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Creationism

This category contains 45 posts

The Age of the Earth: How Interlinking Evidence from Tree Rings, Carbon-14, and Varves demonstrates an old earth

Image from Wikipedia. Credit: By Copyright © National Land Image Information (Color Aerial Photographs), Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28702247

What kind of evidence do we have to support the notion that the Earth is truly ancient? It’s a question I often get asked, as someone who came from a young earth background. Young Earth Creationists often posit that the evidence for an “old earth,” if viewed from a different angle, could just as easily (or perhaps better) point to a young earth. However, there are some aspects of evidence for an old earth that seem to defy this argument, particularly because they interlink in such a way that independently points towards an old earth. Here, I take a look at an article by Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth in which they make this very argument. Below is the title and abstract.

Testing and Verifying Old Age Evidence: Lake Suigetsu Varves, Tree Rings, and Carbon-14
Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth

Abstract
Carbon-14 measurements from layered sediments collected in 2006 from Lake Suigetsu, Japan, together with tree-ring data, offer an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate how competing old- and young-earth hypotheses can be quantifiably tested. Conventional observation of radioactive decay rates, atmospheric carbon-14 production, tree-ring growth, cross-dating, and varve formation yields a narrow range of expected values for the carbon-14 content of samples over the last 50,000 years. Young-earth challenges to each observation should result in specific and predictable departures from conventional expectations. This article documents a sequence of tests to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that carbon-14 decay rates have remained unchanged, estimates of past atmospheric production rates are accurate, cross-dating of tree rings is reliable, the sampled trees have grown one ring per year going back more than 14,000 years, and finely layered sediments from Lake Suigetsu were deposited annually going back more than 50,000 years.

Gregg Davidson and Ken Wolgemuth, in this paper, analyze three independent lines of evidence that interlink to confirm each other. Specifically, by looking at tree rings, varve formation, and carbon-14 dating, they yield a range of possible dates that matches across these independent variables. This gives a strong confirmation of the age of the earth, along with demonstrating that the decay rate of carbon-14 does not seem to have changed and remain accurate for more than 50,000 years.

The importance of this paper, and arguments like it, is that these are independent lines of evidence that all interlink to show the same conclusion. This needs to be emphasized, because young earth creationists will often call into question these pieces of evidence individually, shooting them down with objections that they then conclude shows they are individually faulty. Rarely, if ever, do young earth creationists acknowledge or deal with the fact that these evidences, while being independent, yield results that all add up to the same ages. Again, the importance of this cannot be understated, because it would mean that, for whatever reason, the young earth creationist must then assert that their independent objections to each individual dating method also can somehow explain why those dating methods to which they are objecting yield the same results.

Tree Rings

Trees record the years they’ve been growing through rings that show how quickly their cells grew during different seasons. A record of years can be traced by comparing tree rings to show wet/dry seasons that form something similar to a bar code type pattern allowing for identifications across years. The oldest living trees have 5000 years recorded, and fossilized trees can be compared to living trees to extend that record back further, with the oldest reliable comparison yielding 14,000 years. Young earth objections to tree rings typically center around the notion that multiple rings form in single years.

Carbon-14 Dating

Wolgemuth and Davidson write that, in regards to Carbon-14 dating:

The primary requirements for determining age are (1) a constant radioactive decay rate, (2) knowledge of the original carbon-14 content, and (3) quantification of any old carbon that may have been incorporated into the specimen.

Standard young earth objections are leveled at each of these three requirements. However, it is rarely (if ever–though I’m sure someone does, somewhere) disputed that certain dates are yielded when Carbon-14 testing is done. Thus, it is the young earth objections to the three requirements where they rest their case. These objections are often that we cannot know whether the radioactive decay rate changed in the past; (less typically) that the original carbon-14 content is in question; and that the samples are somehow contaminated. Now, Wolgemuth and Davidson do clearly state that scientists must account for some known factors that can vary how quickly Carbon-14 is formed. But these can be accounted for and allow scientists to get fairly accurate data on dating samples.

Image source: http://www.suigetsu.org/varves.html Used under fair use. Accessed January 2019

Varves

Probably the least familiar of these dating methods to anyone with a passing interest in the age of the earth is varves. These are sets of alternating layers formed by sediment on the floor of bodies of water due to a number of factors. With Lake Suigetsu in mind, the method of dating involved is a measurement of algae blooms via examination of the varves. At this lake, cores have yielded dependable rates that allow dates traced back to around 150,000 years.

Independent Methods, Same Results

Where this gets interesting, and where young earth creationists ought to take note, is that while it is somewhat easy to discount individual pieces of evidence based on independent objections, it is much more difficult to do so when these allegedly faulty dating systems yield the same dates.

Carbon-14 dating methods allow scientists to make predictions for how much Carbon-14 ought to be present in a sample before testing the sample. Thus, scientists can use these predictions to chart what the expected Carbon-14 content of tree rings or varves will be. The article has just such a chart, yielding a very narrow range of expectations regarding Carbon-14 content with the age of the sample. They can then take tree rings, going with the conventional assumption that the rings indicate years, and sample them for Carbon-14 to see if they match the expectations of carbon dating. What is remarkable (visually, especially, again, see the article) is that these expected ranges correspond exactly to the samples taken of tree rings. This means that a tree ring yielding an age of 14,000 years due to the number of rings also yields an age of 14,000 years when sampled for Carbon-14. But these dating methods are completely independent. The Carbon-14 date doesn’t rely at all on the number of rings in a tree, nor is reverse true.

Wolgemuth and Davidson then show the expectations from a young earth model with explanations of tree rings. For example, the expectation of multiple rings per year is tested and falls well outside the predictions of the Carbon-14 dating. This is important, because it means that the conventional assumptions about testing dates align together independent dating systems while young earth predictions yield wildly dissimilar results. These results are presented in the paper.

Scientists go further, though, and can line these evidences up with varves of Lake Suigetsu. Here, there is some technical data about how scientists can determine when significant events happened in the lake, such as extreme algae blooms or additional brackish water, but the core of the point is that when these factors are accounted for, a predictive range for Carbon-14 can again be made and set alongside the age estimate based upon the varve samples. Once again, when aligned, there is remarkable correspondence between Carbon-14 expectations and the actual measurements set alongside the varve-counting method of dating. Additionally, note Wolgemuth and Davidson, there is a steady decline backwards in the amount of Carbon-14 present, showing not a wildly erratic decay rate but rather a steady and predictable rate as one goes deeper into the sediment of Lake Suigetsu. These predictions falsify a young earth account, in part, because the young earth model “expects… massive sediment deposits during the flood year…” in addition to other expectations of many flood models for a young earth.

