BEFORE diving in the following basics should be read if you've forgotten most of what you've learnt about geology and biology.


Geological time is divided into a hierarchy of periods, epochs, ages, eras and eons. The Earth itself is about 4.56 billion years old [4.56 giga years] roughly the same age as the rest of the Solar System. That vast span is usually divided into several Eons - the Hadean, the Archean, the Proterozoic and the Phanerozoic. Life appeared in the very latest Hadean, around 3.8 giga years ago [3.8 gya], while eukaryotes appeared just after the Archean some 2.5 gya.

table 1: Geological Time

HADEAN 4.56 - 3.8 Gya
ARCHEAN 3.8 - 2.5 Gya
PROTEROZOIC 2.5 - 0.543 Gya
ORDOVICIAN 490 - 443 Mya
SILURIAN 443 - 413 Mya
DEVONIAN 413 - 355 Mya
PERMIAN 290 - 251 Mya
JURASSIC 201 - 145 Mya
CRETACEOUS 145 - 65 Mya

The youngest Eon is the Phanerozoic, the "Age of Apparent Life", and began some 543 million years ago [543 mya.] This Eon is subdivided into three Eras, the Palaeozoic, the Mesozoic and the Cainozoic - Eras of Old, Middle and Recent Life.

The PALAEOZOIC is subdivided into six PERIODS - the Cambrian [began 543 mya], Ordovician [began 490 mya], Silurian [began 443 mya], Devonian [began 413 mya], Carboniferous [began 355 mya] and Permian [began 290 mya.] An important Period just prior to the Cambrian is the Vendian, which will be discussed in the section on the Cambrian Explosion. The Palaeozoic saw the appearance of many firsts - first fish, insects, amphibians, land-life, reptiles, and many others. It ended 250 mya with the largest extinction of life on Earth ever - nearly 90% of all species died, including trilobites.

The MESOZOIC is subdivided into three PERIODS - the Triassic [250 mya], Jurassic [201 mya] and Cretaceous [145 mya], and is well-known as the "Age of the Dinosaurs", which appeared about 230 mya. The first mammals appeared about the same time, as did crocodiles and pterosaurs. Birds first appeared about 150 mya with the flying dinosaur Archaeopteryx, and rapidly diversified. The Mesozoic ended about 65 mya with the impact of a ten kilometre-wide asteroid, which killed off all large animals of the day in the sea and on the land.

The CAINOZOIC is subdivided into the Tertiary and Quaternary PERIODS. The Tertiary is subdivided into a number of EPOCHS - the Palaeocene [65 mya], Eocene [55 mya], Oligocene [34 mya], Miocene [23 mya], and Pliocene [5.3 mya.] Called the "Age of Mammals" the Tertiary saw the appearance of all modern mammal groups, and the first appearance of bipedal apes, the Australopithecines. The Quaternary has only two Epochs - the Pleistocene and the Holocene. The Pleistocene began about two million years ago and should rightly include the Holocene which is just the last 10 thousand years. The Pleistocene could be called the "Ice Age" and has seen many expansions and contractions of Polar and Glacial ice

The CAINOZOIC is also divided into the PALEOGENE and the NEOGENE [began with the Miocene], which includes the QUATERNARY. Most modern mammal families and genera appeared in the NEOGENE and evolved into their current diversity. Many large mammal groups - including our own, the Apes - suffered reductions in diversity towards in the most recent times of the NEOGENE. Humans have been implicated in the demise of some, especially the large mammals and birds of Australia and North America.


Living things are classified in an ordered hierarchy of description. For example, humans belong in the Super-Kingdom Eukarya, Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Mammalia, Order Primates, Family Hominidae, Genus Homo and Species sapiens. Each level includes several of the lower level of description, with ever more generalised shared characteristics between the members. Super-Kingdom Eukarya includes Plants, Protists, Algae, Fungii and Animals, because they all share a common cellular structure and very little else. Likewise the Animals which are all multi-cellular, non-photosynthetic and cellularly differentiated lifeforms. Yet all the Animal Phyla are quite distinct and varied types of Animals.


What's wrong with Creationism ? You might be suprised to discover just how many flaws and errors there are in Science, and like Young Earth Creationists [YECs] the New Creationists will gleefully point these out to you. But how many of their theories and disproofs of evolution actually reflect reality?

