A Challenge to Young-Earth Creationists

Proposed by Jack DeBaun

"Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,... and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn." -- St. Augustine, "De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim" (The Literal Meaning of Genesis)

Introduction and Statement of Challenge

1. OBSERVATIONS FROM STUDIES OF THE FOSSIL RECORD

2. OBSERVATIONS FROM STUDIES OF GEOLOGICAL FORMATIONS

3. OBSERVATIONS FROM MOLECULAR BIOLOGICAL STUDIES

4. OBSERVATIONS FROM COMPARATIVE EMBRYOLOGY STUDIES

5. OBSERVATIONS FROM HOMOLOGY STUDIES

6. OBSERVATIONS FROM THE STUDY OF VESTIGIAL STRUCTURES AND ATAVISMS

7. OBSERVATIONS FROM THE STUDY OF BIOGEOGRAPHY

8. OBSERVATIONS FROM AGE DATING STUDIES

Introduction and Statement of Challenge

The term "young-earth creationist (YEC)" is commonly used with reference to those who believe that the biblical account of creation as depicted in the Book of Genesis represents a factual portrayal of actual historical events. As such, YECs contend that all major categories of life (the so-called "kinds" alluded to in Genesis) were created in a short span of six literal days a mere several thousand years ago by supernatural intervention. Although they are reluctant to be pinned down on the exact timing of this creation event, most YECs believe that it occurred sometime during the last 10,000 years, or so. According this model, all forms of life on earth were then derived from these originally created kinds in the span of a few thousand years. In keeping with a literal interpretation of the Bible, most YECs also believe in the factual occurrence of a worldwide Noachian Deluge (purported to have occurred some 4,300 years ago) which, they further contend, obliterated almost all life on earth at the time and was responsible for the deposition of the virtually the entire geologic/fossil record.

The YEC model is incompatible with the scientific evidence that has accumulated in such fields of study as paleontology, geology, astronomy, biology, and archaeology. Therefore, it is not considered by mainstream science to be a viable explanatory model from the scientific standpoint. (See Talkorigins Archive, No Answers in Genesis, The National Center for Science Education, and Answers in Science websites on the Internet for an in depth treatment of the subject.)

Simply put, the theory of evolution posits that organisms are descended with modification from ancestral forms, all of which trace their origin to one (or possibly a small population of) initial life form(s) that originated some 3.5 billion years ago. (Note: The theory of evolution is concerned only with the development of life forms after the appearance of the first replicators. It does not deal with the origin of those first replicators.) Corroborative evidence for this theory is extensive and comes from diverse areas of study such as paleontology, geology, molecular biology, comparative embryology, homology, vestigial structures/atavisms, biogeography, and radiometric dating.

Evolution can be defined succinctly as "a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations" or "a change in the gene pool of a population over time."  Three things are necessary for the evolutionary process to occur: 1) a mechanism for introducing changes in genetic material, 2) a mechanism for fixing such changes in the gene pool, and 3) substantial amounts of time (considerably more than is allowed by the YEC model) for the reiterative process to repeat itself.  Known mechanisms for introducing genetic change include such things as mutation, recombination, gene flow, and gene duplication/divergence. Known mechanisms for fixing changes in the gene pool include such things as natural selection, sexual selection, and genetic drift. Since the scientific evidence indicates that life has existed on earth for some 3.5 billion years, more than enough time has been available for evolutionary processes to have produced the current levels of biodiversity. (For a more detailed discussion of the biological processes involved, see "Introduction to Evolutionary Biology" at www.talkorigins.org.)

The theory of evolution is wholeheartedly endorsed by virtually the entire scientific community worldwide. Among life and earth scientists (by training and experience, those who are best equipped to evaluate the evidence in support of the theory), acceptance is, for all intents and purposes, unanimous. Fewer than 0.15% of the earth and life scientists in this country are creationists. (See http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA111.html) Those scientists who oppose the theory of evolution (no more than 5% of all U.S. scientists according to a poll reported in Nature, April 1997, pp. 435-436.) commonly lack the comprehensive training in the relevant disciplines that are essential for a thorough understanding of the subject.  Although they commonly argue otherwise, the vast majority of this fringe group of evolution-bashing scientists reflexively rejects the theory of evolution because it conflicts with their religious beliefs, not because it lacks evidential support.

As defined by the National Academy of Science, a scientific theory is a "well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses." Scientists have confidence in the theory of evolution because of the prodigious (and growing) database of scientific evidence that supports it. (See the Internet references above.)  In other words, the vast majority of scientists endorse the theory of evolution because, at present, it offers the only viable scientific explanation for the diversity of life on earth.

In spite of fact that their model finds itself grossly at odds with the findings of modern science, many YECs continue to argue that the Genesis account provides a reliable basis for scientific research. (See the Answers in Genesis website "Statement of Faith".) Most of them argue that their literally-interpreted, Bible-based model provides a better explanation for diversity of life forms than does the theory of evolution. The clear implication from creationist literature is that they think the YEC model is superior to that of the evolution model from a scientific standpoint and that the latter should be discarded in favor of the Bible-based approach. For example, according to The Tenets of Creationism from the Institute for Creation Research , "The [biblical]creation record is factual, historical, and perspicuous; thus all theories on origin or development which involve evolution in any form are false".

In order for a new scientific theory to supersede an established one, the new theory must have superior explanatory and predictive capabilities compared to the old model. So here is the YEC challenge: 1. Describe the YEC model in some detail and explain how it meets the criteria of scientific authenticity. 2. Consider the following factual observations, and demonstrate how the YEC model provides a better scientific explanation for these observations than does the evolution model. If you are unable to demonstrate its superiority, then describe how it provides at least as good a scientific explanation for the observed facts as does the evolution model. (If YECs can simply accomplish the latter, at least they will have finally succeeded in providing some justification for their insistence on including the Genesis model in the public school science curriculum. Keep in mind that miraculous/supernatural explanations do not constitute valid scientific arguments. It is a basic tenet of the scientific method that genuine scientific models, hypotheses, theories, laws, etc. must utilize explanations that invoke only natural causes and effects that can be properly tested and falsified.)

