We Need Not Fear the Dinosaur

Is the earth 6,000 years old or 4.54 billion years old? The honest and humble answer is that we don’t know.

There has been much controversy on the Internet, in the news media and even in the Letters section of The Banner on how Christians should respond to some recent scientific discoveries. In just the last few months, we’ve seen the discovery of a 68 million-year-old dinosaur in Alberta, new evidence from the South Pole of primordial gravitational waves from 13.8 billion years ago, and a planet about the size of Earth found by the Kepler spacecraft in the habitable zone of a red dwarf star 490 light years away.

As Reformed Christians, should we welcome these scientific discoveries, or do they attack the basic tenets of our faith?

Article 2 of the Belgic Confession beautifully describes God’s general revelation (the universe) and special revelation (the Bible) as two books written by the same author. As Reformed Christians, we confess that God is infallible in both revelations and that God does not contradict himself.

We also believe that God does not try to deceive us by creating starlight in transit or fossilized remains in the earth. Nor does God hide deposits of pre-processed coal, oil, and natural gas in the proper geologic strata. God is the Lord of heaven and earth. He is the creator of the natural and the supernatural, and he is both immanent—that is, in the universe—and transcendent—surpassing both space and time.

When there appears to be a conflict between these two revelations it must be in our interpretation. Even careful, conservative, and sincere theologians and scientists make mistakes. When pride and politics enter the mix, from Galileo to global warming, an honest debate can quickly become more about doctrine and ideology than about the actual facts.

The Bible is God’s holy and divine Word, but it’s not a book of science. It can’t be. The Bible is full of miracles and supernatural events. Science, on the other hand, is the study of natural laws with the goal of predicting what should happen in an experiment and then empirically testing those hypotheses. The realm of science is limited to the natural laws of the universe and therefore it excludes miracles. By definition, a miracle is a violation of the universe’s natural laws that produces an unexpected result. As such, scientists are not allowed to insert miracles into their solutions. Similarly, if a patient dies on the operating table, surgeons will not expect that patient to be resurrected a few days later with all of his wounds healed.

In the Christian life, science and religion are not separated—but we need to make a clear distinction between them.

Ninety-nine years ago, Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicted gravity waves. Recently a team of scientists in Antarctica found evidence that these waves occurred less than a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Even though they’ve studied their evidence for years, they know that different teams of scientists, with different equipment and with a different hypothesis, will try to prove or disprove their discovery. Science has to explain the age of the universe without resorting to miracles. But as Reformed Christians, we know that God lives in and above space-time, and that he used both natural and supernatural means to create the universe.

Reformed Christians believe that Christ has both a human nature and a divine nature. We certainly distinguish between these two natures, but we cannot separate them. The same is true for science and theology. Astronomers have already found an earth-size planet in a habitable zone around a distant star. Next we’re likely to find an earth-like planet with liquid water. What will the discovery of a twin earth mean to our Reformed faith? What have we learned from Galileo? We’ve learned that science does not correct the Bible, it corrects a misinterpretation of the Bible.

Is the Earth 6,000 years old or 4.54 billion years old? The honest and humble answer is that we don’t know. The Bible clearly tells us the age of Adam when he died, but it does not clearly tell us the age of the Earth. The dominant scientific theory is that the Earth is very old, but some Christians believe that the Earth just appears to be old and that it’s actually much younger.

Archbishop James Ussher confidently calculated that the world began on October 23, 4004 bc. Similarly, Harold Camping confidently predicted the world would end on ad May 21, 2011. Both men used the Bible as fodder for their speculations. Adding something to Scripture to support a personal position denies the authority of the Bible just as much as subtracting something from Scripture that you’d like to ignore.

What is 13.8 billion years to God? For an immanent God existing in space time who experiences a thousand years as a 3-hour watch in the night (Ps. 90:4), 13.8 billion universe years is about 4,723 God years. For a transcendent God (existing outside of space time), 13.8 billion years is still less than a trillionth of a second. The dimensions of time and space are much larger than we can imagine—just like God.

How can Reformed Christians develop a viewpoint that is scientific and also biblical? The Reformation has given us insights that allow us to discriminate between good theology and bad theology. Many of those insights also work to distinguish good science from bad science.

Many institutions of higher learning have observatories that are open to the public. Go to an observatory and look at the Whirlpool Galaxy cataloged as M51a. When you put your eye to the eyepiece, the scientific explanation is clear. The very same photons that were emitted from this galaxy have travelled unimpeded for 24 million years across 100 trillion miles of space and have at last ended their perilous journey; their final resting place is your retina.

It’s a humbling and praise-worthy experience!

Science can provide incredible experiences for you and your children. You can visit a fossil site and hold a 30 million-year-old fossil with amazing physical detail in your own hands. Or hike into a meteor crater that is 50 thousand years old, or marvel at the craftsmanship of sculpted mammoth teeth or cave paintings that are over 30 thousand years old. Visit a science and engineering expo where you can see, touch, and use the latest technology.

Our parents and grandparents lived in a world where science was “on the fringes” and local, close-knit groups were the social norm. Our children live in a world where science is mainstream, and they must engage the world with knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Young Christians today need a strong and positive engagement of science within a context of faith. So let’s leave behind the subjective dogmas of yesterday and any lingering irrational fear of new discoveries.

Related:

The Christian Reformed Church’s position on Creation and Science

 

We Need Not Fear the Dinosaur

  1. Buurma suggests that the Bible is God’s Word, but it is not a book of science. As Christians, how do we draw the lines between science and faith?
  2. “Is the Earth 6,000 years old or 4.54 billion years old? The honest and humble answer is that we don’t know,” says Buurma. How much does it matter?
  3. Do you agree with the author that we need not fear for our faith in the face of, for instance, the recent dinosaur discovery in Alberta dated by scientists as 68 million years old? Why or why not?
  4. “Young Christians today need a strong and positive engagement of science within a context of faith.” Why is the topic of origins of such importance, especially for young people?

About the Author

Jake Buurma is vice president of operations for a nonprofit standards organization. He is a member of San Jose (Calif.) Christian Reformed Church.

See comments (50)

Comments

Jake, I appreciate the vigor of your responses.  It shows you are engaged.  However, I think you have overreacted to Joy’s comment quoting William Provine.  It is a legitimate quote that many people agree with, both atheists and creationists, and ought not to be taken as a personal attack on your own character. 

Your statement that we will get to see what happened 4.5 bill yrs ago by drilling into the comet is self-serving, I think.  What makes you think this comet is that old?  In reality, whenever you see something you think is 4.5 bill yrs old due to light distance, it would not be in the location in which you see it, since it would have moved since then, yes?  What am I missing?  Do you know at what speed the universe is expanding? 

Sorry I can’t give you samples of new vs old oil.  I don’t have a lab.  I will grant you that you could probably date oil with C14 and thus distinguish new oil from old oil, at least to an assumed 50,000 yrs.  But perhaps you could explain how you would date oil to 60 mill yrs?   Furthermore, do you expect that older oil has a different chemical composition than less old oil (other than isotopes)?  I am presuming that the oil would look the same to the human eye, it would react the same, and be composed of similar compounds in similar proportions (given the wide variety of oil types from light crude to bitumen).    What knowledge do you have that this would not be true? 

Again, I would say that it is not God who fools scientists.   It is nature that fools scientists, and scientists who fool themselves. 

I have seen no replies on the fact that Roger Wiens idea of magnetic field increase is different than the common assumption of the opposite, that magnetic field has decreased.  Interesting that this is not settled.  Interesting also that the impact on C14 dating is significant, both from the perspective of less C14 being formed in the past than present, and the possibility that CO2 in the atmosphere was higher in the past, which would change the ratio significantly, possibly resulting in C14 ages being overestimated by a factor of 4 or more. 

Jake you mentioned Hubble's Law without explanation.  It states that the universe is expanding.  However, it is also interesting that the further things are away from earth, it is apparently expanding faster in proportion to its distance.  (70km/sec/Mpc) or 70km/sec per 3.26 mill lightyr.   If my math is right, then you are looking at something about 1400 light years (13.66 quadrillion km) away from where you think it is.  In 1400 years, you might see its present location.  If something is further away, the visible location is even further from the actual location.  The limitations of nature (speed of light) is fooling us again, and so it is impossible to see what is actually happening today, that far away. 

Sorry, an error.  Even though the star moved  1400 lightyears away from its position, it will be another 4.5 million years before we could see its present location, since that's how long it takes light to get here.  Interesting mental gymnastics. 

 John, I will let Joy explain to me why she thought that particular quote was appropriate for our discussion. I do not to be associated with William Devine.

