Perspective: Ice Ages Research Demolishes Young Earth Creationism

NO! This does not imply that science is above the Bible (Scripture). Ellen White invariably stated that the Bible was the only guide “… the unerring standard” (Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, 425). We accept that. YES, it does mean that God’s Second Book, the Book of Nature, should be used to amplify Scripture, or in the usage here to elucidate the natural world of the past. “All true science,” she wrote, “is but an interpretation of the handwriting of God in the material world” (Christian Experience and Teaching, 66). We have adopted this approach.

The Bible does not refer to any ice age, but the evidence for an ice age (glaciation) is unequivocal. The ice left its imprint in all temperate regions of the Earth. Great continental ice sheets (often over 2 km thick1) covered Canada, the northern US, much of the British Isles, and northern Europe. The Great Lakes of the US were defined by the movement of the ice sheets, and the highest peaks in north-eastern US were covered. The eventual retreat of the ice sheets left moraines (large deposits of rock debris) scattered over the plains and in the valleys, while giant partially rounded rocks (see Fig. 1), often translocated over hundreds of km by the ice, became bizarre features of the present landscape. The great U-shaped valleys of Scotland (the “glens”) and those in the Southern Alps of New Zealand were carved out by ice sheets.

Writing in the Adventist Review in 1980, the noted Adventist geologist Harold Clark concluded, “the evidence for continental ice masses is overwhelming.”2 Today, the Adventist Geoscience Research Institute (GRI) in Loma Linda, California supports this conclusion.3 The present ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are remnants of the great ice age.

Figure 1. Yeager Rock (Waterville Plateau, Washington, USA). A glacial erratic weighing over 400 tons, and just one of many in the area. The rock is located on a mound of glacial till (clay and small rock pieces deposited by the ice). Photograph: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, adapted.

Many Christians accept that Creation Week occurred about 6,000 years before the present (BP) based on the chronologies detailed in Genesis, and that the entire planet Earth and the universe were created early on day 1 or immediately before Creation Week. These young earth creationists (YEC) consider Gen 1:1 a summary of Creation Week, not a reference to an earlier and separate creation. Creationists initially attributed the moraines and giant rocks (often termed “erratics”) to deposition by water due to the Flood.

Although Swiss geologists presented evidence around the year 1840 for a glacial origin, the aquatic deposition hypothesis persisted into the 20th century, promoted in the writings of the Adventist geologist George McCready Price. When the evidence for a glacial explanation became unequivocal, the ice age described above became a challenge for YEC. How can anyone fit an ice age as described above into the 4,000 years before Christ? The YEC proposed a short post-flood ice age (PFIA) that lasted less than 1,000 years3 or “a few thousand” years.4 This idea was first suggested by Harold Clark (a student of Price), and has been further refined by retired meteorologist Michael J. Oard5 in a theory including numerous assumptions. Oard’s speculative proposal is often referred to in Adventist literature, is given prominence in a recent issue of the Adventist Record4 and is endorsed also by the Geoscience Research Institute.3

Rather than speculate as Oard has done about global conditions following a divinely-caused flood, we instead turn to consideration of how God’s second Book, the Book of Nature, amplified by modern science, could shed light upon whether the PFIA did or might have occurred. This post-flood ice age and YEC theology are intimately linked. With the claims concerning PFIA, YEC theology could stand substantiated or it could fall completely.

We recognize that some may find such discussions unimportant because they appear to be unrelated to the Gospel and salvation. But how can anyone take to the modern world the Sabbath truth as a memorial of Creation, if it is associated with a faulty understanding of Creation? Young Christians often leave the Church and discard Adventist belief because of just such conflicts between science and YEC creation theology. We are discussing important issues here, all related to a PFIA. If the Flood occurred about 2,300 years BC (as proposed by YEC and as they think is in accord with Scripture), then the glaciation of a PFIA should be pronounced or maximal about 2,000 years BC (4,000 years BP).

The assessment of a PFIA involves five fields from God’s Second Book, the Book of Nature, covering: sea level change, ice core studies, glacial moraines, sea floor sediments and lake sediment layers before moving into archaeology and ancient history.

The Search for a Post-flood Ice Age

Change in Sea Level Sea level and glaciation are intimately linked. When the ice sheets melted after the last established ice age, sea level rose markedly and the increase reached 115 m at 8,000 years BP.6 Similarly, if a PFIA developed, a corresponding rise in sea level would occur about 3,500 years BP when the ice sheets melted. Was this observed? No! Sea level has been determined worldwide for the past millennia, but at 3,500 years BP no change in sea level occurred and indeed sea level has been very constant for the last 8,000 years.6

Ice Core Studies In Greenland and Antarctica great ice sheets are present and cores have been removed in sections, which collectively reach a depth of 2-3 km. In the Greenland ice cores, annual layers can be counted back to 90,000 years BP and there is yet more ice below. Ice cores provide information regarding past climate, but some YEC (e.g. 4) have criticised their use beyond 2,000 years because they claim erroneously that chronology has not been verified past this time. However, scientists now have been able to extend this verification to 74,000 years BP. Tephra (volcanic ash) from the gigantic Toba eruption in Sumatra has been dated at 74-75 thousand years BP by several methods and was detected in layers of one Greenland and one (but probably three) Antarctic ice cores with layer ages of 73-74 thousand years BP.7,8 Further verification occurred at 8.2 thousand years BP (cold period) by the pollen record of lake varves,9,10,11 at 11.5 thousand years BP (end of ice age and beginning of Holocene) again by pollen records [12,13], at 12.1 thousand years BP by occurrence of dated Vedde ash in ice core layers13 and at about 41,000 years BP by 10Be peaks due to the Laschamp geomagnetic event.14, 15

Ice cores are a very sensitive detection system for climate change; they detected the “little Ice Age” (1600-1760 AD) when temperature dropped by only 1°C and also a short cold period at 8,200 years BP when temperature fell 3°C. In comparison, a very pronounced response was evoked by the established ice age with temperatures about 10°C below present values (see also Fig. 2). However, in the present context, did any of the 19 characterised ice cores (6 in Greenland, 4 in Canada, 9 in Antarctica) record a temperature fall about 4,000 years BP? No, not one, and no significant temperature decline was detected between 10,000 years BP and today.