Disclaimer: It is not my intention with this challenge to ridicule those who hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible. I respect the right of every individual to believe whatever they desire. If people want to attribute what appear to be miraculous events in the biblical creation story to supernatural intervention, that is their prerogative. So long as they do not claim scientific verification of such events, I raise no objection. This challenge is targeted specifically at those who make the claim that the literally-interpreted creation story as depicted in Genesis has been scientifically corroborated and is in full agreement with the factual evidence.

None of the following lines of evidence are original on my part. In this challenge, I have listed what I consider to be some of the more pertinent observations (obtained from various Internet sources) that support the evolutionary model. Hyperlinks to the original sources are provided in cases where they could be clearly identified.

1. OBSERVATIONS FROM STUDIES OF THE FOSSIL RECORD

  • There are fossil ammonites whose spiral shells contain buoyancy chambers and are, therefore, very light. Yet these fossils are never found in the upper strata of the column. Ammonoid species ranging in size from a fraction of and inch to several feet across are all found together in the same deposit lower in the strata. How does this observed sorting fit in with the hydraulic mechanism that is often used by creationists to explain the order of fossils in the column?
     
  • In spite of the fact that many centers of civilization were located at or near sea level, there is not a single human fossil below the topmost layer of the column. How were all the people who suffered from physical handicaps able to outrun the rapidly advancing  floodwaters?  What about all the people who would have died and been buried prior to the Flood?  Why is there a complete absence of any human graves in the lower strata? 
     
  • A remarkable temporal pattern of fossil morphology appears in the fossil record. Primitive fish appear first, amphibians later, then reptiles, then primitive mammals, then legged whales, then legless whales, etc. How does the YEC model explain this temporal pattern?
     
  • Pterodactyl fossils are found only in the middle layers of the column. Is it reasonable to assume that not a single one of them could have flown to higher land in advance of the Flood?
     
  • Some species of oysters are only found in layers that are higher than those that contain many species of clams. How can this be reconciled with the Flood model in view of the fact that oysters are "glued" to the bottom and clams are usually unattached?
     
  • Brachiopod fossils are often found in alternating layers. After they were buried, the sediment hardened into rock and another layer of brachiopods grew on top of them. Repetition of the cycle formed these alternating layers. How do Flood geologists account for this phenomenon?
     
  • Not one human being, horse, cow, fox, deer, tortoise, or monkey was so slow, so stupid, or so crippled to have been drowned in what would become the lower layers of the column. And not one dinosaur, trilobite, or mammoth was fast or nimble enough to make it to higher ground. How are these facts explained by the YEC model?
     
  • Trilobites, light, fragile creatures resembling pill bugs, tend to be found only in the deepest layers. They are never found in the upper layers with mammals (not even marine animals). How could this relationship be possible in the aftermath of the Flood?
     
  • Fossils of flowering plants do not occur until after the early Cretaceous era. Not a single blade of grass nor a single grass pollen grain has ever been found below the Tertiary strata in what are purported to be the earlier Flood deposits.  What Flood-related mechanism could explain the lack of grass and flowering plants in lower layers? What mechanism allowed the grasses and flowering plants to scramble up the hillsides faster than most ferns?
     
  • Characteristic pollens and spores are associated with specific animal fossils in each stratum. How could the Flood have sorted pollens and spores so specifically into discrete layers?
     
  • The only mammals buried in the same layers with the dinosaurs were the small primitive eutherians. How could dinosaurs have lived together with humans, horses, cows, elephants, and rats, and yet the only mammals to be buried in the same strata with them are these small transitional eutherians?
     
  • Whales and dolphins are found only in the higher layers, while ancient marine reptiles of very similar size and body plan are only found much lower. Ichthyosaurus and porpoises (aquatic animals with very similar body plan) are never once found in same layers, crabs and trilobites are never found in same layer, and small pterosaurs and equal-sized birds and bats are never found in the same layers. How does the YEC model explain this sorting?
     
  • Sardines and swordfish (teleostean fish) first appear in the late Triassic times. Why aren’t these deep-sea fish found in the lowest strata if the Flood was responsible for their demise?
     
  • Mesozoic fish are always found in layers lower than the corals and snails of the Cenozoic period. How does the YEC model explain this sorting?
     
  • Fossils of scleractinian corals appear in the column above layers that contain two other orders of coral. How could these scleractinian corals have remained suspended during the Flood while these other two orders of coral settled beneath them?
     
  • Thick layers of microscopic diatoms occur in layers that are separated from the thick layers of microscopic radiolarians that lie beneath them. How does the YEC model explain this precise sorting of these microscopic creatures?
     
  • There is a relative order to the fossilized species of plants. Relatively modern plants such as apple and orange trees occur in the upper layers. Below them are the first magnolias. And below them are the first ginkgoes, which appear in association with the dinosaurs. How does the YEC model explain this sorting?
     
  • Primitive conifers appear in the column in lower layers than angiosperms such as willows and lily pads. How does the YEC model explain the fact that conifers (normally associated with mountainous environments) first appear in layers that are lower than lowland-loving plants, which normally grow near surface water?

    (The preceding examples were, for the most part, excerpted from a group e-mail message by Wilfred Elders. See "Problems with ‘Flood’ Geology" at http://www.chem.tufts.edu/science/FrankSteiger/elders-flood-report.htm for more details.)
     
