The Creation/Evolution False Dilemma

Recently an evangelical Christian organization called “The Truth Project” released a film in the U.S. entitled “Is Genesis History?” It had a one night screening on February 23rd, in various theaters around the country, with a few follow-up showings more recently. The film, which the developers labeled as a documentary, claims that it “shines new light on our origins, providing a positive case for creation in six normal days, a real Adam and Eve, a global flood, and a tower of Babel.”

Its claim to be a documentary would be disputed by virtually all scientists working in the relevant fields, but the science community is not the target audience. It is intended to help persuade Christians to affirm Young Earth Creationism (YEC), which the film's developers likely believe is the only correct way to understand Genesis.

This column, however, will not consider whether or not YEC is true. I have another, more fundamental concern – the way in which YEC is often positioned against the alternatives. And “The Truth Project” exemplifies the problem I see, thus it will be used as an illustration. But they are by no means the only YEC organization to make this argumentative move.

On this organization's website an “e-book” is made available to interested readers. This document is subtitled “Preparing Audiences For This Extraordinary Documentary. Recommended Age: Middle School and Up”. Among other things, it provides an overview and organizational structure for the film. Page 12 of this document is titled: “Two Competing Views, One Compelling Truth”. In the right-hand column of the page are two quotes by a Dr. Paul Nelson, where the two positions are stated. The first is labeled “Historical Genesis Paradigm”, and the quote says:

Everything starts with a divine mind, a creator, an intelligence that plans and superintends and brings into existence reality. Events are happening on a much more recent timescale. The universe, the solar system, our planet, life itself, all of that begins fully formed as a functioning system.”

The second quote is labeled “Conventional Paradigm”, and it says:

In the conventional paradigm you’ve got deep time, 13.7 billion years along which this gradual process beginning with primal simplicity ending in what we see today. All the complexity in life has to be built bottom up by strictly physical processes where no mind, no creator, no design is present.”

This construct, I claim, constitutes a fallacy known as a False Dilemma.

So, first – for those unfamiliar with this fallacy – here is its definition:

The false dilemma is a fallacy of oversimplification that offers a limited number of options (usually two) when in reality more options are available. Also known as the either-or fallacy, the fallacy of the excluded middle, and the black and white fallacy. Either-or arguments are fallacious because they tend to reduce complex issues to simplistic choices.”

The problems with these two definitions begin with the title of the first one: “Historical Genesis Paradigm”. This is a position taken by YEC, and certainly widely held by conservative evangelical or fundamentalist Christians. But to claim that it is Historical Genesis ignores all different theistic viewpoints about what constitutes correct creation history. And a very large number of people who believe in God also believe in deep time. Dr. Nelson has equated the idea of “a much more recent timescale” with “Historical Genesis”. Now it is the traditional Christian understanding, held throughout much of church history. But it should not be portrayed as if it is, at present, the only Christian view.

Secondly, the “Conventional Paradigm” is defined including: “strictly physical processes where no mind, no creator, no design is present”. This falsely makes every alternative to YEC – atheistic. And, for example, the view known as Theistic Evolution (TE) involves both a creator and deep time – thus is a different, and unmentioned alternative. It is not relevant whether you, the reader, think Theistic Evolution is true, or even coherent (probably most SDAs have a very negative opinion of TE). My point is that “The Truth Project” has, via these positions, inappropriately collapsed all theistic options into YEC, and everything else into atheism. It's a clear example – so say I – of the fallacious False Dilemma.

Well, so what? Even if you concede my point, does it matter? Obviously I think it does. But I need to explain why.

Perhaps if this organization's approach was the only example of False Dilemma, or a rare one, one might be tempted to write it off. But the two-pronged approach of making everything considered Biblical to equal YEC and everything else equal to (often atheistic) evolution – is the standard move I've seen from YEC organizations generally. Plus it is a very frequent conflation made by individual Christians who believe YEC.