Figure 2. The vertical axis shows values related to temperature revealed by a Greenland ice core (delta 18O data) and two Antarctic ice cores (delta 2H data). Within each profile, an increase in negativity on the vertical axis denotes a fall in temperature. Noteworthy features shown on this chart in the Greenland ice core are: A, the transient 8.2 thousand year BP cold event (temperature drop 3°C) consistently evident in Greenland ice cores; B, the warm period (about 2,000 years) that occurred after the last glacial maximum (denoted by C), and preceded the return of glacial conditions (denoted by D, the Younger Dryas) that terminated the last ice age. The last glacial maximum is also seen in the two Antarctic ice cores. N.B. the asterisks (*) denote the time proposed by YEC for the PFIA. No change in temperature is revealed. Chart: William M. Connolley, Wikipedia Commons, adapted.

Studies of MorainesMoraines (rock debris deposited by glaciers and ice sheets) caused by movement of the great ice sheets of the ice age are scattered over the plains of northern US and Canada. However, valley moraines caused by alpine glaciation constitute a simpler system more readily interpreted and, in the present context, of greater relevance. Furthermore in the South Island of New Zealand, studies of alpine glaciation can be related to studies of ocean floor sediments. Relevant studies of these unique systems follow.

Studies of valley glaciers in New Zealand by international groups of geologists have identified moraines formed during the last glacial maximum (about 30 thousand years BP). Thus, as an example, the Rangitata Valley in South Island contained a 65-70 km long glacier at that time and left a terminal moraine dated at 28 thousand years BP [16]. Glacier retreats and then advances yielded 3 further dated moraines but in 15.8 thousands years BP final retreat began. Was there any terminal moraine about 4,000 years to indicate a glacial readvance and a post flood ice age. No, and no evidence of any occurring in the last 15 thousand years has been found.

The moraines provided a terrestrial record of the last alpine glaciation and this is endorsed and extended in time by a complementary marine record, as indicated below. The Rangitata River and two other similar adjacent rivers (the Rakaia, with a river bed 1 mile wide, and Ashburton) flow eastward from the New Zealand Southern Alps of Mid-Canterbury to the ocean carrying great amounts of sediments, which are layered into the ocean floor. An offshore deep drilling site (ODP 1119) was set up to monitor past climate and the accumulated sediment layers, which were readily differentiated into alternating glacial (ice age) and inter-glacial regions. The former were recognised by appearance, by high potassium content, high gamma ray activity, and high delta 18O values for shells of foraminifera.17 These 18O values denote increased global glaciation. In this way, the recurring terrestrial glacial and interglacial periods were revealed back to 3.9 million years BP18 while the dates for the last glacial maximum and subsequent retreat, as revealed by the moraines, were confirmed by these ODP 1119 studies and also by two further marine cores drilled further to the east of ODP 1119. More recent glaciation (i.e. after 10,000 years BP) was not revealed in these three marine cores from near New Zealand or in any of the 57 other cores drilled worldwide and characterised by delta 18O values indicative of glaciation and temperature change.

Lake Sediment LayersLayers in lake sediments contain pollen that reveals the identity of the plants growing near the lake at any particular time. Like annual layers of Greenland ice cores, those (termed varves) in lake sediment cores can often be counted visually and in both cases, chronology has been confirmed by ash (tephra) from dated eruptions. Change in climate markedly alters the species of pollen in the lake sediment layers reflecting changes in plant ecology. Very marked changes occurred at the termination of the last known glaciation (11,600 years BP) and even the minor cold period at 8,200 years BP was detected by changes in varve pollen species. However, no change was recorded in numerous lake sediment pollen profiles at or near 4,000 years BP(see e.g. 19, 20).

Relevant Archaeology and Ancient History In the past, Scotland was almost entirely severely glaciated. However, at the time proposed for the PFIA by YEC, archaeology in Scotland reveals that agriculture with cereal crops and animal husbandry were expanding, stone circles and henges were being constructed and temperature indicated by proxies was similar to that of modern times [21]. Similarly, Finland was completely covered by the Fennoscandian ice sheet almost 2 km thick during the last recorded ice age, but at 2,000 BC agriculture involving dairy farming was being actively developed [22]. Hence, the ice age that left an imprint on the Earth terminated long before the proposed date for the PFIA.

The YEC hypothetical proposal for a PFIA requires formation and dissolution of the great continental ice sheets in about 1,000 years. When compared with about 8,000 years for only the dissolution of the glaciation in the recorded ice age,23 this 1,000 years seems a remarkably short time period and some have extended it, for example, to “a few thousand years."4 However, this leads to an unrealistic situation—a glacial maximum at or soon after the time of Christ when the Romans made a detailed and recorded survey of Scotland and England. No ice sheets were found and archaeology establishes that the ice had melted before 3,000 BC.

Using five different records in Nature and science, we have travelled back in time in search of the PFIA, but no glaciation occurred at the time YEC proposed for the PFIA. Furthermore, no glaciation occurred between 10,000 years BP and today. We can only conclude the PFIA, or any similar ice age, did not occur.

