The Age of the Earth
One of the theories critical to supporting the conclusion that all races came from Adam revolves around the question of the age of the earth. This primarily concerns the position promoted by “Answers In Genesis,” (hereinafter the “young earth creationist” position (This position is inclusive of “Creation Research Society, Creation Science Research Center, The Institute For Creation Research and like organizations and adherents) which maintains that the universe and planet earth is young in age and not hundreds of thousands, millions, or billions of years old.
The position held by “Reasons To Believe,” is that the earth is very old. According to Dr. Hugh Ross, it is 4.59 billion years old. (Dr. Hugh Ross, “The Genesis Question,” (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress Publishing Group, 1998, p. 31)
The implication of the young earth creationist belief, in relation to their conclusion that all races came from Adam, is that there was no possibility for the existence of other “human beings” before the creation of Adam. If the earth was not old, relatively speaking to old age earth advocates, then Adam was the first “human” of all time and, thus all races had to come from Adam and his wife, Eve.
The debate about whether the earth is young of very old is, in itself, made up of many categories of topics. Numerous books and articles have been written on this one subject, including some very technical arguments, which boggle the mind of the average person who is not familiar with the language or concepts of the physical sciences. Though this chapter cannot possibly examine all these topics, it will try to address some of the major ones that seem to be the most determining factors in this debate.
The Meaning of “Day”
Young earth creationists claim that the term translated “day” in the first chapter of Genesis must be taken literally as a twenty-four hour day. God created, they say, the universe, the earth, and everything in it, including Adam, in six twenty-four hour periods. This, of course, would allow for a creation date of about 6,000 years from the present.
“As far as the creation of the universe is concerned, this took place five days earlier than the creation of man ... THESE WERE LITERAL DAYS, not ages of indefinite duration corresponding to the supposed geological ages ... Consequently, the account of earth history as recorded in Genesis fixes the creation of the universe at several thousand, rather than several billion, years ago. The exact date may be as long ago as 10,000 B.C., or as recently as 4000 B.C., with the probabilities (from Biblical considerations, at least) favoring the lower end of this spectrum.” Henry M. Morris and Gary E. Parker, “What Is Creation Science?, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, Inc., 1982), pp. 45-46)
This view is based not only upon the Biblical genealogies and knowledge of the oldest written records of the first Egyptian dynasty, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, Inc., 1982, p. 44) but also on the interpretation of the “days” of the creation account as literal.
Dr. Hugh Ross reviews the Hebrew word yom, from which the English word “day” is translated, in Genesis 1. He points out that when used throughout the Old Testament, yom does not necessarily mean a twenty-four day. It can be used as “a segment of time ... anywhere from weeks to a year to an age to an epoch.” (Dr. Hugh Ross, “Creation and Time,” (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress Publishing Group, 1994) p. 45) In addition to citing Biblical references and examples, (Dr. Hugh Ross, “Creation and Time,” (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress Publishing Group, 1994), Chapter 5) Dr. Ross makes a cogent argument concerning the “seventh day” as evidence that the use of “day” in the creation narrative refers to a long period of time. He ties together Psalm 95:7-11 and Hebrews 4:4-11, contending that the “seventy day” is an epoch or lengthy time period extending to the present. (Dr. Hugh Ross, “Creation and Time,” (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress Publishing Group, 1994), pp. 48-49) He further adds that:
“The fossil record provides further confirmation of an ongoing seventh day, a day of cessation from creative activity. According to the fossils, more and more species of life came into existence through millennia before modern man...
