WELCOME TO THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

 

THE CREATION VERSUS EVOLUTION CONTROVERSY: PART TWO

 

HOW OLD IS THE EARTH?

        Determining the age of the earth is a critical dynamic to both evolutionists and creationists. Evolutionists believe the earth is millions of years old and has come to where it is today as a result of gradual geological and biological development without supernatural involvement. Creationists believe God has facilitated geological and biological development but are divided as to how He has accomplished this and how long this has taken.

UNIFORMITARANISM: (OLD EARTH AGE)

        Evolutionists believe the universe, earth and all life have developed from slow, gradual, uniform natural processes that began with the Big Bang.  It is believed these uniform processes have been the same throughout history and can be compared with the forces of nature observable today.  When evolutionists look at the fossil record, mountains, oceans, rivers, canyons, coal, oil reserves and all geological and biological activity, it is all viewed from the perspective that everything has developed as a result of the slow and relentless forces of nature operating in a uniform way over millions of years.  This perspective is felt to be supported by dating methods that show the earth and living organisms to be millions of years old.

 CATASTROPHISM: (OLD EARTH AGE)

        Like evolutionists, some creationists also believe the universe; earth and life are millions of years old but, unlike evolutionists, believe God has orchestrated their development. They see the geological record as demonstrating millions of years of geologic and biological development but also see in the geologic record evidence of catastrophic events that have greatly altered the makeup of the earth over the millions of years it has existed. Creationists, who take this view, believe the dating methods established by science provide acceptable evidence for an old earth but also believe an old earth view can be harmonized with the Genesis account of creation.

 PROGRESSIVE CREATIONISM:

        As mentioned near the end of part one of this series, progressive creationists view the Big Bang as a valid explanation of how the universe came to be. They believe God created space and time along with energy and matter through the Big Bang and thereby established the processes that have led to millions of years of geologic and biologic development.

        Progressive creationists reject biological evolution, however. They feel the fossil record does not show transitional stages of development but instead shows completed development of millions of livings organisms which they believe date back millions of years. It is believed these living organisms were created during six epochs of time represented by the six-day creation account in Genesis. The first two verses of Genesis are seen to reflect a developing physical universe and earth that began with the Big Bang.

        Genesis 1:1-2:  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (KJV).

        Seeing the six-day creation account as six epochs of time covering multiple thousands and perhaps millions of years is sometimes referred to as the “day-age” theory. Progressive creationists point out that the Hebrew word yom, translated day in the six day creation account, can mean an extended period of time and is used in other Old Testament passages in this manner.

        The “days” of creation which follow Genesis 1:1-2, are seen as beginning the progressive creation of life forms culminating in the creation of man many thousands of years into this process. It is believed these are the life forms found in the fossil record and the fossil record results from various cataclysmic events that occurred over millions of years subsequent to the creation of life forms. The Genesis flood is not seen as one of these cataclysmic events but rather as a local event affecting the Middle East.  It is believed this overall approach harmonizes science and religion and is the best explanation of the various discoveries in the fields of geology and paleontology that indicate an old earth.  This approach to origins is elucidated in the book, The Genesis Question, by Hugh Ross, www.reasons.org.

         Critics of this approach believe it to be incompatible with the “days” of creation described as “evening and the morning” time frames.  It is felt this designation of days within the framework of evening and morning clearly show the days of the Genesis creation account to be twenty-four hour periods as we know them.  Even though the seventh day of the creation week is not described in this manner, it is still believed to be a twenty-four hour period. The six-day time frame is used as the template for establishing the Sabbath. The seventh-day Sabbath is established in relation to the first six days of the creation week. Since the Sabbath is seen in the context of working six days and resting on the seventh day, the creation is seen as occurring in a six-day time frame. Some feel the passage in Exodus 20 establishing the seventh-day rest period in contrast to six days of work is strong evidence for taking a literal approach to defining the six-day creation period as six twenty-four periods.

        Exodus: 20: 9-11: Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (NIV).

 THE GAP THEORY:

        A second approach to understanding the Genesis creation account within the context of an ‘Old Earth” is to view Genesis 1:1, as referring to a period millions of years ago when God created a perfect universe. This creation included a beautiful earth with plants and animals and even proto types of man.

