The creationist heat problem…SOLVED!

Every once in a while, it sinks into the creationist mind that they have a problem, the heat problem. They extraordinarily rapid transitions they claim had to have occurred — a globe-drowning deluge falling out of the sky and surging up out of the earth in a year, vast amounts of lava building huge geological features in a geological instant — would involve the release of immense amounts of heat, among the multitude of impossibilities in their flood myth. Just ask Phil Plait.

Creationists need the Earth (and the Universe, don’t forget) to be 6000 or so years old, due to a lengthy list of “begattings” in the Bible. The problem is, we see lots of processes going on right now that are very slow — but we see their effect because the Earth is incredibly old. But if the Earth is young, these processes have to have been cooking a lot faster in the past. Cooking indeed, because these forces expel a lot of heat. And it can be hard to dump that heat: it has to go somewhere (like an oven heating up a room when you open the door), and we just don’t see that happening.

Just imagine all the tectonic activity that we say was spread out over billions of years compressed into a single year, as creationists believe — there’d be enough heat generated to melt the crust of the Earth. Or consider all the radioactive decay that occurred to generate the elements we find on the planet, which we say is an indicator of great age. They want all that to occur in about 6000 years, postulating in some cases that radiometric dating is falsified by accelerated rates of decay…boom, that would mean natural nuclear bombs would have been popping off constantly.

Some creationists realize this, and invent all kinds of wacky mechanisms for dissipating planet-melting quantities of heat. Dan Phelps finds one who admits the one true solution: voila, it was a supernatural miracle.

However, it is important to appreciate that our inability to identify an acknowledged mechanism for removing the excess heat deposited during and after the Flood, an issue first identified over 35 years ago (Baumgardner 1986), is only a problem in the sense that it represents the limited nature of our human understanding. In a biblical context there is no fundamental problem because God purposely brought about the Flood (Genesis 6:17) as a judgment on the wicked human race of Noah’s day and covenanted with Noah to preserve human and animal life through the cataclysm (Genesis 6:18). He sovereignly accomplished both objectives, implying that environmental temperatures could not have risen beyond biological endurance limits. The only real problem is our current lack of understanding of how this was accomplished; the Flood account in Genesis 6–9 does not tell us directly whether supernatural processes were involved, though it seems very likely that they were. The same basic issue arises in connection with the topics to be covered in Parts 5 (heat due to Accelerated Nuclear Decay) and 6 (heat due to bombardments from space) of this series, and will be considered at greater length in Part 7.

I’ve been saying for years that creationists have an easy out for dealing with the difficulties their model generates. Just say it was a miracle. Just say God did it.

Usually they are reluctant to do that because it’s an admission that they don’t actually have any kind of scientific explanation.


  1. rietpluim says

    Frankly, I can live quite well with “God did it”. At last the creationists are laying off their scientific pretensions.

  2. specialffrog says

    I think Last Thursdayism is as good an option as any for Creationists — God just created everything already old. Either that Occasionalism. But I guess both of those are incompatible with pretending to be “pro-science”.

  3. says

    Here’s the thing I don’t get about all of this. Their god is infinitely powerful and knows everything, right? And he decides he’s going to wipe out the human race because almost everyone is “bad”. So he goes through this elaborate process of flooding the earth and basically destroying everything because the rain has to be falling so hard and fast that it will strip all of the vegetation and soil off of the planet (like 30,000 feet in 1000 hours, or a foot of rain every two minutes). Obviously, that will destroy any life in the seas as well. And then, after he “disappears” the water (because there’s no place for it to recede to), he has to remake all of the land and the oceans to make them livable again. Sounds like a lot of work. But, if he’s infinitely powerful, he could’ve just “poofed” all of the bad people out of existence, or gave them all massive heart attacks or strokes, leaving everything else just fine. It just seems like a really good argument that their god is either not very imaginative or is kinda dumb.

  4. Matt G says

    It’s so embarrassing. Nowhere is it more clear that they start with their conclusions and adjust the evidence to match.

  5. johnson catman says

    re jimf @3:

    It just seems like a really good argument that their god is either not very imaginative or is kinda dumb.

    Almost as if their god is just an extension of themselves.

  6. raven says

    PZ Myers:

    Just say it was a miracle. Just say God did it.

    That is the only explanation they have and they use it often.

    Whenever the plot breaks down in the Old Testament, which happens often, god is standing there poofing out miracles to keep it going. It’s all just applied magic.

    God just created everything already old.

    The creationists don’t have a problem with that.
    The founder of modern creationism, Henry Morris said exactly that.

    That is where the fossils come from as well. God (or satan, they can be hard to tell apart) put the fossils in the rocks to fool humans so they could go to hell or whatever and so that people would have another collecting hobby, museums would have something to exhibit, and the movie Jurassic Park could be made.