The claim that God has created the species of plants, animals and microbes by invisible and mysterious means is a testable hypothesis, and one that was abandoned by scientists over the period 1850 to 1930. The processes at work in today's Living world and conceivable processes that have left detectable traces today [e.g. fossils, genetic remains, chemical traces, evolved behaviours] seemed enough to create this world's biological wonders. Many mysteries remain and scientists don't have the final answers to many questions. However the Darwinian mechanism of evolution via the accumulation of beneficial variations through natural selection seems sufficient to explain how things have evolved. In this World the Hand Of God must either present in all Nature's processes, and so indistinguishable from Nature, or totally absent except at the very fringe of the World [e.g. perhaps the Beginning, the Origin of Life.]

The real issue, though, is not scientific. Creationists present many arguments that come from aspects of the scientific data and some of these I will examine later, but the REAL ISSUE is not about Science. Instead it is about knowledge and ways of knowing, what philosophers call EPISTEMOLOGY. For Scientists understanding of the World comes from studying the World as it, was and might be. They study the data, create models of how the facts of Nature all fit together and then try to test and extend the conclusions that theory and data combined give. In this way Science is always expanding its knowledge, always attempting to go beyond its CURRENT understanding.

This is a COLLECTIVE feature of Science, since not all reseachers are deliberately trying to break their models of the World. However by accepting new evidence, and either trying to fit the evidence to their theories or theories to their evidence Science DOES change in understanding. The Theory of Evolution didn't come into being as a Whole with Darwin as a Moses of Biology giving us the Ten Commandments of Natural Selection. But this is precisely what many Creationists claim of their view of the World. And that's the Key DIFFERENCE.

SCRIPTURE, being Scripture, is held to be perfect or INERRANT, a sure guide to knowledge about the things upon which it speaks - and the Natural World is one such topic. While I believe that the Bible is inspired, I don't believe that it is free from the human limitations of its writers, and what the Bible says about the World is limited by the knowledge of second millennium BC to first Century AD people. The Bible is full of mythic hints, tales of God battling serpents, of Sons of God that cohabit with women, of Global Super-Floods and huge heaven-reaching Towers, of magic Trees, talking Serpents and more.

To point these things out makes most believers feel threatened. The Bible has been systematically taken to pieces as a historical document and often trashed by historians for its inaccuracy. I believe that there are reasonable doubts that can be held about the Bible's content, but there is also a very vicious doubt that seeks to destroy faith. A faith that the Bible tries to record as a part of the lives of a race of people, a part that made them who they are, and a faith that was ultimately offered to the rest of humanity in a mutated form as Christianity.

There are limits to knowledge on both sides of the argument between faith and disbelief [not doubt, which is always a part of living faith.] Historians may prefer a certain theory on the composition of the Pentateuch ["the Books of Moses"], but that theory can vary from scholar to scholar and is often no more objective than the traditional belief that it seeks to replace. The texts certainly contain evidence of editing and duplication as part of some sort of compilation process, but does that automatically make it untrustworthy? The Bible is biased towards a theological view of history - God's acts and purposes feature strongly - but does that eliminate ANY historical reality? No. And the "objective" data of archaeology is not as inviolate as many believe either. So there is room for argument.

However Creationism seeks to disprove the Scientific view of Origins and this is a wholly different issue. Why? Because many of its proponents believe there is NO ROOM FOR DEBATE. For them all issues are closed. God created the World and evolution is impossible. Why? Because an evolutionary view is said to be against God and against a literal reading of Genesis 1 - 11.

MANY QUESTIONS arise in my mind when faced with this rather bold claim by Creationists. Firstly why do they say evolution is impossible. There is no scientific evidence that is CLEARLY against evolution, as envisaged by Darwinists, and plenty of scientific evidence for it [which I'll cover later.] The real reason for the claim is simple: it conflicts with a LITERAL reading of GENESIS. This leads to my second question, why should we believe Genesis 1 - 11 to be literal history? Many Christians see Genesis as being an account of how death came into the World through sin, and thus it provides the basis and rationale for the life and death of Jesus Christ.

HERE'S a discussion on the LITERAL understanding of Genesis 1 - 11


The following Creationist arguments are discussed and assessed. Fundamentally they are all based on two misunderstandings - (1) EVOLUTIONARY SCIENCE has stood still since Darwin, and (2) SCIENCE must have all the answers to be TRUE.







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