  • In Yellowstone Park at Specimen Ridge, 27 fossil forests are buried (as a result of repeated volcanic eruptions) one atop the other in rocky debris. As the rock erodes today, the petrified trees stand upright, many with complete root systems anchored in the underlying "soil" (now turned to rock). The oldest trees in these fossil forest are about 500 years old. Since it requires some 200 years for the igneous rock from the volcanic eruptions to decay into reasonable soil, each forest represents an approximate 700-year cycle. Therefore, the entire formation required some 20,000 years to accumulate. How does the YEC model account for the Specimen Ridge formation and for the fact it encompassed some 20,000 years in the making? (See "Fossil Forests and the Flood" at www.geocities.com/earthhistory/forests.htm for more details.)
     
  • The Karroo Formation in Africa is estimated to contain the fossilized remains of some 800 billion vertebrate animals. The average size of these animals is approximately that of a fox. Assuming (on the high side) that the Karroo Formation contains 1% of all the vertebrate land fossils on earth and that these fossils were laid down in the purported Flood, then, before the flood began, there would have to have been at least 2,100 animals per acre, ranging from shrews to dinosaurs. How does the YEC model explain how such a density of animals could have been sustained? (See "Problems with a Global Flood - Producing the Geological Record" at www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-noahs-ark.html#georecord for more details.)
     
  • Limestone deposits consist of tremendous numbers of skeletons of microscopic sea animals. Some of these deposits are thousands of meters thick and contain well-ordered sequences of fossils of other sea creatures. How does the Flood model account for such formations? (See "Problems with a Global Flood - Producing the Geological Record" at www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-noahs-ark.html#georecord for more details.
  • When fossils are arranged according to their morphological characteristics, they form a so-called tree of life in which a central trunk branches into the vast interconnected array of species that have ever existed on earth.  This observed arrangement, also known as a nested hierarchy, is a fundamental prediction of the theory of evolution.  While fossils confirm this arrangement, other characteristics of living organisms such as anatomical structures, biochemical processes, embryological development, and genetic composition also conform to this same general plan.  Common descent with modification (i.e., evolution) predicts that a single tree with one trunk will exist, and that is what is observed.  Special creation predicts that multiple trees (corresponding to the various biblical "kinds") will exist. Put another way, special creation predicts that there should be a separate mammal tree, a separate fish tree, a separate frog tree, etc. and that there should not be common evolutionary roots that link the bases of these trees together.  That is not what is observed.  How does the Flood model account for this observed nested hierarchical arrangement of life on earth?  (See http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section1.html#nested_hierarchy for more information on the subject.)

  • Not a single human artifact (tool, eating utensil, wheel, weapon, pottery shard, coin, jewelry, work of art, building block, item of furniture etc.) has ever been found to have been naturally buried in the same strata as that of the dinosaurs. If humans and dinosaurs coexisted as the YEC model contends, how can this complete failure to find any human artifacts in conjunction with dinosaur remains be accounted for?

  • 2. OBSERVATIONS FROM STUDIES OF GEOLOGICAL FORMATIONS

  • Angular unconformities are common geologic structures that involve multiple, time-consuming steps in their formation. These steps include: 1. Deposition of sediments from a body of water, 2. Conversion of the sediments into rock by compression and heating, 3. Tilting of the sedimentary rock due to tectonic forces, 3. Erosion of the upper portion of the tilted rock to give a surface parallel to the ground, 4. Subsidence of the eroded surface or increase in water levels, 5. Deposition of more sediment on top of the eroded surface of the tilted column of rock, and 6. Conversion of the uppermost sediment layer into rock by compression and heating. How does the YEC model explain how such time-consuming processes could have taken place during the Noachian Deluge or during the few thousand years since the time it is claimed to have occurred? (See http://gpc.edu/~pgore/geology/historical_lab/relativedating.htm  for more details. Also see "Angular Unconformities" at www.geocities.com/Athens/Thebes/7755/henke/krh-floodnonsense.html#A08  for a refutation of YEC arguments commonly raised regarding this subject.)
     
  • The geologic column contains a number of features preserved in rock that were originally formed in water-free environments. For example, sand-witched between rock layers deep within the column are such things as dried raindrop impressions, wind-blown desert sand dunes, meter-thick layers of rock salt, dried animal tracks, and desiccation cracks in mud. How does the YEC model explain how features such as these could have been formed, preserved, and converted into rock (sand-witched between other layers of rock) underwater during the purported Flood? (See "Problems with a Global Flood - Producing the Geological Record" at www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-noahs-ark.html#georecord and  "The Multiple Droughts During the Global Flood" at http://home.entouch.net/dmd/droughts.htm for more details.
     
  • The ice at the bottom of the Dome Concordia core (obtained from Antarctic polar ice) has been dated by a variety of methods at 750,000 years of age. How does the YEC model account for the discrepancy that exists between the age of this ice core and the fact that it contends the earth is something less than 10,000 years old? (See http://www.newscientist.com/channel/earth/climate-change/dn4121 and www.talkorigins.org/faqs/icecores.html for more details.)
     
  • Varves are annual deposits of sediment that occur at the bottom of certain bodies of water. Each varve consists of sequential layers of materials (such as silts and pollens) that are characteristic of the specific seasons of the year. Many ancient lake bottoms (such as those found in the Green River Formation) contain several million such varves which, in some cases, have animal footprints preserved between them. A good correlation between depositional age and radiometric dating has been obtained in a number of cases. (See www.accuracyingenesis.com/varves.html) How does the YEC model account for the deposition of millions of annual layers if the earth is only several thousand years old? (See http://www.answersincreation.org/varves.htmhttp://home.entouch.net/dmd/greenriver.htm, and "Greene’s Creationism Truth Filter – Flood Geology Nonsense" at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Thebes/7755/henke/krh-floodnonsense.html#A04 for a refutation of YEC arguments commonly raised regarding this subject.)
     
  • Batholiths are, by definition, igneous formations that have a surface area of at least 100 square kilometers. Some of these formations that intrude into older sediments have experienced substantial erosion on their upper surfaces and have been overlain with younger sediments. At known rates of cooling, several millions of years would be required to bring these formations to the temperatures at which they exist today. How does the YEC model explain how these formations could have cooled and that some of them could have undergone extensive erosion during a few thousand years since the purported Flood? (See http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Thebes/7755/henke/krh-coolmagma.html. for a refutation of YEC arguments commonly raised regarding this subject.)
     