“The creation days of Genesis, if long, provide an explanation. For six days (the fossil records eras) God created new life-forms. After the creation of Adam and Eve, however, God ceased from His work of creating new life-forms (the seventh day), and His rest, or “cessation,” continues to this day.” (Dr. Hugh Ross, “Creation and Time,” (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress Publishing Group, 1994), p. 50)
Dr. Davis Young, Professor of Geology at Calvin College, also makes the argument from Augustine that the “days” of the Genesis chapter one creation account cannot refer to twenty-four hour days as we think of them because the sun and moon were not created until day four. As Dr. Young explains:
“The first three days cannot be treated as ordinary days inasmuch as the sun, in relation to which Earth’s rotation is utilized as a chronometer, was not even yet in existence, at least in respect to its being a time measurer. Not until day four were the heavenly bodies made to serve for signs and seasons and for days and years.” Dr. Davis A. Young, “Christianity and the Age of the Earth,” (Thousand Oaks, CA: Artisan Publishers, 1988, pp. 58-59)
Young earth creationists also attempt to lock in the meaning of the words “evening” and “morning,” translated from the Hebrew words ‘ereb’ and ‘boger,’ as a literal evening and morning of twenty-four hours. However, as Dr. Ross demonstrates, these words can have a “possible metaphoric usage.” (Dr. Hugh Ross, “Creation and Time,” (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress Publishing Group, 1994), 46)
“In other words, evening and morning refer to the beginning and ending components of ‘day,’ however it is used.” Dr. Hugh Ross, “Creation and Time,” (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress Publishing Group, 1994), p. 46)
Depending upon one’s interpretation of “day,” the meaning of “evening” and “morning” must be modified. If the “days of creation” refers to long spans of time, then “evening” and “morning” could mean the beginning and ending of a particular epoch of time. (There is another viewpoint from a few old age earth advocates that suggests that the six days of the creation account punctuated by the words ‘evening’ and ‘morning’ are literal days with literal evenings and mornings. Not that God created the heavens and the earth in literally six days, but that He communicated to Adam for six literal days how He created it all. That would also explains the use of the terms ‘evenings’ and ‘mornings’ before the creation of the sun and moon, for example: Yet, it would not contradict the evidence form the physical sciences of an old age earth. E. Raymond Capt, M.A., A.I.A., F.S.C., Scot, Biblical antiquities, “A Six Day Creation?,” Covenant Media Productions, 1998, Album 1, Tape # 6)
Dr. Ross makes another argument that also cannot be overlooked in the wording of Genesis 2:4, which says:
“These are the GENERATIONS of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the DAY the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” (KJV)
The two key words here are “generations” and “day.”
“Here the word ‘day’ refers to all six creation days (and the creation of the universe that took place prior to the first created day). Obviously, then, this is a period longer than twenty-four hours. Hebrew lexicons verify that the word for generation (toledah) refers to the time between a person’s birth and parenthood or to an arbitrarily longer time span. In Genesis 2:4 the plural form, ‘generations,’ is used, indicating that multiple generations have passed.” (“Creation and Time, p. 52)
For the use of the word “generations,” Dr. Ross cites a standard Hebrew reference work, “Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament,” (Vol. 1, pages 378-379). The word “day” in the above verse must be modified by the word “generations,” referring to a long period of time.
So, from a linguistic and contextual survey, the Genesis account of the creation of the heavens and the earth can be readily viewed as a long period of time. Thus, a young earth creationist scenario is not necessarily valid from the biblical narrative. However, it is just not from the Bible that one could very well arrive at an old age earth belief. There are other considerations, as well, such as what is known through the discoveries of astronomy.
Astronomy and the Age of the Universe
Among the physical science, the combined evidence form astronomy and physics validates an old universe by various scientific laws and measurements. Dr. Ross, an astronomer, takes the mystery out of its application, along with physics, when he states:
“Straight forward physics; gas laws, thermodynamics, gravity, and nuclear physics, can give us secure estimates of the ages of stars, of galaxies, and of the cosmos itself.” ( Creation and Time, p. 92)
He explains in Chapter Nine of his book, “Creation and Time,” that the universe can be dated within a 15% degree of accuracy from the measurements of the “expansion of the universe” and “a starting point in space and time” (time = distance/velocity). He discusses “stellar burning” (burning of gas of stars to determine how old they are to within about 5% of age estimate) and “radioactive” decay from a “supernovae” (Dr. Ross defines supernovae as “super-giant stars in their final, powerfully explosive stages of burning.” “Creation and Time,” p. 94) containing “a fixed amount of radioactive elements.” Of this last measurable evidence, Dr. Ross comments:
“We know that the universe cannot be older than a certain age because some radioactive elements still exit. Uranium 238 and thorium 232, for example, with radioactive half-lives of several billion years, can still be found. Therefore, we know that the universe cannot be as old as a trillion years, for if it were, all the uranium and thorium would have decayed into lighter elements.