  • The self-admitted primary target audience for “Is Genesis History” is the evangelical Christian community, notably its young people. I think it is fair to say that a significant portion of this group does not have much scientific literacy or skill in detecting fallacies. Thus the argument as presented above could well be persuasive. Now, let's assume for a moment, that YEC is actually true. Does that make it acceptable ethics to use a fallacious argument – even in support of truth? I think not. The ends don't justify the means. I would hope this stance is not controversial – even by those who believe in YEC. God is not honored if we employ questionable apologetic means.

  • There is a temptation here for people who believe YEC to think that the two above positions are really the only ones that matter. So, while conceding that yes, technically there is a fallacy, it would be viewed as merely an innocent simplifying move. This can be subtly reinforced, within Adventism, by those who hold a time-honored view that other Christian positions lack merit because they emanate from “Babylon”. And the official Adventist position is YEC, so alternatives that come from apostate sources can be deprecated. But, even if this is not an issue, it is just not true that the two stated positions are the only ones that are important. And, if possibilities are hidden, there will be many observers/investigators who will never become aware of them – thus will never consider them. Should one of the multiple unmentioned alternatives turn out to be true then this “slimmed down” debate will only have two false options.

One of the usually unspoken Adventist core values, I think, is that we are truth seekers. The “come out of Babylon ...” invitation many Adventists identify with has the implicit premise that we should come out because we have found truth with Adventism, and the “coming out” is a move away from error. If so, it is hardly a truth-affirming stance to reduce this important investigation to only two choices among many.

Rich Hannon is Columns Editor for

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

So just out of curiosity…WHY? Do you see yourself as some type of prophet? “Come out of her, you unrepentant creationists?” Do you think this piece will be the one where your arguments will be convincing enough? How about 4 more pieces? Will the job be done then? 10? Or will you just not be satisfied until everyone sees things like you do?


How do you handle John 1:1-2 and Romans. 5? Also explain theBig Bang. where did that substrate come from. We are arguing the chicken and the egg. The bottom line is man is finite. The quetions are infinite.


I think the question of WHY, is far more relevant to your comment. Why did you choose to write a comment that is basically a non sequitur? And then make disparaging remarks about my motives? Are you bothered that I point out an unflattering aspect of a frequent method of YEC apologetics? Are you actually defending their approach or do you think I am mistaken in my charges? I cannot tell because you are talking past what I wrote.


Tom, you too are talking past what I wrote. While you are, of course, aware from past articles and comments that I disagree with YEC, if you read me carefully you would note that I said: “This column, however, will not consider whether or not YEC is true. I have another, more fundamental concern”. Do you disagree that there is a False Dilemma employed here? If so, why? If not, do you think that fallacies are acceptable apologetics - irrespective of the cause for which they are employed? This is what I wrote about.


Tourists visiting Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, are also left with a choice. At the intersection of the road leading out of the park area, and the two lane road it meets, is a sign to Halifax with two arrows pointing in directly opposite directions. Peggy’s Cove sits on a peninsula, and you can drive to Halifax, going either way. I believe that is the situation when it comes to the question this article brings up.

Supposing one or the other is the “correct” understanding - what difference does it make (to use a popular quote) when we meet at the cross? This becomes an issue only for the church when it needs to prove its unique status as “knowing all things” through its foundational inerrancy.

The one posted response is a sample and only the beginning of the anger that will ensue. We’ve been here before. The irony is that the verbal battles that this subject always brings out, belies the Christianity that supposedly motivates the arguments.

The actual TRUTH is that none of us were present at creation. At least science can admit to that; while the evangelicals (and that is beginning to include SDAs) need to repeat the prescribed points of doctrine that keep them safe.

I can understand that. It’s scary to live by faith; but the other irony is that those quoting memorized texts have their faith in those texts - which is not the same as having faith in the Spirit that produced them to the ancients and to us. God has blessed the human race with a teachable brain; and we thank Him everyday for the progress He has directed, in our understanding of His creation. We might as well discard all the science that is saving lives, and is the basis of much of the church’s mission, if we’re going to pick and choose which scientific laws we’re going to respect, and which we’re going to throw back in God’s face as unacceptable.

