Today I will return to my series dealing with the many issues related to the creation/evolution debate.  This debate has heated up considerably in recent years and has generated a wide variety of perspectives and concerns within the Christian community.  In the four previous sermons in this series we have reviewed the Genesis creation account and discussed why the issue of evolution and creation is so important to our Christianity and in particular Christian theology. We looked at various perspectives on the six day creation account and the difficulties inherent in these perspectives.

       We looked at atheistic evolution which postulates that the universe and all life forms have come to be through the fortuitous activity of eternally existing atoms.  This view sees no involvement of a supernatural creator/designer. 

       We also looked at what is called progressive creationism and theistic evolution, both of which see the universe and life forms coming into existence through evolutionary processes that were originated by a creator God.  Both these positions see the universe and life forms being millions of years old.

       We looked at the so-called gap theory which postulates that the six day creation is in essence a recreation of an earth that was previously inhabited but because of some catastrophic event became without form and void.

       We looked at young earth creationists who believe the universe is not more than six to ten thousand years old and that all life forms had their beginning in the six day creation account recorded in Genesis.  We looked at radio carbon dating and some of the problems that have been identified with this method. 

       Last time we looked at the issue of star light and how the presence of supernovas (exploding stars) create a series challenge to the young earth perspective. We also discussed in depth the Noachian flood and whether it was local or worldwide and how this flood fits or fails to fit into a young earth perspective.     

       Today I want to continue looking at the dating methods used by science to determine the age of that which is being dated.   We previously looked at radiocarbon dating. This dating method works best on things that were once alive and are now dead. It measures the time elapsed since death of an organism but is limited in scale to no more than about 50,000 to 80,000 years ago.

       In addition to radiocarbon dating there is what is called radiometric dating. Scientists believe the radiometric dating techniques in current use accurately identify the age of the earth as approximately four and one-half billion years old.  Radiometric dating is the process of determining the age of rocks from the decay of their radioactive elements.  This dating method has been in widespread use for over half a century. There are over forty such techniques, each using a different radioactive element or a different way of measuring them.  Scientists claim these radiometric dating techniques agree with each other as a whole and, therefore, present a coherent picture in establishing a very old age for the earth and universe. 

       Rocks are made up of many individual crystals, and each crystal is usually made up of at least several different chemical elements such as iron, magnesium, silicon, etc. Most of the elements in nature are stable and do not change. However, some elements are not completely stable in their natural state. Some of the atoms eventually change from one element to another by a process called radioactive decay. Atoms of the original element called the parent element decay to atoms of another element called the daughter element at a predictable rate. The passage of time can be charted by the reduction in the number of parent atoms, and the increase in the number of daughter atoms.

       Now this is a very complicated process and I won’t bore you with the details.  If you are interested in the details, you can go to my website and Part Three of my 15 part series on evolution and creation where I discuss the details of this process and the pros and cons of this method of measuring the age of rocks. In the sermon today I want to provide a brief overview of how this method is used to date rocks and how this relates to the dating of fossils. 

       The earth’s crust is largely made up of igneous rock which is cooled-downed liquid rock called magma or lava.  Overlaying much of igneous rock is sedimentary rock.  Sedimentary rock is made from the accumulation of various sized particles of various types of rock.  This rock is usually laid down in layers called strata as a result of the action of water.  Radioactive minerals that are found in sedimentary rock are derived from the weathering of igneous rock particles found in the sedimentary strata.   Radiometric dating of such particles found in sedimentary rock does not date the sedimentary rock as such but only the bits of igneous rock found in the sedimentary rock.  

       Fossils are largely the mineralization of once existing organic material that contains carbon, including carbon-14. As previously discussed, carbon-14 dating is used to date fossils  Another way fossils are dated is to use radiometric dating information on igneous rocks found below, above and mixed in with the particles that make up sedimentary rocks.  By determining the age of such igneous rock found above, below and within sedimentary rock deposits, it is felt a reasonably accurate age can be determined for the fossils, especially when compared to the carbon 14 dating of such fossils.   