  • At average observed rates of growth, the Eniwetok coral reef would have required over 170,000 years to achieve its present size. According to the YEC model, the reef’s formation would have been expected to have occurred sometime after the purported Flood. How does the YEC model account for the inherent time discrepancies implicit in these observations? (See "Specific Arguments-Coral Reef" at www.infidels.org/library/modern.dave_matson/young-earth/specific_arguments/coral_reef.html for more details.)
     
  • The so-called K/T boundary lies between the Cretaceous and Tertiary strata in sedimentary rock deposits.  This boundary, which is similar worldwide, contains a relatively high concentration of the element, iridium.  Iridium is rare on the earth's surface, but is more abundant in asteroids and the earth's interior. The K/T boundary is also the strata above which dinosaurs no longer appear in the geologic column.  One current theory holds that the iridium in the K/T boundary is the result of a asteroid impact which caused significant changes in the environment that contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Another theory posits that the iridium was deposited by intense volcanism that had similar detrimental environmental effects.  What mechanism during the purported Flood accounts for the fact that a uniform layer of iridium containing sediment has become sandwiched between other sedimentary rock layers exactly at the point above which dinosaurs cease to appear in the column and are superseded by the larger mammals? (See www.student.oulu.fi/~jkorteni/space/boundary/ for more details.)
  • Paleosols are ancient soils that develop during  extensive periods of weathering and exposure to air.  These soils are found interspersed throughout the geologic column.  Their formation can only occur when the sediments from which they were derived were not covered with water for extended periods of time.  How does the Flood model account for the formation of these strata which can only develop under conditions that preclude inundation with water?  (See "Radiometric Dating, Paleosols, and the Geologic Column: Three strikes against Young Earth Creationism" at  http://gondwanaresearch.com/hp/paleosol.htm  for more details.)

  • The modern Hawaiian Islands are composed of basaltic rock that originated from volcanic action.  There is very little to no sediment accumulation on any of them.  How could the Hawaiian Islands have escaped sediment deposition if they had been inundated by the Flood?

  • The great conglomerate sea cliffs near Marseilles, France are hundreds of feet high and contain boulders more than a foot in diameter. How could a flood deposit a thickness of several miles of fine-grained sediments first, and then place the boulder-laden conglomerates on top? Clearly the bottom layer must have already hardened into rock before the boulders were deposited or they would have sunk into it. How could this rock-forming process have occurred during the relatively short time span of the Flood?

  • A core sample of sedimentary rock was taken from a section of geologic column that is claimed by YECs to have been deposited by the Flood.  This core contained about 250 successive layers of roots, each layer representing a year's worth of growth.  How does the YEC model account for the formation of these successive layers of annual root growth, one on top of the other, in soils that would have been submerged deep under water for roughly one year?  (See "10 years of Root Growth from 7,000feet down" at http://home.entouch.net/dmd/age.htm#roots for more details.)

  • Three-dimensional seismic studies reveal that river channels are buried deep in the geologic column.  In one case, a river channel cut in limestone was positioned between several thousand feet of fossil-bearing sediment below and some 1600 feet of fossil-bearing sediment above.  If, as YECs claim, the fossils were deposited during the Flood, how did a river carve this channel in limestone deep underneath the raging floodwaters? (See "River Channels Buried Deep in the Geologic Column" at http://home.entouch.net/dmd/rivchan.htm for more details.) 

  • The earth's magnetic polarity has reversed numerous times during the planet's history.  Evidence for some of these reversals can be found by examining the orientation of magnetic particles in sea floor deposits adjacent to the mid-Atlantic rift.  Molten crustal rock emerges along the rift and spreads out in both directions.  During this process, magnetic particles in the rocks align with the magnetic field that exists at the time of emergence.  Because the magnetic field undergoes reversals, a pattern of oppositely magnetized bands is created (as a mirror image) on both sides of the rift as the rocks move tectonically across the ocean floor.  Some 171 bands corresponding to magnetic reversals have been identified, extending back over 76 million years.  How do YECs explain these observations in terms of their young-earth Flood model?  (For more information on this subject, see "Creationists and 'Magnetic Field Decay'" at http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Hangar/2437/magnetic.htm, "Sea Floor Spreading" at http://atlas.geo.cornell.edu/education/student/tectonics/sea_floor_spreading_i.html , and "Is the Earth's Magnetic Field Young?" at http://gondwanaresearch.com/hp/magfield.htm.)

  • Astrophysical observations show that the rotation of the earth has been slowing (and the number of days per year has been decreasing) since it first formed.  Calculations based on these observations show that there is a very close agreement between the predicted number of days in a year, the measured number of days based on coral growth characteristics, and the measured age of fossil corals.  The results are consistent with fossil coral ages extending back some 400 million years ago.  How do YECs account for these correlations?  (For a more detailed discussion of this subject, see "Coral Growth and Geochronometry" at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~springport/geology/coral_growth.html.)