  7. raven says

    The evolution of creationism

    The creationist idea that the earth was created looking billions of years old is itself old.
    They came up with it shortly after geology started to show that the earth was a lot older than the bible claimed. It even predates Darwin.

    In his Genius of Christianity (1802), François-René de Chateaubriand (1768–1848) argued that God “created the world with all the marks of antiquity and decay” (Roberts, 2007, p. 43).
    Forerunners of modern creationists adopted a different approach. In 1857, Philip Henry Gosse, a leading British naturalist, published Omphalos (“bellybutton” in Greek), in which he argued that Earth’s apparent antiquity was an illusion. In his view, all the world’s strata, fossils, and even fossil footprints were created at the same time, along with glacial furrows and polished rocks, evidence for the retreat of Niagara Falls, and mammoth bones gnawed by wolves. Confident he had the answer for the geological problems of the age of the world and the effects of the Flood, like Chateaubriand, he too thought God simply made the world to look old. Geologic evidence of past epochs of earth history was created to appear as if “all the preceding eras of its history had been real” (Gosse, 1857, p. 351).
    As far as the appearance of great antiquity, it was just that. The world was created to seem old. Whitcomb and Morris simply dismissed fossil evidence for a long history of life “on the basis of overwhelming Biblical evidence” (1961, p. 457) and asserted that it was impossible to learn the age of the world through studying the operation of natural laws now in operation. The idea laughed out of Victorian England took root in Cold War America. Still, at the time, Morris admitted he knew few evangelicals who bought into their views (Numbers, 1992).

  8. birgerjohansson says

    Islam also has a huge problem, especially with the end of days.
    It is said that this will start with the sun rising in the west.
    Noah Lugeons of God Awful Movies unpicked all the things that are wrong with that.
    At the equator, the Earth is rotating at ca 450 meter/s.
    If it just stops rotating, everybody will die.
    And now the Earth will no longer be an oblate spheroid, – the oceans will stream to the poles to reach equilubrium.
    Then the Earth needs to start up again in the opposite direction.
    Or if we assume the Earth reverses its rotation all in one go- at the equator thus the delta- v would be 900 m/s or 3000 ft/s.
    The oceans would splash sideways with a force literally strong enough to surge up the tallest mountains!

    Also, the sun is said to come closer to Earth (in the description of the Earth-sun-moon system it is obvious the sun and the Moon are orbiting the Earth).
    There are more details wrong with the islamic cosmological model but you get the drift.

  9. birgerjohansson says

    I read about Gosse in -I think- one of the books by Stephen Jay Gould.

  10. Ed Seedhouse says

    It would have been a lot easier to just change the nature of the evil people to being good.

    Of course, effort is not a problem for an infinitely powerful god. Everything would be easy for such a being, but where is the excuse for creating such flawed beings in the first place? With infinite wisdom such a being could surely make humans fully good from the beginning. Why would one feel the need to worship a god guilty of such poor workmanship?

  11. birgerjohansson says

    You know this Jaweh fellow will be really, really useful for terraforming Venus.

  12. wzrd1 says

    Ah, but it plays the rest of their tunes ever so well.
    After all, if God can ignore the laws he set for the universe multiple times over, they can ignore the laws set for and by man whenever they want to.
    Laws for thee and none for me.
    And their method, under the law of Go Big or Go Home, hence, radioactive decay becomes variable and the laws of thermodynamics change for convenience.
    Which again illustrates why one should never poke baby in the fontanelle.

    And no, gijoel, I most certainly did not do it. I only make money disappear. Well, money and food. OK, money, food and ethanol. In quantities that obviously require superluminal speed.
    Although, my reason for violating the laws of physics are better. Without the violation, the joke just won’t work.

  13. seversky says

    I never understood why He didn’t change their behavior if it was so offensive with just a Jedi-like wave of the divine hand

    “You want to go away and re-think your lives!”

    “We want to go away and re-think our lives!”

    Saves a whole lot of water. And repairing all that water damage after.

  14. says

    I never understood why He didn’t change their behavior if it was so offensive with just a Jedi-like wave of the divine hand

    Cue the hypocritical blithering about “free will”…

  15. says

    PZ says: creationists have an easy out for dealing with the difficulties their model generates. Just say it was a miracle. Just say God did it.
    I reply: Penn & Teller had a very early BBS called ‘Mofo ex Machina’. Sounds like the creationists would want to use that title as an explanation for their voodoo beliefs.
    Maybe it was actually the Flying Spaghetti Monster messing with the evidence just to make the creationists look sillier than they already are.
    And, that heat problem is ‘stranger than friction’. Which indicates the creationists ‘beliefs’ are not so hot.
    PZ also talks about ‘all kinds of wacky mechanisms for dissipating planet-melting quantities of heat’
    I reply: aren’t those wacky mechanisms what they would use to try to alleviate the ‘global warming’ that they also deny?? Want some pretzels to go with your logic?