Discussion of Ice Ages in Relation to Creation

Were there Two Ice Ages?In an attempt to accommodate an ice age in limited time supportive of their theology, YEC adopted the speculative proposal of Oard for a short PFIA, instead of accepting the details of the actual ice age revealed by God in his Second Book, the Book of Nature, as amplified by modern science. A question for YEC now arises. Since there is no evidence for a post-flood ice age, how does YEC “prove” the existence of the great continental ice sheets of the past and explain the formation of the present ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica?

Since the studies of sea level, ice cores, moraines and ocean and lake sediment cores show the glaciation did not occur at Creation Week or after 10,000 years BP, ice sheet formation can only be attributed to the last established ice age (glaciation maximum about 23,000 years BP), which terminated at 11,500 years BP. The ice age preceded Creation Week, which occurred on an “old” earth, which was created not 6,000 years BP, but “in the beginning” (Gen 1:1), eons before.

Thus the possibility of two ice ages has been suggested: one of short duration, was suggested by man and is discussed in YEC writings, but never occurred; the other was prolonged, and was designed by God, and is revealed in His Book of Nature. No ice age is referred to in Scripture, but the chronology and some of the effects of the latter are defined precisely by modern science. Not only was the ice age climate cold, it was also dry and windy.

Discussion of YEC Theology Two related aspects of YEC Creation theology are being considered here:

First, that the Universe and planet Earth were created at Creation Week about 6,000 years ago. However, this is not supported by Scripture or by God’s second Book. Why do the chronologies of ice cores and marine and lake sediment cores extend back in time to about a hundred thousand years and beyond? Why do zircon crystals from some sedimentary rocks of Western Australia, when dated by modern methods, give ages of over 4 billion years?24 Why do the light years that separate our planet earth from distant stars indicate that the “beginning” (Genesis 1:1, the creation of heaven and earth) was a period long before 6,000 years BP (Creation Week)? Because Creation Week occurred on an “old” Earth created as part of the Universe over four billion years ago. This two-stage view accords with a number of modern Hebrew linguists who state that Genesis 1:1 describes an event that preceded Genesis 1:3-31 (Creation Week). Modern science has given an indication of the time interval.

Billions of years: some will say that means evolution. Not necessarily. It probably means that some aspects of the preparation of the Earth for Creation Week required time to reach the optimum. One of several possible examples is the development of an oxygen-containing atmosphere essential for life, and during its formation the oxygen content was observed to change over three billion years from almost zero to a probable maximum of 33% followed by a decline to a stable 21% (the optimum for man) [25]. When we look at planet Earth, we see optimisation and perfection everywhere, from the genetic code and the structure and function of living things to the geometry of the Earth’s orbit and the tilt of its axis. Evolutionary biologists agree that evolution by natural selection can never achieve optimisation in biology, only a localised solution. In the observed optimisation and perfection, unaccounted for by evolution, and also in the great age of the Earth, we see the signature of the Creator.

He is the Rock, His work is perfect.(Deut. 32:4)

Then God looked over all that He had made, and it was excellent in every way.(Gen. 1:31, Living Bible)

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)

Second, the YEC proposal concerning the early Earth for discussion is the idea that a short post-flood ice age caused the great ice sheets of the past. If so then why was this post flood event not detected by science? Why? Because it never occurred. A cornerstone of YEC teaching has been eliminated. Without this ice age, or a similar short ice age after Creation, YEC cannot explain the great glaciation that left an imprint so clearly in God’s book of Nature. Hence, the YEC chronology has no meaning, YEC theology is not credible. Indeed, it is completely demolished! First, by consideration of the age of the Earth, and secondly, by the occurrence of ice ages—two independent lines of evidence discussed above.

There is no dispute, however, between science, the Bible and YEC concerning Creation Week as a recent event. Scientists have shown that earth temperatures after the ice age, normalized about 10,000 years BP. Creation Week was very unlikely to have occurred prior to this time, because the low and highly variable temperatures of an ice age would not be compatible with life in Eden before Man’s Fall when temperatures were “mild and uniform” (Ellen White, “Patriarchs and Prophets,” p. 61). These matters have been discussed previously by the present authors: (Spectrum Magazine: Sept 11, Sept 28, 2015).

To Summarize, according to Scripture and God’s Book of Nature amplified by modern science, the planet Earth was created eons ago, then 6-10 thousand years BP after a long ice age and when temperatures normalised, Creation Week occurred—on an old planet Earth.

YEC Theology in the Church Today The views of YEC regarding Creation are widely held. They are well established among American evangelical Christians [26-28] who, in support of their belief misinterpret Exodus 20:11 and Mark 10:6 to mean that creation of the universe, planet Earth and everything occurred in six days. This YEC view is prominent in the Adventist Church today and was apparently endorsed at the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas. The General Conference president has stated29, 30 that the Earth is about 6,000 years old and such statements concerning this age often appear in Adventist literature (e.g. 31) reflecting YEC creation theology.

Why the 2015 GC adopted this stance and apparently rejected two-stage creation is not clarified. These opposing views were being discussed by Protestants just prior to the emergence of Adventism and were merely copied into the early Advent Church.32 Elder J. N. Andrews wrote in support of YEC in 1861, a view he emphasised in 1874. Andrews was objecting to the two-stage view published in the Review & Herald 1860 by Elder Uriah Smith.32 Gerhard Pfandl provides details in a scholarly article: “Ellen G. White and Earth Science."33 Pfandl says our early pioneers were discussing actively this very issue. However, Andrews view did not prevail so that Milton C. Wilcox writing an editorial in Signs of the Times in 1898 could say: “’In the beginning.’ When this beginning was, how long a period it covered, it is idle to conjecture; for it is not revealed. That it was a period which antedated the six days’ work [of Creation] is evident.” George McCready Price in 1902 adopted this same view as have modern theologians, both Adventist (e.g. Richard M. Davidson34) and non-Adventist. Most significantly, this is the view established today by modern science. Now in 2016 it appears that this view is no longer valid officially. That is in spite of Pfandl stating that “Many Adventist theologians and scientists today [2003] hold to the two-stage-creation theory.”