      How were the strata formed?   Classical evolutionists, along with progressive creationists and theistic evolutionists, believe sedimentary strata has been gradually laid down over millions of years due to uniformitarian processes involving the action of water and other natural events such as volcano’s and earthquakes. Living organisms, including plant life, are believed to have slowly developed during these same long periods of time and some of their remains were trapped in developing sedimentary rock due to floods, volcanoes, earthquakes or just plain settling of sediment occurring over these long periods of time.  

       Evolutionary geologists see much strata being laid down vertically in horizontal layers, one layer at a time, due to slow sorting and settling of sediment contained in slow moving water. Because of the great amount of strata found on the earth, including such geologic wonders as the Grand Canyon, it is believed that it has taken millions of years for these strata to develop.   

      Because it is believed much strata has been laid down horizontally, one layer upon another in a slow methodical fashion over millions of years, younger strata are believed to overlay older strata with the oldest strata being lower in the geological column and more recently formed strata being found at the top of the column. Both evolutionary geologists and old earth creationist geologists believe the strata have been laid down over millions of years.

       For young earth creationists, the Noachian flood is seen as providing the right conditions for the development of the stratification of sedimentary rock seen throughout the world.  Young earth creationists believed the strata we see around the world was largely laid down as a result of the Noachian flood and not over millions of years of gradual disposition of strata. Young earth creationists point to the work of French sedimentologist Guy Berthault who has demonstrated in the laboratory how strata can develop vertically to produce horizontal layers in a very short period of time.

       Therefore, horizontal layers can be all the same age and not thousands or millions of years apart in age as claimed by evolutionary geologists. Berthault produced different currents of water running over and through particles of sediment in a tank designed for his experiments.  What he observed is that the action of moving water over and through sediment moved the sediment sideways producing vertical layers of horizontal sediment and stratified according to the density of the particles.

       What these experiments show is that multiple horizontal levels of sedimentary rock can form rapidly and simultaneously, due to a current of water pushing and shorting particles along an upward vertical path.  This same mechanism is seen at work along shorelines around the world.  In an experiment in Queensland Australia, a sand slurry made up of 30% sand and 70% water, was pumped at a rate of 100.000 gallons per minute. This resulted in the disposition of layers of material four to five feet high and the width of a football field in a very short period of time.

       For many young earth creationists, this research tells them that the strata containing fossils could have been formed over much shorter periods of time than postulated by atheistic evolutionists and old earth creationists. To the young age creationist, this shorter period of time could very easily be the past six to ten thousand years with much of the geologic stratification that is seen caused by the catastrophic action of the Noachian flood.

       Young earth creationists point to the expulsion of Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington in 1980 as an example of how a catastrophic event can change the topography of the land in a very short time.  On May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted and in eight minutes 230 square miles of forest was destroyed.  In nine hours the top quarter and entire center of the mountain disappeared, leaving a vast, horseshoe shaped hole.  Two hundred and fifty feet of material was deposited in Spirit Lake located near the base of the mountain.  In short time canyons were formed by the rapid flow of volcanic ash and hot mud.

       In the months and years following this explosion, thousands of upright trees could  be seen at all different levels of developing layers of sediment in Spirit Lake. If Spirit Lake were to recede and the sediment dry out and become layered sedimentary rock, an evolutionary geologist, who wasn’t aware of the Mt. St. Helens event, could look at the upright trees at different horizontal levels and conclude that such stratification was the result of millions of years of uniformitarian development when in fact such stratification of sedimentary deposits had developed in a short number of years due to the catastrophic explosion of Mt. St. Helens.

       Young earth creationists believe such rapid change as produced by the Mt. St. Helens volcano and the findings of the Berthault experiments, have significant ramifications relative to the dating of sedimentary rock and the fossils found in such rock. If flow of water can form a vertical buildup of horizontal stratification of sediment in a short period of time, then such layers of sedimentary stratification would be all the same age.  If the strata are the same age, then the fossils found within such strata would also be the same age.  This is seen as having serious implications relative to the validity of the geologic column and the dating methods used to establish long time frames for the development of organic material and the strata in which such organic material is found.