Next, Wolgemuth and Davidson turn to combining all of these lines of evidence together, demonstrating that the period of overlap where we can measure tree rings, varves, and Carbon-14 yields a graph just as predicted by conventional expectations, and that varves and Carbon-14 can be plotted much farther (due to their availability and the lack of reliable tree ring data older than 14,000 years), showing a constant alignment of these independent forms of evidence.

The authors state the decisiveness of this data and its implications for models of the age of the earth quite well:

we have two options. Option 1 is that God gave us amazing tools to test and verify that carbon-14 decay rates have not changed and sediments in Lake Suigetsu have been accumulating for more than 50,000 years. Option 2 is that God precisely manipulated multiple independent phenomena—tree ring growth, atmospheric carbon-14 production, and sediment couplet formation—to mimic conventional expectations.

More Methods of Dating

Wolgemuth and Davidson don’t leave the evidence there, however, because more methods of dating can converge on Lake Suigetsu, allowing for additional independent dating. Argon-Argon dating from volcanic ash in the Lake yields a radiometric test that corresponds to Carbon-14 dating and tree ring data.

They note that most young earth creationists don’t object when Carbon-14 dating is used on things that corroborate biblical materials, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Yet when one puts the data point for the Dead Sea Scrolls alongside the tree ring carbon data, we find that there is, again, alignment between the Carbon-14 dating for the tree rings, the actual counting of the tree rings, and the age of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This would mean that some form of manipulation of dating systems would have to yield the correct date for the Dead Sea Scrolls but incorrect dates by counting tree rings and Carbon-14 despite the fact that these align perfectly with the data for the Dead Sea Scrolls. And with this latter data, again, Argon-Argon dating with radiometric dating can be incorporated to show yet another independent method of dating.

Conclusion

Young earth creationists have not dealt with the fact that it is not just independent methods of dating that yield similar dates but rather that these independent methods correspond with each other and back each other up. On a young earth reading of the evidence, there is no explanation for why the allegedly mistaken methods of counting tree rings, varves, measuring Carbon-14 dating, and Argon-Argon dating from volcanic ash should all correspond with the same dates. After all, each of these is taken to be independently mistaken for different reasons and at different rates. But if that’s true, then the observed data should be completely different from what it actually is. Additionally, the alleged accuracy for dating things in biblical archaeology is generally conceded by young earth creationists, and this dating for biblical artifacts also corresponds to other dating methods. Thus, the accurate date of the Dead Sea Scrolls corresponds with the allegedly inaccurate methods of tree ring counting, varve counting, and radiometric dating. What possible reason could there be for this to be the case? Going back to the words of Wolgemuth and Davidson, the most reasonable explanation is that God has given us the tools to study creation, and that these tools give us an accurate record of earth’s history.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions– I clarify the breadth of options available for Christians who want to interact on various levels with models of origins. I think this post is extremely important because it gives readers a chance to see the various positions explained briefly.

What is the relationship between Christianity and science?- An Overview of 4 Views– How should the Christian faith interact with science? Do they interact at all? I survey 4 major views on these and other questions.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Book Review: “The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th Edition” by Hugh Ross

Hugh Ross is perhaps the most well-known advocate of the position known as Old Earth Creationism today. He is the founder of Reasons to Believe, a science-faith think tank that centers on the OEC position. His works have been highly influential in my own life and faith journey. Although I no longer ascribe to Old Earth Creationism of Ross and Reasons to Believe, I have much respect for all those working at Reasons to Believe and appreciate their mission. The Creator and the Cosmos is one of the more broadly applicable books from Reasons to Believe because it focuses not so much on the concordism that defines their position but rather largely on the evidence for cosmic fine-tuning.

The core of Ross’ argument in the book is the fine-tuning argument. Basically, this is the argument that certain constants about our universe are such that any minuscule change to them would mean our universe would no longer be life-permitting. Because there are so many of these factors, the argument goes, that chance is not the best explanation for our universe. Instead, some kind of being that can act on our universe is posited as the best explanation.

Ross begins his work with an autobiographical account of how he became interested in astronomy. His own interest in the night sky led to him deciding to go through the holy books of various religions to see if any aligned with what science has revealed about our universe. His search culminated in the surprising discovery that, he believes, the Bible actually taught first what science has now revealed. This is one of the central aspects of the Reasons to Believe model: the belief in concordism. Concordism is the idea that the Bible and science will not just operate alongside each other but rather confirm and interlink with each other. Thus, as Ross argues, the Bible speaking of things like the stretching out of the heavens (Psalm 104:2, for one example) is said to be not just metaphorical language but rather literal language about the creation of the universe through the Big Bang.

It is in the chapter entitled “The Bible Taught it First” that I find the most with which to take issue in the book. For almost the entirety of my life, I, too, ascribed to concordism, but as I have read more and more I think that it is not what the intention of the Bible is at all. The Bible is not a science textbook, and simply finding a few isolated sentences that seem to correspond to 21st century science does not demonstrate that it is scientifically advanced. Indeed, as many a skeptic would gleefully point out, there are many points in the Bible which seem to speak about the sky as a solid dome or the literal rising and setting of the sun. Groups like Reasons to Believe work to show how these are actually non-literal language or merely figures of speech, but to me this seems ad hoc. The approach seems piecemeal and the idea that the heavens stretching out “like a tent” is meant to teach Big Bang Cosmology is a tenuous link, at best. After all, if the Bible intended to teach Big Bang Cosmology, would it not be quite simple to do so rather more explicitly than an allusion here and there? It seems to speak rather directly about creation, after all. Instead, it seems that writers like John Walton are more on point when they note that the authors of the Bible had background scientific beliefs of their Ancient Near Eastern times, but that the Bible is not intentionally teaching any kind of cosmology. Instead, it is teaching about the ordering of the cosmos by God as creator. This approach allows readers to avoid the difficult questions raised against concordism regarding the difficult passages about creation, while also not completely divorcing it from reality.