Since the GC president has stated his YEC belief is based on the Spirit of Prophecy (by which he meant the writings of Ellen White29), the views of White regarding Creation merit consideration. White stated frequently that 6,000 years had elapsed since Creation Week, but, according to Pfandl,32 only once did she refer to the age of the “world” stating it to be about 6,000 years old. But was this the entire planet earth or just the products of Creation Week (the Earth as man saw it)? This age does not appear to have been derived from a vision and possibly may have been obtained from Ussher’s dates in the margin of White’s King James Bible.32

The YEC teaching that according to Scripture planet Earth and the Universe were created at Creation Week about 6,000 years BP has caused many science-literate non-Christians to completely reject Creation theology and then the Bible, including salvation in Christ and the Advent message. If the PFIA is added, exit from the Church might be even faster. A recent letter to Adventist Today supporters concerned reasons why young people leave the Church. We have amplified one reason, namely, the acceptance by the Adventist Church of YEC views that have no basis in Nature, God’s Second Book.

Even some Evangelical Christians in the US are critical of YEC theology as evidenced below. Young and Stearley (Christian Reformed Church, Calvin College, US) state:

“When presented with the gospel, unbelieving scientists will reckon that, if it is an article of Christian faith that the world was created only a few thousand years ago and that most sedimentary rocks were deposited during Noah’s flood, a religion that tolerates such bogus science is not worthy of further interest. By linking the gospel of Jesus Christ to Young-Earth creationism, Christians place a serious barrier in the way of a person’s acceptance of the gospel. In this sense, modern young-Earth creationism is a hindrance to evangelism.

‘Proving’ the Bible or Christianity with spurious scientific hypothesis does not honor God and can only be injurious to the cause of Christ. We must not defend God’s truth by arguing falsehood on its behalf…”35

Bruce L. Gordon, Houston Baptist University, states:

“Young-earth creationism (YEC) is one of the more peculiar manifestations of broader evangelical culture. It continues to be the most common view of the relationship between science and Scripture held in the evangelical community and, unfortunately but understandably, the view of science most non-Christians associate with evangelicalism. For scientifically literate non-Christians, it presents an obstacle to Christian faith, and for young Christians who have been raised to equate YEC with the teaching of Scripture, it can destroy their faith altogether when its falsity is discovered.”26

The Adventist Church appears indifferent to and unconcerned by the fact that YEC theology has been exposed as erroneous. Nevertheless, Adventist Statement of Fundamental Belief #6, revised at the 2015 General Conference Session, remains equivocal regarding when planet Earth was formed. A clear statement is needed that this occurred eons before a “recent” Creation on planet Earth. Such a statement would dissociate the Church from all YEC belief and an unnecessary obstacle to the conversion of many people—youth in particular—would be removed.

Recognising that “many attempt to judge the Creator and His Works by their own imperfect knowledge of science” (Ministry of Healing, 427), we submit humbly our thoughts for consideration admitting readily that we do not have all the answers. However, we can conclude with some measure of confidence that the impact of the Sabbath as a memorial of Creation is diminished when associated with the fallacy of YEC! We can say that modern science supports the two-stage view of Creation as promoted early by Uriah Smith, and as explained above. It does not support the alternative view that was promoted early by John Andrews when the leaders were discussing such issues.

We cannot understand or explain why Adventists still promote YEC. That we leave to the experts—the theologians and historians—to determine, hopefully unimpeded by administrators. We are very conscious of the fact that 1860 to 2016 represents about 156 years of discussion without any resolution.

In conclusion, it might be helpful to reiterate that this article indicates that God’s Second Book (Nature as interpreted by modern science) can now provide a clear solution to the YEC/Two-stage Creation controversy.

