Science and origins
Religion and origins
In Six Days
Why 50 Scientists Choose
to Believe in Creation
First published in In Six Days
Stephen Grocott, inorganic chemistry
Dr. Grocott is general manager, Research and Development, Southern Pacific Petroleum. He holds a B.S. (Hons) in chemistry from the University of Western Australia and a Ph.D. in organometallic chemistry from the University of Western Australia. Dr. Grocott has worked in the field of mineral processing research for 17 years, holds 4 patents and has published about 30 research papers. He is an elected fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute.
I am a practicing scientist. Why do I believe in the supposedly thoroughly disproved, simpleton’s story given in the Genesis account of creation? Why would I want to risk the criticism, alienation and mirth of my peers in industry, universities and professional societies?
The ultimate answer is that I am a Christian, but perhaps that is the subject of another essay. Instead, let me answer the following question from a purely scientific viewpoint, “Why do I as a practicing scientist believe in a 6-day creation, a young earth, and a global flood as described in a literal reading of Genesis?” I’ll call this view the Creationist View and I’ll call the main alternative view held by most scientists the Evolutionary View.
Now before I answer this question, let me tell you that as a scientist, I have no problems whatsoever in such a belief (the Creationist View). Nor have I encountered in my work anyone who has been able to counter such arguments with science. Furthermore, I enjoy discussing this subject with other evolution-believing scientists. Why? Because there are few substantive counters to a creationist belief but innumerable counters to evolutionary belief.
Anyway, on to the answer. There are so many “science-based” reasons for belief in creation that I will only touch upon a few that intellectually appeal to me.
What is science?
The first place to start is with a definition of science. Many exist, but most of them come down to something like, “If something is scientific, it is observable and testable (i.e., able to be repeated).”
Now it might surprise readers without a scientific background to hear me say that very few scientists have any real idea what science is. However, if you are a scientist you will probably acknowledge the truth of this seemingly nonsensical statement. In my undergraduate studies and postgraduate research, I can’t ever recall anyone telling me what science is (and isn’t!), showing me what it is, or providing me with an explanation of how it operates. If you are studying science or working with scientists and you doubt me, I challenge you to ask them for a definition of what is “scientific.” After a pause, most of them would not be able to give an answer much deeper than “It is what scientists do.”
As an undergraduate, I was taught to remember, not to think. Sure, I was given tools which I could use to think, but I wasn’t actually taught to think. Then, as a Ph.D. researcher I worked in a very narrow field (as do all Ph.D. researchers), and so the breadth of a question like “What is the definition of scientific?” was absolutely irrelevant to me. Upon graduation and working as a research scientist for 17 years and as a leader of other scientists, the question has never arisen, nor apparently needed to have been asked. My point is that most scientists don’t really know what is or isn’t scientific, because it rarely affects what they do.
Why make a big deal of this? The reason is because creation and evolution are actually both outside the realms of science and, to know this, you need to know what science is—and as we have seen, most scientists don’t.
Neither “process” is currently observable, testable or repeatable. Please note that when speaking of evolution, I am talking of the appearance of new (not rearranged) genetic information leading to greater and greater complexity of genetic information. I am also talking about the appearance of life starting from inanimate chemicals. When talking about evolution, I am not speaking of natural selection, which leads to a reduction in genetic information in those species. Creationists, of course, have not the slightest problem with natural selection. After all, it has been practiced by farmers for centuries in their breeding of plants and animals through selecting preferred offspring and mating or propagating these. Anyway, the theory of natural selection was described by creation-believing scientists long before Darwin boarded the Beagle.
Evolution needs increasing complexity, increasing information. We don’t see it occurring today and no one was there to observe it in the past. Evolutionists counter by saying that it is too slow to observe. Even if this were true, it still means that evolution is nonscientific because it is not observable or testable. Similarly, creation is not scientific. Obviously we don’t see it occurring today and only God was there to see it in the past (assuming that one believes in a Creator God).
Summary. Given that creation and evolution are both outside the realms of science, why should I, as a scientist, have problems with belief in creation while really being “scientific”? I don’t. This is not to say that many of the implications of creation and evolution can’t be scientifically evaluated. They can, but neither belief can be proven. Nonetheless, as a scientist, after thoroughly studying this subject, I have been left feeling very satisfied with the scientific legitimacy of creation, and very uncomfortable with the leaps of faith required by many of my colleagues in order to believe in evolution.