I am not an atheist, like Devine. I'm a fellow believer, like you. I am also a creationist, but not exactly like you and Joy. If Christ humbly came into the world that he created, to die for both or our sins, then I think we should be a little more respectful of fellow Christians who might have a different view.

Yes, I know the Hubble expansion rate is 72 km/s per mega-parsec or 20 km/s per mega-lightyear. Of course, there is always uncertainty.  In this case, it's about 10% - 15%.

If you to the website of the Calvin College Astronomy Department and look up the distance to M51, the Whirlpool galaxy, you'll see that it's listed as 35 million light years away or about 210 trillion miles. Then pick any other another university, that has a good astronomy department, and see their distance to M51 and it will probably match CC’s estimate to within 10% - 15%.  

Now, do scientists ‘know’ that M51 is 35 million light years away?  No, we only know that it ‘appears’ to be 35 mly away. Since science always confines itself to how things ‘appear’ in nature, we drop the ‘appears’ part from our discussion, since everything that we do is based on how nature appears. 

 

If this discussion with you and Joy can be improved by me putting the word ‘appears’ before every statement, then I’m happy to do it. In return, I  just ask that you treat me with respect and stop introducing off subject topics, Bible verses and quotes that have nothing to do with my article.

I hope you are not getting too upset.  It seems you included a lot of different things in your article and almost everything added to the discussion is related to what you have said....  but be that as it may, I find it interesting what you have said about the word "appears".  Often people say that the world looks old, as if it looks old by objective visual appearance.  But really that is a subjective comment.  I could say it looks young, because it is alive and growing things, not a dead burnt out old planet with no life in it.  When using the word appears, we use it in different ways.  I find a difference in the "appearance" of stars vs the appearance of soil in my hand in terms of the unreality of appearance.  The soil in my hand that appears black or brown, wet or dry, sandy or silty, is immediate, real, and timely.  This is not true for distant stars.  When we look at distant stars, it is as if we are looking at a movie taken millions of years ago.  We cannot see these stars in the present, or hold them in our hand, metaphorically speaking.  If we could in an instant somehow pierce what we see with a missile that travels faster than the speed of light (in an instant), it would be aimed at where the star was, not is, and it would entirely miss the object of aim.  That is a different kind of appearance than what we normally experience.  It is like hearing a recording of a conversation, rather than the actual conversation.  So we are out of time with it.  We are measuring light, not the star, since the star is no longer there in that place. 

As far as Devine being an atheist, I should point out to you that just because he was an atheist, in no way is that an implication that you are an atheist.  His quote could just as well have been made by a creationist, since many creationists agree with his quote.  So I am quite confused about your afront taken by this.  Are you really upset with who said it?  or by what he said? 

To help understand the quote of William Provine, recommend that you watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5EPymcWp-g

"Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" is a movie about the freedom of speech suppression to which Intelligent Design proponents are being subjected to by the atheistic American academic dictatorship.

In this movie scientists such as William Provine and Richard Dawkins admit that they lost their faith due to embracing evolution.

Jake (& other Christians) who believe in evolution think that it's OK because they believe that they are OK, i.e. they still have faith in Jesus.

However, the effect on the younger generation is that they are losing their faith due to embracing evolution.  Whereas their 'elders' might believe that their own faith is OK, the younger generation see the inconsistency and therefore are more likely to abandon the faith of their 'fathers'.

Decades ago when Ken Ham was still in Australia, teaching biology and general science, pastors who taught religious education in the public schools approached him (Ken Ham).  They were having great difficulty with the religious education, as increasingly the students seemed disinterested in what was being taught.

He pointed out to the pastors that the students were being indoctrinated to believe that evolution is 'science'.  This led them to believe that the Bible is just an outdated religious book.  

He suggested that they develop a series of lessons to counteract the anti-Christian teaching that the students were receiving each day at school.  They (he and the pastors) looked at the textbooks and critiqued the erroneous material, at the same time showed that what the Bible states explains the evidence correctly.  Therefore the students were shown that evolution is just a belief, i.e. there aren't any 'ape-men' and evolutionists have not actually proven that the earth is supposedly billions of years old.

When the pastors presented these lessions, they were astonished.  The students sat up and listened. They were extremely interested and had lots of questions.  Once the pastors had clearly shown that 'real science' had not disproven what the Bible says and that the Bible does explain the world around us, the students showed intense interest in the Gospel.

Thanks for the important article. It seem to me though that as much as we want to leave space for all the different viewpoints, it is difficult to not "fear" the dinosaurs and the manyastronomical discoveries you speak of and still read the creation story as if it occured ~6000 years ago.

My own view is that just as we continuously re-evaluate what we consider as "true" from a scientific point of view based on what we observe. In the same way we must continuously re-evaluate what we view as "true" in our theological and philosophical understanding of the world.

 

God is unchanging, yet how we know and understand him must necessarily change or we do him and us a disservice

Tim, when we change our view of God, hopefully we get closer to the truth of scripture and not farther from it.  Otherwise we might be changing our view of God in the wrong direction. 

We need to keep in mind that dinosaurs and distant stars do not prove evolution.  Even old ages of rocks do not prove evolution.  You can find young things in older rocks, and although dating igneous rock seems reasonable, it is apparently not possible to accurately radiometrically date when sedimentary rock was laid down.  Sedimentary rock is where the fossils are.

Also interesting that the fastest spaceship ever reached about 45km/sec, but slowed to 19km/sec due to inertia and solar gravity.  This compares to the movement of stars of about 70km/sec, with no apparent slowing... in fact the further the star, the faster it is apparently going.  Of course, we can't measure the actual stars today, since they are not where they appear to be, due to the fact that the light that we see took so long to get here...

John, I am so happy that we are finally talking about spaceships and not geology!

I worked for NASA when I was in college. I attended a dozen moon launches at the Cape including all of the Apollo series and I have the shoulder patches to prove it. I personally designed some of the integrated circuits that hit the moon during the Ranger program. In my safe, I have a pen that Buzz Aldrin used when he was the second person to walk on the moon!  So let’s get started. You want to talk about space?  Well you have the right guy!

So let’s dissect your last reply. Your reply is in in blue and then my comments in black.

Also interesting that the fastest spaceship ever reached about 45km/sec, but slowed to 19km/sec due to inertia and solar gravity.  

On September 12, 2013, NASA announced that Voyager 1 had crossed the heliopause and entered interstellar space on August 25, 2012, making it the first spacecraft to do so. With the velocity the probe is currently maintaining, Voyager 1 is traveling at about 520 million kilometers per year (325 million miles per year).

This compares to the movement of stars of about 70km/sec, with no apparent slowing... in fact the further the star, the faster it is apparently going.  Of course, we can't measure the actual stars today, since they are not where they appear to be, due to the fact that the light that we see took so long to get here.

Yes, that is how we measure the speed of the expanding universe. The current Hubble constant is now measure at 72 km/sec per mega-parsec.  You forgot to add the mega-parsec part. That’s an important part because it shows that the further the star is from us then the faster it’s moving. That’s why we call it the ‘expanding’ universe.

Your last interpretation is just wrong. Yes, when I look at a car on the highway, it’s not exactly where it was when I saw it. The car is actually ahead of my vision because it takes some finite time of the reflected light from the car to reach my eyes.  So what’s your conclusion? That I did not see the car? Of course, I did!  This is exactly what I have been saying for two weeks. Science deals with how we observe things in nature. And yes, we actually understand that the car and the stars are not where they appear to be because of the finite speed of light.

 

If you have any more questions about space. Please feel free to write in again. Both you and Joy are both invited to look through the big telescope I keep in my garage.  If you ever want to look at the universe 4.5 Million years ago with your own eyes, all we need is a clear night.  I know a lot about space, I grew up wanting to be an astronaut so please give me your best shot. I love knocking down your lame straw man arguments.

John, I'm so happy that after all of this discussion that we agree on something. You said, 

"When we change our view of God, hopefully we get closer to the truth of scripture and not farther from it."  

I completely agree. The problem is that your God is too small. The God of scripture is not constrained to be our Lord for only 6,000 years. Some human being thought that up.  God is never smaller than what we can imagine. Throughout scripture, God says that He's bigger than what can imagine. Please read the book of Job again.

In my article, "Do no fear the Dinosaur". I also positioned that scientists must use the natural appearance of the age of rocks, meteors, comets, stars, galaxies, etc. Christians in science can indeed embrace both the truth that we find in scripture and in nature.  Our fellow non-Christian scientists can only believe what appears in nature and what can be explained by nature.

 

We need more Christians in science!  The Bible not tell us that God’s creation must be confined to be 6,000 years old.  Whenever we try to constrain God, God tells us that we are wrong. 

 

Finally, in response to Jake's earlier question, here are some examples of nonradiometric indicators that Earth is older than 6,000 years.