“On the other hand, the universe cannot be very young because most radioactive elements no longer exist at all ... Enough time has elapsed for every bit of these elements to decay away. Therefore, the universe and the earth must be at least a billion years old.” (Dr. Ross defines supernovae as “super-giant stars in their final, powerfully explosive stages of burning.” “Creation and Time,” p. 95)
Adding all these methods of measurement together, astrophysicists have been able to calculate “a rough date for the beginning of the universe (about 17 billions years ago).” (Dr. Ross defines supernovae as “super-giant stars in their final, powerfully explosive stages of burning.” “Creation and Time,” p. 95)
There have been a number of challenges from the young universe and earth community to the viability of what Dr. Ross and the vast majority of astrophysicists have discovered. It appears Dr. Ross has ably answered these critics in a variety of publications too numerous to mention here, (Dr. Ross is founder and president of “Reasons To Believe,” which carries pertinent materials to investigate these relevant issues. Web site address is www.rasons.org, Mailing address is: P.O. Box 598, Pasadena, CA 91117) as well as offering to publicly debate his opponents on this subject.
Geology and the Age of the Earth
The sciences of astronomy and physics also agree with the discipline of geology as to the question of the age of the earth. Geologist, Dr. Davis Young, wrote a book entitled “Christianity and the Age of the Earth,” in which he sought to answer the geological arguments of the young earth creationists. Like the Christian astronomers, such as Dr. Ross, Dr. Young sees no contradiction between the observed and measurable facts of the physical universe and the Bible.
“The facts of the Bible and the facts of nature, therefore, do not disagree but form one comprehensive, unified expression of the character and will of our Creator and Redeemer.” (Christianity and the Age of the Earth, p. 154)
Both Dr. Ross and Dr. Young are committed to Christians and both find substantial evidence for an old universe and earth. The basic difference, from a geological perspective, between an old earth position, as Dr. Young advocates, and a young earth creationist belief can be summed up as follows:
Old Age Earth: The accumulation of sedimentary rock, the formation of coral reefs, glacial deposits, desert environments, and fossil graveyards are proof of a GRADUAL, UNIFORM PROCESS OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME.
Young Age Earth: The evidence of all aspects of the geological formations listed above is due to a GLOBAL CATASTROPHE AND WORLDWIDE FLOOD.
Although Dr. Young methodically meets and answers the young earth creationist’s geological arguments, the central thesis comes down to this issue: are the sedimentation rate, formation of coral reefs, glacial deposits, desert environments, and fossil graveyards accounted fro by a catastrophic flood over 4,000 years go or by the gradual processes being observed today? Generally speaking, geologists today observe slow, gradual geological formations. By this evidence, they reason that this slow process has occurred for thousands of years. They can account for what they discover in real time and, from this observation, can ascertain what occurred in time past by the same measurement. The calculation of the process and time involved in the formation of a certain sedimentary layer or fossil bed in the present, for example, can assist the geologist in calculating when a geological formation took place in the past.
“This strong evidence of development of thick piles of sediment in ancient deserts, lakes, rivers, deltas, shores, seas, and basins of all types indicates that it must have taken a very long time to form the entire sedimentary rock record for the simple reason that the formation of deltas, glacial deposits, lakes, and so on, is a MEASURABLE PROCESS THAT TAKES CONSIDERABLE TIME. By comparing modern processes of sedimentation with the evidences in the sedimentary rock record, geologists have come to the conclusion that the Earth must be far older than was ever dreamed of only two hundred years ago.” (Christianity and the Age of the Earth, p. 73)
In most cases, the science of geology, like all science, depends on, and is determined by, the observable and measurable rather than an unobservable, presupposed theory like a global catastrophic flood. What geologists have found, both Christian and non-Christian, is that the evidence of geological formations can be substantially accounted for by slow, gradual processes and not by a catastrophic event.
Dr. Young summarizes it this way:
“A close look at the sedimentary rocks indicates that the Earth has experienced several successive episodes of sedimentary deposition, burial and hardening of the rocks, uplift, erosion, subsidence, renewed sedimentation, burial and hardening, further uplift, and so on, through several cycles. IT WOULD APPEAR THAT THESE PROCESSES HAVE TAKEN A LONG TIME, MUCH LONGER THAN A FEW THOUSAND YEARS IF THOSE SEDIMENTS WERE DEPOSITED AND DEFORMED IN A MANNER SIMILAR TO WHAT IS HAPPENING TODAY.” (Christianity and the Age of the Earth, p. 93)
Another author concurs, contrasting geological evidence to the modern creationism catastrophic Flood theory.
“Flood theory then, as now, held that all sedimentary rocks had been violently deposited as sea mud and gravel ... Present topography plainly contradicts these quaint ideas, for MOST OF THE VAST PLAINS AND PLATEAUS OF THE WORLD ARE BUILT NOT OF SEA MUDS BUT OF RIVER DEPOSITS ... the creationist would have the entire sedimentary blanket of the earth’s crust deposited in the forty days and forty nights of rain of Noah’s Flood ...” (Norman D. Newell, “Creation and Evolution: Myth or Reality? Quoted by Charles A Weisman, “Facts and Fictions Regarding Noah’s Flood, (Burnsville, MN: Weisman Publications, 1992), p. 17)
The young earth creationist position objects that there is no validity to measurable estimates of the present geological processes when compared to the Biblical record.
