This is a review of the book, The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle. In his book, Dr. Lisle attempts to give a wholly rational accounting as to how fundamental creationism is the only rational conclusion given the evidence that we have. In this review, I will note the (remarkably many) errors that Dr. Lisle made, and explain how these lead to a falsification of the premise that Dr. Lisle sets forth in the book. Throughout this review, you’ll see short quotations from the book. All quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from this book and are the property of the publisher and author.
First I would like to introduce you to myself. Until about a year ago (the spring of 2009) I was a staunch fundamentalist Christian. At that time, I began to examine my faith and I began researching everything I could get my hands on that dealt with philosophy, ethics, religion, and Christianity. At that time I believed that the unexamined faith was useless. Since that time my opinion has not changed on the importance of examining my beliefs, but my beliefs themselves have changed. As I examined the available evidence, the logic of the arguments, and the refusal of most Christians to have an open mind about science and scientific discoveries, I came to the decision that no religion (not even Christianity) satisfyingly explains the evidence as well as science does. Since then I’ve considered myself an atheist. Not in that I believe that there is no god, but I believe that there is no evidence for a god.
This gives me a unique perspective. I have over 20 years of experience with the Christian worldview. Not only the Christian worldview, but the fundamentalist Christian worldview. A worldview in which I believed that the Bible was the inerrant word of god. In my time as a Christian, I spent plenty of time studying Christian apologetics. As such, I have a firm grasp on the vast majority of arguments for the Christian viewpoint. With these in hand, I can now see both sides of almost every religious argument that includes atheism and Christianity. I understand my current view as an atheist while, at the same time, understanding the view of the fundamentalist Christian. As I said, this gives me a unique viewpoint as I can easily discount simple arguments from both sides that are only made it due to a misunderstanding of either science or the Bible.
For example, I can easily discount the argument of a creationist who also believes that the world is flat just because the Bible says it is. My understanding of science is strong enough to quickly point out that if the world were flat, GPS Systems would not work. As another example, I can also easily discount the argument of a scientist who claims that Christians are hypocrites because they do not hold to the Levitical law as the Jews did. My understanding of the Bible is strong enough to point out that the new testament releases Christians from the “law” and places them under a “new covenant.” For another good example, see the section below on starlight.
This review will be split up into two main parts. The first part will deal with various errors in logic and misinformation that does not directly refute the main point of the book. The second part will focus on refuting the “ultimate proof of creation.”
Part one – Nonessentials.
1. The spontaneous generation of information.
We’ll begin in chapter one where Dr. Lisle gives us a great example of a scientific misunderstanding. Chapter one contains an explanation about information and its relationship to DNA. In this explanation, Dr. Lisle proclaims the following,
There is no known law of nature, no known process, and no known sequence of events that can cause information to originate by itself in matter.
Unfortunately for Dr. Lisle, this is not the case.
As reported by New Scientist on June 9, 2008, scientists have directly observed the evolution of a new trait in a strain of E. coli bacteria. This observation was made in a strain of bacteria that was being grown by Richard Lenski of Michigan State University. The amazing discovery was that one strain of bacteria suddenly became able to use citrate as a food source. Citrate is a compound found in the culture medium that Lenski was using, but that E coli cannot normally metabolize. As this new ability was obviously an advantage (the bacteria that could metabolize the citrate had a larger source of energy than the other bacteria), the bacteria with the new mutation soon began to multiply.
As the researcher had been saving samples of the bacteria from various points throughout his experiment, he was able to retrace the line of bacteria that evolved the new ability and he was able to see if it would happen again. He found that the bacteria did not always evolve that mutation which shows that evolution does not always yield the best organisms. It does, though, provide mutations that are beneficial.
This is a perfect example that proves that Dr. Lisle’s assertion that nothing other than intelligence can create “information” is simply false. This mutation shows the creation of “new information.” This is not simply a copied gene that lead to an organism with extra arms and legs, but a mutation (or a series of mutations) that provided the bacteria with a new ability that increased its survivability.
Dr. Lisle went on to say,
When its progress along the chain of transmission events is traced backwards, every piece of information leads to a mental source, the mind of the sender.
This assertion is also falsified by the above example. With both of Dr. Lisle’s theorems describing information falsified, he will need to find some other way to support his claim that,
The information in DNA cannot have come about by mutations and natural selection because the laws of information science tell us that all information comes from a mind,
and the claim that,
Mutations have never been observed to add a brand-new information, and thus they cannot be the driving mechanism of evolution.
The New Scientist article can be found at this link, and the original article can be found in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or with the following journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0803151105)
2. Carbon dating and the accuracy of radiometric dating techniques.
In the section on age indicators Dr. Lyle overviewed one type of radiometric dating. He showed (accurately as it turns out) how carbon dating cannot be used to show that the earth is billions of years old. Unfortunately, he left out some essential information. Carbon dating is not the only form of radiometric dating that is used today. Since carbon dating is only accurate to about 60,000 years, is important to note that for older objects different methods are used. The following is a list of some of the various dating methods used today along with their useful time spans and half-lives (if I could find them):
Samarium-neodymium dating –samarium half life of 160 billion years
Rubidium-strontium dating –rubidium half life of 49 billion years
Uranium-thorium dating – up to 500,000 years –uranium half life of 245,000 years
Radiocarbon dating –about 60,000 years – carbon half life of 5,730 years
As you can see, radiocarbon dating has the shortest useful time span of all the radiometric dating methods. Their lack of inclusion in the book shows either a gross lack of research into the subject of radiometric dating or a willful attempt to misinform his readers. As I cannot read minds, I will give Dr. Lisle the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was not as well informed about the subject as he thought he was. For more information about radiometric dating, you should visit the Wikipedia page on radiometric dating.