The third irony is, that the “deep science” is coming around to looking for God within their equations. Gallelio got into serious trouble for stating that the earth wasn’t the centre of the universe. The church, in the name of Christ, almost killed him for that. Fast forward to the the 21st century: quantum physics, as well as astro physics, is declaring that it looks like man might be the center of this universe, after all. It seems that all this wasted empty space we gaze at in the night is all necessary for life on earth to exist.



Yes, I agree that the position that Ted Wilson takes is untenable. But I read your post as too far a reach. Sorry I miss read you.

You consider my question disparaging? Has it not occurred to you that there are certain people who comment on certain issues here? Its gotten to the point where one doesn’t even need to read the pieces to know what the subject matter is. Some only comment on abortion related topics and some are predominantly evolution based. Why after reading a boatload on same subject is WHY more relevant to my comment? Have I written and commented ad infinitum on these topics here?

My question stands resolute. What do you hope to accomplish?

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I’m fully open to any alternative views which might offer an original world, fully exhibiting the character of its Creator - a world which serves as a worthy model for the restoration which He has promised. I really need those few things in order to perceive God as anything even close to what is revealed in scripture.

There is obviously an overwhelming amount of physical data pointing the scientific community toward an explanation of origins which disqualifies (for the greatest proportion of that community) Genesis as a source of reliable information about the beginnings of life on planet earth - so be it.

As for the Creation/Evolution “false dilemma”, there should be some fairly popular viable alternatives to the polarizing dichotomy. Why are they not specifically mentioned in this article?

“This becomes an issue only for the church when it needs to prove its unique status as “knowing all things” through its foundational inerrancy.”

Absolutely, and that, with the need to “prove” that there is a link between Creationism and the Sabbath. Otherwise, all Christians would absolutely need to do is to simply agree that God is Creator…everything else is non-essential. Adventism has a special burden with its brand of literalism and fundamentalism.


Well said, Kim. Adventism is very burdensome.


I think the criticism is unwarranted. The purpose of this was not to give a complete presentation of all viewpoints. The evolutionists have most scientists and media solidly behind them. Creationists are a minority, and to even get an airing at all to the public to view is an achievement. Maybe a bit of slack is in order.

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Great editorial Rich. Too often the term “Evolution” is used to also mean “Origins”. This probably makes some in the Faith community feel that they must denounce any suggestion of Evolution in order to protect their beliefs about Origins. At the same time there are also some in the Scientific community who tend to get carried away attempting to extend Theories of Evolution to explain the Origin of Life in an apparent attempt to exclude any possibility of the existence of a Higher Being.

But Evolution and Origin are not the same thing. To imply that they are leads to that false choice which is wholly unnecessary. There is a large middle ground. Thanks for reminding us of that.


Hi Rich,
If I understand this article (and I spent quite a lot of time reading and re-reading, attempting to) you’re concerned about how YEC is presented. What is a better way or better ways to present it?

Personally I don’t think there is a satisfactory way: YEC is an attempt to apply theology to science, attempting to force science to validate the theology. That will never work. It’s completely flawed from the outset.

The reason YEC can exist is because of an improper treatment of the Jewish bible, treating it as if it is a complete natural history of the world and/or the universe. Yet, it never claims to be such a thing, and it isn’t.


That you do not recognize your comment as disparaging, is telling. That you continue to speak about the commenting world surrounding Spectrum rather than the content of the article, is unfortunate. I think there is little chance we can have a productive exchange, Michael, so you may have the last word if you wish.

However, to answer your question (which should be fairly obvious from what I already wrote) - I do not think it is constructive - let alone ethical - for any position to collapse the real range of options falsely down to two. That is the essence of the fallacy. It hides the full range of possibilities. And it inappropriately elevates the favored position by removing most of the competition and, too frequently, also straw-man-izes the alternative. I think YEC is frequently guilty of the move. I am pointing this out.

