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Unsolved mysteries

Published: 27 December 2014 (GMT+10)

S. Y. from the U.S. wrote in to suggest that we should do more to highlight weaknesses in our arguments and areas where we lack understanding.


Picture: spekulator

Hi. I have a question regarding the content of this ministry’s publications as well as every other creation-science publication. Why is it I don’t see anyone writing detailed articles on what we don’t know? It’s always the evolutionists that point out the problems with creation-science. Why not have a page that focuses on acknowledging the problems and gaps in understanding, having a badge of some sort on a articles that partially or fully solve a problem on the list, with a repeat of the chart, and an acknowledgement when a proposed solution fails? I would say that might hurt publicity somewhat but be more of a strong long-term solution. As time goes on you can post side-by-side comparisons of the list over time. That would also encourage researchers, that may be “in the closet” regarding their views, to think about the problems and come up with solutions, furthering the science. What do you think?

CMI’s  replies:

Hi S. Y.,

It’s a fair question. On the one hand, the reason most of our articles try to answer objections and argue for the biblical worldview is because we think it is the true picture of reality, and we unashamedly exist to boost people’s confidence in biblical creation. It’s not as helpful to read about non-answers as it is answers. And, frankly, most people have not encountered the wealth of information available that supports creation. All they hear about from the secular media and education system is evolution and millions of years propaganda all the time. The evolutionists are the ones with the huge megaphone, so our 9,000+ articles arguing for creation, though certainly having a powerful impact, hardly balances the scales in terms of how much people are exposed to the positive case for creation as compared to how much they hear about evolution. Also, the ‘problems’ that evolutionists have with our viewpoint are often misunderstandings or mischaracterizations on their part, so we should hardly concede the legitimacy of their misguided criticisms.

However, I don’t think we hide or run from genuine difficulties or areas of disagreement either. In fact, I actually think you can see, if you really dig into our literature, that we do highlight many of them. It’s no secret that there are many controversies in Flood geology, like the extent to which the order in the fossil record is accurately portrayed by the geologic column, where the boundaries lie that separate the Flood from pre-Flood and post-Flood rocks, whether or not catastrophic plate tectonics (CPT) is the best model to explain the various facts it allegedly accounts for, how to explain the excess heat generated by CPT if it is the correct model, and many more. We’ve published many articles on this in our Journal of Creation, including a forum for both sides to interact.

There are also multiple, competing models to explain how distant starlight could reach earth in less than 6,000 years, and we’ve acknowledged various difficulties with the accelerated radiometric decay that appears to have taken place during Noah’s flood, including excess heat and radiation, and the lack of a definitive mechanism to generate the effect (though we do not see any of these challenges as fatal). Note that many scientists discovered phenomena before finding a mechanism for them. E.g. Sir Isaac Newton showed that there is a phenomenon called gravity: an attraction that follows the inverse square law. But he had no idea what caused this attraction.

In biology, there are unsolved mysteries like the purpose of the vitamin C pseudogene. Although scientists are discovering functions for pseudogenes all the time and there are good reasons to be skeptical of the evolutionary claim that this pseudogene demonstrates common ancestry between humans and apes, we still have much to learn about why this segment of DNA is present in both apes and humans.

Furthermore, there are uncertainties about theological and exegetical issues. For example, in The Creation Answers Book chapter 6, How did bad things come about?, we explain that we can only speculate within biblical boundaries about how we came to have biological structures that appear to be designed for attack or defense in today’s world. For example, did snake venom exist before the Fall and, if so, what purpose did it have? We suggest a number of reasonable possibilities for such things, even snake venom, which are consistent with biblical and scientific data, but we cannot supply a definitive explanation for each case given our limited information. See Death and Suffering Q&A.

iStock photo student-skull

I’m not sure your idea of a chart would work, since creationists hold a variety of opinions on many of these subjects, including differences of opinion about which theories are best and with what degree of confidence we should hold them. But we certainly do report on arguments for creation that once seemed reasonable but have been overturned by new discoveries (e.g., Missing neutrinos found! No longer an ‘age’ indicator) and we announce when creationists propose new solutions to old challenges (e.g., A new cosmology: solution to the starlight travel time problem).

