Debates

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Introduction

As scientists gather data, conjure up hypotheses, and conduct experiments, they often arrive at different conclusions and disagreement arises. Just look at the discussions surrounding why the woolly mammoths and other Ice Age mammals disappeared, or consider the arguments that arise when scientists try to figure out how StoneHenge was constructed. Dissension is nothing new in science.

Creationists are actively engaged in scientific research. As such, it’s no surprise that disagreements arise between creation scientists with different interpretations of the evidence they have on hand. A lot of this boils down to the fact that the ancient past is unobservable, so happenings that occurred in the past cannot be directly tested. The eyewitness accounts recorded in the Bible can give us much insight, but it doesn’t answer all of the questions a scientist might have.

Creationists are actively engaged in scientific research.

Dissension is a great thing in science because it helps researchers to find potential errors in the line of thinking of their peers that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Below is a list of some of the debates happening right now among creation scientists.

Feathered Dinosaurs

Image by Matthew Martyniuk

Starting in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, fossil hunters in China began finding fossilized creatures with skeletons that looked very much like small theropod (meat-eating) dinosaurs, but shared many characteristics in common with modern birds, including a wishbone, a backward-facing pubic bone, and, most strikingly, feathers. Since Genesis teaches that birds were created on Day 5 of Creation Week, and dinosaurs, which are land animals, were created on Day 6, most creationists of the 2000’s and 2010’s argued that these “feathered dinosaurs” could be distinguished as separate created kinds of animals, either theropods or birds.

Some creationists, including Brian Thomas and Robert Carter, have made the case that despite the similarities shared by birds and theropod dinosaurs should remain as distinct categories. They point out that birds have a suite of unique characteristics, from their hip structure, their walking/standing posture, to the fact that their brain and internal organs are different from those of animals traditionally classified as dinosaurs.

In 2018, a landmark paper by Matt McLain et al. recognized that there is no reason to separate birds and dinosaurs because these two groups are not themselves created kinds. Rather, birds are a collection of created kinds that is a subgroup of dinosaurs. McLain’s research concluded that there are several different kinds of feathered dinosaurs and that they do not share common ancestry with modern birds or other dinosaurs.

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Evolution
Image by National Human Genome Research Institute’s Talking Glossary

Contrary to popular belief, most creationists do not believe species are fixed, but rather that species have diversified from an interfertile population God created during Creation Week called a baramin, or “created kind.” How much diversity can be generated from a created kind and the mechanisms behind this change over time have been heavily debated.

Natural selection is an integral aspect to most creationist models of rapid diversification, but other mechanisms, such as Continuous Environmental Tracking, the AGEing hypothesis, and Created Heterozygosity and National Processes model have also been proposed.

There are two primary schools of thought regarding how much variation can arise from a baramin: splitters and lumpers. Splitters prefer to emphasize the differences between species and come out with baramins that are more or less equivalent to the taxonomic ranks of genus or family. While lumpers also acknowledge the dissimilarities between various groups of organisms, they tend to be more inclusive and consider baramins to be roughly equivalent to the taxonomic ranks of family, superfamily or order.

Creationist biologists have been able to establish a variety of tentative created kinds, including the human genus, the horse and cat families, and the tyrannosauroid superfamily. Of much focus at late is the baraminological status of marine mammals. Though the traditional view holds that seals, manatees and whales were created as aquatic creatures, it has recently been suggested that these are actually descended from semi-aquatic or even terrestrial created kinds and only embraced an aquatic lifestyle after the Flood.

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Pre-Flood/Flood/Post-Flood Boundary

The geologic column is composed of four main sections: the Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic. Most creationist scientists observe that the rock layers of the upper Paleozoic and Mesozoic are bristling with ample evidence of having been formed during the global year-long Flood of Noah’s time. However, determining which portions of the geologic column reflect the end and (to a lesser extent) the beginning of the Flood have been the subject of controversy.

Seeing as the Flood was abruptly brought on by the breakup of the fountains of the great deep, creationist geologists believe that the beginning of the Flood should be characterized by an abrupt change in the geologic column. Most would place this point at the Great Unconformity, a rock surface that was eroded virtually flat and lies between the uppermost Precambrian layers and the lowermost of the Paleozoic layers. That being said, some characteristics of the lower Paleozoic, such as stromatolite reefs that appear to be buried in their original growth position, have led some researchers to suggest that the pre-Flood/Flood boundary lies higher in the rock record, perhaps in the mid-Paleozoic at or around the Mississippian/Pennsylvanian boundary.

The Cenozoic is characterized by a successive decline of catastrophism and natural disasters. This makes determining where the Flood’s end lies in the geologic record much more difficult. Some creationist geologists argue that the earth reached geological equilibrium immediately after the Flood. This places the Flood/post-Flood boundary very high in the Cenozoic, roughly coinciding with the beginning of the Ice Age. Others believe that it would have taken time for the earth to reach modern levels of equilibrium, and that the Cenozoic reflects the earth’s geologic processes winding down after the Flood.

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Plate Tectonics
Image by Kurzon

The earth’s crust is composed of tectonic plates, and the theory of plate tectonics aims to describe how they move and interact with each other. It has long been suspected that some form of plate tectonics was part of the mechanism that initiated the Flood. The hydroplate model gained popularity among laypeople in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, however it never gained traction among creationist geologists, who instead favored the catastrophic plate tectonics model (aka continental sprint).

As the plates move across the earth’s surface, the continents sitting upon them go along for the ride. It is widely accepted that the continents were joined to form a single supercontinent, at least once to form Pangaea. While a number of creationist geologists believe that Pangaea (or some version of it) reflects the original pre-Flood supercontinent, others point out that there is evidence of pre-Pangaean plate movements and suggest that Rodinia is the supercontinent one would have seen looking at the pre-Flood earth from space.

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Early Humans (Hominids)
Image by Daderot on Wikimedia Commons

All young-age creationists agree that humans are descended from the first couple, Adam and Eve. The influx of hominid fossils from Africa, Asia and Europe has led to much debate over which are truly members of the human race and which are non-human apes.

Seeing as humans have only been aware of one species of human throughout most of our history, Homo sapiens, it has been all-too-easy to assume that humans in the fossil record should look very similar to us. The issue some researchers raise, however, is that just as the animal kinds have diversified since their creation, humans may have as well.

Other species that these researchers suggest are human as well include the neanderthals, Homo floresiensis and Homo naledi.

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Masoretic vs. Septuagint Timeline
Image by Shai Halevi on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Most modern translations of the Tanakh (Old Testament) are based on the Hebrew text of an ancient manuscript called the Masoretic text (MT). However, there is also a slightly older version of the Tanakh that was translated in Greek known as the Septuagint (LXX). Both versions of the Tanakh are very similar to each other, but where they do differ are the ages of the patriarchs in Genesis 5 and 11 and how old they were when they had the next child in their lineage. For example, MT says that Adam was 130 years old when his son Seth was born; in the LXX, Adam is said to be 230 years old. This creates, at most, a 1,326-year dichotomy between the two texts.

Most creation scientists believe that a brief ice age occurred after the global Flood of Noah’s day and that it roughly coincided with the dispersion from Babel (Genesis 10 and 11) and the founding of Egypt and other ancient post-Flood civilizations. Some creation scientists also postulate that there was a brief period of time after the Flood before the glaciers formed. The extra centuries provided by the LXX would have allowed for a longer ice age and more time for created kinds of animals to diversify.