Before going on, I want to make it clear that I will not be arguing in this series that evolution doesn't occur.  Evolution, as a mechanism whereby various life forms came and come to be, is a demonstrated fact. There are multiple millions of differing plants and animals extant on planet earth. There are millions more that have previously inhabited the earth and have become extinct. These differing life forms weren't all created during the six days of creation week. Various dynamics of evolution such as natural selection working on random variation, genetic mutation, phenotypic plasticity and hybridization have played a vital role and continue to play a vital role in the development of the tremendous variety of different life forms historically and presently seen on our planet.

       My focus in this series will not be on whether evolution occurs but on examining how and to what extent it occurs and what role the supernatural plays in this process. I will largely be focusing on origins. What dynamics are involved with the origin of the universe and the origin of life? 

       With this in mind let’s briefly review the five extant views as to the issue of origins. Four of these views teach that the universe, the earth and life forms go back millions of years. These views can be characterized as “Old earth views.”  These views accept what is considered undeniable scientific evidence that the origin of the universe and life forms goes back multiple millions of years.

       Classical, or what can easily be called atheistic evolution, attempts to explain origins devoid of supernatural involvement. They believe all things have come to be over millions of years of fortuitous, purposeless evolutionary processes. Atheistic evolutionists view the Genesis creation account as having no merit whatsoever.

       Theistic evolutionists believe a supernatural being created the universe and all life forms through evolutionary processes going back millions of years. The creation of life is seen as occurring over millions of years either through God directed mechanisms of genetic mutation and natural selection or through God ordained random operation of these mechanisms where God started the process and has simply let it fly. Theistic evolutionists generally view the Genesis creation as non-literal.

       Progressive creationists believe the universe was created millions of years ago through the big bang and life forms have been progressively created by God over millions of years of supernatural creative activity. Progressive creationists reject biological evolution on the grounds that transitional life forms are not found in the fossil record. It is unclear as to what progressive creationists believe as to what is called micro-evolution which is evolution that occurs within created kinds or categories.  As discussed last time, progressive creationists view the six day creation account as six epochs of time involving millions of years.

       Gap Theorists believe the universe, including the earth and life forms, were created millions of years ago and due to some catastrophic event the earth became desolate, without form and void as described in Genesis 1:2. Those who embrace this theory believe God restored the earth and reestablished life forms during a literal six day period as described in Genesis 1: 3-31. The six day creation is seen as a literal account of God restoring order and life to an existing planet.

       A fifth view of origins is generally seen as the young earth view.  Young earth creationists believe God created the entire universe including the earth and life forms between six and ten thousand years ago. All this is believed to have taken place in six literal twenty-four hour days as seen in the Genesis account of creation. This approach concludes that all that science has identified as to the earth and life forms being millions of years old is bogus.  Young earth creationists pretty much reject all science that shows a very old earth and life forms and therefore don’t try to harmonize science and the Genesis creation account.  They see the Genesis account of creation as self evident and a standalone account.

       Because it can be shown that Jesus, Paul and other NT writers all appear to view the Genesis creation account as literal history, young earth creationists see no way evolutionary science and the Genesis creation account can be harmonized. Today I want to proceed with our discussion by taking a look at the young earth creationist perspective.

Young earth Creationism:

       Most old earth age evolutionists believe the universe, earth and all life forms 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.  This approach is generally referred to as uniformitarainism.

       When atheistic evolutionists look at the fossil record, mountains, oceans, rivers, canyons, coal and 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 and even billions of years and operating without the necessity of supernatural involvement.  This old earth age perspective is felt to be supported by dating methods that show the earth and living organisms to be millions of years old.

      Young earth age creationists believe the universe, earth and life being were created by God in a literal six day time frame as described in Genesis chapter one.  This approach believes the fossil record and geologic formations came to be as a result not of uniformitarian processes but through the catastrophic events associated with the Noachian flood.  We will discuss the Noachian flood next week. This approach believes the dating methods used by geologists and 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 generally 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 underlay's 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 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 dating method is called carbon-14 or radiocarbon dating. 

Radiocarbon dating:

       At the heart of the age-of-the-earth debate is radiocarbon dating. This dating method 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 80,000 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. For example, when these other methods are applied to igneous rocks, which are rocks of volcanic origin, they measure the time since the molten rock solidified.

       What is 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 (carbon-14).  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 5,730 years which means half of it will decay in that time frame. 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.

       Now certain assumptions have to be made as to carbon-14 dating. One assumption 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 have occurred throughout history rather than the uniform flow of events as most evolutionists believe, creationists believe such catastrophism could have greatly altered the degree of cosmic radiation along with levels of nitrogen and subsequent levels of carbon-14.

       As mentioned, dating organic material using carbon-14 methods is limited to material 50 to 80 thousand years ago. Organic material older than 50,000 years generally has little detectible carbon-14 remaining.  This is where young earth creationists see a series problem with the results obtained using carbon-14 dating.       

       In the late 1970s a new method of measuring carbon-14, called AMS, or Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, was developed. This method involves directly counting the carbon-14 atoms, using a tandem accelerator. When using the AMS method, carbon atoms are first negatively charged. This eliminates most of the interference from nitrogen-14, which is much more common than carbon-14 but does not easily take a negative charge.  In addition, each atom is accelerated by a very high voltage, and several tests can be done to make sure that we are in fact measuring carbon-14 instead of some interfering isobar, or cosmic rays. Theoretically, the machine should have zero machine background, which makes it ideal for attempting to detect carbon-14 in geologically old specimens.

       What is of much interest is that the AMS method has consistently detected at least some carbon-14 in every organic specimen tested, even materials formally tested and concluded to be millions of years old.  Millions of years old materials should not have detectable carbon-14 still in them.  In fact any organic specimen older than 70,000 years should have all their carbon-14 decayed. The fact that the AMS method has detected carbon-14 in every organic specimen it has tested indicates such specimens are much younger than previously believed.

       Since organic material older than 70 years should have no carbon-14 remaining. It is believed by young earth creationists that the discovery of carbon-14 in organic material that has been identified to be millions of years old should place into serious question the conclusions reached by evolutionary scientists as to the age of such material. For example, coal, which is thought to have developed millions of years ago, has been found to have carbon-14. The question asked is how can coal still have carbon-14 if it is millions of years old?

       According to a report in the book, “In the Beginning” by Walter Brown, page 245, eleven sets of human bones previously thought to be very old were dated at about 5000 radiocarbon years or less using the AMS method.  Some believe that if more of supposed evolutionary ancestors of man are tested and are found to contain carbon-14, scientists will be forced to seriously consider that fossils of living organisms are not as old as previously thought.  All research to date using AMS suggests that fossils are younger than previously thought.   

        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 young earth creationists believe this method of dating is highly unreliable and cannot be used as evidence for an old earth as evolutionists claim.  Young earth creationists claim that other dating methods such as uranium/lead dating and amino acid decomposition dating, have been shown to be unreliable as well because of the impact of environmental factors on the materials these dating methods are used on.  

       Evolutionists have responded to these claims of young earth creationists by providing what they consider comprehensive data that explains dating irregularities. Evolutionists point out there are over 70 different dating methods being used and in most cases the data produced by these methods are in agreement as to showing the earth and life forms to be millions of years old.  Old earth agers will point to star light as proof of an old earth and universe.  We will discuss the starlight problem next week.