Apart from this allegiance to concordism, the rest of the book is almost entirely focused on scientific discoveries of the past hundred or so years regarding the universe. These are covered in some detail, but Ross does a good job covering these discoveries in such a way that they will be generally understood by most readers. Time and again, he shows that major discoveries seem to show that the sheer improbabilities involved in our life-permitting universe undercut the notion of chance as an explanation for reality. These are cosmic-scale fine tuning arguments. They don’t rely on anything related to evolution or anti-evolution. Instead, the things Ross focuses on in this book are all large scale discoveries and constants that impact our universe writ large. A lengthy appendix summarizes much of this evidence, and going through that appendix shows that time and again our universe falls within an extraordinarily limited range for life to exist.

I do still feel some caution, however, even regarding the fine-tuning argument on a cosmic scale. Though many skeptics have acknowledged it to be perhaps the strongest argument for theism, I am wary of completely aligning ourselves as Christians to any scientific view of the day. After all, many are positing oscillating universe models or a big crunch as another possible alternative to a Big Bang and heat death of the universe. Yes, Ross does deal with these alternatives, but as with so many things in science, we can only hold the conclusions as strongly as the evidence allows and we are a single future discovery away from something that overcomes the problems Ross raises with these models. Is it possible that Big Bang cosmology is entirely correct? Absolutely, and it certainly seems to be the strongest model. But I don’t want to base my entire defense of the Christian faith on that. Indeed, I’d rather base very little on it.

The Creator and the Cosmos is a truly marvelous book for learning about the fine-tuning of the universe. Though I have noted my wariness of Ross’s concordism and of other potential pitfalls, I do think that overall, Ross makes a strong argument. As a non-expert in science, it is very impressive to see one piece of evidence after another appear to confirm fine-tuning of the universe. Time, and future discoveries, will tell whether the fine-tuning argument carries the day. As it stands, I believe it is but one piece of the total Christian apologetic, and this book will help Christians in that regard.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Jesus was a Young Earth Creationist” – A Problem

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female…'”  – Matthew 19:4 (NIV)
“But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’”- Mark 10:6 (ESV)

Jesus states here that God made human beings. These passages have been used for any number of exegetical points, but the one I want to focus on now is that of certain Young Earth Creationists. Almost without fail, when I have a discussion about creationism and what the Bible says about creation, it is asserted that “Jesus was a young earth creationist.” When I ask for evidence of this claim, one (or both) of these verses inevitably are raised. But the question is: do these verses actually say what Young Earth Creationists (YECs) want them to say?

The implication the YEC wants to take from these verses is that humans were on the stage at creation, so there could not have been any millions or billions of years of time from the start of creation until humans arrived on the scene. Thus, by saying that “at the beginning” or “from the beginning of creation” humans were created and on the Earth, the YEC argues that Jesus was endorsing and giving evidence to their position.

It ought to be clear from this that the YEC must read these verses quite literally for this implication to follow. After all, the point of this passage is definitely not to speak to the age of creation–Jesus is making a point about divorce in context. Thus, to draw from these passages a young earth, the YEC must insist on a strictly literal reading of the passage and then draw out the implications from that literal reading. The problem for the YEC, then, is that on a strictly literal reading of this passage, the implication becomes that Jesus was mistaken; or at the least, that the YEC position is mistaken on the order of creation.

Read the passages again. They don’t merely say that humans were created in the beginning. Rather, they clearly state that God created them male and female “at the beginning” or “from the beginning of creation.” This must not be missed. A strict literal reading like the one required for the YEC to make their point from these passages must also take literally the word beginning. But if that’s the case, then it becomes clear the YEC reading of this passage breaks down. After all, humans in the Genesis account were the last of creation. They were the final part of creation. But these passages say at the “beginning” not at the “end” of creation. So if the YEC insists that we must take these words as literally as they want us to in order to make their point that Jesus is a young earth creationist, they actually make either Jesus, Genesis, or their own reading of the creation account wrong. Again, this flows simply from the way the YEC insists upon reading these texts. If Jesus says that humans were made at the “beginning” of creation and Genesis literally teaches that humans were the end of creation, then something has to give.

Counter-Argument

The most common objection I’ve gotten from YECs as I make this point is that my own position still would not be justified in the text. After all, if the Earth is really billions of years old, and most of that time lapsed without any humans being around, why would Jesus then say that “at the beginning” or “from the beginning of creation” humans were around? A fuller answer to what Jesus is saying in these passages is found in the next section, but for now I’d just say it is pretty clear that Jesus is making a point unrelated to the time of creation and simply using language anyone would understand. “Back in the day”; “ever since humans have been around”; “for as long as anyone knows about”; these are ways that we can make similar ideas shine through. Moreover, because a strictly literal reading of this passage to try to rule out any time between creation and humans implies the difficulties noted above, it is clear that such a reading is untenable.

A Proper Interpretation?

The final point a YEC might try to counter here would be to demand my own exegesis of this text. After all, if they’re wrong about how to read the text, how do read it such that it doesn’t make the same implications? That’s a fair point, and I’ve already hinted at my answer above. It is clear these texts are about divorce, as that is the question that Jesus was addressing. Thus, he’s not intending to make a statement about the age of creation or really its temporal order at all. He simply says “from the beginning” as a kind of shorthand for going back to the first humans. Humans, Jesus is saying, have been created like this ever since God made them. Period. The problem the YEC reading brings to this text is nonexistent, but only when one does not try to force it to answer questions it wasn’t addressing.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions– I clarify the breadth of options available for Christians who want to interact on various levels with models of origins. I think this post is extremely important because it gives readers a chance to see the various positions explained briefly.

Origins Debate– Here is a collection of many of my posts on Christianity and science.

 

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Book Review: “The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth- Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon?” Edited by Carol Hill, Gregg Davidson, Tim Helble, and Wayne Ranney

gcmaeThe Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth is one of the best analyses of young earth creationism on the market. In this beautifully illustrated text, the Grand Canyon is used as a test site to analyze Flood Geology, the notion that Noah’s Flood radically shaped the face of the Earth and can account for much of the sedimentary layers we observe. The Grand Canyon is an especially appropriate test case because there are young earth creationist (hereafter YEC) books published on the Canyon, and many YEC works reference the Grand Canyon in explanations of their theories.

