Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXII: Wherein We Hunt the Mammoth

Very nearly every argument for Young Earth Creationism, from the (pseudo)scientific to the theologic, is incredibly embarrassing. Some might be semi-plausible until a smidge more education shoots them down. Some were all right for their time (pre-Enlightenment), but are woefully outdated now. And some are so bloody ridiculous and easily debunked that even creationists should be deeply ashamed of them.

Earth Science 4th Edition’s Chapter 5, “The Changing Earth,” begins with such an argument. In a supposed science textbook, one meant to rival a good secular education, and one that a person would expect to find only the best creation “science” ideas in, we get… frozen mammoths.

Image is a painting of a woolly mammoth frozen in a block of ice. Caption says, "Dang, it got cold in here."

And the writers are completely ignorant about how these mammoths were buried. They wish to inform us that “secular scientists” believe these mammoths were buried slowly. FFS. We know the well-preserved ones ended up becoming so by a variety of sudden mishaps: falling through ice, getting struck and buried by landslides, falling into crevasses in glaciers, and similar. All we have to do is what crime scene investigators do: investigate the death scene, carefully note the condition of the body and its surroundings, and piece together what happened from all the clues.

Creationists are apparently incapable of doing this.

And their explanation – “that the mammoths were trapped near the Arctic Ocean by rapidly changing climate conditions” – is bloody ridiculous on several levels.

Listen: even on their terms, this whole “mammoths suddenly got caught in the cold” notion is bloody insensible. Their own climate models (which we will get to in a future installment) claim the pre-Flood world was “mild to tropical.” The place was mild all over, right? So why was God such an asshole, giving mammoths all this cold-weather gear on a toasty planet?

The woolly mammoth like all mammoths is closely related to elephants,‭ ‬but features a number of special adaptations that helped it survive in the much colder latitudes of the northern hemisphere.‭ ‬First and most obvious is the growth of the long shaggy coat of hair over its body,‭ ‬the longest strands of which being up to meter long.‭ ‬These long hairs covered a denser growth of under hair that provided the main insulation which in turn covered the skin which had a thick layer of fat underneath it to provide even further insulations from the cold.‭ ‬Still the adaptations went even further as the skin itself had sebaceous glands that would have secreted sebum,‭ ‬an oily substance primarily composed of dead fat cells into the hair.‭ ‬Sebum has a number of functions that help maintain skin and hair integrity,‭ ‬but most important to mammoths is that the secretion of sebum would have helped to waterproof the long hair and further increase its insulatory properties.

In addition to all that, they had big fat humps of fat, small ears to minimize heat loss, and to top it all off, their blood had antifreeze properties. Why, pray tell, would all these extreme cold adaptations be necessary in such lovely and temperate climes as the earth enjoyed before the Flood? Why did God want the mammoths to swelter?

And if creationists wish to claim they weren’t all that cold-adapted before the Flood, and actually evolved from elephant “kind,” they’ve got an enormous problem: you’d never get enough mammoths in time. Seriously: two breeding proto-elephants pump out a bunch of mutant offspring which give rise to each of the various species of existing and extinct elephants, mammoths, and mastodons in less than a thousand years? And there’s suddenly millions of each of them, perfectly adapted to special niches in a “rapidly changing climate”? Even though they’re slow breeders? Really. Sit down and try to do that math. It’ll never work

So the same folks who claim macroevolution isn’t happening now want us to believe that these supremely cold-adapted animals arose from evolution far more rapid than is possible for a K-strategy species. And then, and then, they want to tell us those same animals lived in “broad coastal lands around the Arctic Ocean,” which, per their very own creation science, had to still be warm as all shit.  Even they are forced to acknowledge that all that supposed volcanic hurly-burly during the Flood would’ve made the floodwaters hella hot, so those coastal areas would have “had a mild climate, with grasslands and forests.” This mild climate is where mammoths evolved antifreeze blood and all the other extreme anti-cold measures? Seriously?

And then, they say, these superbly cold-adapted animals suddenly “died from exposure to the arctic cold.”

Image is a painting of a woolly mammoth with huge tusks and an extremely shaggy coat, standing on the tundra. Caption says, "SUPERBLY ADAPTED TO THE ARCTIC COLD, INCLUDING ANTIFREEZE BLOOD AND 3 METER-LONG GUARD HAIRS. CREATIONISTS CLAIM THEY "DIED FROM EXPOSURE TO THE ARCTIC COLD""

Do they even listen to their own bullshit?

We will be generous and ignore the fact they apparently don’t know that mammoths were also all over America. They weren’t just in the Arctic and hanging out in Siberia. Which kinda destroys their whole here’s how the mammoths died! scenario, but hey – just pretend nobody ever found mammoth remains in, oh, y’know, southern Iowa. There! One less insurmountable problem. Now they can go back to figuring out how adaptations to extreme cold happen on a comfy warm coast, in slow-breeding species, and why God allowed this turbo-evolution rather than just conjuring up a bunch of new animals after the Flood.

Good luck with that.

Dear students subjected to BJU Press materials who may be reading this: study the scenario contained within this textbook carefully. Compare its claims not only with independent, established facts, but with conflicting and nonsensical claims within this very textbook. After an honest evaluation, do you still feel confident you’re not being sold a bill of goods?

Discuss.

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Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXII: Wherein We Hunt the Mammoth

7 thoughts on “Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXII: Wherein We Hunt the Mammoth

  1. 2

    I just wish mammoths were still around so all the MRAs would be out hunting them instead of harassing people online.

    That aside, I didn’t know about things like the blood. That is amazing. I always think of the god of the YECs as a little, tiny god because if we lived in a universe where they were correct, their god rushed the creation of everything in six days, then threw a 40 day tantrum killing almost everything and everyone off while possibly TARDISing the life raft or started fiddling quickly with those that were left to give us biodiversity. And for those who believe in the “curse of Ham”, he was also the first racist piece of crap.

  2. 3

    Another marvelous article! I did not know about the “antifreeze” blood.

    I did know about the numbers problem. I forget when I noticed it, but I made a spreadsheet and ran the numbers. I could barely make Ken Ham’s claimed frozen mammoth population if they got off the ark as mammoths (pregnant), and had mostly girl babies, and everybody was immortal, and they all froze. And that was with fastest breeding rates. (I did better with midget mammoths that bred like hamsters and only got big in the last generations.) But Ken says they weren’t cold-adapted, they just had hair.

  3. 4

    Actually, I can add more to your point about the ubiquity of the mammoths and mastodons in North America. Finding their teeth is not at all uncommon here in Texas. In fact we know there was a migratory pathway that went all the way to the coast (which was roughly 300 miles further south back in those days). I myself helped dig a few stray bones of either mammoth or mastodon that were exposed in a creek bed here in San Antonio. We didn’t have any jaws and were not expert enough to tell species from an innominate, a first phalange and several ribs.

    Yeah, that brings back memories. Down in a limestone-covered dry creek bed (creeks here tend to be either dry or in flash flood), in 105 degree heat and given only 3 days to dig them out of dense clay by the land owner). The good old days. Seriously, they were. We were all volunteers. We had a great time.

  4. 7

    Seconded!

    Edit function~wise that is.

    Actually the bit about cussing too – and also chalk me up as another who didn’t know till now about the anti-freeze blood in mammoth veins and arteries too!

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