Also, we have written several articles pointing out that we should take a stand on what the Bible makes clear and be less dogmatic about scientific models and things about which the Bible is not so clear. See ‘Hanging Loose’: What should we defend? and Flood models and biblical realism.

Finally, we prefer to emphasize the positive case for creation because our critics often charge us with believing in a ‘god of the gaps’. In fact, our arguments are mostly based on what we do know about science, not on gaps in understanding. See for example: Whose god? The theological response to the god-of-the-gaps and The old ‘Who created God?’ canard revisited.

Anyway, thank you for the suggestion and your concerns for balance and the long-term health of the creationist movement. Although we don’t plan to implement exactly what you proposed, hopefully you can see that we have addressed your concerns in various other ways throughout our literature.


Keaton Halley

Helpful Resources

Reader’s comments

Karene M.
Thanks Keaton for your excellent answer to this request. My first thought was that an evolutionist asked this question to try to expose creation to yet another attack, but then I remembered your DVD 'Evolution's Achilles Heal' which shows the major weaknesses in the evolutionists arguments. They really should view this! Your work is already very well researched and so vast, it's a terrible shame that many more people who are seeking the truth don't avail themselves of it. God reveals things in His own timing, and has created intellect in us to work through these things, and understanding to those who ask Him for it. I'm thankful to Creation for providing the way to do this.
R. D.
This might not be the perfect place to ask this question but as regards one of the issues which Keaton raised—the proposed period of accelerated radioactive decay during the Flood—I'm not quite sure why so many people seem to think that this is necessary, and my considerable readings of the literature on this topic have yet to turn-up anything which explains. The deadly degree of radiation which such a scenario produces seems pretty much an intractable problem—save unacceptable “God intervened and took the radiation away” explanations, which as Dr. Sarfati correctly stated in one of the linked articles (on another tricky issue—the excess heat which CPT generates—but the same principle) simply don't cut it. Nor does it do to say that God miraculously caused such a decay—if it happened, a non-miraculous cause is required. No such possible cause is known, so I don’t see how it’s a viable hypothesis, since a better explanation seems to exist.

I can’t see why it’s a problem to propose the sole explanation for daughter isotopes as a period of rapid decay on day three of creation week, before there was any life on Earth for the radiation to be a danger to, as the dry ground appeared. This has a plausible mechanism (initial plasma state for all non-hydro elements), which John Woodmorappe described when he first pointed-out the discovery of a natural accelerated-decay method. I'd love to hear from someone (Keaton if he knows; Dr. Humphreys or someone else if not) about what I'm missing, even if just a pointer to an already-published piece which I've so far missed.
Jonathan Sarfati
Actually, it seems to be a fair question and a fair place to ask. You are right, I don't like such deus ex machina* explanations. However, on another level, scientists for centuries have recognized the difference between discovering a phenomenon and explaining it (see discussion in Self-serving SEC definitions of ‘science’).

In this case, the outstanding work by the RATE scientists has discovered a phenomenon—accelerated decay rate some time in the past. Even if they haven't yet found a good explanation, it doesn't mean that the phenomenon is not real.

As for when this accelerated decay occurred, Day 3 might be the easiest explanation in itself. However, the evidence is found in rocks produced during or after the Flood. So the Flood does seem to be the best time for this acceleration.

* The phrase deus ex machinā is Latin for ‘god from the machine’, a translation of a term from the ancient Greek plays, apo mēkhanēs theos (ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός). Their heroes would face an apparently insoluble problem, but then a god would suddenly appear and solve it. The ‘machine/machina/μηχανή’ meant a crane to lower the actors playing gods onto the stage, or lift the god up through a trapdoor. The playwright Euripides (c. 480–406 BC) used this device frequently. But Aristotle (384–322 BC) sharply criticized it, claiming that the resolution of a problem should logically follow from previous actions in the plot, not from an artificial contrivance. The modern usage reflects Aristotle’s distaste for the plot device.
Charles S.
Perhaps an alternate to the writer's suggestion would be to tabulate (spreadsheet) the holes in Naturalism and old earth theories so commonly accepted as scientific facts (this is a 180 to the writer's suggestion). This seems logical to me since reading "Evolution's Achilles' Heels" as the theory of evolution is clearly crumbling. Of course, anyone of us could do this for themselves if we are up todate with Creation Research!

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