Part 1 outlines two views of the Grand Canyon: that of flood geology, in which the vast majority of the Canyon’s sediment was laid down during Noah’s Flood; and that of conventional geology, in which long time periods and observable, repeated processes can account for the Canyon. This part includes chapters contrasting the time frames of flood geology and conventional geology, showing the massive difference between the two views conclusions about how the Canyon formed. Part 2 is entitled “How Geology Works” and covers things like sedimentary rocks, plate tectonics, and time measurements. Part 3 looks at fossils and what they tell us about the age of the Grand Canyon. Part 4 surveys how the Grand Canyon was carved. Part 4 gives a verdict on flood geology from the evidence provided.

The authors provide an introduction to geology generally speaking, and then focus what is covered onto the Grand Canyon. Throughout the whole book, the Grand Canyon serves as the testing ground for what modern geology teaches about the Earth. Then, it is contrasted with what YECs claim about the age of the earth and the processes that formed it. Time and again, this shows that YEC claims are found wanting. The chapters on fossils are particularly telling in this regard.

For example, Joel Duff demonstrates, in “Tiny Plants – Big Impact: Pollen, Spores, and Plant Fossils” that there are entire, massive chunks of sediment without any pollen or plant spores contained therein. And these layers aren’t just randomly distributed; they’re in the oldest layers of the rock, such that it demonstrates what conventional scientists have claimed, that there simply were no pollinating plants long ago. But if flood geology is to be believed, these sediments were laid down during Noah’s Flood, which would have entailed all kinds of mixing of dead plants and animals as the surface of the Earth was radically changed. How then, are there thousands of feet of sediment without any pollen? How did microscopic plant matter manage to get sifted out in such a clear distinction from other layers? This is the kind of in-depth look at the specifics of flood geology that abound everywhere in the book. YEC arguments are subjected time and again to direct refutation like this, making the book invaluable.

The book is also valuable simply as an introduction to geology as well as some biology and other sciences. I learned an extraordinary amount from the book, and I feel fairly confident that I had a working knowledge of geology. In other words, the book is not simply a refutation of flood geology in the Grand Canyon, it can also serve as a valuable introduction to several related topics.

I would be remiss if I did not call out the beauty of the book. There are breathtaking full-color photographs of the Grand Canyon throughout the book, accompanied by numerous graphs and charts. But these illustrations do more than just look pretty, they are almost always explicitly tied into the text in meaningful ways. I found myself thoroughly poring over each and every one, whether I was looking for the division between layers of rock in a photograph or flipping back to a chart repeatedly as I came to understand it better. These illustrations are perhaps made more impressive by the modest price of the book ($26.99 regular price on Amazon). Simply put, you can’t get books with this much information and as beautifully put together as this for that price, yet here it is.

There are only two minor points I’d like to mention as negatives, but they are closer to nitpicking than anything else. First, although the introductory chapters (and a few other places) note that the young earth creationist arguments about the Grand Canyon are scientific and expressly stated as being testable, I suspect many YECs will respond to the book by appealing to some presuppositional theological perspective. Though this would be a mistaken response, it would have helped the book to perhaps include one chapter showing how the YEC claims about the Canyon are inherently scientific and can be tested without a specific theological narrative. Again, this point is made, I just think it could have been elaborated a bit more. Second, there was the briefest mention of one of the most popular arguments for Intelligent Design, that of the Cambrian explosion. The mention was so short that it is difficult to see what the authors were intending.

I have read dozens, perhaps hundreds of books on the debate over science and religion. That said, The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth is a remarkable achievement. It provides some of the most thorough, in-depth analysis of young earth creationist reasoning that is available to date. It is beautifully illustrated with photos and charts that are directly related to the text, and it is reasonably priced. If you’re looking for analysis of flood geology from a scientific perspective, this book gives you the perfect test scenario. I cannot recommend it enough.

The Good

+Huge amount of information from geology to biology
+On-point analysis of flood geology
+Helpful charts and graphs
+Stunning photographs throughout linked to the text
+Features women’s voices
+Direct engagement with prominent YEC writings
+Reasonable price

The Bad

-Perhaps too light on the theological side
-Only the briefest engagement with ID

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book by the publisher. I was not required to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Source

The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth (Kregel, 2016).

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy movies, and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Remarkable Creatures” by Tracy Chevalier – Creationism, women, and paleontology

rc-chevalierRemarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier is a historical fiction novel based on the lives of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, early fossil hunters in England. It raises an astonishing number of worldview questions related to women, paleontology, and creationism, and we will here discuss just a few of these issues. There will be SPOILERS in what follows, but it is history!

Paleontology, Creationism, and Controversy

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Remarkable Creatures is its survey of the controversies surrounding the discovery of fossils that challenged reigning scientific and religious paradigms. One of the greatest challenges was to come to believe that extinction had occurred. Think about it: if all you ever knew was the living beings around you, what possible reason would there be for thinking that those beings could die out, such that none were left anywhere? Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot’s finds of creatures like icthyosaurus challenged even the greatest thinkers of the time to come up with new paradigms for fitting these creatures–which didn’t exist anywhere on earth at their time–into reality.

For a time, it was thought that the bones of icthyosaurus were just those of a crocodile. But then Mary Anning discovered a complete fossil that included huge eyes (eyes that even had bones in them!). This forced people to the realization that these truly were novel creatures.

It’s a fascinating thing to think about, because the problem wasn’t just that it forced them to come up with a new concept–extinction. It also led to theological crises. After all, why would God create creatures that would all die out? One pastor in the book was particularly disturbed by this notion. He argues with Elizabeth Philpot: “All that you see about you is as God set it out in the beginning. He did not create beasts and then get rid of them. That would suggest He had made a mistake, and of course God is all knowing and incapable of error…” (144, citation from large print edition [only one they had at the library]). Philpot then comes back, noting that rock formations change and that if creation is supposed to be without change, how could rock fall or change a cliff face? The pastor ultimately comes back by saying that “God placed the fossils there when He created the rocks, to test our faith…” (145). Chevalier cleverly puts an answer in Philpot’s head: “It is my faith in you [the pastor as interpreter of Scripture] that is being tested, I thought” (145). The pastor, it should be noted, was also using, as was commonplace, Bishop Ussher’s chronology of the world, which put the date of creation “on the night preceding the 23rd of October 4004 B.C.” (144). Philpot wryly remarks- “I had always wondered at his precision.”