1. The EPICA ice core obtained in Antarctic glacial ice consists of 3,270 meters (more than 2 miles!) of drill core covering 740,000 years of annual layers that can be counted in the same way we count tree rings. If you believe that summer and winter have occurred since the beginning, or at least since the Noachian flood, it would be difficult to deny this. We have known for more than a century that several glacial cycles occurred during the latest “ice age” (the Pleistocene), and these are recognizable in the core. Look for a Web article on this.

2. Sedimentary coring in Lake Suigetsu in Japan yielded 29,100 annual layers (varves). The carbon in these layers has been used to determine the atmospheric carbon levels for calibrating 14C dating. Note that the 29,000-year record does not depend on 14C dating but supports it. Look for a Web article on this.

3. We can now use GPS to measure the direction and rate of tectonic plate movement. Simple mathematical calculations would show that the initial rifting happened millions of years ago. The increasing thickness of sediment away from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is another indicator of age and shows that the rate of movement has been fairly constant. Another example is the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain, which, like others in the Pacific, reflects the direction of plate movement. It is clear that Hawaii (island) is now over a magma source that is feeding the present eruption. As we look at other islands, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and others, we see that eruptive active diminishes and ends going along the chain while erosion is progressively more severe, suggesting increasing age. It is an obvious conclusion that this chain and the others resulted from the Pacific Plate moving over several magma sources that have erupted through to produce volcanic islands. It appears that these sources are/were fixed, and the distance each island is from the present location of Hawaii (island) correlates quite well with the present rate of movement. Note that the radiometric ages of the oceanic crust in the Atlantic and the ages of the Hawaiian Islands both correlate well with their respective observed rates of movement. More about this on the Web.

Unless you believe God created Earth with all of these features in place...

"Speak to the earth and it will teach you."

The "whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen... 'I tell you,' [Jesus] replied, 'if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.'" The stones indeed cry out about the Creator and His work. Do not restrict God to an amount of time or method of creation that you prefer.

 

John, Johannes Kepler incorporated religious arguments and reasoning into his work, motivated by the religious conviction and belief that God had created the world according to an intelligible plan that is accessible through the natural light of scientific reasoning.  I am not following the blind faith of athestic evolutions.  I am two dimensional.  I am a Christian that believes that God created and upholds the universe and I am a Scientist that studies and employees natural laws.  Every day, I work with transistors that are smaller than the Ebola virus. It is a joy to not to have to be either a Christian or a Scientist.

Thank you Ken.  I knew there were several ways that Geologists cross correlated the age of rocks with sediments, ice layers, glaciers and tectonics.  I come from Ohio where several series of glaciers formed the Great Lakes. Ohio is as flat as a pancake until you get to the south end where you find tremendous bolders that were carried by the glacier and then dropped.  It's good to have you answer all of the questions that I can't.  

Thanks!

Jake, we agree on much.  Sometimes it is a superficial agreement, sometimes substantial.  We agree that one can be a Christian and a scientist;  virtually all creationists agree on that, so I think that is a red herring to suggest that some don’t think it.  We agree that God reveals himself in nature.  We probably agree that nature (not God) can be deceptive at times.  We agree that it is good to have Christians involved in science, although that is not very relevant to the discussion of evolution, since evolution is a very small field of study and largely irrelevant to most scientific fields.  We agree that your God is too small since you seem to be limiting God to the natural laws he created.  God is not constrained to 6000 yrs, nor to 4.5 billion, nor to 13 billion years.  God is eternal and knew us before we were born, and he promised we will live with him in eternity, which is outside of our understanding.  But again, that is not very relevant to the discussion on evolution.  Or is it?    

Ken, are you aware of other perspectives on the age of these ice cores?  Are you aware of the potential for multiple layers of ice forming in one year rather than one per year?  How do you interpret the covering of some planes abandoned in Greenland during the war, covered by over 260 feet of ice and snow in only 46 years.  That's about  5.5 feet per year.  (correleating under uniformitarian principles to perhaps 11,000 ft in 2000 years...)  Do you think ice has accumulated for the last 3000 years at the same rate at which it accumulates today?  or even faster perhaps?

With regard to varves, are you aware there are different perspectives on how these varves were formed?   Is there potential for more than one per year to form?   Some studies have shown that there are, and that varve science is much more arbitrary and disputable than is suggested.

If we assume that present rates of plate movement are the same as the rates in the past then we could calculate age.  If the rates changed, then it would be more difficult. 

As far as sediment thickness indicating age is concerned, that confuses me.  Sediment placement is determined by source, turbulence, volume of water, currents... I am not sure how it either determines age or is determined by age.  It could be a lot at once, or a little at a time.  And it makes sense that there is more sediment away from the ridge and closer to shorelines, regardless of age.

Yes, John, I am aware that young-Earth folks have other perspectives on many geological issues, and they often seem to focus on some minute detail, but miss the big picture. Those planes were not covered by glacial ice, and the core was not in Greenland. I do believe that a year ordinarily had cold and warm seasons, just like now.

Did you look at the varve website? There's a very high correlation between the varves and radiocarbon dates. Why would that be? Also, do you suppose a year might have two cold seasons and two growing seasons that produce organic sediment? How often do you suppose that happened? Probably not often.

If the rate of speed of plate movement changed, how much would it change? A lot? A little? Would it be faster or slower? What would make it change? If the the plate tectonics model predicts the oldest basalt on the Atlantic floor should be closest to the shore, and radiometric dating indicates that it is x years old, similar in age to the basalt in the rift valleys of New Jersey, Connecticut, etc. (the ones that have dinosaur tracks preserved in the rock), and if that age correlates well with the present rate of movement (i.e., if it has been happening that long and movement averaging the present rate would produce a half-ocean width equal to the distance from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to the U.S. east coast), wouldn't that indicate that the rate hadn't changed much?

Sorry I confused you on the sediment. I assumed you understood we were talking about deep-sea sediments, not continental shelf or rise sediments.

What did you think about the Hawaiian Islands data? They plot pretty much on a straight line graph (strong correlation) when we plot how far they should have moved given the present rate, and the radiometric ages correlate well, too. It's very satisfying when multiple lines of evidence concur that way. Actually, radiometric dating indicates the rate has increased a bit in recent years (which doesn't mean decades or even centuries), but not very much.

I don't want to jump around from one topic to another, but I should comment on something you mentioned previously, I believe. I think you said there were human footprints in or with dinosaur tracks. The folks who produced the movie Footprints in Stone withdrew it years ago (story on the Web) because what they thought were human footprints turned out to be prints of a dinosaur "forearm" or an impression where a foot slid forward making a long impression.

I hope these comments clear up several issues for you. The case has been made that science developed as it has in Christian countries because Christians believe in a God of order, who is trustworthy and not capricious.

John, I am happy to finally have an honest discussion with you.  When you said “We agree on much” you made my day!

You strongly remind me of my grandfather. I had many long and productive discussions with him. He help shaped me into who I am. In college, I was a driven engineering student and an active member of my local church teaching Sunday school. My grandfather would send me a twenty when I sent him the bulletin from my Church, my lesson plan for Sunday school, and a hand written letter of my studies for the last month. He also believed in a 6 day creation.

My prayer is that someday that you, my grandfather, John Calvin, Johannes Kepler and I can all sit together under a starry sky.  John Kepler will describe how he incorporated his religion and reasoning into his work as an astronomer. Kepler was extremely motivated by his strong belief that God created the world according to an intelligible plan and now we have planets which are cousins of the Earth that are named after him.

When you said:

“We agree that your God is too small since you seem to be limiting God to the natural laws he created.  God is not constrained to 6000 yrs, nor to 4.5 billion, nor to 13 billion years.  God is eternal and knew us before we were born, and he promised we will live with him in eternity, which is outside of our understanding.  But again, that is not very relevant to the discussion on evolution.”

 

I say Amen! That is exactly what I believe, we are finally connected! Thank you for your council, your patience and a very good discussion. 

Jake, it's good to agree on some things.  But, I hate to burst your bubble, but I have been honest with you all along.  Yes it will be interesting to talk with Moses, with Job, with Noah, and even with Adam.  And also of course with Peter, Paul, John, Joshua, but most of all, Jesus.  

I am glad you agree that God, as creator of the natural laws, can also be above the natural laws, and not constrained by them, either in his redemption, nor in his creation process.  That is a start.  All the best. 

Ken, like you, I can sometimes find it difficult to deal with too many things at the same time in a timely fashion.  And I realize I also sometimes create the same conundrum.  Sometimes we stumble thru our questions and answers.  We can pray and trust in God's purpose through our inadequacies.  But I will respond to some of what you have said. 