References

  1. P.R. Bierman, et al (2015). Geology 43:1059-1062.

  2. H.W. Clark (1980). Adventist Review, July 24, 1980, pp. 4-6.

  3. Geoscience Research Institute, Frequently Asked Questions, Ice Age (http://grisda.org/resources/faq/ice-age/).

  4. S. Ostring (2015). Adventist Record, March 7, 2015, pp. 16,17.

  5. M.J.Oard (1990). Origins 17: 8-26.

  6. K. Lambeck et al (2014). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sc. US. 111:15296-15303.

  7. A. Svensson et al (25 co-authors) (2013). Climate of the Past 9:749-766.

  8. F. Parrenin et al (12 co-authors) (2012). Climate of the Past 8: 1031-1045.

  9. W. Tinner, A.F. Lotter (2001). Geology 29: 551-554.

  10. S. Veski, H. Seppa, A.E.K. Ojala (2004) Geology 32:681-684.

  11. H. Seppa et al (11 co-authors) (2007) Climate of the Past 3: 225-236.

  12. R.B. Alley (2000). Quarternary Science Reviews 19:213-226.

  13. O.S. Lohne, J. Mangerud, H.H. Birks (2013), J. Quaternary Science 28:490-500.

  14. F. Yiou et al (11 co-authors) (1997). J. Geophysical Research 102: 26,783-26,794.

  15. G.M. Raisbeck et al (2007). Climate of the Past 3: 541-547.

  16. H. Rother et al (2014). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sc. US. 111:11,630-11,635.

  17. R.M. Carter (2005). J. Royal Society of New Zealand 35: 9-42.

  18. R. M. Carter, P. Gammon (2004). Science 304: 1659-1662.

  19. P. E. Tarasov et al (2009). Climate of the Past 5:285-295.

  20. H. Seppa et al (2005). Climate Dynamics 25: 285-297.

  21. J. Downes (editor). Scottish Archaeological Research Framework. Bronze Age Scotland. June 2012.

  22. L.J.E. Cramp et al (9 co-authors) (2014). Proceedings Royal Society B 281: 1-9.

  23. M. Heinemann et al (4 co-authors) (2014) Climate of the Past 10: 1567-1579. See also A.S. Dyke and V.K. Prest (1987), Géographie physique et Quaternaire 41:237-263. The duration of the rise in sea level (8,000 years) after the last ice age gives an overall assessment of the period required for deglaciation (see reference 16).

  24. J.W. Valley et al (10 co-authors) (2014). Nature Geoscience 7:219-223. See also S. Bowring, ibid, 7:169-170.

  25. H.D. Holland (2006). Philosophical Transactions Royal Society B 361: 903-915.

  26. B.L. Gordon (2014). Science, Religion and Culture 1:144-173.

  27. J.D. Morris (2013). The Young Earth (revised and expanded), Master Books, Green Forest, AR 72638, US. pp. 26-40.

  28. Biblical Young Earth Creationism, Northwest Creation Network, Edmonds, WA (contact@nwcreation.net) 2016.

  29. Larry Geraty (2015), "How The Adventist Church Changed its Fundamental Beliefs in San Antonio." Spectrum Online, 7 July, 2015. Retreived 10 February, 2016.

  30. Andrew McChesney (2015). "Delegates Approve Landmark Update of Fundamental Beliefs." Adventist Review Online, 7 July, 2015. Retreived 10 February, 2016.

  31. Stefani Leeper (2015). Adventist Today, Fall 2015; vol. 23: 7-9.

  32. Uriah Smith (1860). Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 16:49. Article transcribed from: W.S. Plumer (1840), The Bible True, and Infidelity Wicked. American Tract Society, New York, 1840, pp. 47-51.

  33. Gerhard Pfandl (2003). J. Adventist Theological Society 14:176-194.

  34. R.M. Davidson, “Understanding the ‘When’ of Creation in Genesis 1-2”, in Bryan W. Ball, (Ed.), In the Beginning, Science and Scripture Confirm Creation, Pacific Press Publishing Association, Nampa, Idaho, U.S.A., 2012, Ch. 7, pp. 97-113.

  35. D.A. Young, R.F. Stearley (2008). The Bible, Rocks and Time. Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, US, pp. 478,481.

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 (obviously after reading a particular Record issue as noted in this article) to put some of their thoughts on this interface into the public arena for others to consider and comment.

If you respond to this article, please: Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7316
5 Likes

Thank you for a thoughtful and thorough consideration of YEC and the evidence for ice ages. I particularly appreciated the quote from Young and Stearley, “‘Proving’ the Bible or Christianity with spurious scientific hypothesis does not honor God and can only be injurious to the cause of Christ. We must not defend God’s truth by arguing falsehood on its behalf…”

I do wonder though what you consider happened about 6-10 thousand years ago during creation week in your two-stage creation theory. The ice and lake cores you mention contain pollen from plants dating back much further than 10 thousand years ago. In addition, the accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere, which you mentioned, occurred largely due to the photosynthesis of early plants and algae over billions of years. If plants were already present, why would a second creation of plants be necessary on the third day of creation week about 6-10 thousand years ago?

13 Likes

The authors have convincingly demonstrated that a post flood ice age, as postulated by some YEC advocates, is a preposterous notion. However it seems they’ve gone on to imply that so long as you allow for the earth itself (and the universe) preexisting prior to creation, Genesis can still be read literally.

In addition to the excellent points raised by @brentonreading regarding evidence of vegetation in the “preexisting” earth, there are also other problems. For instance, the authors appeal to ice core research to demonstrate the impossibility of a post flood ice age occurring circa 2000 BC, but this same research conclusively demonstrates there could not have been a world-wide flood any time in the past approx. 90,000 years. Thus Genesis cannot be read literally in its reference to a flood that covered the whole world.

Another problem is that within the rock from which some of the canyons were apparently carved during the last ice age (circa 12,000 BC), are numerous animal fossils. (Ref this link for an example)

This rules out the possibility that those animals were created after the last ice age, during a recent creation week.

Then there are conflicts within the Biblical creation stories themselves, where the order of creation is different in the Genesis 1 story as compared to the Genesis 2 story. They cannot both be literally correct.

And in Exodus 20:11, God is quoted as saying “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them”. Here the earth itself is identified as being created within the 6 days. And the reference to the heavens must be interpreted as including the sun, moon and stars - also created within the 6 days.

So if one really wants to read the Bible literally, one must support YEC. Once you realise the utter impossibility of YEC, why even attempt to harmonise your views with any of the literal details?

13 Likes

Why is that so hard to understand? Right or wrong, the centrality of the Sabbath in the Adventist identity runs the whole issue. There are certain foundational beliefs that the church will not revisit no matter what. That may sound laudable, but it might also be a sign of a lack of faith in the leading of the Spirit. The assumption that has to be made by the Adventist stand, is that the Christian message, through the centuries, up until William Miller showed up was not complete or sufficient. It must also be assumed that there is no more for the church to learn or consider, contrary to what EGW has said. In essence, this is an ultimatum to the Spirit that no more guidance is needed - we know it all.