Another idea that was prominent at the time was the notion of anatomical laws or conformity with Aristotle’s Great Chain of Being. According to these ideas, there is a kind of hierarchy of being that puts humans at the top (usually) with other creatures in stages below that. It is not evolution, for it predates that idea. Instead, it is a way of ordering those creatures which exist now according to some principles. Mary Anning’s finding of a plesiosaur challenged this chain of being by violating the ways that creatures were supposed to appear or exist.

Late in the book, Elizabeth Philpot is finally questioned on what she thinks about the fossils and God. She is pleased to finally be asked:

I am comfortable with reading the Bible figuratively rather than literally. For instance, I think the six days in Genesis are not literal days, but different periods of creation, so that it took many thousands–or hundreds of thousands of years–to create. It does not demean God; it simply gives Him more time to build this extraordinary world. (391, again note reference from large print edition)

Although this is a work of historical fiction, these debates continue into today. Some groups still use Bishop Ussher’s chronology to date the age of the earth. Although few would argue that there are no extinct creatures, new forms of the same arguments have led to the young earth creationist movement, in which people argue that the Bible requires us to believe that all the creatures that are extinct were alive at the same time as humans. I have personally had conversations with young earth creationists who say that fossils are one way God tests our faith (I know of no young earth organization who would use this argument, thankfully). Scientific findings continue to challenge entrenched religious beliefs.

One is perhaps left to wonder, like Philpot’s thoughts, on how some people get so much precision. The Bible nowhere puts a date on creation. Nor does the Bible demand that all creatures that have ever lived were allowed at the same time. Yet these beliefs persist, and many Christians insist that if one does not hold to them, they are not true Christians, or are perhaps abandoning Scripture. As in Mary Anning’s time, we still have much work to do. We cannot let our external paradigms (things like Aristotle’s Great Chain of Being, or perhaps more germane, our own assumptions about how texts ought to be read “literally” and what the word “literal” means) determine how God is allowed to act or what God may communicate to us.

Women

The book does a good job portraying the way the contributions of women were ignored or even stolen. Mary Anning was an expert fossil hunter–self taught. Yet time and again, men used her expertise to find their fossils and then take credit for the finds. Although her contributions were acknowledged later, her life of poverty is a sad testimony to the way that unequal treatment of women can so easily be perpetuated. The book portrays this unequal treatment in many ways. First, there is the exclusion of both Philpot and Anning from societies of geologists (this was before paleontology was a separate field of study from geology). Second, social norms provide for a simple way to create inequality. When one sex is given the benefit of the doubt (men, in this case) while the other is considered permanently damaged even by gossip about impropriety (women), restraints upon the social movement and capacity of the latter follow by necessity. Third, the contributions of women were ignored.

Unfortunately, parallels to each of these scenarios continue today. Women are excluded from certain groups or positions (such as those who keep women from becoming pastors), thus creating spiritual inequality. Conventions of purity culture, for example, treat women as “impure” or “damaged goods,” putting the onus on young women to abstain while simultaneously removing blame from young men. The power of imagery–objectification of women–continues to impact both women and men in negative ways. We can learn from Remarkable Creatures that much progress has been made, but it also points us in the direction of more work to be done.

Conclusion

Remarkable Creatures is a fascinating read. Although it is dry at times, it provides much insight into a number of discoveries that changed the world. It highlights the careers of two women who contributed much to paleontology in its formative stages. Perhaps most importantly, it challenges us to keep improving, to keep thinking, and to keep observing God’s remarkable world.

Source

Tracy Chevalier, Remarkable Creatures (New York: Penguin, 2010).

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Popular Books– Read through my other posts on popular books–science fiction, fantasy, and more! (Scroll down for more.)

Mary Anning: Plesiosaurs, Pterosaurs, and The Age of Reptiles– A post that highlights the contributions Mary Anning made to the paleontology. It particularly focuses on how these discoveries pre-dated Darwin.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Which is it? Appearance of Age or Flood Geology?

3vce-mrYoung Earth Creationists often counter the multiple, independent evidences for the ancient age of the Earth (here meaning billions of years old) by appealing to the notion of “appearance of age.” Effectively, what this argues is that because God is creating by fiat, the universe may look old and even show evidences of being quite ancient, when in fact it is a recent creation. Among the evidences mustered in support of this is the notion of the creation of Adam and Eve. The first humans, it is asserted, were created as fully grown individuals and so they would appear to us to be adults, despite being created just that day.

One example of this in practice can be found in a statement from Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds:

God would have no real motive to ‘actualize’ most of cosmic history… ‘Apparent’ history in the mind of God could not be any different than ‘actual’ history… He would gain a fully functioning universe, but without the ‘waste of time’ needed to actualize the less interesting parts. (Nelson and Reynolds, 52-53, cited below)

Another significant aspect of most Young Earth Creationists’ (hereafter YECs) argument is the notion of “Flood Geology,” which argues:

…substantial amounts of water can have the same geological effect in a short period of time (even laying down rock layers) that hypothesized millions of years of slow water flow would have. (here – see also the many additional Young Earth resources on the flood at this link from Answers in Genesis)

Essentially, the argument is that there is positive evidence for a young earth when we look at the evidence rightly–through the lens of a catastrophic, global flood.

A Dilemma for Young Earth Creationists

The problem for YECs is that these two commonly held positions are in tension. Kenneth Keathley and Mark Rooker note this tension:

[A] consistent application of the mature creation argument will conclude thatthere are no evidences of a young earth. The universe has been coherently, uniformly created with the appearance of age. (Keathley and Rooker, 223, cited below, emphasis theirs)

These authors go on to note how one of the first proponents of the appearance of age argument, Philip Henry Gosse, would have considered the efforts of groups like the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis “unrealistic at best and detrimental at worst…” (223) because they are embarking on a program of trying to find what is not there. Gosse affirmed a young earth in spite of the evidence because he consistently clung to the notion of the appearance of age:

[T]he acceptance of the principles presented in this volume [that of the appearance of age and affirmation of a young earth]… would not, in the least degree, affect the study of scientific geology… [The evidences for an old earth] would be facts still… [but] the duration was projected in the mind of God, and not really existent. (Gosse, Omphalos, 369, cited below [quoted in Keathley and Rooker and independently checked by me])

The force of what Gosse is saying should not be missed, for he remained consistent in his application of the notion of appearance of age. If the young earth creationist is going to say that the evidences for an apparently ancient earth are explained by divine fiat creation–they were simply made that way because they had to be made fully formed and ready for habitation–then it is a misguided attempt to go back and try to find evidence for a young earth as well.