That core may not have been taken in Greenland, but my understanding is that Greenland ice is some of the thickest at 2 or three miles deep.   Perhaps I don't understand ice enough, but my understanding is that it was moving ice... the airplanes were not exactly in the same location as when they landed.   Regardless, whether glacier or not, it is the thickness and formation we are interested in, not the horizontal movement, yes?  I agree years have warm and dry seasons.  But, there is not one continual snow fall in the winter;  there can be many, with warmer spells in between, whether chinooks or simply less frost.  When dust is in the air, it absorbs solar energy and causes melting even when air temps are below freezing.  If the dust contains organic matter, which is generally lighter than soil or clay particles....   When I look at the snow on the edge of the roof of my garage, I do not see a homogeneous material, but rather, a bunch of layers.  Soot, and dust, if present,  can impact those layers.  Soot and dust moves around the globe in the air, even across the oceans.  

I have not fully thought out the correlation between C14 ratios and the varves, although I am leary about circular reasoning.  When I think it through, I will respond.  Only I will say that when I looked at Roger Wiens statement on C14, magnetic flux, and age dating, his statement was in conflict with Wikipedia and others on whether magnetic flux was increasing or decreasing.  If there is a high correlation, and the ages are overestimated based on incorrect assumptions for C14/C12 ratios, then that could indicate that the varves are younger than thought, and that would correspond to the possibility that more varves are formed in one year than proposed.  I will try to examine it more closely before I respond further.  I have looked at the website.  An initial thought is that sediment does not correspond to when organic material is produced, but rather to when organic material is eroded.  This happens from erosive events, which do not correspond to cold and warm, but to precipitation events, or possibly wind erosion.  These events could happen once per year, several times per year, or in some years almost continuously, or weekly.  Glaciers move continually, not just in summer, taking soil along under the ice, although they melt faster in summer.  Wind erosion tends to move different material than water, and so there will be differentiation.  Shallow water erosion moves more organic material than severe extreme erosion, which moves more mineral material.  There are all kinds of possibilities for differentiation.  But I would have to study the composition of the varves more to be more conclusive.  Reading some of the stuff on glacial varves seems to me to indicate that the settling rates of clay vs silt and sand are not accurate;  it would not take an entire winter to settle clay, and furthermore under normal circumstances, sand silt and clay can separate quite quickly into layers in a relatively short period of time, such as a week.  However, depth of the water and turbulence would have some impact, nevertheless the seasonal distinction seems to me to be unreal, especially in cases where the glacier actually borders the lake directly.  

I would be the last to say I am an expert on plate tectonics; I'm not.  But it has been proposed that these plates have moved much more quickly, let us say catastrophically in the past, and have in our memory and measurements moved much slower.  So the plate tectonics model sounds possible, but merely being possible doesn't mean it is the only, nor the best explanation.  

You are quite likely right that the movie Footprints in stone was withdrawn... I have not seen it.  But my understanding is that there are other locations where footprints are clear, to the extent of visible toes, variation in impressions, 3-D verification, and change of path, etc.  

Hawaiian islands... again not something I am particularly familiar with, although I realize the ring of fire, the pacific ocean volcanoes and the ocean ridge rifts extend around the globe in the various oceans.  But the amount the volcanoes moved from formation is dependant not just on the rate, but also on when they formed, so it is possible that correlating movement to a date of formation which may or may not be accurate can lead back to a circular reasoning for correlating movement rate to date of formation.  However, this is speculation, since I do not have the data at hand yet.  I just wanted to reply to let you know I was not ignoring your comments.  

I agree that God is a God of order and trustworthy, and that is why thinking he used the randomness and untrustworthiness of evolution to create plants, animals, and man, does not make sense to me, regardless of whatever age the rocks might be.  Evolution seems to be an entirely capricious process, and contrary to God's revealed nature.  Onwards and upwards evolution also seems to be contrary to known science, and to known scientific laws.  And of course, it seems rather strange that God could not have indicated in a few words in scripture that death and destruction existed before man, and that plants and animals were made from bacteria, birds from creeping things, and man from animals, if it were so.  The words are not difficult to understand, regardless of whether they are true or not.  

John, amen.  As I said in my article, "God is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, He is the creator of the natural and the super-natural, he is immanent and transcendent and  to Him 13.8 billion years is still less than a trillionth of a second."  I do believe that God is above natural laws but I don't believe humans are. God still does perform miracles but since the last aspostle humans haven't.

This is a good start. All the best and God bless.

John, you didn't burst my bubble at all. I knew that you were honest with me all along, but you were only right when you finally agreed with me. ;-)  (BTW, that emoticon is a wink.)

Yes, God is not constrained by natural laws, but we are.  I believe that God used both natural and super-natural means in both creation and redemption. The creation of light and the resurrection of Jesus are both super-natural and they are both very important factors in creation and redemption.

However, Scientists can only the measure the speed of light and the estimate the distance from its source. Since the last apostle, people have not been able to perform miracles on demand. When Jesus wanted to walk on water he could, but we can’t.

There is tremendous joy in being both a Christian and being a Scientist. You get to be two dimensional.  When I speak Japanese, I sometimes get to use words or phrases that don’t exist in English.  It’s also a great experience to understand the plan of God in both nature and redemption.

I daily work with transistors smaller than the Ebola virus.  You mentioned that evolution is a small field of study and science and that’s mostly true.  However, a key part of knowing how the Ebola virus might mutate is the study of its previous evolution.  Currently, it appear that Ebola virus is much older than previously thought.  

I expect that we both sincerely want a Christian in science or medicine to help find a cure, or vaccine, for the Ebola virus.  But what if his/her co-workers placed the evolutionary age of the Ebola virus in millions of years and not thousands of years?  Should that young Doctor or Scientist leave the discovery team?  Should the team spend a few years arguing about semantics before publishing a cure?

 

Science and faith are not separate for a Christian working in a STEM vocation, but they are distinct.  Jesus himself had to embrace both his divinity and his humanity. We can embrace both science and faith. It takes a little effort, but it’s worth it.

Jake, you admit that God used both natural and supernatural means in creation.  How do you determine which is which?  Mind you, I agree that God used supernatural means, and imposed his will on nature.  Supernatural always means nature is involved, but that different laws have been applied, or obvious laws over-ridden.  Just as radiation can kill cancer cells, seemingly natural, God's will can kill cancer cells, or cause the heart to beat, or bring site to dim eyes.  We call it supernatural, but it is perfectly natural to God.  

We have no evidence that God didn't create man supernaturally, for example.  We don't even have evidence that God didn't create every species separately and supernaturally.  A similar shape, and a similar dna are evidence of similar design, but we need to see them changing (or evidence of the changing process)  in order to prove the change.  Evidence of a possible process is not evidence that it happened.  So far, fruit flies have evolved into fruit flies, finches have evolved into finches, coelecanth has evolved into coelecanth, and turtles have evolved into turtles.  I am afraid the evidence is lacking.  

Many people claim miracles still happen today, and have happened throughout history.  I'm not sure that it is empirically correct to say that miracles have not happened since the last apostle.  And I am not sure how this relates to evolution, since no one is claiming man did it.  

It would be presumptuous for me to say I am a scientist, but I do have a degree in science and have been working with scientific principles for most of my years, so I have no problem with the discipline of science.  Some scientists say that evolution is not science at all, and while that seems rather bold, I do understand why they say it.  

Understanding how the ebola virus might mutate is not enhanced by a study of previous evolution.  It is only enhanced by a study of its genome, and noting where previous mutations and adaptations have occurred.  Do not conflate mutations and adaptations with evolution, since they are not the same thing.  Evolution indicates that a virus will evolve into something other than a virus, which is different than a virus changing into a virus with different characteristics within its genomic limitations.  

Furthermore, the age of a virus is irrelevant to its effect, or to its future potential to mutate.  It matters little if a virus has obtained numerous mutations over a short period of time, or whether those mutations happened over a long period of time in the past.  It cannot be proven that mutation rates remain precisely constant.  For that reason, there is no reason for the issue of the age of a virus to be an issue... it does not need to be discussed for a remedy, I would think, unless there is documentation of a previous ebola outbreak.  Only the number of mutations, location of mutations, and effect of mutations would be of consideration.  

With ever improving quality of science, scientists find more evidences and intelligence to calculate the approximate age of the earth; but at the end of the day, we will never know exactly how old the earth is. We will never be able to fully understand the ordain or supernatural causes of the world. As christians, we just need to keep the faith that God is transcendence being; and hope that one day, we will know God better by help of complimentary science (I believe that science is an act of creativity, which is given from God).