  16. StevoR says

    @19. Raging Bee : They love “Free will” äs a cop out here ye are so quick to deny it & say folks are wrong and “evil / “sinful” / “abominable” / “ungodly” etc .. whenever anyone chooses (or not) to do something they don’t like or contradicts their dogma. Go figure huh?

    For them it seems like its always free will to do as they want but not as we might want so ..yeah. Fuck. That. Shit.

  17. wsierichs says

    A lot of people don’t realized that creationism is an attack on all science. Biology/evolution is simply the tip of the sword. If creationism is right, then all science has to be wrong. But if science is so very wrong, then how does all modern technology even exist, much less keep functioning?

  18. microraptor says

    @3: How about the part where after creating all the animals on Earth, god needs some old guy with a boat to keep the animals safe and fed for a year instead of just creating the animals again after the flood is gone?

  19. Ridana says

    3) @jimf

    It just seems like a really good argument that their god is either not very imaginative or is kinda dumb.

    I gotta go with kinda dumb. A smart deity wouldn’t plunk its creations down in the same spot as the fruit trees that would make them immortal and intelligent, if it didn’t want them to become immortal or intelligent, which apparently it did not want.

  20. says

    Regarding comments about why their god didn’t just change everyone’s brain/behavior so they’d be good, one has to assume that their god is a Calvinist.

    Oh, and it cannot be ignored that an omnipotent and omniscient god would never have to destroy their creation because it turned out bad. It would know that would be the result beforehand. Therefore, if their god really is all-powerful and all-knowing, the whole “destroy the planet” thing must have been for funsies. Not what I would call a “good neighbor”.

  21. chrislawson says

    jimf and others–

    The funniest thing about Noah’s Ark is that even putting the scientific errors aside, it proves literalism wrong on its own terms. According to the literalist reading, god really truly actually destroyed almost everything and everyone on earth in order to eradicate sin from the world…and yet somehow Genesis 9 is not the end of sin in the world. All those Jerichos and Sodoms destroyed, the Tower of Babel ruined, the expulsion of Ham, the endless descriptions of Israelites warring with their neighbours, the Great Foreskin Challenge of David…none of it should have happened. We don’t even get out of Genesis 9 before Noah himself is committing horrendous sins in the new, supposedly better world (no, not the getting drunk and lying down naked in his tent, but the blaming and expulsion of the son who unintentionally witnessed it).

  22. wzrd1 says

    The whole free will thing is opposite Calvinist beliefs, where champion predestination. Free will is closer to anabaptist beliefs. To the point where violence has broken out over the two opposing views in the past. That’s one argument that’s been ongoing since 1519.

    @26, ah, but the literalist views failed at the very beginning, as man and woman were created twice, if one is a literalist. Why else would man and woman be created together, then shortly after, created only as man and God forgot to make a woman initially. Or there was Lilith, who Christianity tried to erase…

    @22, well, God made the technology work. That explains why my porn plays so well.
    Or something.
    It’s all just a hand wave away for them.

  23. John Morales says


    The whole free will thing is opposite Calvinist beliefs, where champion predestination.

    No, it’s complementary. Incidental. Orthogonal.

    One can exercise free will all one wants, but one’s fate was written before Creation was created, because Dawg is omniscient.

    (Basically, one can choose to do whatever one chooses, but Dawg knows what you will choose anyway)

    I do wonder how people entirely miss the significance of the omni-attributes.

    Omniscience: Everything — past, present, future — is known.
    Omnipotence: Able to make anything whatever happen.
    Omnipresence: Present everywhere in every time.

  24. Silentbob says

    @ 28 John Morales

    one’s fate was written before Creation was created

    one can choose to do whatever one chooses

    These are mutually contradictory claims.

    I get that you don’t realise they’re mutually contradictory claims. I get that you think you’re really smart and you’ve thought it through.

    Nevertheless, do yourself a favour and think harder.

  25. John Morales says


    These are mutually contradictory claims.

    Only to a dolt.

    Nevertheless, do yourself a favour and think harder.

    The irony could not be more perfect.

  26. StevoR says

    @26. chrislawson : So Gawd planned and committed a global wotrst ever genocide and also aided in the committing of many more genocides against sentient free-willed creatures he created knowing they would fail to be what he wanted and, more importantly (?), do what he wanted knowing it would fail in advance and couldn’t find a better ways to fix things than, genocide. Oh and then the eventual, temporarily fatal, human sacrifice of himself to himself so he could forgive others for something he knew would happen and let happen anyhow and still hasn’t really fixed and will still eternally torture people over. Coz that all makes sense somehow.. What a great loving, merciful, all-powerful diety huh?