        Verse two is seen as the aftermath of a cataclysmic event that resulted in the earth becoming formless and void. This event is associated with a rebellion of Satan and a third of the angels who are believed to have inhabited the earth before the six-day creation. Their rebellion is seen as resulting in war between God and the forces of rebellion which resulted in much destruction to the earth and its solar system. After an unknown period of time, God is seen, in a literal six days, restoring the earth to its previous condition.  This restoration involves the separation of water and land, the clearing of the atmosphere to reveal the heavenly bodies, the reintroduction of life forms and the creation of man. Thus a great gap of time is inserted between Genesis 1:1 and what is considered a “recreation” during the six days beginning with verse three. Contrary to progressive creationists, who see the fossil record being formed during the period covered by events beginning with Genesis 1:3, those taking the gap approach see the fossil record forming during the “original” creation of Genesis 1:1.

        Those who hold to this position believe Genesis 1:2 should read: “And the earth became without form and void” rather than “was without form and void.”  The Hebrew word translated “was” is hayah.  This Hebrew word appears 4,900 times in the Old Testament and is translated “was” 98% of the time.  Some feel this word can only be translated as “became” when followed by the preposition le  which is not the case in Genesis 1:2.  An example of hayah with the preposition le is Genesis 2:7 where it’s recorded, “and the man became a living being” (NIV). Some scholars, however, feel hayah could be translated “became” in Genesis 1:2, despite it lacking the preposition el. This conclusion is based on the determination that the verb hayah has a basic notion of becoming, emerging or coming into being. 

        Those who take the gap approach point out that Isaiah uses the same Hebrew word translated “without form” in Genesis 1:2 to say God did not create the earth “empty.”

        Isaiah 45:18:  For this is what the LORD says-- he, who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited-- he says: "I am the LORD, and there is no other (NIV).

        It is felt that if God did not create the earth empty (without form), it must have become that way sometime subsequent to its creation.  Critics of this interpretation of Isaiah respond that Isaiah is simply saying God did not create the earth to be empty but to be inhabited. This doesn’t preclude it being empty (without form) when it was first created or in the process of developing after the Big Bang as progressive creationists contend. Young earth critics of the gap approach believe it is nothing more than a reaction to scientific findings that appear to provide evidence for an old earth. 

        In response to such criticism, those holding to the gap position point out that the gap theory has been taught prior to current day geological discovery.  They cite the The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge ,where the Dutch scholar Simon Epíscopius (1583-1643) taught that the earth had originally been created before the six days of creation described in Genesis (1952, Vol. 3, p.302). This was roughly 200 years before geology discovered “evidence” for the ancient origin of earth.
      
       Those who hold to the gap approach will cite Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:12-19 as evidence for Satan having once lived on the earth with access to Gods abode in the heavens but loosing his position of authority because of pride and rebellion against God. God then casts Satan to the earth which resulted in a great galactic battle that resulted in the earth and our solar system becoming damaged.   Both Isaiah and Ezekiel begin by describing the demise of specific human rulers but appear to insert descriptions of the demise of a supernatural ruler into the narrative as well.  Those who teach the gap approach believe these passages speak of God’s judgement upon Satan and his allies (the fallen angles) for their rebellion which led to the temporary destruction of the earth and its solar system. A scholarly examination of the gap theory can be found at www.custance.org by clicking “The Books” and scrolling down to “Without Form and Void”   

       Critics point out that neither Isaiah nor Ezekiel say anything about a battle between God and Satan or the destruction of the earth occurring because of a presumed rebellion of Satan.  Such conclusions are felt to be very speculative and unsupported by any hard evidence. The context in Isaiah is clearly addressing the King of Babylon and the context in Ezekiel is clearly addressing the King of Tyre.  It is pointed out that scriptural writers often use rhetorical exaggeration (hyperbole) in describing events. It is felt that it is exactly such hyperbole that is being used here in describing the attributes of human rulers who are shown as having once held positions of prominence but are now  being brought down to nothing. The context of these two chapters clearly relate to earthly kings.
  