Evolutionist response:

      Evolutionists counter that there are many places in the world where strata appear to have been laid down under undisturbed conditions with no evidence of catastrophism. Even where strata is found turned upside down from its presumed vertical order of older at the bottom to younger at the top, such strata is seen with the exact reverse order of oldest layers on top and youngest layers on the bottom. 

       Such upside down strata is believed to result from land being  "faulted" or "bent" as a result of volcano’s, earthquakes and other disturbances. Evolutionists point out that such reversed strata still remain in the assumed relative order, only in reverse and such cases of "out of order strata" are not found in large flat undisturbed basins, as many deep core drilling's of regions round the world have demonstrated.  It is further pointed out that even where the geologic order is interrupted, the relative layers remain the same as originally predicted by the geologic column.

       Evolutionists point out that you can’t necessarily equate the sudden creation of canyons and sediment by the rapid flow of volcanic material with the creation of the Grand Canyon and other canyons that have been formed by the erosion of sedimentary rock made up of limestone, sandstone, and shale.  They point out that many of the sedimentary strata in and around the Grand Canyon contain the tracks of animals. The red Kayenta formation, near Glen Canyon Dam, contains the tracks of dinosaurs. Evolutionists ask young earth creationists why animals would have been walking around at various strata levels if indeed these strata were all laid down at the same time due to a catastrophic event such as the Noachian flood.

       While evolutionists acknowledge the work of Berthault as contributing to our understanding of how strata can form, they reject the idea that it has to form in this manner.  Evolutionists point to Lake Suigetsu in Japan which has had many of its 45 thousand layers individually carbon-dated, and each layer, as you go from top to bottom, was found to be older than the one above by approximately one year, going back 45 thousand years.  It is discoveries such as this that evolutionary geologists feel provide strong evidence for taking a more uniformitarian approach to establishing the age of the earth

       Evolutionists point out that they do not reject catastrophism as occurring and being responsible for some of the geologic record.  They do not, however, see such catastrophism as pointing to a young earth as this flies in the face of what they consider proven dating methods that show an old earth and the gradual development of life forms.

       Young earth creationists believe the strata and their fossils are the result of a worldwide flood at the time of Noah. Old earth creationists believe various catastrophic events over millions of years have created the geologic record and do not believe the Noachian flood is solely responsible for the sedimentary strata and their fossils. Old earth creationists and atheistic evolutionists believe the worldwide distribution of millions of fossils in sedimentary rock strata result from multiple thousands of species that have gradually evolved over millions of years of incremental uniformitarian development.  

      As covered previously in this series, fossils can only be formed by the rapid entrapment in sedimentary rock before such living organisms disintegrate.  When examining the geologic record and how fossils and sedimentary rock are made, the evidence indicates that it is flood waters that are largely responsible for the creation of the sedimentary rock strata and the disposition of fossils found in such rock. Is the presence of the massive amount of fossil containing rock found around the world the result of the Noachian flood or are we to look for other reasons for this phenomenon

       Young earth creationists believe the creation as described in Genesis 1 occurred between 6 and 10 thousand years ago and was indeed the beginning of the earth and all biological life forms.  If the Noachian flood was around 2000 BC as believed, the variety of life forms that make up the fossil record would have all had to develop from 2 to 6 thousand years before the flood.  All evidence to date indicates a much longer period of development of biological organisms which would mean the Noachian flood, while certainly producing disposition of fossil material, would not have been the sole cause of the disposition of fossils found in sedimentary rock.  

       As briefly covered in a past sermon in this series, some creationists believe there was a pre-Adamic creation which met with destruction before the Adamic creation.  This pre-Adamic creation is believed to have contained the many species of organisms found in the fossil record.  Since the Genesis creation account speaks of water covering the earth, it is believed there may have been a pre-Adamic worldwide flood that resulted in much of the geologic and fossil record we see today. Those who believe in this approach generally believe the Noachian flood was worldwide but not of a magnitude that would have caused the geologic record as we see it. 