However, the complaint stands independent of what position chooses to employ it. My criticism would not change if a position I personally favored were to employ it. Views ought to be investigated on their merits and bad argumentation can be persuasive to people who do not detect the invalid moves. Thus they believe improperly - even if the position they are persuaded of is actually true. I said all this pretty much in the article. Or at least I tried to.


Allen, my criticism is aimed at people employing the False Dilemma fallacy. So, as I have asked others, do you disagree that this organization used a fallacious argument? If not, please feel free to rebut my case. If so, then do you think their employment is ethical?

You have moved away from my focus to urge “slack” because “Creationists are a minority”. Are they? Worldwide I think people who believe in some sort of theistic involvement in origins - creation - are in the majority. Just not YEC, as articulated by places like AIG or ICR. It’s that position you mean when you use the term “Creationists”, isn’t it? But there are lots of Creationists - much more than the group you may favor. So, why shouldn’t I believe that you have just collapsed the full range of possibilities for the term “Creationist” into the subset you agree with? This is precisely a part of the move I am complaining about. We do it so silently.


Tim, there are two aspects to presenting a position. One is presentation of the data and the other is the arguments used to shape the data into an hypothesis. We are searching for what reality looks like here and to dumb down the options to two, when there is a continuum - is argumentatively wrong. Categorically. So, the bare minimum way to argue a position is not to use fallacious reasoning.

Your concern is more about the content of the data - whether a case can be made for YEC on the merits of the data. As I said in the article, my purpose in writing was pretty foundational. We cannot even get to a fair investigation until bad argumentation is eliminated.



I think there is an additional problem with the presentation of a falsely dichotomous argument. It simply reinforces the tendencies that the atheist-evolutionist end of the spectrum has of grouping anyone who disagrees with a purely methodological-materialist theory of origins as YECs. They do that all the time as a way to even avoid discussing the potential truths inherent in theistic, intelligent design based origin theories. In fact, they say all the time that ID is simply creationism in disguise, which is code for saying ID = YEC. How dare the makers of this film help make it that much easier to disparage all alternatives to methodological materialism by presenting the argument as they do.


Adventists, among others, are “truth seekers” alright with the “False Dilemma” a result of how we formulate our choices. If the choices were between facts and truths where facts are acknowledged realities that cannot be refuted and debated as in “fire is hot” and where truths are not acknowledged but discovered and created as in “Secrets Unsealed” and “Present Truths,” then the False Dilemma is neutralized and whoever offers more compelling arguments become the more credible choice. Truths are fluid, flexible and malleable whereas facts are almost the opposite.

The reality is everyone’s concept of God and Creation is based on suppositions and a belief system, not on facts. This is commonly seen in mental health clinics when doing couples therapy where the primary task is to separate what are facts versus truths.


There are millions out there who believe in a "Higher Power"
Many of these have been extremely disappointed in “Religion” and “Denomination”.
But they still believe in a “Higher Power” because they experience Him/Her every day.
They talk to their “H.P.” at least 2 times a day. These are just those in A.A./N.A.
Those who believe in Jesus Christ. Those who believe in Allah. Those who believe in
Elohim/Adonai. Others.
God has many children here on Earth. They believe everything was Created by Him.
Everything has its Life in Him.
Not everyone is looking at the same picture. Not everyone is looking at the same part
of the picture. But they are looking at the picture, and they see God.
Seventh day Adventists are UNWILLING to build on THIS Truth.
If one is NOT seeing the Sabbath, then “one is NOT seeing God the Creator” is too much
in our perception of others.
And we are NOT able to Rejoice in just the Seeing God event they express.
Too much we are stuck with Bishop Ussher – 4004 B.C, October 23, 9 a.m.

PS-- Is There No More Lounge???