 CATASTROPHISM: (YOUNG EARTH AGE)

        This approach sees the universe, earth and life being created by God in a six day time frame as described in Genesis chapter one.  This approach believes the fossil record was established during the catastrophic events associated with the Noachian flood.  This approach believes the dating methods used by paleontologists to teach a very old earth and universe are based on many uniformitarian assumptions which do not hold up when compared with a geologic record that reflects catastrophic events rather than a uniform development.  Those who take the “Young Earth” approach, point out that the geologic record shows billions of fossils which are the remains or casts of remains of plants and animals that suddenly died.  To become fossilized, a plant or animal must be buried quickly.  Fossilization is not occurring today as it requires sudden death, sudden burial and great pressure all occurring at the same time. 

        Fossils are only found in sedimentary rock and not in the granite that underlays it. Virtual “graveyards” of dinosaur bones have been found at various locations showing sudden death and burial. Animals thought to be lower on the evolutionary chain are mixed together with animals higher up on the chain. Both marine and land dwelling fossils have been found to have undigested food still in their intestinal tract. Both marine and land life are found clearly out of their natural habitat in the fossil record.  Trees and other plant life are found fully fossilized, sometimes straight up, sometime upside down and at various other positions in the strata.  Such plants would have decomposed under normal conditions. 

        All this tells the Young Earth creationist that a catastrophic event of major proportions occurred which resulted in the kind of geologic record that has been discovered.  The Genesis flood is seen as that event.  Evolutionists and even some other creationists, as shown above, counter by saying the fossil record has been shown to be much older than the Genesis flood which is believed by Young Earth advocates to have occurred around 2348 B.C.  Young Earth advocates, however, believe the dating methods of evolutionists have been shown to be highly flawed. There are presently several dozen dating methods used to determine the age of fossils, and artifacts of all kinds.  Young Earth advocates point out that all such dating methods base their accuracy on certain assumptions about the environment. Young Earth proponents believe these assumptions to be speculative and problematical. One major method is called carbon-14 or radiocarbon dating. 

       The heart of the age-of-the-earth debate is radiometric dating. Radiocarbon dating, which is probably best known by the general public, works best on things that were once alive and are now dead. It measures the time elapsed since death, but is limited in scale to no more than about 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Other methods, such as Uranium/Lead, Potassium/Argon, Argon/Argon and others, are able to measure much longer time periods, and are not restricted to things that were once alive. Generally applied to igneous rocks, which are rocks of volcanic origin, they measure the time since the molten rock solidified.

 RADIOCARBON DATING:

        Cosmic rays that enter our atmosphere from outer space strike the earth and transform nitrogen (nitrogen 14) to carbon of which some is radioactive carbon (carbon14).  Carbon combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide.  This carbon dioxide, containing carbon 14, diffuses throughout the atmosphere and is absorbed by living organisms. After forming, carbon 14 begins to decay and has a half-life of about 5730 years. At the death of an organism, the carbon 14 continues to decay.  Analysis of the carbon 14 with a Geiger counter can determine the amount of carbon molecules still present in the organism and therefore determine the age of the organism.

        The assumptions that have to be made with radiocarbon dating is that cosmic rays from outer space have always reached the earth in the same amounts and therefore have produced the same amount of carbon from consistently uniform amounts of nitrogen.  Since the geological record indicates one or more catastrophic events rather than the uniform flow of events, as evolutionists believe, it is believed such catastrophism could have greatly altered the degree of cosmic radiation, levels of nitrogen and subsequent levels of carbon 14. See www.scienceagainstevolution.org/v10i10f.htm for an in-depth discussion of the problems associated with using carbon 14  dating to establish the age of organic material.

        Some young earth creationists believe that a water-vapor canopy covered planet earth prior to the Genesis flood.  This belief is based on both Biblical and geological considerations. In the six-day creation account in Genesis, God is seen as creating a separation between waters above and waters below the separation.

        Genesis 1:6-8: And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day.

