On February 10, we published a perspectives piece by Col J. Gibson and D. Stuart Letham titled "Ice Ages Research Demolishes Young Earth Creationism." Many readers responded with questions and comments, to which the authors of the original piece have responded in depth below. -Ed.
The Bible is the only source of beliefs for the Seventh-day Adventist Church—the only standard of faith and practice for Christians. The Church has been known often as the People of the Book, meaning of course, the Bible. This implies that the Bible is taught religiously, studied dutifully and understood thoroughly! However, in spite of such an emphasis on the Bible there are some verses and concepts that have proven over the history of the Church (1863 onwards) that opposing views remain. For example, Genesis 1:1 and the interpretation of “In the beginning …”
God’s Second Book, Nature, having the same author is intended to enlighten Scripture. Ellen White said (first published in 1903):
Since the book of nature and the book of revelation bear the impress of the same master mind, they cannot but speak in harmony. By different methods, and in different languages, they witness to the same great truths. Science is ever discovering new wonders (emphasis added); but she brings from her research nothing that rightly understood, conflicts with divine revelation. The book of nature and the written Word shed light upon each other. They make us acquainted with God by teaching us something of the laws through which He works.” (Education, p. 128).
Thus in relation to Genesis 1:1, God’s book of Nature, appropriately amplified by modern science, provides a clear resolution that divorces the Church from YEC as discussed in our article. It retains the biblical truth of a recent Creation Week of 6 literal days and the Sabbath while all macro-evolution, including theistic evolution, is dismissed. After 160 years of discussion, we may be approaching a resolution at last!
Having already told our story on this, we now hope to provide for our respondents some answers and comments that may also help them to appreciate more of modern science and its explanatory role. Note that we have always used the term ‘modern science’ because science continues to learn, at an ever-increasing rate, concerning its knowledge of Nature. We are talking of science as it has developed as of now (i.e. 2016), and not as it was in 1840 or even 1900 or later even in 1950.
However, before providing comment for specific respondents, it is desirable to consider briefly YEC belief in relation to deep time, very recent cosmology (or astronomy), and the image of God.
From the beginning (Genesis 1:1), eons ago, when God created the Heavens and laid the foundations of the Earth, to Eden restored and the eternal life on a new Earth, all this is time infinite and is beyond our comprehension.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou are God. (Psalm 90:2).
But God has given us visual reminders of His infinite glory and everlasting devotion to His children. These have already been mentioned in our article but in a different context. In the night sky, the further-most object we can see with the naked (unaided) eye is the neighboring galaxy Andromeda with a trillion stars and its light traveling at 300,000 km per second takes 2.5 million years to reach Earth. However, when we employ modern astronomic methods, an infinite world opens to our view with billions of galaxies and light from some may take billions of years to reach Earth. The star light reminds us that God, is the Creator of light and time. The chronology of God is infinity of time, “… from eternity in the past to eternity in the future …” (Education, p. 178).
When we look at a zircon crystal we are reminded of its creation 4 billion years ago. When we view an erratic rock or moraine we see the intervention of God in our world by glaciation in ages past. Thus, the ancient world testifies uniquely to the glory and controlling hand of God over the ages.
God had a purpose in revealing this knowledge to us through science, but the YEC theology (the creation of everything 6,000 years ago), would destroy such significance. The image of God would be diminished
As we have pointed out, YEC doctrine is not supported by critical Hebrew scholarship, nor by God’s book of Nature, supported by modern science, and nor indeed by Scripture itself! In this connection, a relevant question arises for YEC: On which day of Creation Week, according to Scripture, was the planet Earth and the Universe created?
We noted in the article that the travel time for light from many galaxies denotes a Universe and Earth created long before Creation Week of Genesis 1. However, this “star light problem” for YEC is compounded by the evidence that star formation appears to have occurred over a long period of time. Thus the survey of the age of red giant stars over our galaxy1 and the varying age of open star clusters2, indicate star formation probably extended over millions of years. The deeper meaning of the expression “in the beginning” (Genesis 1:1) is consistent with exactly that. Hebrew linguists consider the original Hebrew means a period of time that precedes a series of events, and not a point in time (see discussion in reference 34, p. 107). The Bible and science are again in accord.
A situation analogous to the star formation may apply to the development of the planet Earth. In the original article we noted that oxygenation of the Earth’s atmosphere occurred over millions of years. Preparation of the Earth for Creation Week appears to have occurred over a very long period of time. After consideration of the above, the YEC proposal that creation of the Universe and the planet earth occurred in perhaps one day, giving the Earth and entire Universe the same age, seems completely irrational. This is of course further substantiated by the very different established ages for the Earth and Universe (4.6 and 13.7 billion years respectively).
Before Creation Week, we see God’s glory from the abiotic creation of stars and planets apparently over eons of time. This is expressed exquisitely in the 2016 recent release by the Digital Sky Survey already noted and referenced.1 It is this component of God’s glory that YEC would close from view.
