Responding to the False Claims of a Scientific American Columnist

by Dr. Georgia Purdom and Ken Ham on January 11, 2013

AiG’s Creation Museum is being challenged once again by the secularists, this time in the renowned magazine Scientific American.1 A guest columnist reports he visited the museum recently. Jacob Tanenbaum, a fourth and fifth grade science teacher, wrote the column titled “A Science Teacher Draws the Line at Creation.”2 The piece was originally published in the January 2013 print edition of Scientific American under the title “Creation, Evolution and Indisputable Facts.”

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Tanenbaum’s “facts” about our exhibits aren’t exactly accurate.

Tanenbaum caricatures and misrepresents what biblical creationists believe.

For instance, Tanenbaum claims that we teach, regarding the global Flood, that “Noah saved all animal species that we see today from the Flood.” This is a common equivocation that evolutionists make in regard to the animals on Noah’s Ark. As we clearly teach in the Creation Museum, Noah didn’t take representatives of every species of animal we see today—he took representatives of every “kind” of land animal (which is usually at the “family” level of classification). And these animals would have had the genetic material within them to eventually produce the many species we see today. Our researchers are working on a series of articles outlining the kinds that were likely present on the Ark. For the moment, read the first of these articles by Dr. Jean Lightner in our peer-reviewed Answers Research Journal.

Frankly, Tanenbaum’s point in writing his column was not just to discuss the Creation Museum. Really, he wanted to show how inaccurate he believes biblical creation is. In doing so, Tanenbaum caricatures and misrepresents what biblical creationists, specifically those of us at Answers in Genesis, believe. Here is another example:

AiG’s biblical literalists, on the other hand, hold that we are God’s favorites. We live at the universe’s center on a planet God made and maintains for us to use. Earth’s resources are here for us to exploit. God protects us and promised he would not destroy Earth again until the end of days. In that scenario, we have little reason to safeguard our existence.

Many secularists claim that Christians don’t bother to take care of the earth. However, the Bible makes clear (as we show in the museum) that man is to care for the earth in Genesis 1:26–28, when God told Adam and Eve to “have dominion” over it. The Bible talks about times and seasons for harvesting and planting (Ecclesiastes 3:2), implying that we must do so responsibly. We are even told in Proverbs 12:10 to treat animals well.

It is true that 2 Peter 3 is a prophecy of how God will destroy the heavens and the earth by fire one day. But in the meantime, Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum teach that man has a responsibility to care for and have dominion over the earth. We are to use it for man’s good but God’s glory.

There are other problems with Tanenbaum’s column. He claims, “Creationists begin with answers and work to prove that those answer are right. … Scientists who formed the idea of human evolution did not invent the idea and go looking for fossils.”

What’s interesting about this statement is that some form of the idea of evolution seems to have been around since at least the time of the ancient Greeks. Over 2,000 years ago, a group known as the Epicureans had a belief that there were no gods who intervened in the world. They also believed that over long ages, all life emerged from atom-like materials, and that life gave rise to higher life, such as mankind. To learn more about the Epicureans’ ideas, we encourage you to read Bodie Hodge’s article, If Paul Were Around Today, Would He Argue Against Evolutionists?

However, we do have an eyewitness account of the origin of the world—the Word of God Himself, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. We don’t have to rely on man’s ideas of how the world may have come to be, because the Bible tells us plainly how the universe and everything in it was created.

Creationists start with the answers in the Bible to enable them to have the correct basis to understand the world. For their part, atheists begin with the belief that there is no God and the Bible has nothing to do with explaining reality. In other words, Christians and secularists all have their own starting point for their worldviews.

Tanenbaum also makes the same mistake that TV host Bill Nye made last year in widely watched YouTube videos and on TV interviews: he confuses historical science with observational science. He states,

The danger is that 40 percent of the American electorate [referring to his earlier claim that 40 percent of U.S. adults believe that Genesis is literal] seems to have forgotten what science is. Considering that our nation put a man on the moon and invented the airplane and the Internet, this development is extraordinary.

The practice of historical science is very much dependent on a person’s worldview.

Men on the moon, airplanes, and the Internet all fall under the category of observational science. We often refer to this as “here and now” science because it is observed in the present and can be tested and repeated. Historical science, like studies in creation and evolution, involves past events that cannot be observed, tested, or repeated. The practice of historical science is very much dependent on a person’s worldview. Do we start with man’s ideas about the past who wasn’t there during the supposed billions of years of earth’s history? Or do we start with the eyewitness account of God who inspired men to write the truth in His Word, the Bible.

Tanenbaum ends the article stating that “if students do not understand how science works, we can destroy our country’s future or even threaten our existence on this old Earth.” Again, a student’s beliefs about the past (historical science) generally have little bearing on the experiments they perform in the classroom (observational science). Imagine what would happen if students actually applied a belief that everything came about by random chance over eons of time to a chemistry experiment. They might just throw the chemicals together, leave the classroom, and not return!

As we launch our new campaign for the year titled “Standing Our Ground, Rescuing Our Kids,” we urge you to equip your children for their future—teaching them to think critically about the claims of evolution. They will undoubtedly face skeptical questions from teachers, professors, and friends about the Bible. AiG also encourages you to read Already Gone, which explains why we’re losing two-thirds of our young people from our churches, drawing on original research from the respected America’s Research Group.

The fact that the well-known Scientific American has published this commentary is significant. To us it means the editors understand the importance of this battle over origins. In reality, it is a struggle over the question of authority. Who is the ultimate authority—man or God? Whatever authority you acknowledge will determine how you view moral issues such as “gay” marriage and abortion. If God is the authority (and He is), then marriage is one man and one woman, and abortion is a crime against God. If man is the authority, then marriage can be however one wants to define it—and abortion is just another way to kill an animal.

Yes, it does matter what you believe about where you came from and who your authority is.

“Let God be true but every man a liar.” (Romans 3:4)


  1. For another AiG perspective on the Scientific American piece, see item five in AiG’s News to Note from last Saturday.


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