Dr. Lisle’s claim that scientists have a hard time explaining the presence of carbon-14 in a universe that is billions of years old can be easily explained by the reaction between cosmic rays and nitrogen that produces carbon-14 and hydrogen. For more information see the Wikipedia page on carbon-14.
3. Comets and the Oort cloud.
“…Why do we still have comets?”
Comets originate from at least two places: the theoretical Oort cloud (which is incredibly hard to see with telescopes), or the factual Kupier belt. See? Easy. For more info, of course, see Wikipedia.
4. Rescuing devices.
All I want to say here consists of two things. First, I would like to congratulate the author on pointing out that both sides do the same thing. Everyone uses rescuing devices. Secondly, I would also like to point out that rescuing devices are neither positive nor negative. They just are. The use of rescuing devices does not tell us whether an idea is correct or incorrect.
I’m actually a little surprised that this problem was even included in the book. The problem of getting the starlight from the stars to the earth in only a few thousand years is actually quite academic. Though I’m not arguing for this, the best explanation would be for god to have created the light en route and heading our way.
Part 2 – The Essentials.
In his defense of the “ultimate proof,” Dr. Lisle made many points and rationalizations to support his claim. The more I read, the more it seemed that everything came back down to one thing. Everything stood on one ultimate reason for his logic. Everything came down to his assertion that if it were not for Biblical creation, “we could not know anything.” Without this, his whole argument falls apart. Apart from this, he made some good arguments and some bad arguments but everything revolves around the assertion that to know anything, Biblical creation must be true.
I believe that the simplest way to resolve this is to focus on this one main point. I could spend another 20 pages dealing with his reasoning surrounding this, but that would be a waste of your time and my time. By dealing with only this one point, I can save our time and disprove his whole theory as it is all based on this one key point.
So it all comes down to this. Can we really “know ” anything. Dr. Lisle definitely thinks so. If we can, his main point could be correct. If we cannot, Biblical creation doesn’t matter in the context of “knowing” things, and as such would not prove anything. The following proposition has been encapsulated elsewhere in my writings. I will include a shorter explanation here. If you are interested, the full version can be found as part of a discussion here, and it deals with science, scientific method, and more.
Note: in the following paragraphs the word “know ” is used in the same context and with the same definition as in the book.
Let’s begin a thought experiment. Think of something you know. Now think of how you know it. Is it evidence or belief that led you to know this? Let’s start by assuming it was a belief and we will come back to evidence later. Everything you believe is based on something you saw, heard, read, were told, or deduced from your experiences. All sources of beliefs ultimately come down to our senses. Whether it’s something you were told and believed from a young age, or something you decided after observing an event that impacted you in a large way, everything comes back to senses. Without senses there’d be no language, no social interaction, and no way to learn anything. An individual without senses could not even be considered human as there’d be no ability to think due to a lack of input. No input, no knowledge, no beliefs, nothing. Similarly, anything you know based on evidence is also derived from your senses. You hear something, you’ve read something, you feel something, you’re told something, etc.
From this we can say that everything you know is based on either a belief or some evidence. All beliefs and all evidence are ultimately based on sensory input. The question now becomes if everything we know is based off of our senses, how good are our senses? If our senses are good, then sure, we can know things. But if our senses are not good or are easily imitated, can we know anything?
The evidence that our senses are easily imitated is actually pretty clear. There are thousands of individuals in psychiatric institutions worldwide that are so deeply confused by their own brains that they cannot tell the difference between hallucination and reality. Now tell me, how could you or I know that we were not one of those individuals? How could we know? Could we know? I don’t think so. If there are people who cannot tell the difference between fact and their own hallucinations, there is no way that you or I could be sure that we are not in the same position. After all, we could be hallucinating that we are sane. This is a simple example of how we can never truly be sure that what we’re sensing jives with reality. There are, of course, more involved examples. In the same manner, no one can ever really know if they are anything except a brain in a jar hooked up to wires that perfectly simulate senses. Or we could just be a sentient subroutine in a computer running simulations. We would have no way to know otherwise unless programmed to do so.
As it is philosophically impossible to prove the reliability of our senses, it would be similarly impossible to prove anything based on our senses. Like knowledge.
Since knowledge can only be based on our senses which can never be proven reliable, we can never truly “know ” anything.
Finally, since I have shown that we can never truly know anything, the “ultimate proof” collapses since it requires that we be able to truly know things.
Part 3 – Conclusions.
Even though I believe that we can never really know anything, it is important to act as if we can. If you have read my explanation of science, you’ll know that I look at everything I “know” not as binary, but as percentages. It’s not just that I know it or I don’t know it, it’s a scale from zero to 99.999…%. As the scale never goes to 100, you can never truly know anything. But you can get so damn close that it doesn’t really matter. Unfortunately with the proof in the book, close doesn’t count. For his proof to be correct, you have to be able to be 100% sure of your “knowledge”.
I have one last thing to say about this book. It was ultimately a pleasant read as Dr. Lisle outlined a novel proof of creation that I had never heard before. I just wish that Dr. Lisle had gotten everything correct as my ultimate goal is to find truth, not just to defend my views. Know this, even if some time in the future, I change my beliefs and am once again a Christian, I will hold the same views about this book that I do now. As I showed above, I exercise my ability to understand issues from both sides and this allows me to objectively compare and contrast different viewpoints in these debates. My review of this book is based on more than just my current “worldview.” It is based on my experiences over the last 20 years, my knowledge, and the understanding of logic that I have gained over my whole life.