We talk about “God’s second book”, and mean it to be nature. Realistically, nature must be God’s initial book since the written word didn’t show up until man had contended with life and belief for quite some time. Granted, the study of nature exploded in recent times, but nature was the only manifestation from God before writing was even invented. To ignore the science that studies nature is to deny that God has anything to do with all the discoveries science has brought to mankind. It’s to deny the basis for medicine and the technology the church is more than happy to employ.

Obviously this is a difficult issue for the church; and it takes courage and faith to deal with it honestly. The temptation is to take the shortcuts through church dogma and call it faith. If the church would cut out micromanaging how we individually relate to this issue and many others, it might facilitate our growth as well as its own, by supplying a framework for study and leave it up to God and the Spirit to do its work. As Jesus said, the Spirit is to lead us into all truth; but as it is now, the Spirit is crowded out by the strident stance the church is taking out of fear. The same thing happened as Gallelio made his discoveries known and was almost killed for it.

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is there any evidence that the heart and mind of man have improved over time? humanity needs a Redeemer. God sent His Son. Recent is necessary to Sabbath keepers only. the Cross is necessary for all humanity. The centrality of Christianity is the Cross. Only a Creator/God could make it so. tom Z

p.S. Great distances are measured by the speed of light. great time is measured by the decay of carbon 14. That is based upon a constant supply of Carbon 14 over the history of atmospheric carbon 14. we know that is not so. China alone is producing more atomlspheric Carbon than the world in the days of Moses.

The point is we just don’t know about beginnings. We do know about assurance even in very troubled times. TZ

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Sirje,
You elegantly point out that :
“The centrality of the sabbath in Adventist identity runs the whole issue”.
In another post elsewhere, you again made an articulate point:
“The elephant in the room is EGW”

Since the seventh day sabbath is embodied in our very name, a six literal day creation has always been one of Adventism’s paramount beliefs.
And as long as we find the phrase ".six thousand years " in the SOP “red books”, conservatives will have a perennial problem extending the age of the earth beyond that time frame.

For me, extending the age of the earth raises a far more profound, pertinent, and perplexing problem: It calls into question the very nature of God.
Since “the fall” when thorns and thistles and other calamitous evils prevailed, misery has been endemic on this planet. A recent internet post postulated that the Old Testamemt had more violence that the Quran.
Violence implies murder , rape, genocide, torture and every imaginable atrocity.

Since God/AllahJehovah, has the ultimate power to adjudicate both the beginning and the end of the age, the longer He allows misery/suffering/agony/anguish to continue, the less loving and compassionate He appears.

Conversely, because EGW’s Great Controversy scenario, confers some decision making/ arbitration on " the universe " by which I assume she means " unfallen " Angels and “beings”, it is difficult to conceive that these beings could contemplate human misery with EQUANIMITY for a period of multiple millennia.

Conceding a 70 000 – 200,000 year period for HUMAN life on earth, would tip me into the atheist camp. I already find the STENCH of six thousand years of abject misery on this planet to be TOO LONG for a loving God’s nostrils to tolerate.

So I was very pleased that in the presentation, although ice samples clearly show pollens, ice ages, volcanic eruptions and other major events to have extended back multiple millennia, that the authors still offer the hope that mankind has only inhabited this planet for six thousand years.

This whole creation story is fraught with multiple theological trapdoors, allowing Christians to plummet into atheism. One wonders why God in His wisdom was not more articulately clear in His description of events, assuming His omniscience allowed Him to preview these quagmires.

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Thank you brethren!!!
Your insight into the impact of Young Earth Doctrine (?) on the thinking of educated young people both within the church and outside is beyond calculation… Thank you for sharing your tnoughts and learning on this vital issue. Jim Bussau.

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This is interesting however invaribly certain assumptions have been made by the researchers which may or may not be valid. The Bible (epistle of Peter ) warns us against assuming that all things have progressed in an orderly fashion since creation (whenever that was) and that there have not been global catasrophes .

That thousands of mammoths perished suddenly and were instantly frozen on the plains of Siberia is fact not fiction but does the ice core samples pinpoint that climatic event.Maybe maybe not.

Part of the problem as I see it is assuming that the story in Genesis that the creation of mankind recorded in the first of the book is the same as the creation of A&E recorded later.
That is not necessarily so and there are a number or facts recorded that seem to suggest that many years if not eons separate the two stories.

For example warning A&E that death would result from disobedience would be meaningless unless death was something they could see and comprehend.

The suggestion that Adam was “the son of God” appears to differentiate him from the humanoids of the early part of Genesis .

We do not know for sure of course but it is unreasonable to assume creation only a few thousand years ago especially when the Bible could be suggesting a longer time frame.

If SDAs allow the Bible to speak for itself instead of looking at it through the prism of EGW perhaps a more rational understanding would emerge.

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"For me, extending the age of the earth raises a far more profound, pertinent, and perplexing problem: It calls into question the very nature of God.

Since “the fall” when thorns and thistles and other calamitous evils prevailed, misery has been endemic on this planet. A recent internet post postulated that the Old Testamemt had more violence that the Quran.Violence implies murder , rape, genocide, torture and every imaginable atrocity.’

My answer to this very important question is:

God cannot do the logically impossible. God cannot create a married bachelor. God cannot create a mostly free and autonomous system where wrong choices will never be made!
Let me state this again: God is not able to do the logically impossible, such as create a world with ‘free and autonomous’ creatures where wrong choices and/or mutations do not happen!
If God would create a closed system with no free choice it would be like the garden without the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” peopled by totally ignorant beings, unable to relate as rational creatures—preprogrammed automata.
Augustine in his apologetics manual

The Enchiridion, writes, “God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist.”
The Creator made possible the above outcome by creating beings with free will and moral aptitude who would choose their own destinies.