  • Evidence gathered from core samples taken by the Glomar Challenger show that the Mediterranean Sea has been subjected to repeated cycles of drying and re-flooding over a period of millions of years.  Analysis of the core samples reveals a geologic history that involved multiple cycles of deposition of sediments, compression of the sediments into stone, erosion of the stone into canyons (some larger than the modern Grand Canyon), and reburial of these canyons under thousands of feet of new sediments.  Contained within these sediments are multiple layers of evaporites and weathered interfaces that take thousands of years to accumulate and that can only form under exposed conditions.  How does the YEC model explain this evidence?  (For a more detailed discussion of this subject, see "The Mediterranean Was a Desert" at http://corior.blogspot.com/2006/02/part-10-mediterranean-was-desert.html. )

  • Over 160 impact structures that were formed by the collision of extra-terrestrial objects with the earth have been identified.  (See http://www.unb.ca/passc/ImpactDatabase/essay.html for more details.)  The vast majority of the impacts that formed these massive structures, which occur at various depths in the geologic column above the so-called Flood basement rock, were not recorded by humans.  Considering that numerous other earth-altering events (earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, etc.) have been regularly recorded throughout human history, it seems odd that so few of these impacts were noted in historical documents if, as YECs contend, humans have been present on earth since shortly after its inception. Some YECs argue that most of these impacts occurred during the chaos of the Flood, and were, therefore, not recorded.  How could these collisions of nuclear bomb proportions have occurred during the Flood without causing massive waves that would have smashed the wooden Ark like a toy?

  • Oil contains certain chemicals that derive from the organic materials from which it was formed.  The distribution of these chemicals in oil correlates with the sequence of these organic precursor materials as they appeared in the geologic column.  For example, there is no oleanane in oil deposits older than the last epoch of the Cretaceous because the angiosperms from which this chemical is derived did not exist prior to that time.  A similar time line exists for chemicals in oil such as 24-norcholestane (which is not present until the appearance of the diatoms) and vitrain (which is not present  until the appearance of land plants).  How is this relationship explained in terms of the Flood model? (See approximately one-third the way down the page here for more details.)

  • The Atacama desert in Chile contains river beds that have not had water running in them for 120,000 years.  Some areas of this desert have been in a hyper-arid condition for at least 20 million years.  How can these facts be accounted for in terms of the YEC model?  (See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4437153.stm for more details.)

  • (See also "Creationist 'Flood Geology' Versus Common Sense" at http://www.edwardtbabinski.us/babinski/flood.html for additional examples of observations relating to the fossil record and geologic column.)

    3. OBSERVATIONS FROM MOLECULAR BIOLOGICAL STUDIES

  • The human genome contains a great deal of what is referred to as non-functional DNA, i.e., DNA that is not translated into proteins. Because these elements are not functional in the usual sense, they are passed from generation to generation without experiencing the selective pressures brought about by natural selection. Humans do not have the ability to synthesize vitamin C because the gene involved in vitamin C synthesis is non-functional in humans. In other animals that can produce vitamin C, this same gene functions properly. In other words, humans have the same gene, but it is "broken" so to speak. Chimpanzees and gorillas also posses this same gene which is broken in the same manner as it is in humans. The odds of this pattern of shared mutations occurring by chance are extremely low. But this is exactly what we would expect to see if humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas were all descended from a common ancestor who first experienced this defective gene. Because this ancestor ate a diet that was adequate in vitamin C, the defect had no overt consequences and could be passed on without harm to succeeding generations.  (See http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/000467.html for further discussion on the subject.)
     
  • Cytochrome c is a cellular protein involved in a process known as electron transport. Studies have shown that only about a third of the 100 amino acids that make up this protein are essential to its function. Most of the amino acids are "hypervariable" and can be replaced by a large number of functionally equivalent analogs. H.P. Yokey ("Information Theory and Molecular Biology", New York, Cambridge University Press, 1992) has calculated that there are a minimum of 2.3 x 10^93 possible sequences of amino acids that would provide functionality to cytochrome c. In spite of this incredible number of possible functional sequences, humans and chimpanzees have exactly the same cytochrome c sequence, whereas other organisms have different ones.
     
  • Because of the redundancy of the DNA coding system, there are over 10^49 different DNA sequences that could code for the exact same amino acid sequence in cytochrome c. In humans and chimps, the DNA sequence that codes for cytochrome c differs by only a single base unit.
     
  • Transposons are virus-like genetic sequences that randomly insert themselves into host DNA. Except in rare instances, they are passed on from generation to generation by DNA duplication and inheritance. One important transposon is known as the "Alu" element. All mammals contain many of these elements, which constitute about 10% of the human genome. In the human a-globin cluster there are seven Alu elements, and all of them are also present in the chimp in exactly the same seven locations.
     
  • Retroviruses are the molecular remains of past viral infections that occur in host DNA. They are produced when viruses insert their own DNA into the DNA of the host’s germ line cells. These randomly inserted sequences are then passed on by inheritance to the host’s descendants. There are at least seven different know instances of common retrogene insertions between chimps and humans. (For details regarding these first five examples see "29 Evidences for Macroevolution Part 4: Molecular Sequence Evidence" at www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/ .)
     
  • If humans and chimpanzees are descended from a common ancestor, as evolutionary theory contends, then both species should have the same, or very similar, number of chromosomes. It turns out that humans have 23 chromosomes in their gamete cells and chimpanzees have 24. The evidence strongly indicates that a chromosomal fusion event has occurred in humans in the intervening time since humans and chimpanzees evolved from their common ancestor. G banding is process of analyzing DNA to obtain a detailed "fingerprint" that is characteristic of each chromosome. Chromosome 2 in humans has exactly the G banding pattern that one would expect if two of the chimpanzee chromosomes had fused end-to-end. Every chromosome has two teleomeres (one on each end) and a centromere in the middle. Human chromosome 2 has two extra teleomeres and one extra centromere in precisely the locations that one would expect had they resulted from the fusion of the two chimpanzee chromosomes. (See www.gate.net/~rwms/hum_ape_chrom.html , "Comparison of Human and Great Ape Chromosomes as Evidence for Common Ancestry" for more details.
  • In chimpanzees, a gene called CMAH codes for a sugar that coats the surface of cells. Humans also have a version of this gene that is nonfunctional. This human version contains a long stretch of "junk" DNA that renders the code nonsensical. This useless version now occurs in every human being. The theory of evolution explains why chimpanzees and humans have this same gene, even though it is nonfunctional in the latter.  How does the YEC model account for the presence of a broken chimpanzee gene in humans?  (See www.carlzimmer.com/articles/2002/articles_2002_6.html for more details.)
  • The forgoing observations from molecular biological studies are readily explicable in terms the evolutionary model of common descent, i.e., humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas evolved from a common ape-like ancestor. Keeping in mind that there are some 3 billion different insertion points in the human genome, describe, in scientific terms, how the YEC model predicts and explains such observations.