John,

I've asked Christian geophysicist Roger Wiens to respond to the questions you raised, and he said this, "...the Earth's magnetic field is indeed decreasing slowly at the present time, and so we may be headed for a magnetic field reversal of the Earth sometime in the next several thousand years. You can consider this additional confirmation that the remnant magnetic field in the oceanic crust does indeed record multiple reversals of the Earth's field over many tens of thousands to millions of years. These reversals are consistent with the increasing age of the ocean's crust with increasing distance from the mid-ocean ridges, where new crustal material is being created at a rates of up to some 20 mm per year and more.

"Regarding the possible effect this has on carbon-14 dating: this dating method has been calibrated to yearly tree rings back in time to about 10,000 years ago, e.g., back to the last ice age. The magnetic field reversals are generally quite a bit longer than 10,000 years."

This also brings up the question of circular reasoning you raised a couple of times in a recent post. There should be no problem with counting tree rings (even back to 10,000 years) or annual deposits such as varves and glacial ice layers. However, when I noted that using radiometric dating on organic material in the varves gave dates that correlated well with actually counting the varves, it was said to be circular reasoning. That is no more circular reasoning than if your speedometer says you're going 70 in a 45 MPH zone, and the radar cop says you were going 70. The judge will laugh if you claim in court that it's circular reasoning.

Mr. Yoon, I agree. We will never know the exact age of the Earth, the exact age of the Universe, and the exact distance to the Andromena Gaxaly. But estimating those measurements to 10% - 20% accuracy is often enough good enough.  In contrast, our faith in God as at transcendent being can be complete even if we are imperfect. Why?  Because the object of our faith is perfect.

Ken, I would not claim circular reasoning for your speeding example.  But it is not comparable.  The radar gun can be checked against others, and the speedometers can be checked against radar, and also against other measurements, in real time.  The historical varves cannot be checked for age, nor is the C14 historical levels something that is measured ( in a time reference);  rather it is deduced on the principles of an already existing deep time presumption.  In fact, there is actual evidence that more than one varve can be laid down in one year.  And the boundary cutoff for an annual varve is set somewhat arbitrarily at is it 30 microns?  Even tree rings are subject to great error since the patterns are determined by different growth rates, which can be affected by moisture differences.  So two trees in close proximity can have different patterns if one is in a dip with more moisture than the other.  This will not affect living trees, since they can be compared, but it would certainly affect fossil trees where its micro-location of growth could not be determined. 

So my question would be, how can you prove how long a magnetic field reversal actually takes?  Does it happen abruptly, or is the change gradual.  My understanding is that no one has actually seen it happen, or measured its time, since it has not happened in the recent course of history. 

If magnetic reversals are longer than 10,000 years under deep time theory... how much longer?  If they take 50,000 years, then it would seem that Wiens original statement was incorrect, since the higher magnetic field would reduce C14, not increase it in the past compared to today, within the period of time C14 is used to measure time. 

John,

If you think simply counting tree rings or cyclic layering is unreliable, how often do you think there are multiple tree rings, varves, or ice layers in a year? How much do you think that would stretch the numbers? That seems like wishful thinking on your part to descredit techniques that disagree with your preconceived ideas.

There really is no biblical basis for a belief in a young Earth, IMHO. The Bible doesn't indicate on which "day" Earth was created. Genesis 1 says, "In the beginning God created..." I agree that God created. Matter does not create itself. "Earth was without form and void." That matches the geological evidence rather well.

A few years ago a young-Earth friend of mine whose family was in the gravel business invited me to visit a gravel pit to talk about stratigraphic features in the deposits. After we did that for a while, I noticed something odd nearby. There were some vertical grooves in the wall of the gravel pit. I said, "I wonder what caused this." My friend replied, "Oh, it looks like a racoon tried to climb up there." The irony was that my friend is of the opinion that we can't interpret the geologic record because we weren't there "when it happened."

As I mentioned previously, the distance various islands and seamounts in the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain are from the present location of Kilauea correspond very well with the rate of movement of the Pacific Plate (and other seamount chains are on the same trend). The distance also correlates in general with the extent of erosion. It is not circular reasoning to note that the radiometric dates obtained on the islands and seamounts also correspond well with the distance from Kilauea.

Plate tectonics is fascinating. If you accept that the lithospheric plates are moving, then presumably you agree that we can trace that back. Looking at the present paths of continents, the mountain ranges, and stratigraphic correlation between continents, we can "run the movie backward" to arrive at the configuration of Pangea, with the Appalachian Mountains extending through Greenland, Great Britain, and Scandinavia. But those mountains were formed by the collision of those continental masses - that is how mountains like that form. Using paleomagnetic evidence in the rocks of India, we can determine the latitude at which various rocks formed as India moved northward to shove under the southern edge of Asia and produce the Himalaya. Geologists calculate the paleolatitude of India and radiometrically date the rocks to map the position and orientation of India at various times. These maps correspond well with rates of plate movement, too. 

Maybe these things didn't really happen, but if they didn't, God went to a lot of trouble to make the evidence all fit together so it will look like it did. I'm absolutely amazed at all of the events he used to produce the state of Michigan. It would be interesting to hear how you would fit all of that into 6,000 years. Perhaps you would like to see a short list.

Ken, your "wishful thinking" comment is either incomprehensible, or inappropriate.   Of course I am going to look at how some techniques might be invalid.     Anyway, to get back to the science of tree rings, you are putting up a straw man, or a false scenario.  I think trees have one ring per year, usually, since they do respond to summer and winter at least in the temperate zones.  That is not the problem. The problem is whether one dead tree can be accurately related to another dead tree in terms of tree ring size, which is determined by the pattern of sizes of the rings.  These patterns can be different even for adjacent trees, because of different access to moisture.  It would be difficult or impossible to determine whether the patterns seen accurately represented different years or centuries.  

On the other hand, varves or ice layers are not determined strictly by annual cycles, but rather by precipitation events and erosion events.  How many per year?  I would say it is variable, and probably never the same, and therefore not an accurate indicator of time. 

Personally, I am not a fan of the Comments Section, especially when it comes to political or religious views.  I realise that the entire point of them is for opinions (as is my comment--my opinion), but it creates a huge turn-off for the younger generation.  It becomes very hard to read through the dripping sarcasm and wrongly-pointed passion in order to discern what is valid.  And yet this is where we get our views: from others arguing their importance over other's.  We in turn become passionate, latching onto what we consider the "best argument"--he with ideas closer to our own or she who asserts better intellectually.  This is where we are losing people, here, with arguments, with heated debates that turn into silly quarrels in which neither side admits defeat.  Is this comment section saving any lives?  Is God being glorified through each and every paragraph?  I do see the value in a fruitful conversation (those can be life-giving), but the majority of "opinions" are merely typed in attempt to dispell others'.  This is the turn-off: that all this zeal is being misguided toward words and not actions.  Win people over with words, by all means, but there are points (closer than we think) at which we must love with actions and in truth.  Either way, whether by old-earth or new, the important thing is that Christ is preached.  Let us side with God in science, knowing that he contains full power over it, and he continues to tease us with mysteries unknown--mysteries that, by our interpretations, do have the ability to trick us.  

"Is the Earth 6,000 years old or 4.54 billion years old? The honest and humble answer is that we don’t know." 

Well, it's a good thing that God does.

Also, I apologise for the grammar error (the first "other's" should have been "others'") and the spelling error ("dispell" is more commonly spelled "dispel").

I want to thank Jake Buurma both for writing this article (which is not condescending or arrogant or dismissive of those who believe quite differently on the subject) and especially for being willing to dynamically engage with commenters.

I'd also thank the commenters, including those who dissent from Jake's Burrma's perspective.  Your engaging the discussion -- with Jake -- adds much value to the article, and you too, it seems to me, are expressing your opinions without being condescending or arrogant or dismissive of Jake Buursma and other who believe quite differently on the subject).

I guess I look at this very differently than Erick Holder (who posted above), who apparently thinks this sort of an exchange "creates a huge turn-off for the younger generation."  I suppose it may for some, but I am certain it is otherwise for some as well, and for yet others, perhaps they need to see this kind of discussion in order to be told their church is alive and grappling with stuff that needs to be grappled with.  That's better than acting in a faux kind of way that we all agree about difficult issues and are not able or willing to disagree.  And if the young don't believe Christians should be discussing this sort of stuff, the young might just need to re-consider their perspective.  Some Christians, young or old, don't care to engage in discussions like this, about any topic.  And that's OK (my mother is one of them and she is a great mother) -- they don't have to read this stuff.  But that doesn't mean that Christians shouldn't discuss this sort of stuff, so long as they discuss it well.

Which brings me somewhat back to my original point.  I think this important issue is being discussed well in this article and the comments exchange.  There is no profanity, no (or few) ad hominems, no apparent losing of tempers.  If Erick Holder believes this discussion is being done badly, I respectfully disagree.  Disagreement is life, including in the church, and if we are too sensitive about engaging in, or even observing, vigorous discussion, life will pass by without our involvement.  Maybe we need to just thicken our sensitivity skin sometimes.  This is how people -- including Christians -- sharpen eachother's irons.  And that's good, even if after it is done, we still disagree.