Christ Provision
The Creator, before he created, took responsibility for “all” the effects of freedom that ‘open creation’ would unleash in human society. God did this by punishing himself on the Cross, taking the responsibility for our sin. God did this from the beginning. “Foreordained before the foundation of the world, but manifested at the end of time for your sake." I Pet. 1:20
"The Lamb . . . was slain from the foundation of the world." Rev. 13:8
We see from these verses that The Creator, from his eternity, saw and re-acted to the sin situation before it actually ‘happened’ in the stream of earth-based time!
If this were not so then when mankind first sinned, mankind would have died “that very day.” Gen. 2:17.
Symbols of the Cross were placed on mankind before the event the symbols pointed to happened. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Gen. 3:21
The need for Calvary was “foreknown” and the benefits of the Cross proactively applied. “Who saved us according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ before the world began.” II Tim. 1:9

The Creation Provision
The reality of the death of Christ on Calvary was pro-actively applied to mankind in the garden, thousands of years before the event. In the same way, the effects of sin (death) were applied to nature before creation.

The Creator, before He created, would foreknow perfectly the negative outcomes due to free choice, and from the beginning He would design nature with the ability to adapt and maintain balance.

Nature was “made subject to vanity, not of its own [God’s] will . . .” Rom. 8:20 which is not referring to Adam but to God.

Death and predation–“Vanity” according to Paul, would be a reality until the “restoration of all things.” Acts 3:21
The Creator, in the final day, would free nature from this “bondage and corruption.” Paul again reminds us, “The creature was made subject to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him [God] who subjected the same in hope.” Rom. 8:20

“In Hope!” There is an inner sense in human hearts that something is wrong with this world, and a desire or hope for a “better country.” There is a hope in the heart of man for God, and a sense that God in heaven is good, and that things are wrong here, but there must be a plan.
Our desire and hope for a ‘better world’ resonates with Scripture’s promises that “. . . the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Rom. 8:21

In the New Creation, mankind and all of nature will experience freedom and Perfection --goodness will be realized on earth as it is in heaven without over-ruling free will!

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Have you ever heard a sermon in an SDA Church on Deut 5:12 as opposed to Ex 20:8? I never have, and I’ve often wondered why that is.

I applaud the authors of this article, for accepting the evidence of Science and the detailed record it has left of major events in the Earths history, including remarkably accurate dating methods. I wish they would have extended this just a little and given us some evidence and dates for Creation Week and the Flood. I’ve looked in vain for any Scientific evidence and the associated dates for either event within the last 6ky.

It pays to keep in mind, that the mainstream Scientific understanding we have today was developed initially by largely Christian individuals whose worldview and preconceptions was exactly that of Divine Creation, Creation Week and a global Flood. They were forced away from that worldview by evidence, not by preconceptions. Many YEC supporters today seem oblivious to this historical fact and act as though modern science is largely an artifact of an incorrect worldview of methodological naturalism biasing our interpretation of data. This is completely inverted from reality. It was data which forced a change in worldview instead, and many still cling to the old worldview and reject the data.

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Evidence of glaciation in West Africa? I think Africa is part of the earth and mostly these researchers appear to focus on Western phenomena. By the way the absence of the Sun can create ice everywhere…and the sun appeared on the fourth day. Err but the water could roll…

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“cannot”, “must”, etc., are assumptions that define an argument with “conveniently” limited outcomes for subsequent rationalizations and “proofs in paradox”… human intellect is way too limiting sadly.

Should listen to Tom’s perspective, more encompassing of non-bias and relevance to living today.

“The point is we just don’t know about beginnings.”

For decades now, Christians baffled by the enormous amount of data supporting the extreme age of life and the planet, have clung to this false hope. Its true there are great mysteries, but that does not justify such an agnostic conclusion. Beginnings may be clouded–the origin of the universe, the origin of life–but we have successful dating methods for much of the time spent since then–especially the last 10,000 - 50,000 years

One month of spare time, spent understanding a single dating technique such as dendrochronology, ice core analysis, or c-14 dating, will disabuse anyone of this idea that “we just don’t know”.

We DO know, and it is time to stop pretending that we don’t.

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Dendrochronology: dating based on tree rings --> cannot be used to force an age of the earth greater than 6000 years for two reasons: 1) God could, and almost certainly did, create fully mature trees, with rings; and 2) tree rings are not added consistently, as scientists also know.

Carbon-14 dating: based on the percentage of C-14 in the atmosphere, assumed to remain constant over time --> cannot be used to support life on earth greater than 6000 years because C-14 levels are 1) actually known to fluctuate, 2) tied to atmospheric conditions in the upper atmosphere which may well have changed at the time of the Flood, and 3) dissipate too quickly for accuracy beyond a short time period.

Radioactive age dating: based on half-lives of radioactive elements such as uranium (U) which finally result in lead (Pb) after decaying fully --> cannot be used to support long ages of life on this planet because 1) a false assumption is made that a particular sample was ALL uranium before decaying to lead, and this simply cannot be proven or known, 2) dating rocks in order to date fossils is a stretch to begin with, because those rocks could well have had any particular proportion of radioactive elements and the elements to which they later decay at any time in the sequence of their formation, and 3) assumptions are made, which have not and cannot scientifically be proven, that the decay rates have remained constant over time.

Coral-drilling dating: based on layers in sea corals --> cannot be used to date life on earth for the same reasons as the dendrochronology.