       Origen, one of the early church leaders, who lived from 186 to about 254 AD, said this about Genesis 1:1, “It is certain that the present firmament is not spoken of in this verse, nor the present dry land, but rather that heaven and earth from which this present heaven and earth that we now see afterwards borrowed their names."  Origen apparently believed that the heaven and earth spoken of in Genesis 1:1 was different from the heaven and earth extant during his time.

       A number of other writers, including some Hebrew scholars, have viewed Genesis 1:1 to be a creation that took place prior to the six day creation recorded in Genesis 1:3 and going forward.    

       It is interesting that some recent translations of Genesis 1:1-3 indicate that creation was a process and thus allow for such creation to have occurred over a long period of time.  The 1985 Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation renders Genesis 1:1-3 this way:  "When God began to create heaven and earth—the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water—God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light."       

       While there are areas on the earth where it appears strata has been laid down gradually over a number of years, the vast majority of strata appears to have been laid down abruptly in a short period of time.  As previously pointed out, the presence of fossils in the strata is random.  They do not follow any lower to higher progression of complexity which evolution requires.  Fossils appear to have been quite suddenly deposited in the strata.

       The fact that fossils of animals and plants normally found in warm climates are found in strata in the Arctic Circle and Antarctica indicates that at one time the climate of the earth was quite different from what it is today.  This suggests that some catastrophic event or events in earth’s history has altered the earth’s atmosphere.  As previously covered, some young earth creationists believe a water vapor canopy once covered the earth resulting in a greenhouse effect that made the earth much warmer.  It is believed the Noachian flood destroyed this canopy which led to the climate zones we see today.  This idea, however, has met with criticism from both evolutionists and creationists.

       Yet the evidence shows the earth once had a different climatic arrangement.  Something happened in earth’s history to change our climate.  We briefly discussed the hydroplate theory which solely attributes the Noachian flood to the release of subterranean waters.  The research behind this theory is rather extensive and offers interesting possibilities.  The hydroplate theory could also be applied to a pre-Adamic flood and therefore used to support the “gap theory.” I won’t discuss the hydroplate theory in this series of sermons but if interested you will find this theory explained in my website series on evolution and creation.        

       As to the dating methods used to arrive at the age of fossils and rocks, these methods have been shown to be suspect. However, such methods can be quite complicated and we need to be very careful in evaluating these methods and arriving at conclusions as to the validity or non-validity of the results they purport to show. 

       Overall, the evidence appears very strong for the geologic record being the result of a catastrophic flood or floods rather than a slow uniform disposition of sedimentary strata over millions of years as evolutionists teach.  Whether such flood was solely the Noachian deluge, solely a pre-Adamic flood, or recurring floods over an unknown period of time remains to be determined.

        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 underlay's 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 intact 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 intermediate life forms where one species can be seen as transitioning to another species. Therefore, it is believed by some that there is no geological evidence to support the evolutionist perspective that there has been gradual development of simple to complex. 

       One thing that appears problematical for evolutionists is that there are no indisputable transitional life forms in the fossil record. By transitional forms, are meant intermediate forms of life appearing in the fossil record that are "in-between" existing types of organisms found today or in the past.  If slow, gradual evolution occurred, you would expect to observe a continuum of change in the fossil record. If life took millions of years to arrive at its present state of development, the earth should be filled with fossil forms showing minor changes as species were evolving.

       Instead, when fossils are examined, they are found to be fully developed organisms.  The fossil record shows a rather sudden entrapment of millions of fully developed organisms due to some catastrophic event that appears to be related to the action of a flood.  The fossil record provides no evidence of gradual (intermediate stage) transition of one species into another.

        Evolutionists argue there are millions of intermediate forms of life that illustrate an evolutionary transition.  All organisms are seen as being in transition.  Therefore, a transitional form is a selected form that represents a particular evolutionary intermediate stage in the development of living organisms in general. Contemporary transitional forms are called "living fossils."  However, to arbitrarily select organisms and claim they are transitional stages in an overall progression of evolutionary development is to assume the thing to be proved.  This appears to be a real stretch.

        Next week we will look at the so called geologic column and also begin to look at the different dynamics that pertain to the origination and development of life forms.