I've not engaged in the substance of this discussion much just because I've not taken the time in my life to sufficiently inform myself about the many issues involved.  I have my opinions about the ultimate questions, but frankly I don't consider those opinions informed enough to competently argue them here.  But I appreciate being in the bleachers to benefit from the exchange of others.

And finally, thanks to the Banner for allowing the exchange and not cutting folks off.  I might think this kind of discussion might be better had on the CRCNA's Network, but that resource has a different sense for moderation (I'm banned from it), which I believe to be too thin skinned and ultimately counterproductive.

Jake, a statement you made on Nov. 2 made me wonder.  You said that distance 5 million light years away would not be measured using trigonometry.  Really?  What is the point then of knowing the 1/3600 of a degree (one arc-sec) equals the angle of a star one parsec away from earth and sun?   Or having an accuracy of 24 microarc-seconds?  In other words, how would you calculate the distance without the angle (which is the essence of trigonometry). 

How do you think Hubble’s Law was derived?

I agree that it is very important to have this discussion. There is a problem here that cannot be ignored. We say the Apostles' Creed together, "I believe in God the Father, almighty, maker of heaven and earth..." and sing about "one Lord" and then make judgements about who believes the Bible (essentially who is a Christian) on the basis of understandings of how and when God did various things, which probably isn't going to be on the "final exam". Some of us believe in the cultural mandate in Genesis, and others, like medieval mapmakers, would label the investigation of God's creation with "Here there be dragons" and advise us not to go there.

Perhaps when it was discovered that the universe was not 3-tiered (heaven above, earth beneath, water under earth), as stated repeatedly in the Bible, devout believers deplored respect for the words of Scripture. We know it happened when it was discovered that Earth goes around Sun, and not the way the Bible says. Might it be that the Bible uses language that Abraham, Moses, and others could relate to thousands of years ago? Should we have expected the Bible to give us the modern understanding of the solar system and all other features of the creation?

Besides young-earth creationists, there are Christians who are gap-theorists, progressive creationists, evolutionary creationists, and probably some with other views of how God has created. All are attempting to reconcile to some extent, and more or less successfully, what they believe the Bible says with what we see in the creation, and obviously all are not right.

There are disagreements over when God began creating the universe and various features and inhabitants of it. Particularly, there are disagreements over how God created the myriad of species, including us, whether he used a long time and formed our bodies gradually from "a mud puddle" or quickly from "clay", i.e., a dried up mud puddle. (That also gets us into the image of God questions. Does God, who is a spirit, make us to look like him? I know that when his son, Jesus, became incarnate he, the son, looked like us.)

There certainly are many things in the Bible that are hard to understand, and in the creation, too. When I began posting here, I said, "The more we study God's general revelation, the more evidence we find of the work of God that scoffers have to disbelieve." I was talking about two kinds of scoffers, those who deny the Bible and those who deny the disoveries of science. Do we expect that our children and grandchildren, and unbelievers who we hope to "win for Christ", will reject significant progress in understanding the creation, that is very believable if you know very much about it, in favor of an interpretation of the Bible that requires belief in things the Bible doesn't even say, or expresses rather unclearly. (Yesterday at our table devotions when I read that Elijah fled to Horeb from Jezebel, and traveled forty days and forty nights, I wondered if many things actually took exactly that long, and if I should take it literally.) Note: nothing in this should be taken as sarcastic, belittling, derogatory, mean, anti-Bible, or anything else not well-intended.

The conundrum, and the struggle between evolutionist theory and creationist theory, is in recognizing a supernatural source, and an intelligent design.  So Jake says man did not evolve, but was specifically created.  This takes him out of the evolutionary camp.   He might accept some mutations and adaptations, but not evolution for man.  Although he hasn't said so, he seems to indicate that virus did not evolve into bacteria, and plants did not evolve into reptiles or fish, and reptiles not into birds.  Dogs might evolve into a lot of types of dogs, fish into a lot of types of fish, frogs into a lot of types of frogs, etc.  

I have said before, Jake, that mutations and adaptations are not evolution.  Neither is natural selection over time.  Evolution is the increase of genetic information leading to a change in organism constitution in which species, genera, families and kingdoms are generated from one original organism.   It is an assumption of less complex to more complex.  It is not an assumption that God created the most complex being from which all lesser organisms descended;  ie.  man evolved into mammals into fish into bacteria.  By saying what it is not, we understand better what the general theory is trying to say.  When Richard Dawkins says we see evolution in action, he is misrepresenting the facts.  We do not see it.  Evolutionists merely believe it, and they think what they see fits with it.  

In response to Ken, I would suggest perhaps strongly, that we cannot justify any scientific position on the basis of the understanding or lack of understanding of previous generations of what scripture said. In fact, sometimes the misunderstanding is fabricated in the sense that the church never said the earth was flat while the wise old scientists said it was round.  A verse in Isaiah clearly talks about the circle of the earth, which while sometimes ignored or forgotten, does highlight that scripture itself does not indicate in anyway that the earth was flat.  Yet scoffers continue to push this.  I would be interested to know where it says in scripture that the sun goes around the earth ( in a way that is different than we normally talk about sunrise and sunset).  I don't believe scripture says that at all.  If we rise from bed or set at the table, we do not imply that we are circling the bed or the table, do we?  

 Yes, there are many things in scripture that are symbolic.  Yet there are many things in scripture that are very factual.  And even the very factual things have symbolic meanings imbedded.  But the numbering of the flood days is not reasonably symbolic.  The days of rain, of waters rising, falling, receding are not merely symbolic, no more than circumcision was merely symbolic.  The flood was real, catastrophic, huge.   There is no logical, or geo-physical reason why it could not happen, even leaving aside miraculous intervention.  If the land was flat, water would cover the globe to a depth of more than 2 miles.  There is plenty of water.  It is also reasonable to assume huge geo-physical changes with such a flood, including the formation of higher mountains and deeper oceans, the formation of many volcanoes, and huge temperature differentials in the earth's crust everywhere.   

Early old earthers said that most sediment on the earth was deposited primarily by wind.  This is now no longer believed, since so many sediments contain marine fossils, and the layering is much more indicative of being laid down by water.  Polystrate fossils, fossil footprints, softbodied fossils, and apparent drowning of fossil animals and clams are good indications that fossilization was mostly quick and catastrophic on a huge scale.  So I agree with you that the more we study nature, plants, animals, rocks, we learn more things that turn our theories upside down.  This is especially true for turning upside down the theory of evolution.  The more we see in nature, the more we realize how difficult and improbable it would be for it to happen according to the general theory of the neo-darwinians.  This is why in the early days of evolution, the earth kept getting older and older and older, and any measurements that accomodated that old age were gladly accepted, while those that did not, were disregarded.  Of course, eventually, one had to stop making the world older, because the idea that it could not be absolutely determined was intolerable.  So now evolutionists work within the parameters of a 4.5 billion yr earth.  However, within this parameter, the probabilities of random mutations, adaptations, and selection demonstrate the impossibility of undirected evolution.  Jonathan Sarfati clearly demonstrates in his book that scientifically speaking, evolution could not happen within this time period, not from the formation of the first amino acids, nor to the formation of mammals.  The steps required are enormous and complex, and mutations are deleterious, dna normally corrects mutations, while natural selection selects against mutations.  

If the starlight distance and motion is evidence of a big bang, then that is evidence of a creator.  On the other hand, the lack of evidence of evolution is also evidence of a creator, as is the common composition (design) of living organisms, the common structure (design) of DNA, the unique conditions of earth, the extreme uniqueness of humanity, and the corroborating evidence of scripture.  So you are right, the more we study nature honestly, the more it brings us back to God.  By understanding nature in the context of scripture, we begin to understand why people no longer live to almost a thousand years as in the pre-flood, and no longer live to 175 or 180 or 127 years as did Abraham, Isaac, and Sarah. 

Ken, I have heard before that there was a huge problem when some people thought the universe was three tiered while others did not.  I have not seen actual evidence of the problem, nor that it was difficult to solve.  While scriptures mention "in the heavens(sky), on the earth, and in the waters under the earth" in several places, I do not see a limitation, nor an exclusivity that you imply.  In other words, the implication for Exodus, is that no matter where or on what basis you create an image, you are not to do so.  If you think that it applies only to earthly things, no, it also applies to heavenly (skyward) things.  If you want to get around it by using something from the ocean or lake or underground water, no, that also applies.  You suggest this differentiation is because of a three -tiered something thought, but the fact is that even if there were twenty tiers, this description would still capture the intent.  It would be like saying that a scientist is wrong when he talks about living and non-living things, because there are so many more divisions and categories.  Genesis talks about all the waters under the sky, meaning all water on earth.  So sky encompasses everything from ground up, or surface water up.  We still understand that concept quite well, even though we often divide the sky into various atmospheres and outerspace.  