    We don’t even get out of Genesis 9 before Noah himself is committing horrendous sins in the new, supposedly better world (no, not the getting drunk and lying down naked in his tent, but the blaming and expulsion of the son who unintentionally witnessed it).

    Or maybe mythologically did something far worse than that which the Bible euphemistically covers over :

    Scholars have debated the exact nature of Ham’s misdeed with many identifying it as either voyeurism, castration, paternal incest, or maternal incest.

    Source :'s_transgression

    Then there’s the whole later racism from intreptation and Christian bigotry that came from that whole “Curse of Ham” (& all his supposed descendants) that has caused incalcualble and lingering suffering for so many human beings notably Peopelof Colour ever since.

  27. wzrd1 says

    Ah, the unknowable known.
    Know it well, filed with the effed ineffable.
    And guarded by The Witness, a tall/short, skinny/fat, man/woman, with white/black skin and eyes of unknown color. Totally stands out in a crowd of one.

    The whole old testament god reminds me of a domestic abuser. Likely, explaining in part why so many abusers arrested for murdering a spouse claim to be a good Christian.
    Yeah, eff the ineffable. Especially when one must ignore the most fundamental law of physics, TANSTAAFL.

  28. Rob Grigjanis says

    wzrd1 @33:

    Yeah, eff the ineffable. Especially when one must ignore the most fundamental law of physics, TANSTAAFL.

    If you’re talking about something like energy conservation, that hasn’t been a fundamental law for over a hundred years (though it’s a good approximation in certain situations). Emmy Noether proved this for general relativity in 1915.

  29. says

    In reading this post and comments carefully, I wonder why no one other than @26 chrislawson has brought up the ‘expulsion of Ham’. I know a lot of time has passed, but when I read that phrase I always made an association with the name ‘Ken Ham’ and how a stale ham sandwich is not kosher in any way shape or form.

    While I will occasionally use ‘coarse’ language, I try to show respect for my fellow commenters as sincere contributors. Yet, I am troubled by one commenter who frequently makes insulting ad hominem attacks on other commenters. That is a typical tactic of thugs I find objectionable. It would not be difficult to be just as effective in your criticism while being a little more civil to your fellow commenters.

  30. wzrd1 says

    Rob Grigjanis @ 34, are you suggesting that matter and energy can be created from nothingness? We’re back to continuous creation?
    I’d love to get something from nothing. And have perpetual motion.

  31. Rob Grigjanis says

    wzrd1 @36: No, I’m saying that there is no fundamental law saying energy must be conserved*. That does not mean that matter and energy can be created from nothingness.

    *Noether’s relevant paper;

    Theorem II, finally, in terms of group theory, furnishes the proof of a related Hilbertian [i.e. by David Hilbert] assertion about the failure of laws of conservation of energy proper in “general relativity.”

  32. wzrd1 says

    The question is, how much is just undiscovered math that makes converting between pseudotensors and tensors problematic for part of the problem? How much is due to artifacts due to faulty reference frame switching? Unaccounted for forces, such as Unruh radiation and even shifted CMB and incidental radiation?

  33. zetopan says

    Once someone accepts magic as an answer it is no longer possible to actually know anything. This is why creationists are so anti-education, only willful ignorance supports their moronic views. At one company several years ago I heard an idiot creationist technician proudly proclaim that he had no college education. His “explanation” was that college could turn your head completely around so that you would believe “anything”. Of course he was immune to irony and reason, They are far too stupid to even realize just how stupid they are.

  34. wzrd1 says

    Rob Grigjanis @ 40, what does it say when one finds conservation is broken by a calculable amount that remains consistent under set conditions or variable under specific variable changes?
    Hence, quantifying anything that changes is critical to understanding the universe as a whole. The same is true for CP violation. How much argument was made over that for the longest, until repeatedly verified and math began to address it?

  35. Rob Grigjanis says

    wzrd @41:

    what does it say when one finds conservation is broken by a calculable amount that remains consistent under set conditions or variable under specific variable changes?

    It says that conservation doesn’t hold. What do you think is missing?

    In a flat spacetime, conservation laws look something like (with units such that c = 1);

    ∂ · j = 0

    where ∂ is the four-divergence operator (∂/∂t, ∂/∂x, ∂/∂y, ∂/∂z), and j is some generalized four-current.

    In a curved spacetime, the analogous equation is

    ∂ · j = (some non-zero stuff)

    Because the right hand side is not zero, conservation doesn’t generally hold. But the right hand side is still perfectly well defined, so everything that changes is well quantified.

  36. Rob Grigjanis says

    Correction; the four-divergence is ∂ · (i.e. including the dot).

  37. says

    Cue the hypocritical blithering about “free will”…

    Which directly contradicts the part of Exodus where god “Hardens Pharaoh’s heart.”