“We must approach a study of the work of the six days of Creation strictly from the perspective of Scriptural revelation, and not at all from that of a projection of present natural processes into the past ... it is an act of both faith and reason to accept them, literally, as real days.” (John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris, “The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications,” (Phillipsburg, VA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1961), p. 228)
The young earth creationist view insists that “day” must mean literal twenty-four days because the Bible says “day.” The point, however, is not whether the Biblical record says “days,” but the CORRECT INTERPRETATION of what “days” means.
This young earth creationist view readily admits that the validity of sciences based on readable observation.
“Science is based on observation of facts and is directed at finding patterns of order in the observed data.” (What is Creation Science?,” p. xi)]
“The essence of the scientific method is measurement, observation, repeatability.” (What is Creation Science?, p. 9)
Yet, the young earth creationist perspective casts aside the natural processes that can be observed as a means of calculating the duration of the creation of the universe and earth:
“The origin of the universe, the origin of life, the origin of man, and all such events took place in the past and cannot now be studied in the laboratory. They are entirely beyond the reach of the scientific method in the proper sense.” (What is Creation Science?, p. 9)
The reason, they say, that the scientific method cannot be used to explain the past is because these natural processes did not begin until after the fall of Adam and the curse. Yet, as Dr. Young points out, “The writers fall into the trap of talking about creation in terms of the present processes.” For example, Dr. Young quotes from “The Genesis Flood,” in which the authors themselves discuss “such words as ‘deposition’ and ‘erosion,’ present day processes” IN REGARD TO THE THIRD DAY OF CREATION BEFORE ADAM’S FALL.” (Dr. Davis A Young, “Creation and the Flood: An Alternative to Flood Geology and Theistic Evolution, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977), p. 73)
There is another major evidence that is hotly debated regarding the geological age of the earth; radiometric dating. This involves a variety of accurate methods that allows scientists to fix the age of the many kinds of rocks by measuring radioactive decay. Though young earth creationists strongly contest the validity of such methods, Dr. Young proclaims a significant advance for scientists and a problem for the creationists.
“With the advent of radiometric dating he [the geologist] may be able to say how many millions of years ago the rock formed ... Without question the results of radiometric dating methods have proved extremely disturbing to creationists, because OVER AND OVER AGAIN AGES OF MILLIONS TO BILLIONS OF YEARS HAVE BEEN OBTAINED!. This evidence would clearly indicate that the Earth is extremely old. Such a conclusion is, of course, totally unacceptable to those who believe the Earth is very young.” (Christianity and the Age of the Earth, p. 94)
Dr. Young proceeds to explain to the reader very complicated processes of the dating methods using “potassium-Argon,” “rubidium-Strontium,” and “Uranium-Thorium-Lead.” (Christianity and the Age of the Earth, Chapter 7) In addition, he answers the young earth creationist arguments against such methods.
The debate about the age of the earth will no doubt continue. One has to wade through a tremendous amount of literature on both sides and, in some cases, useless rhetoric and speculation, in order to see a clear picture form the compilation of the evidence. It appears that th3e young earth creationist is so unyielding in his arguments because he fears that if an old age earth scenario is granted, then that would open the door and give credence to evolution and ruin the Christian’s faith in the Bible and the God of Creation. Of course, this is not so as Christian old age earth advocates see no conflict between Scripture, the creation it reveals and science.
Further, an old age belief would allow for the possibility of other races in existence before the creation of Adam. Science has indeed confirmed such presence of other humanoids before the creation of Adam.
The young earth creationists have an uphill battle and it is steeper by the day. Dr. Ross sums up the weight of the young earth creationist argument against the physical sciences by quoting from the publication “Science 81,” (December 1981, p. 55):
“Adoption of creationist [young universe creationists] ‘theory’ requires, at a minimum, THE ABANDONMENT OF ESSENTIALLY ALL OF MODERN ASTRONOMY, MUCH OF MODERN PHYSICS, AND MOST OF THE EARTH SCIENCES. Much more than evolutionary biology is at stake.” (Creation and Time, p. 101)
From this last statement, one can readily see that integrity is at stake.