The recent creation of life at Creation Week reveals a different type of glory in the beauty of the creation, in the mystery of the creation of human life, and in the Sabbath when we can meet with God in worship.
It is our privilege to celebrate the glory of Creation as part of our message to the world, God’s last message. If the Creation is described just as recorded in Genesis 1, as a two-stage creation involving an ancient Earth, God will truly be glorified.
And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgement has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Rev. 14:7 (ESV).
Comments Relevant to Several Respondents
We first wish to address the following two issues raised by several respondents.
- Radiometric Dating by 14C. Two respondents showed concern about the use of 14C because its level in the atmosphere is not constant over time. The comment is both irrelevant and misleading. Irrelevant because none of the chronology we mentioned depends on 14C dating and misleading because the point raised was corrected 40 years ago by the construction of precise calibration graphs (see Reimer3). Furthermore, the radiometric determination of 14C by beta particle counting has now been replaced by modern mass spectrometric determination of the number of 14C, 13C and 12C atoms per sample with higher precision, lower backgrounds and sample size reduced by a factor of 1,000.
- Uranium to Lead Dating. One respondent questioned this method, used frequently for dating of rock samples, because of uncertainty regarding the assumption that all Pb detected was derived from the U measured. That is: when the “clock” was set was there any Pb present? For U-Pb dating, crystals of the mineral zircon provide an ideal system because when they form Pb does not fit into their crystal structure, only U. Thus, the “clock” is truly set at zero when the crystal forms. The system involves measuring conversion of 235U to 207Pb and 238U to 206Pb plotted as a concordia diagram thus providing a cross check. To do this using tiny zircon crystals about 400 μm (microns) wide (2-3 times the diameter of a human hair) required new concepts in instrumentation. This was devised, based on secondary ion mass spectrometry, and produced at the Australian National University about 1985. There the first age determinations of zircons were made and the equipment was sold to labs around the world for 3 to 4 million dollars each. Geochronology had moved to a new level. The age of zircons were often found to be over 4 billion years (as stated in our article) and confirmation was provided by a recent further refinement of the method (see reference 24 in the main article). These ages approach the age of the solar system. Thus the Earth was created after the Universe was initiated (13.7 billion years ago), not at the same time as proposed by YEC.
Life Before Creation Week At least two respondents raised questions regarding life on earth before the time of Creation Week and the necessity for further creation. This seems a long way from a PFIA and we did not mention the issue, which may have been raised to cast doubt on Creation Week, which we support.
We accept that the evidence for some plant life before 10,000 years ago appears strong and cyanobacteria were probably present also at that time. The earth needed a source of oxygen to provide a continuous supply for life and God designed plants and cyanobacteria with the ingenious enzyme system to convert water into oxygen, a system still imperfectly understood by science. In this way, the atmosphere was enriched in oxygen in preparation for humans on earth, the only planet known to have such an atmosphere.
A respondent now asks: If plants were already present, why would a “second creation” be necessary? The pre-Creation Week (pCW) plants would be those that could survive adverse climate (including ice age conditions) – low light, low temperature, drought and wind. But after 10,000 years ago, following cessation of the ice age, with mild temperatures and, the increase in solar radiation in Creation Week, different plant types would be needed for the altered environment. Plants are very sensitive to environmental change. Indeed, a multitude of species would be required to provide vegetation and food in diverse climates. As a reflection of this, it is noteworthy that today there are 400,000 plant species and often numerous varieties within a species. Furthermore, the purpose of plants before and after Creation Week appears to be very different: pCW, oxygenation of atmosphere: after, food for man and animals (Genesis 1:29,31). Ideally this would involve very different plant species. In summation, based on plants, the Creation Week 6 to 10,000 years ago would indeed be necessary.
There is evidence that animal life (as mentioned by one respondent) and hominids (human-like creatures) existed long ago on the Earth. The Neanderthals and the Mega fauna lived and died out, apparently long before 10,000 years ago: this is beyond dispute. All this is difficult to rationalize: perhaps there was an earlier creation because the creatures concerned certainly did not evolve. However, the above does not negate the Creation Week revealed to us in Genesis 1 and 2. It is relevant to recall that, according to Genesis 1:2 and Psalm 104:6, the Earth was covered in water prior to Creation Week and any animal life that existed then would have been extinguished.
Thus, Creation Week may represent a new beginning when God created the human race in His image to reveal His glory.
Miscellaneous Reader Comments
1. One respondent (Birder) asks:
Question: Why is it that creation science is called “bogus science” in a quotation we used?
Comment: Because it is based often on speculation, and much misuse of science literature including misquotation, quoting out of context, factual distortion. As a classic example we have the attempt to solve the “star light problem” for YEC by them claiming the speed of light has declined by a factor of millions since creation week. (Warning: it is very dangerous to play with the speed of light!). To support their YEC views, the initiators of this bogus discredited science (B. Setterfield and T. Norman) selected 14 values from a compilation of 63 and plotted them giving a nice declining graph for the speed of light. When you plot all the 63 values, there is no decline.