  • The process that converts DNA into proteins utilizes codes that consist of three-nucleotide units. The arrangement of the nucleotides in these coding units specifies the type and order of amino acids that are incorporated into the protein. Most species share the same genetic codes. For example, species as diverse as E. coli bacteria, tobacco plants, and humans share the exact same coding specificity. Those organisms that utilize a different code for a particular amino acid are known to be derived from those that had the standard code, and, even in this case, the rest of the codes are the same as in all other organisms. Moreover, regardless of any coding differences, all forms of life use fundamentally the same complex molecular machinery for interpreting the code and carrying out protein synthesis. This evidence makes sense in terms of descent from a common ancestor and limited evolution of certain codons. Keeping in mind that many other genetic codes could function equally well in organisms that were produced from scratch, explain how the YEC model accounts for the fact that all known genetic codes are very similar, with an extremely high degree of statistical significance. (For more details see http://home.entouch.net/dmd/gencode.htm.)
     
  • All small cats (from the jungle cat, F. chaus, to the domestic cat, F. catus) share a specific retroviral gene insertion. In contrast, the cat lineages that diverged before the small cat lineage (lion, cheetah, and leopard) and all other carnivores lack this retrogene. How does the YEC model account for the fact that this type of aberrant genetic noise is present only in those species that share a common heritage as deduced from evolutionary studies?
  • 4. OBSERVATIONS FROM COMPARATIVE EMBRYOLOGY STUDIES

  • As an organism develops through its various embryonic stages, it sometimes displays features that harken back to the evolutionary ancestors from which it descended. All vertebrate embryos are very similar and develop gill-like structures that eventually form gills only in fish.
     
  • The early human embryo has gill-like structures, pairs of aortic arches (adult birds and mammals, being warm-blooded, have only one aortic arch instead of two as in amphibians and reptiles), a fish-like heart with a single atrium and ventricle, as well as a tail with muscles for wagging.
     
  • In baleen whales (which have no teeth), certain embryonic stages have tooth buds which are resorbed at birth and never erupt through the gums. In certain of these stages, the embryo also has a coat of hair which is lost before birth. Evolutionary scientists explain this as being due to the fact that the whale retains genes, that are no longer fully expressed, that it has inherited from its evolutionary ancestors that had both hair and teeth.
     
  • In a like manner, elephant embryos at certain stages of development have four rudimentary tusks, two on the upper jaw and two on the lower. The lower tusks are resorbed before birth leaving only those growing from the upper jaw in the adult. The fossil record shows that the evolutionary ancestors of elephants Eocene and Oliogocene Periods had four tusks arranged just like they are in the embryo of the elephant.
     
  • In the Kollar/Fisher experiment, embryonic jaw tissue from a chicken was exposed to inducers produced by embryonic mouse molar mesenchyme. This resulted in the formation of teeth in the tissue of the chicken showing that this tissue still retains the latent ability to grow teeth as it did in the chicken’s evolutionary ancestors. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=retrieve&db=pubmed&list_uids=7352302&dopt=Abstract and http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/97/18/10044 for more details and further research on the subject.   See also http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=403228 for a discussion on the discovery of teeth in mutant chickens.
     
  • The Hampe experiment produced Archaeopteryx-like bones in the legs of modern chicks by interfering with the diffusion of inhibitory growth substances. See http://www.univie.ac.at/morphology/proj/hampe.htm for more details.
     
  • So-called Hox genes are regulatory elements that control the expression of other genes. In some cases they inhibit the expression of genes acquired from evolutionary ancestors. Disabling Hox genes can result in renewed activation of these suppressed ancestral genes. For example, disabling the Hoxa –2 gene in mice resulted in the development of a skeletal structure corresponding to reptilian upper jaw cartilage. This "reconstituted" jaw is similar to that of the therapsids which are the evolutionary link between reptiles and mammals. Similarly, disabling the Hox-4 genes resulted in the conversion of mouse occipital bones into occipital vertebrae, a situation analogous to that which occurred in aganthans – the presumed ancestors of all vertebrates. (See www.gate.net/~rwms/EvoLimb.html for more details.)
  • As above, explain, in scientific terms, how the YEC model provides at least as good an explanation for these observations as does the theory of evolution.

    5. OBSERVATIONS FROM HOMOLOGY STUDIES

  • Different species show morphological similarities (homologies) that are consistent with theory that they share a common ancestry. For example, the fossil evidence indicates that tetrapods (vertebrates with four limbs, including amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) descended from a common ancestor that had five-digit limbs. In all the tetrapods, this same basic five-digit design has been utilized and modified to carry out a variety of different functions such as grasping, walking, digging, flying, swimming, etc. (Note: Adult birds actually have tree digit limbs, but embryonically these digits develop from a five-digit precursor.) There is no logical reason that the limbs in these animals should be restricted to five digits if the animals had arisen independently without any predetermined design constraints. Fossils from the Devonian period, when the common ancestor to the tetrapods is thought to have lived, show evidence of successful species with six-, seven-, and eight-digit limbs. Therefore, functionality is not dependent on the five-digit limb.
     
  • The forelimbs of such diverse species as man, the seal, the bat, and the dog appear to be quite different on superficial examination. Nonetheless, they all share a common basic design. Each consists of modified versions of a single upper-arm bone, two lower-arm bones, several wrist bones, and five digits. If these functionally diverse structures were built from scratch, why are they all constrained to this basic morphological plan?
     