        Young earth creationists believe a water-vapor canopy would have resulted in a more uniform temperature throughout the earth.  The geological record shows fossils of plants and animals found in Arctic rocks are essentially the same as those found at lower latitudes.  Large coal deposits and petrified wood have been found in Antarctica.  Coal is formed from compressed vegetation, primarily trees. A 1978 U.S. Geological Survey Report shows that Alaska once teemed with tropical plants. On Canadian islands, within the Artic Circle, are buried forests of trees with root structures that show they grew in the area where they were suddenly buried. A good deal of oil is found in the Artic circle. The geological record definitely suggests a more uniform climate, and/or a different distribution of climate on the earth in the past than is the case today.

        Creationists who subscribe to the canopy view point out that a water-vapor canopy would have negatively affected the level of cosmic rays entering the atmosphere and therefore the levels of carbon-14 being created before the flood would have been considerably less.  The Genesis flood account speaks of the floodgates of the heavens being opened. It is believed the flood removed the canopy of water which took away the greenhouse effect such canopy would have had in maintaining a uniform climate.  The removal of the canopy would also allow greater cosmic radiation and the production of more carbon-14 than was previously the case. This production of carbon-14 would have gradually increased as the atmosphere cleared of volcanic debris which it is felt prevailed after the flood due to a great deal of volcanic activity connected with the flood.  It is believed that plants, animals and humans living before the flood and for a time after the flood would have received much less carbon-14 than is true today.  Since radiocarbon dating is based on present levels of carbon-14, this would make earlier life forms appear much older than they actually are.

        Young earth creationists believe that problems identified with radiocarbon dating demonstrate its lack of accuracy.  For example, mortar from Oxford Castle in England was dated by radiocarbon as 7,370 years old. Yet the castle is less than 800 years old. Mortar samples can be given normal carbon-14 tests since mortar absorbs carbon -14 containing carbon dioxide from the air.  Wood cut from a living, growing tree that had been dead for just a few days, was dated as having died 10,000 years ago.  Living snails had their shells radiocarbon dated and were found to have “died” as much as 2,300 years ago.

        Because of such radical discrepancies in radio carbon dating and numerous other problems identified with this method, many creationists believe this method of dating is highly unreliable and cannot be used as evidence for an Old Earth as evolutionists claim. A number of other dating methods such as uranium-lead dating, amino acid decomposition dating and racemization dating, have all been shown to have serious problems that make their accuracy suspect. 

 CRITICISMS OF THE CANOPY THEORY:

        Not all young earth creationists ascribe to the idea of a canopy of water surrounding the earth before the flood.  Some believe such a canopy would have created too much of a green house effect resulting in too hot a climate for life to flourish. It is felt a vapor canopy would rapidly diffuse through the atmosphere. Once the vapor contacted the earth’s surface, it would condense. A liquid canopy would quickly evaporate and then diffuse through the atmosphere. Neither type of canopy could have survived for the many centuries before the flood.

        It is pointed out that ozone in the earth’s upper atmosphere blocks the Sun’s destructive ultraviolet light, but a canopy surrounding the atmosphere would not be protected from ultraviolet light. Therefore, water in the canopy would dissociate into hydrogen and oxygen, effectively destroying that canopy.

        It is also pointed out that the earth revolves around the sun once a year creating seasons.  At both the Artic and the Antarctic, the sun shines only six months out of the year and when it does shine it is low in the sky.  It is felt a canopy would have further inhibited what little sunlight there is and such conditions would not allow for growth of the massive amounts of tropical vegetation necessary to produce the large coal deposits seen in Antarctica.   It is felt by some that the flood created the disposition of great amounts of vegetation and dead animals at the poles thus accounting for the fossil record and the presence of coal. Others postulate that the earths poles where different before the flood and the area of the present poles was tropical in climate at one time which accounts for the fossil record in these areas showing an abundance of living organisms having once lived in these regions. 