Consider this in more depth for a moment: if the explanation from geology for the age of the earth from rock strata and independently confirmed with radiometric dating is that these things merely appear old because God created them as such, would it not be strange to turn around and say all these strata were layered down in the last 6000 years by a catastrophic global flood? Which is it? Do the strata merely “appear” to be old when in fact they were created recently, or were they formed through a global flood? YECs can’t have it both ways.

A False Dichotomy?

It may be countered that the YEC could instead hold that some things are due to appearance of age, while others explicitly demonstrate a young earth. That is, something like the rock strata are alleged to point to a recent, catastrophic, global flood, while the light from stars that are millions of light years away can be explained by appearance of age. There are, however, two problems with this counter-argument.

First, it is effectively question begging. If this counter-argument is maintained, then any evidence which cannot allegedly be explained by recent effects can be relegated to appearance of age, for any reason. Thus, if coral reefs can be independently shown by multiple methods to be quite ancient, they can simply be explained away by “appearance of age,” but if we are only looking at something like an ice core, it is alleged that differing temperatures led to different and multiple layers of ice, thus pointing to a young earth. At this point, it is effectively impossible to falsify any portion of the young earth position, for if one were able to demonstrate that an aspect that purports to show evidence for a young earth in fact is evidence for an old earth, the YEC can simply counter that it merely “appears” to be old.

Second, it is intrinsically inconsistent. The YEC who wishes to use both appearance of age and alleged positive evidence for a young earth has an inconsistent method. They must come up with some reasonable method for sorting out the two from each other and maintaining them–often at odds with each other. After all, the one who wants to hold both of these positions must believe on one hand that much evidence demonstrates the universe is billions of old (but only appears to be so, in actuality), while also arguing that the universe has many evidences for being quite recent. God’s creation is thus turned into a chimera–showing an ancient face on one hand, while being a baby in comparison on the other.

Conclusion

Young Earth Creationists cannot have it both ways. They must decide which of the methods of argumentation they want to use to try to maintain a recent creation. Does the universe appear to be old, when it is in fact quite young? Or has all the evidence been misinterpreted and does it all demonstrate a young earth? These two positions cannot be maintained together without significant tension.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Do Young Earth Creationists Advocate Appearance of Age?– A demonstration that the appearance of age position is very much alive among YECs today.

What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions– I clarify the breadth of options available for Christians who want to interact on various levels with models of origins. I think this post is extremely important because it gives readers a chance to see the various positions explained briefly.

Eclectic Theist– Follow my “other interests” blog for discussion of sci fi, fantasy, movies, sports, food, and much, much more.

Sources

Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds, “Young Earth Creationism” in Three Views on Creation and Evolution edited by J.P. Moreland & John Mark Reynolds (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999).

Kenneth Keathley and Mark Rooker, 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2014).

Philip Henry Gosse, Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot (now public domain and available here).

The Flood” – Answers in Genesis – https://answersingenesis.org/the-flood/ (accessed 12/20/15).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Who Was Adam?” – 10-Year Update by Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross

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Who Was Adam? by Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross is a major work on human origins from the group Reasons to Believe, an Old-Earth Creationist think-tank. This edition, the 10-Year Update, features over 100 pages of additional material analyzing recent discoveries.

The book is organized in such a way that the first two parts are the original book, while the third part is all new material and analysis. Rana and Ross do an admirable job surveying an immense amount of scientific material related to human origins. They present what they argue is a scientific, creationist model (called the Reasons to Believe model [hereafter referred to as the RTB model]) on human origins. This model includes predictions and testable hypotheses. For example, one of the main predictions is that humans–homo sapiens sapiens–are utterly unique and that their cultural capacity will turn out to be unmatched. Thus, any alleged ancestors of humans will not demonstrate continuity of culture and the like.

They take as confirmation of this prediction the notion that biologists have not managed to put together a solid order in which to place the fossils that are alleged to be human ancestors. Without any such family tree that can be confirmed, the notion that humans evolved, Rana and Ross argue, remains a theory and the question of human evolution is not a fact. They conclude this after having looked at a number of major fossil finds while identifying difficulties with dating them, difficulties with taxonomy and identification, and more.

The updated portion of the book is significant. Those wondering if it is worth getting for this update should know the answer is in the affirmative. There are over 100 additional pages filled with analysis of more recent discoveries and how they impact the RTB model of human origins. To their credit, the authors frankly admit areas in which their predictions were mistaken or their model is challenged. Perhaps the most interesting section is that in which Rana and Ross analyze various behaviors thought to be evidence of early culture among hominids and the like (chapter 23). They show that these behaviors might be anthropomorphism of animal behavior. The chapter on junk DNA shows how scientific discovery has confirmed one of the predictions of the RTB model, and the concluding pair of chapters analyze arguments for and against the RTB model and its viability.

One critique I have is particularly evident in the original work (not in the expanded materials, though), is the occasional use of pure rhetoric to try to make a point. For example, in discussing hominid and homo fossils, Rana and Ross argue that the connections between these fossils has not been established. They therefore conclude that “Without these connections, human evolution cannot be declared a fact but remains a theory” (42). I find this type of wording unfortunate.

Some of the other reasoning behind the RTB model seems possible to go either way (i.e. towards evolutionary theory or the RTB model). For example, Chapter 6 outlines a number of conditions which are to demonstrate humans arrived at the just-right timing for human civilization to flourish–something the RTB model would predict. On the other hand, the authors state the evolutionary model would not necessarily predict this. However, it seems that–from my admittedly limited understanding of biology–the evolutionary model would also predict something similar because life adapts so well that if there was a “just right” circumstance for a type of life, that life would be selected for. Whether this is accurate or not is a different question (and whether I have it right), but it doesn’t seem like this is necessarily evidence for RTB over and against evolution.

The difficulty of evidence that could go either way is one of the biggest difficulties throughout the book. Arguments are often made that because the RTB model allows for a specific piece of evidence, that means that the RTB model is still viable. But there is a difference between confirmation of a model and lack of disconfirmation. It would be more reassuring to have more specific scientific evidence in favor of the model rather than simply being able to be subsumed into it.