  • The giant panda has five normal digits and a sixth "thumb" for grasping bamboo shoots. However, this "thumb" is not constructed like a normal digit. It is a makeshift appendage modified from a greatly enlarged wrist bone. How does the YEC model account for the fact that, if the giant panda had been created independently, it would not have been equipped with a fully functional normal thumb?
     
  • Another example of homology involves a cranial nerve that goes from the brain to the larynx via a tube near the heart. In the fish, this path is a short and direct route. And in all species that have this homologous nerve, it follows the same path. This means that in an animal like the giraffe, this nerve makes a detour from the brain all the way down to the heart and back in order to connect two organs that are only a little more that a foot apart. So the giraffe has to grow 10-15 extra feet of nerve compared to the direct connection. The nerve takes this circuitous route because, if evolutionists are correct, giraffes are descended from a fish-like ancestor where this route is a direct connection. While evolutionary processes resulted in the lengthening of the giraffe’s neck, the original neural routing was preserved from its fish-like ancestor. And, all other species that have this homologous nerve have the same arrangement. (For a more detailed discussion of homology as it pertains to the theory of evolution see "Evolution makes Sense of Homologies" at www.zoology.ubc.ca/~bio336/Bio336/Lectures/Lecture5/Overheads.html.)
  • Keeping in mind that homology can be defined as a "detailed similarity of organization that is functionally unnecessary", explain, in scientific terms, how the YEC model provides at least as good an explanation for this factual evidence does is the theory of evolution.

    6. OBSERVATIONS FROM THE STUDY OF VESTIGIAL STRUCTURES AND ATAVISMS

  • There are many examples of rudimentary and nonfunctional structures that are present in various organisms. For example, most pythons carry vestigial pelvises hidden beneath their skin, some legless lizards have nonfunctional legs underneath their skin, many cave-dwelling animals are blind but have nonfunctional eyes, dandelions (which do not produce sexually) retain flowers and produce pollen, 90% of adult humans develop third molars which often fail to erupt from the gums and are malformed and impacted, and many flightless beetles have fully formed wings trapped under fused wing covers. All of these examples can be explained in terms of remnants of beneficial structures that once served a useful purpose in the organism’s evolutionary ancestors. It is noteworthy that vestigial structures are never inconsistent with the evolutionary history of the species in which they occur. In other words, vestigial nipples never occur in any amphibians, birds, or reptiles because mammals evolved after and/or from a different branch of the evolutionary tree than these other classes of animals. Likewise, mammals never have vestigial feathers and arthropods never have vestigial backbones in keeping with their evolutionary heritage.
     
  • Atavisms are developmental throwbacks to the body structure of evolutionary ancestors that appear in modern animals. Many examples of atavism occur in nature when ancestral genes that are normally inactivated are expressed for one reason or another. Extra toes on horses, hind limbs on whales (complete with femurs, tibia, and fibulae, feet, and digits), eyes in cave dwelling salamanders, supernumerary nipples, open "gill" clefts, rudimentary legs on snakes, hyoid muscles in dogs, and the dew claw in dogs are all examples of this phenomenon.

     

  • The vomeronasal organ, present in the roof of the mouths of rodents and other mammals, is an olfactory organ whose main function is the detection of sex pheromones.  Some humans have rudimentary forms of this organ in their nasal passages.  Nonetheless, the cells in the human vomeronasal organ are atypical and have no nerve connections to the brain.  Furthermore, virtually all the genes that code for its cell surface receptors are inactive.  See here and here for more information.)
     
  • One of the most interesting atavisms from the human perspective has to do with the appearance of true tails in our species. More than 100 cases of human tails (some of which are not actual tails, but pseudo-tails) have been reported in the medical literature. Some two thirds of the well-documented cases represent true tails. The true human tail consists of a complex arrangement of adipose and connective tissue, central bundles of longitudinally arranged striated muscle, blood vessels, nerves, and a normal skin covering complete with hair follicles, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands. These true human tails, which range from one to five inches in length, are capable of movement and contraction. Several human tails have been reported as having cartilage and up to five well-developed vertebrae. (See the sections on Anatomical Vestigial Structures and Atavisms in "29 Evidences for Macroevolution: Part 2" at www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section2.html for more details.)
  • All of the vestigial structures and atavisms discussed above are consistent with the evolutionary concept that they represent the expression of features that were originally present in the evolutionary ancestors of the organisms in which they occur. How does the YEC model account for these anomalies? In particular, how does it explain the fact that the constraints put on the types of anomalies are entirely consistent with those predicted by evolutionary lineage?

    7. OBSERVATIONS FROM THE STUDY OF BIOGEOGRAPHY

  • According to the evolution model, geographic isolation should play a significant role in the distribution of species worldwide. In keeping with this model, species that first evolved in a certain geographic setting and were restricted in their movement to other areas should be found naturally only in the areas in which they first appeared - even though there are no compelling reasons that they could not have survived elsewhere. The facts show that this is indeed the case. For example, overall there are some 13 families and about 180 unique species of marsupials found naturally only in Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea. The only monotremes (egg laying mammals) are found in this geographical area and nowhere else. How does the YEC model explain, in scientific terms, the migration of these animals to the purported Ark prior to the Flood? (There is no evidence in the fossil record that any of these animals ever existed endemically in the Middle East.) Furthermore, how does the YEC model explain the subsequent migration (after the purported Flood) of these animals back to their original geographic locations? Particular emphasis should be placed on explaining how animals such as the flightless Kiwi and the blind marsupial mole (which lives only in sand) made the round trip and why faster moving placental animals are virtually absent from Australia.
     