After the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, many scientific theories, such as long ages for rivers to carve out canyons, and for “forests” to be fossilized “in place,” were laid to rest. Things happened in a matter of months, not eons. Any modern scientist who intentionally avoids seeing such evidences before positing some long-age theory necessarily becomes suspect of having an agenda. That agenda is common in this world: it is an unwise agenda that seeks to avoid a knowledge of God, of His ways, and of His laws.

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Although this may not be the best place to post this comment, I would like to say something about evolution:

  1. If Jesus Jesus is Creator, how is it that he, giving himself for his creation would use a process that is selfish at the core: survival of the ones who can get ahead by any means possible? Dawkins even calls the genes selfish.
  2. Eternal life does not make sense. If I were allowed to live forever, I would be a creature left behind, as the more recent ones would have “progressed” further, especially if progress is based on death, the replacement of less fit by the more fit.
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Two, not one but 2 big BLATANT appeals to “authority” in the first pargeraph …

In Europe, it was actually pastors and priests who had hobbies of examining Natural Phenomenon that got interested in glaciation, rock formations of where they lived, and land development. the Alps and Scandinavia. Pastors in England also became curious about curious things found in the ground by farmers, just like those on central Europe.
Since Latin was the main foreign language of the Educated, they were able to converse with each other in Latin correspondence.
Geologists at that time – those looking for minerals to mine also noted similarities of structures in many areas.
It was the Geologists and Theologians who began developing a concept of how the Earth crust developed before Scientists became the main investigators.
Initially, all this conversation through Letter Writing was confined to Europe. There was no conversation with Americans, so ALL this knowledge and information that was floating around Europe was pretty much unknown in the Colonies. By the time it came to America, America was in the midst of the Religious Awakening, and that took up the main interest of the day.
Adventists at the time were just common folk with what then was basic education, so all this was out of their view also. Work, family, and Bible reading took up their time. So until about the time of George McCready Price, SDAs were out of the loop, except for perhaps, Charles Darwin’s, the Origin of Species, that he had felt pressured to compile, complete, and publish in late 1850’s.
I was at the Library yesterday reading magazines, and on the New Book Shelf was a huge book [even very heavy] called the Voyage of the Beagle. Full of 4-color photo plates of geology, people, places, creatures he would have seen going around the world. Many drawings of peoples he would have encountered and their various cultures. It also had many pictures of the things he would have collected on his trip and sent back to London. Many insects and other things not known before his trip.

Again, Adventism was out of the Loop on all this stuff. So all THEY and most of church goers in North America had was Ussher’s Chronology, and what little information was in Genesis 1-20.
While in England and the Continent, educated person’s were abuzz with active and shared curiosity and investigation. More questions than answers about the Natural Phenomenon they saw around them.

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I appreciate hearing all of you grapple with this difficult topic. I don’t think the answers are simple, but I do think they are important, and I fear we lose credibility when we fall back on a literal week of creation 6,000 years ago without solid data. For a long time I have been looking for a model that agrees with the bible and observation…I believe it exists, but I am yet to find it. I appreciate the author pointing out things we need to consider…and even if the dates were off by a factor of 10 (which I doubt) things still wouldn’t fit in 6,000.
What are some models that some of you have considered? Tim Price


EDIT:
David, when you say “Ice Age” are you referring to the time when pretty much all of Canada and the northern edge of the US was covered in ice (considered by some to be 12,000 years ago.)
To me the Milankovitch seems to be gaining favor (contrary to the link). The theory seems to indicate an older earth, as well as provide a dating mechanism not reliant on radiometric methods. As I work towards a model, this seems to be a very important piece. (I’m not familiar with the Oard theory…thanks for the link.)

The gap theory you mention has intrigued me for some time…not because I like it, personally I love the traditional creation story, but because it might makes sense. God makes the earth a few bacteria and maybe a plant (are we OK with bacteria and plants?) and leaves for a couple billion years…then returns 6,000 years ago and makes Adam, the animals and the real plants. This would seem to solve a lot of problems if it weren’t for the fossils of T-Rex, etc. I’m not comfortable with God using survival of the fittest…could it be that the Devil was working with survival of the fittest long before the Garden of Eden? …and the Garden was God beginning to reclaim the earth?

I have a few more questions about how you see the flood supporting the ice age later…
Tim

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Eventually the only logical conclusion many, including myself, come too ( and it may take some time) is a version of theistic evolution. I believe it is the only model that honestly fits within our scientific understanding but still provides a meaningful role for the scriptural story of origins and need not diminish the role of the cross. Polkinghorn’s explanation of of evolution and natural evil as a necessity for Gods gift of free will is useful. The story of the fall can be viewed as a description of mankind’s growing awareness of good and evil in a general sense or a literal point in time that God intervened in the evolution of man and gave humans that uniqueness that distinguishes them from the other great apes. How this all fits into the Adventist perspective of the great controversy is an interesting discussion that I have never had the opportunity to divulge in as the Adventist community rarley permits open discussion of such things so I read widely, think a lot, and comment now and then on this blog.

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God sends the Jews out to kill the neighboring countries, (men, women, children, and animals).
God stops the sun from circling the earth so the Jews can have more day light so they can really kill peoples who don’t have that type of god.
Today all three “peoples of scripture” believe God will come down and kill those other people that don’t understand God right. If God can’t get the job done right, lets strap bombs on our back, and fly bombers over head, and cut power and water to starving people, to get God’s work done faster.
Many people thing God wants women to be baby factories to flood the world with “our” type of bible believers.
This “dog eat dog” world of evolution and of the bible seems like the same world.

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