At times I also wondered whether certain aspects of the RTB model were necessary for them to defend. For example, the insistence on reading the ages of early humans in the Bible as literal periods in which humans lived for 900+ years. They acknowledge in the expanded section that there has yet to be confirmation of this and that findings so far challenge this idea, yet they continue to hold it as part of the model. I can’t help but think it is a superfluous part that doesn’t actually contribute much to the overall workings of their model.

Who Was Adam? is a significant work worthy of a careful reading by any interested in Christian perspectives on human origins. It provides Christians insight into an Old Earth Creationist perspective on human origins, while also providing enough raw information for readers to draw their own conclusions and formulate their own ideas. It will challenge Christians on their thinking and perhaps force people to re-evaluate their own theories. It is a valuable resource despite having what I see as some difficulties throughout. It is recommended.

The Good

+Frank evaluation of own model after 10 years
+Offers much insight into research of hominids
+Plenty of data means readers can form their own conclusions
+Genuinely valuable update with much new material

The Bad

-Some unfortunate reliance on rhetoric
-Methodological concerns

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book for review from the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross, Who Was Adam? (Covina, CA: Reasons to Believe Press, 2015).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “A Matter of Days” by Hugh Ross, Second Expanded Edition

amd-ross-2

Hugh Ross is one of the most influential Old Earth Creationists alive. The founder of Reasons to Believe, he has had a profound influence on putting forth Old Earth Creationism from a concordist–that is, the notion that the Bible and science will agree where they overlap [often including the notion that the Bible explicitly speaks on scientific issues]–perspective. A Matter of Days is perhaps the magnum opus of his position.

The book provides a huge amount of material for those wanting to interact with topics of creationism. Ross begins by surveying the contentious way the issue is often argued and noting that we as Christians ought to strive for more tolerant attitudes towards each other. Alongside this, he notes various statements by evangelicals allowing for some openness on the topic.

The book covers a massive range of arguments for and against young earth creationism, but the real meat of the text is dealing with various scientific arguments on either side. These are surveyed in a kind of question and answer or objection and rejoinder format in which Ross clearly explains a huge amount of scientific data for an ancient universe and deals with the major objections to such a position from the young earth creationist perspective.

Ross also confronts textual issues in a number of places, including much discussion on the concept of “day” and its meaning in Genesis 1. This, he covers from different perspectives including historic theology, exegesis, and science. He also puts forward a canonical view of how to see Creation in the Bible rather than limiting it simply to Genesis 1-2. There are a number of other texts that he argues also teach on creation.

Although he is an “Old Earth” believer, Ross is also clearly a creationist and puts forward several brief arguments about the faultiness of evolution. This is not a focus of the work, but through such arguments he establishes a clearer picture of his own position related to origins of both life and speciation.

One issue that might be raised with the book is whether the seemingly strict concordism Ross advocates is necessary. For example, rather than arguing that entropy and decay are spoken about in the Bible (100-102), could one not simply note that the human biblical author almost certainly had no concept of entropy and therefore was not addressing it? That is to say, a concept of divine condescension might be easier to hold to than one of future scientific knowledge revealed in the Bible.

The new edition is expanded and has noticeably featured references to some recent works as well as more arguments. It is a rather large re-write with much new information. Readers considering purchase should get this edition.

The Good

+Major point-by-point explorations of evidence for and against an old earth
+Strong defense of the Old Earth Creationist/Concordist position
+Many technical issues explained in understandable ways
+Charitable tone
+Excellent index
+Expanded arguments and new information for the new edition
+Really cool cover

The Bad

-Some questions about concordism remain
-Perhaps too brief on some objections

Conclusion

A Matter of Days remains a tour de force for old earth creationists. It is one of the broadest yet clearest defenses of the old earth creationist position which both answers young earth arguments and puts forth in brief an OEC perspective. Moreover, the updated edition is a true update rather than just having some corrections throughout. This is a book worth having for anyone interested in the controversy over origins in the Christian world.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy by the publisher. I was not required to write any sort of review whatsoever thereby. 

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Origins Debate– Read a whole bunch more on different views within Christianity of the “origins debate.” Here I have posts on young and old earth creationism, intelligent design, theistic evolutionism, and more!

Source

Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days (Covina, CA: Reasons to Believe, 2015).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Leave it to the Early Church”- A Young Earth challenge

3vce-mrIt’s no secret: I consume just about any book I can get my hands on related to the debate over the duration and means of creation within Christianity. Recently, I read through Three Views on Creation and Evolution, part of the Zondervan Counterpoints series. The young earth creationists (John Mark Reynolds and Paul Nelson) in this volume were more even than many I have read, and I appreciated their contribution in many ways and even found myself agreeing with portions of it. However, they did make a few remarkable claims, one of which will be my focus here. Namely, they suggested we leave interpretation of Genesis behind us and just assume the early church got it right.

Here is the quote:

Our advice, therefore, is to leave the issues of biblical chronology and history to a saner period. (100)

Why should we do that, you ask? Well, before offering this advice, Reynolds and Nelson argue:

Whatever the truth of the matter may be in regard to biblical history, we are… least likely to find it. Nothing about the education of most moderns leaves them disposed to be sympathetic to traditional readings of the biblical text… The almost overwhelming temptation is to “trim” [the portions of text which may be hard to swallow]. Suddenly, new ways of reading the text of Scripture are discovered, which to no one’s surprise allow for accommodation between at least some of the reigning paradigms and traditional religion. (99-100)

I find this simply astonishing! There are a number of reasons to reject this entire line of reasoning immediately. First, it is, in effect, poisoning the well. Second, it abandons any notion that new evidence can challenge established traditions. Third, it begs the question. Fourth, it undermines the need for the church to be semper reformanda – always reforming. We’ll examine these briefly in order.

Poisoned Well

The way Nelson and Reynolds present their argument poisons the well against any who would disagree with them. The insinuation is that the only reason anyone would come to a different conclusion is either because they don’t have an “educational” background which allows them to consider traditional readings or because they are in such a hurry to compromise the text to align with science. Although it is certainly possible that many readings come from these motivations, to suggest that we must put a ban on any future looks at the interpretation of Genesis shows the authors seem to think these motivations apply to all novel interpretations.