  • The now extinct flightless dodo bird existed only on an island in the Indian Ocean. The slow moving three-toed sloth, armadillos, new world monkeys, jaguars, rattlesnakes, and indigenous cacti exist only in the Americas. The speed-challenged and clumsy giant spiny anteater exists only in New Guinea. The Gila monster exists only in the American Southwest, although it should be equally at home in the deserts of the Middle East (as should be cacti and rattlesnakes). The flightless cormorant lives only in the Galapagos and the penguins live in Antarctica. Fossas and lemurs are endemic to Madagascar, but no monkeys or cats naturally inhabit this area. Lungfishes, ostrich-like birds (ratite birds), and leptodactylid frogs occur naturally only in South America, Africa, and Australia. Alligators, some related species of giant salamander, and magnolias occur naturally only in Eastern North America and East Asia (these two continents were once in close proximity on the Laurasian contintent). As above, describe how the YEC model provides a scientific explanation for the migration of these types of species to and from their specific areas of habitation before and after the Flood. Explain also why species are not distributed evenly amongst the habitats for which they are equally well adapted. In particular, explain in terms of the YEC model why there are no elephants on any Pacific islands, no rattlesnakes or indigenous cacti in Australia or the Sahara desert, and no amphibians on remote islands.
     
  • The earth consists of distinctive geographic regions, each characterized by the presence of various organisms which have evolved to fill those niches. If one studies a species across its geographic range, it is frequently observed that it varies from place to place. Sometimes the extreme representatives of this variable sequence even meet in close proximity. For example, the herring gulls and the black-backed gulls coexist in Britain. Although these species do not interbreed, they are connected in a series of interbreeding populations that extend around the North Pole. The populations immediately west of Britain look similar to herring gulls. Moving in a clock-wise direction around the North Pole, the populations gradually start looking more and more like black-backed gulls and less and less like herring gulls. Their black-backed traits become predominant near Siberia. The evolution of these two distinct species can be traced by simply observing sequential morphological changes in populations throughout their range. A similar relationship is observed with the Ensatina salamanders of the Pacific coast. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_species and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/05/2/l_052_05.html .)  How does the YEC model account for this unidirectional sequence of infinitesimal geographic variants with two different species at each end? (See http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/04/1/l_041_01.html and "Biogeography falsifies the worldwide flood" at http://www.christianforums.com/t40474-biogeography-falsifies-the-worldwide-flood.html for more information.)
  • 8. OBSERVATIONS FROM AGE DATING STUDIES

  • Essentially all radioactive isotopes with half-lives shorter than half a billion years are no longer in existence. For the most part, the only radioactive isotopes present are those with half-lives close to a billion years or longer. The only radioactive isotopes present with shorter half-lives are those that are being constantly replenished by natural means. This distribution of isotopes is in good agreement with the other evidence that shows Earth is about 4.56 billion years old. How does the YEC model account for this current isotopic distribution?
     
  • There are in excess of forty different radiometric dating methods, and a number of other methods such as those involving thermoluminescence, electron spin resonance, and tree-ring, varve, and ice-core measurements. These methods are in agreement the great majority of the time covering time spans encompassing millions of years.
     
  • Vast amounts of data overwhelmingly lend support to the old Earth model. Several hundred laboratories around the world are active in radiometric dating. Their results consistently agree with an old Earth scenario. Over a thousand papers on radiometric dating are normally published in scientific, peer-reviewed journals in a year, and hundreds of thousands of dates have been published in the last 50 years. Essentially all of these strongly favor an old Earth.
     
  • When radiometric dating techniques are applied to meteorites, they consistently give values close to 4.6 billion years.
     
  • Radioactive decay rates have been measured for over sixty years now for many of the decay clocks without any observed changes. And it has been close to a hundred years since the uranium-238 decay rate was first determined. Radioisotopes commonly used in dating techniques have been subjected to extremes of heat, cold, pressure, vacuum, acceleration, and corrosive chemical treatment without causing any significant changes in rates of radioactive decay. Both long-range and short-range dating methods have been successfully verified by dating lavas of historically known ages over a range of several thousand years. (See "Radiometric Dating, A Christian Perspectvie" at www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/Wiens.html and "Isochron Dating" at www.talkorigins.org/faqs/isochron-dating.html for more details and rebuttal of creationist arguments commonly raised against these techniques.)
  • Using the current, observed rate of motion of the Pacific Plate and the distances between the modern Hawaiian Islands, it is possible to calculate the relative age differences between the Islands.  The ages determined by this method are in good agreement with those obtained by K-Ar radiometric dating.  (See "Hawaiian Islands: a falsification of a young earth" at http://www.christianforums.com/t35581 .)

  • Carbon-14 dates of about 38,000 years ago have been correlated with several other methods (ice layers, tree rings, uranium-thorium isotope ratios, etc.) to within about 5% agreement.  ("Atmospheric Radiocarbon Calibration to 45,000 yr. B.P.: Late Glacial Fluctuations and Cosmogenic Isotope Production", H. Kitagawa et al, Science 20 February 1998; v279: pp 1187-1190.)

  • Like all scientific methods of analysis, radiometric dating techniques are not perfect and are subject to interferences that can sometimes produce false results. Analysis of inappropriate and/or improperly prepared samples gives erroneous values. Nonetheless, how does the YEC model account for the high level of consistency observed from using a variety of methods of analysis that place the age of the Earth far in excess of the biblical limit of about 10,000 years.

    The evidence specifically discussed in this challenge represents a miniscule fraction of that which makes up the pro-evolution database that fills many thousands of volumes of scientific journals worldwide. If YECs expect to have their model accepted and to have it compete effectively with the evolution model in the scientific community, they must demonstrate, using legitimate scientific arguments, how their model accounts for and is predictive of observations such as those summarized above. A number of creationists have made careers out of attempting to reconcile the discrepancies between the observed facts and the nebulous predictions of the YEC model. So far all they have produced is a bewilderment of pseudoscientific rhetoric and, what often appears to be, deliberate confusion amongst the lay public. None of their contrived rationalizations have thus far passed scientific scrutiny. This challenge provides them the opportunity to present new, scientifically valid arguments instead of the ill-conceived and repeatedly debunked ad hocisms they are accustomed to offering.

    Updated: 6/4/08