oceans → Plants → Stars → Whales & Birds→ Dinosaurs & Mammals & Humans. How can you say that the Bible teaches that God used the Big Bang and macroevolution, when the sequences don’t match? And how was their light before there were stars? And how did the plants survive before sunlight?
- Out of context – It’s absurd to think that Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 can be used as cross references for the Creation account. The former is a passage contrasting God’s might and holiness with our sinfulness, and the latter is a passage about God’s patience in restraining His wrath so that more people can be saved. Also, these passages are merely using a figure of speech to make a point. For example, when Jesus said “I am the gate for the sheep” (John 10:7), He didn’t literally mean that He’s a door. Instead, He was speaking metaphorically to make the point that He is the only way into Heaven.
- Drawing a line – If the Creation account is a special section of Scripture that deserves to be read differently than other texts, then where do you draw the line? Liberal scholars commonly cite the first eleven chapters of Genesis as the ones that are clearly not historical fact, so maybe we can start our plan, straightforward reading of the text beginning in Genesis 12. However, if your goal is to avoid conflicts between the Bible and science, then shouldn’t you also reject the literal death and resurrection of Jesus? And if Earth formed slowly over billions of years, then perhaps God will also form the new Heavens and the New Earth (Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13, and Revelation 21:1) slowly over billions of years, right?
- Jesus – Jesus confirmed a literal interpretation of Genesis (Mark 10:6, Matthew 19:4, Matthew 24:37-38, Luke 17:26-27). Even the genealogy of Jesus can be traced all the way back to Adam (Luke 3:38). If you argue that Genesis isn’t literal history, then you’re making Jesus into a liar and destroying the entire Christian faith.
- Noah’s Flood – Either the layers of rock and fossils accumulated slowly over millions of years or they were deposited quickly during a global flood. Once you reinterpret the Creation account to allow for millions of years, now you’re forced to reinterpret Noah’s Flood. We just pointed out that Jesus referred to the Flood account as literal history and that His genealogy can be traced back through Noah. Therefore, there is no way to argue that the Flood account was a myth without making Jesus into a liar and destroying the entire Christian faith. That’s why most Old Earth Christians don’t say that the Flood account is a myth, but instead they reinterpret the Flood account to be a local flood rather than a global flood. There are several problems with a local flood, starting with the fact that the text says that all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered up to a depth of 23 feet. Under the entire heavens cannot mean just these mountains over here or else the water would just spill over the sides. Also, if it was a local flood, why would Noah spend the better part of 100 years building the Ark when he could have just walked out of the floodplain and up to higher ground? Finally, the door of the Ark is supposed to represent Jesus: we must enter our salvation through that one door or else face the wrath of God’s judgment. If there were people and animals outside of the floodplains that didn’t need to enter the Ark to be saved, then that’s like saying that there are other ways into Heaven besides Jesus (see Gospel Objection #9).
- Death before sin – The biggest problem with reinterpreting the Creation account to allow for millions of years is that it puts death before sin. Both Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:21 make it clear that Adam introduced sin and therefore death into the world. If the Earth were millions of years old, then the layers of rock and fossils show a history of death, disease, and suffering over millions of years before humans arrived. That means that God, not Adam, is responsible for death, and that God thought it was very good. It also means that instead of creating things perfectly the first time, God made a bunch of mistakes during a protracted process of trial and error. If death is God’s fault and God called millions of years of death, disease, and suffering very good, then why does 1 Corinthians 15:26 say that death is the last enemy that will be destroyed? Why would God eliminate death from the new Heavens and the new Earth if He thought it was such a good idea (Isaiah 65:20 and Revelation 21:4)? Scripture makes it clear that our death is proof and punishment for our sin (Ezekiel 18:20), but God also says that He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone (Ezekiel 18:32).
Without a doubt, you can be a born-again Christian and still believe in millions of years. But why would you want to abandon the clear teachings of the Bible in favor of such an absurd atheistic worldview? Why would you choose to elevate man’s word above God’s Word, and cast doubt on the inerrancy of scripture? Even if you’re comfortable remaining in a state of cognitive dissonance, sooner or later someone will ask you whether mainstream science or the Bible is true about the age of the Earth. If you can’t defend the inerrancy of the Bible, then you’ll likely send that poor soul on the path toward atheism.