New Evidence

To put an interpretation of Genesis on an indisputable pedestal and say “that came from a ‘saner’ time and so we must follow it” undermines any possibility for new evidence to challenge established readings. Yet the fruit of research in many areas of biblical interpretation continues to yield great insight into the biblical text. Moreover, to make an interpretation like that indisputable is to perhaps set up stumbling blocks for future generations, who may in good faith find more evidence which challenges that interpretation.

Question Begged

By saying we need to leave the interpretation of Genesis to the past, Reynolds and Nelson have begged the question by assuming this interpretation is correct. In fact, they seem to assume it is so obviously correct that they don’t even bother to defend it. But of course this is not how theology ought to be done. We should not just relegate interpretations to the ecclesial past because we don’t want to face the challenges of today. Rather, we should explore the new evidence and new interpretations to see if they might in fact better match God’s revealed truths. By simply assuming we can leave an interpretation of Genesis as is, Reynolds and Nelson just assert their view is obviously correct without argument.

Semper Reformanda

The notion that the church needs to continually be reforming seems to be correct. When we find truths revealed in God’s natural revelation, we should be prepared to realize this may not align with our established paradigms. We need not reject these discoveries merely because the historical church didn’t know about them. Instead, we should realize that as an imperfect church waiting for our Lord’s return, we may get things wrong. We are always going to need to reform.

Conclusion

Thus, I think that any young earth creationist who simply asserts we must hold to the historic understanding of the text of Genesis is mistaken. Of course, I would also point out that the “historic” understanding is hardly what the modern young earth creationist would believe (such as the duration of the entire universe only lasting 6000 years in order to align with the creation days, etc.), but that is a matter for a different post. For now, it should be acknowledged that we should not just abandon attempts to understand God’s revelation in Genesis.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Origins Debate– Check out all my posts on the discussion within Christianity over the duration and means of creation.

Source

Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds, “Conclusion” in Three Views on Creation and Evolution edited by J.P. Moreland & John Mark Reynolds (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Do Young Earth Creationists Advocate Appearance of Age?

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Young Earth Creationists (hereafter YEC or YECs) sometimes make the claim that the reason the universe is found to be so ancient by modern science is because it merely appears to be that old. I myself actually held to this view for a while when I was holding young earth creationism in tension with the evidence I observed.

I have been challenged in the past (for example, in the comments here) to provide evidence to show that this a claim made by anyone other than the “YEC in the street,” so to speak. That is, some YECs have told me that no serious YECs (that is, those who are publishing or working with the larger creationist think-tanks) make this argument.

Published Claim

In the past I appealed to various online sources to show that, for example, the Institute for Creation Research makes this claim. I recently finished reading Three Views on Creation and Evolution and found that the YECs in this book–Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds–do indeed defend the position of the “appearance of age.” Here’s a quote:

Some suggest God could have created starlight in transit to the earth. Perhaps most of cosmic history is apparent rather than actual. (52, cited below)

Initially this may not seem like a claim of “appearance of age,” but the authors go on to defend the plausibility of this “apparent” cosmic history and age of the universe:

…[Perhaps] God needed such a[n ancient appearing] creation to sustain life on earth. It might be necessary to have the universe the size and shape that it is in order for life on this planet to survive… God would have no real motive to ‘actualize’ most of cosmic history… ‘Apparent’ history in the mind of God could not be any different than ‘actual’ history… He would gain a fully functioning universe, but without the ‘waste of time’ needed to actualize the less interesting parts. (52-53)

From these quotes, it is obvious that Nelson and Reynolds are defending the notion of apparent age.

Problems for Young Earth Creationists

The notion of apparent age raises a number of issues for YECs. First is the common charge that this turns God into a deceiver. Nelson and Reynolds anticipated this objection and answered by using an analogy of someone’s mother refinishing an antique chair which would make it appear new. The only deception in this case, the authors argue, would occur if the mother failed to correct someone if they commented on the brand new chair. Similarly, God has provided a “label” to show the universe is not ancient: the Bible.

There are a number of problem with explanations like this one: first, in the case of the chair, further investigation would demonstrate it is not brand new. After all, antique dealers know the value of chairs which have not been tampered with by refinishing! We are able to discover whether additional layers of paint or finishing have been applied over the surface of a chair; similarly, we are able to discover whether things which initially appear young may indeed be quite old. The analogy itself breaks down. Second, the argument begs the question. After all, apart from YECs, those Christians who are asserting the universe is really billions of years old also claim that the Bible does not limit the age to only a few thousand years. This is the reason the challenge of “apparent age” comes up to begin with! So to turn around and say, no, it’s not deception because the Bible says it is young is to merely assert that which is being challenged.

Briefly, one might also wonder why Nelson and Reynolds think God “wasted time” in taking 7 days creating. Their dismissal of, say, star formation as something “less interesting” is frankly astonishing. Would that I could go back in time to see these “less interesting” events!

Another difficulty for the YEC comes in the form of a dilemma: Do you advocate a scientific understanding of young earth (and thus read science into the text) or argue for appearance of age (and thus grant that the Earth appears ancient)?

Think about that line for a moment. If YECs wish to affirm their position, they must either come up with a rival scientific understanding of the age of the universe and therefore read that scientific understanding back into the text (after all, where does Flood geology come from?–certainly not the text of the Bible!) or they must acknowledge the evidence that the universe is indeed quite ancient and merely assert that the evidence is trumped by their understanding of the Bible. The “appearance of age” argument grants that the universe indeed does provide evidence for being quite ancient.

Conclusion

Appearance of age is indeed part of the YEC quiver of arguments, as I have demonstrated. The question is, can this actually save YECs from an inconsistent view? I have argued that it does not. But even if YECs drop the “appearance of age” argument, they must still do that which they often attack others for doing: reading science back into the text of Genesis 1. If you’re a YEC, I hope you will think seriously before using the argument from “appearance of age.” But I also hope you’ll think seriously about whatever your alternative theory for the history of the universe might be. How much of it is actually derived from the pages of Scripture? How does your theory fit the Genesis account? Remember, there are other possibilities out there.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Origins Debate– Check out all my posts on the discussion within Christianity over the duration and means of creation.

Source

Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds, “Young Earth Creationism” in Three Views on Creation and Evolution edited by J.P. Moreland & John Mark Reynolds (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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