So I would say that scripture uses language that Moses could understand, and that we can still understand.  It was not downgraded because we are so much smarter than Moses (we are not), but because any more elaborate description would not add any value.  In other words, scripture was and is accurate, while science and knowledge at the time was inaccurate.  This is not a reason nor an excuse for saying that it is okay if scripture is inaccurate.  Nor is it by itself any reason to argue that our interpretation of scripture must be incorrect.  

 

Ken, I think we agree that scripture has often been misunderstood, or misapplied in the past.  That is not really the issue.  But we disagree that things were written in scripture in an inaccurate way in order for the people to be able to understand it in their context.  I do not agree with that.  The bible talks about the four corners (or directions) of the earth, and about the ends of the earth, but also about the circle of the earth.  All of these concepts are accurate if understood well.  No where that I recall, does it say that if you go to the edge of the earth, you will fall off.  No where does it say that the sun circles around the earth.  And everyday you still look at the sunrise and the sunset, and call it such.  While some of the early scientific concepts misrepresented the bible in order to support their position, the bible itself did not actually expressly say what they wanted it to.  It is for that reason that I don't think it is fair to make the comparison as if we are presently in the same situation when it comes to evolution.  It is a bit of a red herring, and not logically nor scientifically valid as an argument.  That is what I am trying to say.  

It is interesting that Dr. Walt Brown includes pillars of the earth in his global flood theory...

I don't know if a flood on a flat disc would be perceived differently than on a sphere... it depends on the perspective, but I'm not sure that it is significant or relevant.  Either way, the mountains would be covered, the rain is enormous, and people and animals died, and the ark floated.  

If the bible is not a scientific manual, then it is still accurate, yes, I agree.  If it is not a history book, it is still accurate, yes, I agree.  I think sometimes people misunderstand what science really is.  Science is merely an accumulation of knowledge of the physical universe.  It starts with a statement such as, my mother is my biological mother (a scientific statement), progresses to things like, a country has 150 million males and 149 million females, and then to things like, the sun is 93 million miles from the earth.  Science is part of our everyday conversation, since it includes the understanding of inheritance or birth from a mother, the general biological balance between males and females, and bodies in outer space.  When science gets more complicated than planting a carrot seed in the ground (which is a scientific activity, employing all kinds of scientific principles), we sometimes recategorize the simple basic science that every human participates in.   So when we say that the bible is accurate, we include the fact that it means what it says in all things.  

The bible cannot be accurate in what it does not say.  But what it says should be taken as true.  Therefore I would argue that it has not been found false in either its common things, nor in its accounting of miracles.  And then, we should realize that while interpretation of some verses, sayings, passages might leave room for ambiguity, the misinterpretation of other things leads to a seriously wrong result.  The funny thing is, that there is no evidence that man has descended from animals, and yet people desire to believe it, and then try to argue that there was no Adam, and that scripture (or at least Genesis) is a fable created by man.  If a person has faith in God and scripture, why would he argue for such a compromise?  

 

John/Ken, regarding three tier including water under the earth, a recent scientific discovery seems very interesting, i.e. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25723-massive-ocean-discovered-towards-earths-core.html#.VF7Atr5a9FI

Massive 'ocean' discovered towards Earth's core

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”  Robert Jastrow, astrophysicist, former Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

John,

I don't if you looked at the website I recommended, which has some illustrations that would help, including some archaeological finds. I appreciate how that field often supports what we think the Bible is saying, but sometimes it helps correct misunderstandings, too.

Art showing the Egyptian cosmology has been found, and it has one of their gods carrying the sun across the dome of the sky, which has stars embedded in it, above a flat Earth. Mesopotamians had similar ideas, and this is what the Hebrews no doubt understood. It is also clearly the language of the BIble if you look at the texts I gave you. That was the universe.

I know God could have inspired the author of Genesis to write, "In the beginning, I created matter and energy in an instant...", and he could have given the modern model of the universe and solar system, but he didn't. I don't understand many things in the Bible, but I try to avoid questioning God's actions. In this case, the Bible's creation story resembles that of the Mesopotamians, and what an effective way it was to set things straight by saying, "You worship the sun, moon, etc., but the true God made all of those things you worship."

The Ptolemaic model was also geocentric, but with a round Earth. That was pretty much the Medieval view, but geocentrism was still believed to bibical, which is what got Galileo in trouble. In those days the church was less tolerant of those who disagreed with the current theology than today.

I would be hesitant to challenge the Bible's teachings on faith and the way we live, although since Christ was on Earth Christians have modified their attitudes and rules about slaves, women, and perhaps other areas. However, archaeology, linguistics, history, and science have helped us learn things about the world and its inhabitants than the people of Bible times and long after knew. This new knowledge can help us understand the Bible better, and sometimes differently.

There are some things that even literalists do not take literally. This isn't the same as saying we don't always believe the Bible. The 3-tiered universe is one of these things. You don't take that literally, even though it's right there. The Hebrews got that from their neighbors just as they got their idolatrous religion. There is also the matter of numbers. Repeated sevens, seventies, and forties is one of those. I'm skeptical about some of those. I'm also not sure about the number of sacrifices at the dedication of Solomon's temple. (How many altars did they have going? How many days did they do this? Do the math. Think of the blood and guts!) It was fashionable at the time to exaggerate how long kings lived, how many enemies they killed, etc., and this may have been a way to say how much Solomon praised God.

And did you ever wonder about what God said about David on this occasion? That David kept all of God's laws. And that gets repeated, but finally a comment, "...except for that matter involving Bathsheba and her husband." I don't understand this, but I don't understand the Trinity and a few other things, either. Maybe you will explain all of this for us.

 

Joy,

Thanks for bringing these things to our attention. The "ocean" within the earth is a rather new discovery (published in 2014), so it will have to undergo the usual scrutiny and discussion to which these things are subjected. In old-Earth terms, it could help to show how God formed the seas that have remained about the same size for millions of years, paraphrasing the article. I once replied this way to a Christian woman in Quebec who emailed me on the website of the Affiliation of Christian Geologists about wanting to find a Christian book dealing with the geology of Hawaii before a family trip, and was concerned about the "millions of years thing": "Any book on that subject is a Christian book in the sense that all scientists are seeking the truth about how God works in the creation, and has worked, although some of them aren't aware of that, but it is your responsibility to teach your children about God." Some Christians have the wrong belief that most scientists have as their main goal to disprove and discredit the Bible.

The quotation you provided from Robert Jastrow is a favorite of mine. Note that there is no commas after "scientist" when it says, "For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason..." To me, that indicates he is talking about unbelieving scientists and not the many of us who believe in a Creator, who are not chagrined by the discovery of the evidence for an expanding universe and a "Big Bang", which strongly supports the belief that there really was a beginning. Jastrow said this in a speech he gave at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) several years ago, and also as the closing statement in his book, God and the Astronomers. I spotted another statement along the same lines in the article on him in Wikipedia (which is a good reference, but I like to verify statements in it).

Going back to the "waters under the earth", while the article says that the estimated amount of water there would cover Earth to great depths, it doesn't work well to use this as a source of water for the biblical flood because the water would have had to go back to where it came from. Of course, we could invoke all kinds of miraculous actions, that God is fully capable of, to explain the flood story, but I don't see anything in Genesis along those lines. We need to be careful about reading things into Scripture. Some saw a passage in Isaiah about a shortage of "tires round like the moon" as referring to the tire rationing during WWII.

Ken,

God inspired the author of Genesis to write, "God said, let there be light.  And there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light, day. And he called the darkness, night.  And there was evening, and morning, the first day."  Not an instant, but a day.  Not a year, but a day.  Not a thousand years, but a day.  Not  endless years,  not a symbolic 70 years or 40 days or 40 years or 400 years, but a day.  

It is interesting how many other genesis and flood stories resemble the biblical story.  Although it is also interesting that the genesis story did not (NOT) have a god carrying the sun across the dome of the sky. It is also interesting that the bible does not speak of a flat earth the way other ancient stories do.  Is this merely fortuitous, or is it because scripture is inspired?  

The Ptolemaic model was not derived from scripture, was it?  Nor even by the church.  It was adapted from Aristotelian thought and formalized about 100 AD, completely independantly from scripture or church.  Rather, many church scientists in the medieval period adopted the model and conformed scripture to it, much later.  This is rather different than the simple obvious interpretation of Genesis 1.   