Origin of life
If one believes in evolution, then one has to also account for the origin of life—the very first step. Without this, the whole subject of evolution hangs on nothing.
Now this is a subject about which I have read much. And the weight of evidence against the spontaneous origin of life on earth is, in my opinion, overwhelming. One can make some basic calculations about the chemical equilibria of molecules essential to life. These calculations show that the formation of biochemically necessary molecules at even minuscule concentrations is highly unfavorable. Furthermore, the assembly of these molecules into more complex biochemical precursors such as proteins, polysaccharides, nucleic acids or cell walls is beyond vanishingly small and is, in fact, statistically “impossible.” The invocation of influences such as the catalytic effect of minerals, concentration of precursors in evaporating ponds, occurrence below ground, etc. is fiction of the highest order. Theories such as these are usually sought because the hypothesizing scientist starts with the premise that life evolved from nonlife and, therefore, at some time in the past, lifeless simple molecules climbed Mount Impossible and multiplied.
Suppose that you could go back in your time machine to a time when, according to evolutionists, a lifeless world existed. Assume that you have taken with you an ocean full of organic precursors of life. What would happen to them? They would all decompose to simpler and simpler molecules and mostly would end up as lifeless common inorganic substances. Sterilize a frog and put it in a sterile blender—buzzzz. Seal up the mixture in a sterile container and leave it as long as you want. You won’t get life, despite the fact that you started with the best possible mixture of so-called precursors to life. Repeat the experiment a million times in the sun, in the dark; with oxygen, without; with clay, without; with UV, without. It won’t make any difference. Thermodynamics clearly states that the mixture will decompose to simpler, lower energy, less information-containing molecules.
The complexity of the simplest imaginable living organism is mind-boggling. You need to have the cell wall, the energy system, a system of self-repair, a reproduction system, and means for taking in “food” and expelling “waste,” a means for interpreting the complex genetic code and replicating it, etc., etc. The combined telecommunication systems of the world are far less complex, and yet no one believes they arose by chance.
Summary. I am afraid that as a scientist I simply cannot say strongly enough that spontaneous origin of life is chemical nonsense and, therefore, I am left with no alternative but to believe that life was created.
I could write many, many pages, adding more scientific arguments to this essay. I could write pages of references. Instead I will conclude with a few neat examples of consistency between a biblical worldview and the world in which we live.
Neat science in the Bible
Familial marriages: You’ve just fallen in love with a close relative. Why aren’t you allowed to marry and have children? We all know why. It is because of the high risk of genetic malformation in the children. This comes about because close relatives have very similar mutations in their genetic information. Therefore, when the mother’s and father’s DNA comes together in the child, when there is a mistake on one gene, it is much more likely to also be present on the spouse’s matching gene and lead to a baby with genetic defects. If the child is a product of “nonrelatives,” it is far more likely that a mistake on one gene will be paired with a correct gene, so that no abnormality will be manifest from that gene pair. Well, what has all this got to do with creation and evolution?
Well, if in the beginning Adam and Eve were created perfect (no gene damage), then their children would also have been genetically almost perfect. Therefore, there were no problems with marriage between even brothers and sisters (guess where Cain got his wife). In fact, close marriages weren’t outlawed by God until the time of Moses—many hundreds of years later. This biblical account fits perfectly with observed accumulation of genetic mistakes over time (not improvement in the species). It explains why it was okay for Cain to marry a close relative and explains why God didn’t outlaw it until much later. Neat, heh?
Sedimentary deposits: What do you see in the geology of the world? Massive sedimentary deposits. How did they form? Primarily through moving water. Belief that these formed through gradual erosion over millions of years does not fit with common sense or good science. The lateral extent of identical deposits (i.e., hundreds of kilometers of exactly the same rocks) implies catastrophism. So do features like the Grand Canyon (as more long-age geologists are starting to consider) and Ayers Rock, the largest single rock in the world, which is in Australia. The belief that it was a little bit of water over a long time (versus a lot of water over a little bit of time) is a faith-based position that is not supported by science, since it lies outside science. Was anyone there to record it and is it being repeated anywhere in the world today? On the contrary, modern-day catastrophes have been observed to cause massive local sedimentary deposits and other geological features. The Bible devotes three whole chapters to describing a worldwide flood with massive volcanism and tectonic activity. This fits very well with what we see.