        Some creationists, who reject the canopy theory, believe when Genesis 1: 6-8, speaks of an expanse separating the waters from the waters, the writer is actually recording that the waters on the earth were separated from subterranean  waters below earth. The Hebrew word translated “expanse” in Genesis 1:6–8 is raqia.  It is translated “firmament” in the King James translation and “expanse” in most Hebrew dictionaries and modern translations. While its original meaning is uncertain, its root, raqa , means to spread out or to beat out as one would a malleable metal. It can also mean “plate.” The Greek Septuagint translated raqia 16 out of 17 times with the Greek word stereoma ,  which means “a firm or solid structure.” The Latin Vulgate used the Latin term “firmamentum,” which also denotes solidness and firmness. It would appear the King James translators coined the word “firmament.” Today, “firmament” is usually used to mean sky, atmosphere, or heavens. In modern Hebrew, raqia means sky or heavens. However, originally it could have meant something solid or firm that was spread out.

        Creationists who hold to this position believe the flood was largely caused by waters that spewed forth from subterranean deposits below the spread out (“expanse”) solid crust of the earth.  This water lifted into the atmosphere as gigantic geysers that came down as torrential rains. This release of multiple billions of gallons of water into the atmosphere and upon the earth created tremendous change in the geology of the earth and also changed the earth’s axis and rotation from what it had been.  This is believed to account for the fossil record showing living organisms in places where such organisms could not survive within the present polar axis of the earth.

         This approach is referred to as the hydroplate theory and is expounded in great detail in the book, In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood, by Walt Brown, www.creationscience.com. The hydroplate theory, as well as other interpretations of the Genesis flood and its relationship to the age of the earth, will be discussed in more detail later in this series.

       Both the canopy and hydroplate theory are attempts to explain geological formation and how the fossil record came to be within the framework of the Noachian flood.  These theories see the age of fossilized organic material as being much younger than the ages determined by carbon-14 and other dating methods used by evolutionists

 THE FOSSIL RECORD:

        Evolutionists believe the fossil record supports their view of an old earth and the gradual development of life forms.  They believe that the finding of simple life forms in the lowest levels of  sedimentary rock strata with gradual progression to more complex life forms in higher levels of rock show a progressive development of life.

        Creationists point out that both simple and advanced life forms are found throughout the geologic rock strata.  Simple life forms are often found to have structures as complex, or more complex, than the higher life forms found in the higher strata. Evolution requires transitional life forms to be present in the geological record. Evolutionists claim transitional forms exist as seen in the gradual development of species over long periods of time.  For example, the horse is seen as progressing from a very small animal having several toes to the horse we see today having one toe called a hoof.

       Creationists see this as the adaptation of a created species to environmental changes and not the transition from one species to another.  This micro evolution within species is recognized by creationists. What is denied by creationists is macro evolution which is the transition of one species into another.  It is believed that of all the multiple millions of fossils that have been found and cataloged, all show a completed development with no evidence of one species gradually turning into another species.

        What the geological record shows is millions of life forms suddenly being killed and buried alive in strata of sedimentary rock throughout the world.  Such life forms are found at all sedimentary strata levels including the highest mountains. Fossils are not found in the granite rock that under lays sedimentary and other types of rock formations.  While some of these life forms are now extinct, many are the same as life forms living on the earth today.

        As previously stated, for a dead organism to become a fossil it has to be preserved very quickly. Plant and animal organisms will deteriorate rather quickly once dead.  Yet many fossils are preserved very much in tact and even found with undigested food in their intestinal tract, thus showing very rapidly occurring burial.  Millions of fish have been found fossilized in a state of agony with no apparent threat from a predator. There are thousands of examples of this rapid burial.  In Texas, large amounts of fossilized clams have been found with their shells closed.  When a clam dies, its shell opens.  These clams were apparently buried alive. 

        The fossil record clearly shows a rapid burial of life forms at some point in earth’s history. The fossil record does not show transitional life forms.  There is no evidence of intermedate life forms where one species can be seen as transitioning to another species. Therefore, creationists believe there is no geological evidence to support the evolutionist perspective that there has been gradual development of simple to complex.  This is felt by creationists to be devastating to evolutionary theory. For additional information on the fossil record and many other aspects of the evolution/creation controversy, please go to www.evolution-facts.org.

        In our next installment in this series, we will discuss other dating methods used in determining the age of rocks and fossils.

PART THREE