I'm not sure what you mean when you say that we don't take the 3-tiered universe literally.  The bible doesn't use the literal words, "3-tiered universe".  It would be impossible to take literally, what it doesn't say.  Those who held to a 3-tiered universe, were not taking the bible literally, since scripture didn't say that.  Rather, they were "reading in", which is not a literal process.  

On the other hand, when scripture says you shall not make any gods of anything above, or in the earth below, or in the water below, yes, I take that literally.  To me, that literally means, no gods from anywhere at all;  it is all covered... it means the entire creation, or created universe.  The statement, "heavens above, earth beneath, waters under the earth" is not false.  It may be rather basic and sparse, but it is not false.  We can totally understand, and we can still speak in this way, and be clearly understood. 

I don't have an answer for exactly why everything is written in scripture the way it is, except that it is written so for a purpose, and particularly for our edification.  David also sinned when he numbered the people.  But overall, David was acounted righteous because he strove to keep God's commandments, including acknowledging his imperfections and sins by repenting sincerely from the heart.  Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent, but David blamed himself, was sorely grieved, and repented.  David honored God even at great disadvantage to himself, and so did not murder king Saul when he had the chance.  Nor did he hate his enemy Absolom, compared to King Saul who hurled a javelin at his own son Jonathan.  But this is my understanding, due to a desire to trust scripture, rather than to doubt its claim on truth.   I'm not sure how one type of scripture mystery is proof or evidence that another scriptural mystery must of necessity exist.  Each would stand on its own and is not dependant on another.   I find it a bit of a "straw man".  

I also find this type of discussion of scripture a bit useless, because it has no bearing on whether evolution happened or not.  Science itself has no real scientific evidence for evolution, and so it is useless to try to accomodate scripture to it.  Even if deep time was possible, it would not be evidence of evolution.  

Since one cannot defend the general theory of evolution as it is generally considered, then to have a useful discussion, you must propose a theory that will actually work.  One that fits the scientific probabilities, one that fits the fossil record, and one that fits the genetic realities.  

I believe that Jake said we have 95% of our genome in common with the animals... but he was incorrect, since there is at least a 10% difference in genome size alone.  But it is interesting how quickly info in this field is changing.  An article I read indicated that (in 2002) there was a sharing of 99% of genes between humans and mice.   And 99.2% sharing between humans and chimps.  Of course, this was wrong, but it is interesting not only how people can interpret scripture to fit their paradigm, but this also applies to biology, especially genetics, where they interpret according to their paradigm.  It is quite likely that there is only about a 70% similarity in genomes now.  If 99% similarity was evidence of evolution, then is 70% not evidence of no evolution?      

 

It is interesting that the presenter of "Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth' stated that the old-earth creations seemed more upset that the results showed that this is a young earth, than the non creationists were. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iohAhbf_KrY

Yesterday, someone made a comment to me that he had heard so many untruths from evolutionists that he had difficulty trusting them.  I thought, okay, whatever.  But thinking on it some more, particularly in regard to what Ken has been suggesting that we have misinterpreted scripture from time to time in the last thousand years... this made me realize that Ken's suggestion would be just as appropriate to apply to evolutionary theory.  In other words, we have actual evidence of many things that evolutionists have interpreted incorrectly in the past, so why would we not expect that they are still misinterpreting things even now.  

Some examples include they proclaimed vestigal organs which in fact are not vestigial but actual have a function.  They proclamed the coelecanth extinct, when indeed it was not.  They proclaimed huge amounts of non-functional DNA which were later discovered to instead have a function.  They claimed 99%, then 97%, then 96%, then 95% similar DNA with chimps, when later we discover in fact that there are much bigger differences.  They claimed wind lain sediments slowly deposited, when now there is evidence of much more quickly water laid sediments, such as polystrate fossils and the rapid sorting of particle size by water.   They claimed numerous cases of hominid forbears of humans, which were later found either to be frauds, or pigs tooth, or mixtures of skeletons, or required sanding and grinding in order to fit the theory.  They claimed cow or hippo ancestry for whales with imaginary intermediates, or intermediates that clearly lacked enough bones to show, or intermediates that clearly would not meet intermediary criteria.  They claimed multiple fossil forests on one site, when evidence showed that multiple layers could easily be laid at one time in about two or five years, through water sorting of volcano blasted trees (as in Mt. St. Helen's).  They claimed slow gradual erosion, such as in Grand Canyon, when it is much more likely geophysically, that most of it was eroded quickly.  There are more examples, and I'm sure more examples will show up in the future, as science discovers evidence.  

John, we can certainly agree that science, especially evolutionary science, is fraught with errors. Yes, somethimes vestigal organs can have functions.

I'm not sure of your claim that the similarity of human DNA and chimps is now at 95% could you please supply the reference for this claim?

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History reports:

While the genetic difference between individual humans today is minuscule – about 0.1%, on average – study of the same aspects of the chimpanzee genome indicates a difference of about 1.2%. The bonobo (Pan paniscus), which is the close cousin of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), differs from humans to the same degree. The DNA difference with gorillas, another of the African apes, is about 1.6%. Most importantly, chimpanzees, bonobos, andhumans all show this same amount of difference from gorillas. A difference of 3.1% distinguishes us and the African apes from the Asian great ape, the orangutan.

So, take your choice.  According to this famous insitution it's a 1.5% - 2.0% difference between humans and the DNA genome of your choice. 

Jake


Jake, if you check this explanation by Dr. David DeWitt, you will see how different methods result in finding different numbers for differences.   ( answersingenesis.org/genetics/dna-similarities/greater-than-98-chimphuman-dna-similarity-not-any-more) This explanation is from 2003, so already a bit old.  "If 5% of the DNA is different, this amounts to 150,000,000 DNA base pairs that are different between them."    A 1.5% difference would still amount to 45 million base pairs different.

creation.com/human-chimp-dna-similarity-re-evaluated

It names six studies done on this topic from 2002 to 2005, and gives the number of bases studied in each study, as well as reported dna similarity, and the expected similarity based on the data presented.  What is interesting is how what is reported as similar is not what the data shows.  For example, Ebersberger 2002 analyzed 3 million bases and showed 1.9 million alligned, and yet reported a 98.8% similarity, though a 65% similarity was actually demonstrated.   The Tompkins and Berman report shows how high similarities are achieved due to a bias and a selection criteria that eliminates the majority of non-alligned bases.  The conclusion of this report is that there is actually about an 80% similarity. 

 

 

Jake, in reply to your comment about vestigial organs... you do realize that to say that vestigial organs can have functions is incorrect?  A vestigial organ is vestigial because it has no function.  Once it has a function, it is no longer a vestigial organ.  So the theory made an incorrect assumption, not only because it didn't understand the function of the organ, but because its evolutionary assumptions were incorrect.  In other words, we could more reasonably assume that everything has a function, even if we don't know what that function is.  We would assume that there is no such thing as a vestigial organ (a useless organ).  Just because we can live without a hand or a foot, does not mean that a hand or a foot is a vestigial body part.  So also with the appendix or the small bones in the whale belly. 

John,

You like to accuse others of logical fallacies (straw man, circular reasoning, etc.),and not always accurately, but you are guilty of some of these yourself. I took a logic course in college about 60 years ago, and still remember a little of it.

This is quite a long list of errors by the "evolutionists", as you so charitably call them, and impossible to respond to in the space available, although some really were errors. Most of us will admit to having made an error or two. Throwing out a bunch of stuff like this is a familiar strategy, a little like throwing sand in an antagonist's eyes. OK. I give up.

No, I'd like to read your response to this. For a long time, paleontologists have claimed that birds descended from reptiles, noting that birds have many reptilian features. Recently, dinosaur fossils have been found with feathers. (See http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/f/feathered_dinosaurs.htm for photos and video.) Lucky prediction, isn't it? The scientists aren't always wrong, and often correct earlier mistakes. The history of the atomic model is an example of a long chain of errors, and we think we have a pretty good picture now, but we can always learn more.

A good example of a corrected error is the Piltdown hoax, which usually gets included in lists like this that attempt to ridicule scientists. The listers almost never point out that the error was corrected by scientists, leaving the impression that it was corrected by the ridiculers, but it was the correction that gave the ridiculers the information that made the ridicule possible. Odd, isn't it?

I completely agree with the statements of this article. I strongly support the belief that God's two books of revelation (special and general) never contradict one another! I believe that science and God's word do not have to disagree, as long as we take God's word into the appropriate context. Written thousands of years ago, to do so for Genesis is quite the challenge. But as long as one understands that the main message of the bible: God's everlasting love for humanity, his position as all-powerful creator and sustainer, and his sending his only son to die for us- then much room for scienctific discovery and innovation remains. 

Pages

X