Furthermore, these creation scientists apparently over-looked the fact that in Einstein’s famous equation (E = mc2), which governs release of energy by the sun, the speed of light (c) is squared. If c increased as proposed, the solar radiation would probably convert the planet into a barren rock or worse!
In 1994, the University of Melbourne, Australia, professor of geology, Ian Plimer, wrote a book with the title: Telling Lies for God (Random House Australia Ltd, Sydney.) It discusses and exposes creation scientists and unfortunately for the Church, Adventist creation scientists are severely criticised. If the respondent needs more information regarding bogus creation science, he could start here. Unfortunately, the practice of misquotation by creationists continues today as noted in an earlier article in Spectrum (Letham and Gibson, September 11, 2015).
2. Oard’s Misquote:
As a further example, in relation to formation of ice sheets, Oard4 quoted Richard Alley who had stated that: “We certainly must entertain the possibility of misidentifying (in ice cores) the deposit of a large storm or snow dune as an entire year or missing a weak indication of a summer and thus picking a 2-year interval as 1 year."5 However, based on quoted evidence, he then concluded on the same age, that such climate-related problems are insignificant and of no consequence in Greenland ice cores and that multiparameter counts should allow dating of the annual layers with errors about 1% to 50 thousand years BP. However, Oard quoted Alley’s statement and then ignored the rest of the page and earlier pages in Alley’s article. Oard was trying to tell us that Alley, a pioneer of ice core research, believed climate disturbance caused great errors in ice core counting. Alley did not hold this view and was simply saying climate factors should be considered and this he did very carefully. The above represents a quotation taken out of context in the extreme. Oard’s conclusion: oscillations at scales smaller than the annual cycle, “these are what the uniformitarian scientists are measuring as supposed annual cycles the deeper they go in the ice core." Thus according to Oard, climate and weather have a great impact on layer number in ice cores. Evidence in the literature shows this view is erroneous.
3. David Read states:
“The evidence that the authors of this piece urge against Oard’s theory is that it does not comport with conventional chronology. Really? Of course conventional chronology does not fit with creation chronology."
Comment: We do not agree! The evidence against Oard’s theory is two fold – first, it does not conform to God’s chronology; second, it never occurred.
God’s chronology runs from everlasting to everlasting. YEC and Oard’s chronology began in 4,000 BC. Because of the way it dishonours God, it may end soon.
As far as our story goes, discussion of active gap v. passive gap is irrelevant. We have to wonder why people raise irrelevant side issues? The gap is revealed by Scripture without comment. It is not something to become obsessed with.
Conclusion We quote again from Ellen White:
“He who studies most deeply into the mysteries of nature will realize most fully his own ignorance and weakness. He will realize that there are depths and heights which he cannot reach, secrets which he cannot penetrate, vast fields of truth lying before him unentered.” (Education, p. 133)
Afterword Taking our (the authors) immediate families (wives, brothers and sisters, and all the kids and grandkids, etc. involved) totals 37. Allowing for those deceased (5) of the remaining 32; three only are at Church on Sabbath to celebrate God’s Creation. Why? One of the younger members probably speaking for most, if not all, said: “Get real, and be honest about it."
In the story we have told, we have tried to do just that. Now we look forward to the day when the Seventh-day Adventist Church gets real and also honest about God’s Second Book, Nature, as explained by modern science.
- Largest Age Map of the Milky Way Reveals How Our Galaxy Grew Up, January 8, 2016, by Jordan Raddick (http://www.sdss.org/author/jraddick/
- Star Clusters: Australian Telescope National Facility. Hubble Heritage Team (A. Cool et al)
- P. J. Reimer and 29 co-workers (2013). Radiocarbon, v. 55, 1869-1887.
- M. J. Oard (2013) Answers in Genesis, December 1, 2001. Do Greenland Ice Cores Show over One Hundred Thousand Years of Annual Layers?
- R. B. Alley and 11 co-workers (1997). J. Geophysical Research, v. 102, 26,367-26,381.
D. Stuart. Letham was awarded a PhD (Birmingham, UK) in organic chemistry in 1955. His subsequent research work included the purification, determination of structure and synthesis of the first naturally occurring cytokinin, compounds that induce cell division in plants. They occur in plants at the level of 1 part per billion (see Letham, Annual Review of Plant Physiology 1967, 1983). He is the author of over 190 refereed papers in biochemistry and plant physiology journals. He retired from the Australian National University 1992 as Professor Emeritus.
Col J. Gibson worked in accounting in industry for a decade before taking an academic position as a senior lecturer in accounting at universities in Australia, New Zealand, and the University of South Pacific (Suva, Fiji). As a natural naturalist from an early age he has been active, as a hobby interest, in helping many professional scientists in fieldwork, and now in retirement still acts as a citizen scientist, which includes field observations and bird photography.
Both authors have discussed the Science/Creation subject for the past few years and thought it was time to put some of their thoughts on this interface into the public arena for others to consider and comment.
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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7355