Fossils: How are fossils formed? In school I was told that fossilization occurs gradually over years. Nonsense! Let’s use our common sense. The recently dead (or living) organism must be rapidly buried in sediment that can harden and exclude oxygen. Again, just what you’d expect from a catastrophic worldwide flood. Fossilization and rapid formation of deep strata must occur rapidly. How else do you explain vertical fossilized trees (without roots!) or a dinosaur’s neck sticking through strata that are allegedly millions of years old? Tell me how the tree or dinosaur stayed alive for millions of years while the strata slowly formed around it. There are thousands of examples. A catastrophic flood fits the evidence quite well.
Other reasons I feel comfortable with a belief in creation
Apart from the scientific reasons given above, I have many, many other reasons I am intellectually more satisfied by my belief in creation. I’ve listed a short selection of these.
Flood stories: How else do you simply explain the Flood stories shared by dozens of cultures around the world (stories recorded long before they were “contaminated” by Bible-carrying westerners)?
Chinese pictograms: Ancient Chinese characters clearly and explicitly describe the Genesis creation and Flood accounts.
Scientists changing their views: Although the scientists who believe in creation are decidedly in the minority, they are growing in number, as represented by scientist-members of creationist organizations around the world. Furthermore, increasing numbers of scientists who previously believed in evolution, while not becoming “creationists,” are discarding evolutionary viewpoints because they appear to be inconsistent with science. Non-Christian scientists now openly discuss evidence for:
- rapid (years, not millions of years) formation of coal, oil and natural gas
- catastrophic formation of geological features such as the Grand Canyon
- the apparent impossibility of the spontaneous formation of life from nonliving matter
- the growing evidence of the flaws in the theory of evolution
The moral consequences of a belief in evolution: If no one created me, if I am just highly evolved pond scum, then surely I am my own authority. Who or what determines right or wrong? Isn’t it just relative? Isn’t it different for different people and changing as society evolves? If I can get away with something for my benefit (i.e., for my evolutionary advantage), if genes are “selfish” as I have been taught, then why not push beyond the limits? Why care about the poor people, the old, the maimed, the victims in other countries? Why not abort the babies in utero, why not kill the old and useless, why not kill the dumb ones and also the unemployed if we have enough machines to do the labor?
If there are no absolutes (i.e., set by something outside man and not by man) then why not agree with one Australian philosopher (working at an Australian university) who proposes infanticide for excess children? How can you logically argue against this if man really does set his own rules? I know that at the moment this is against man’s rules but man’s rules change. Remember, a generation ago abortion and euthanasia were both illegal and taboo subjects.
A belief in creation, on the other hand, implies that there are absolutes imposed on us by a Creator, to whom we are accountable. This fits well with what I feel and see.
Emotions: We’ve all felt love. Is this an evolutionary artifact? Do I deeply love my children because I want my gene line to continue? Is that all there is to being a parent—survival of the species? Does my heart melt when I think of my wife simply because I want to propagate more and I want her to look after my little two-legged gene-bundles? When I witnessed the births of my two children, did I cry because those babies meant my gene line would continue? I guess that you can try to believe that I was (and that we all are) tricked by evolution.
Alternatively, you can believe in a Creator who describes himself as love and says that He made us in His image, able to discern right from wrong, and able to love both Him and others for no logical reason other than that is the way we were made. Yes, you can believe that your life has no higher purpose than to propagate the species and then die, but in your heart and head, does that fit with the world you see?
Science is a wonderful thing. I enjoy it a great deal. As a scientist, I count myself lucky to be able to do science and to be good at it. And as a scientist, I have far more trouble trying to perform the mental gymnastics necessary to explain the world from an evolutionary, long-age viewpoint than I do from the young-earth, creationist viewpoint.
Although neither viewpoint can be proven (since they are both outside science), the circumstantial evidence, the consistency of the evidence and the foundation upon the most fundamental laws of science lead me to be much more comfortable believing in creation.
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