Here is a quiz on “Dinosaurs: Genesis and the Gospel” given to fourth graders at a South Carolina Christian school:
The quiz was based on material from Answers in Genesis.
Atheists and skeptics, of course, have made much of this quiz since it was first posted on the internet a few weeks ago. Christians are obviously a bunch of morons, liars, brainwashers, idiots, and so forth. For a couple of examples, read Intolerant Atheists Viciously Attack Christian School by PZ Meyers or South Carolina creationist science quiz is real on Daily Kos.
The atheists are wrong; Christians are not idiots. But Answers in Genesis is wrong as well, in that young-Earth creationism gives the skeptics a tragically easy reason to reject Christian truth.
Here’s how I would answer the 4th grade quiz, with red X‘s on the answers the teacher would have marked as incorrect:
X — True. The opening statement of the Bible — “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” — is not necessarily included in the six days of creation, so the earth could have been created in 4000 B.C., 4,000,000 B.C., or 4,000,000,000 B.C.
X — True. Dinosaurs went extinct about 66 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous Period.
1/2 X — The 6th day. But is God’s day the same as our day? Moses himself indicates flexibility on this question in Psalm 90.
X — False. The Bible does not say that dinosaurs lived with people, and there is plenty of geological evidence that they did not.
X — The Bible says that animals and humans in the Garden of Eden ate plants, but states that the world outside of the garden was a wild place in need of subduing. Carnivores outside of the garden ate meat.
X — None of the above. Maybe a hippopotamus. A brachiosaurus wouldn’t have fed on grass like an ox, and could not have hidden in the lotus plants and reeds in the marshes along the Jordan River.
I don’t know what happened to #8-10. I probably would have gotten them wrong.
X — There are multiple history books of the universe. The Bible tells us about the origin of the universe, but it doesn’t give us much in the way of details. What it tells us is true, but what it tells us and what the young-Earth creationists tell us that it tells us are two different things. For example, Genesis 1 tells us that God made the stars, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the processes he used to accomplish this act. For that, I would turn to books about astronomy and nuclear chemistry. Genesis 1 also tells us that God said “Let the land produce living creatures,” which implies some sort of process without stating what that process was. I would turn to books about biology and geology to learn about the history of those living creatures and the processes by which they came about. (I apologize, Teacher, that this answer did not fit on the little line).
False. I think just about everyone would agree that Noah’s ark didn’t look like that.
X — I took Vertebrate Paleontology a long time ago at Montana State, but I would really have had to guess on this one. I would have had guessed b. rhino.
X — None of the above. The Bible does not say that Noah’s Flood deposited the sedimentary rock record along with its fossils. None of the other answers are things that in themselves would produce fossils.
X — Fossils are the remains or traces of organisms from the past that are preserved in Earth’s crust. There are patterns in how they are preserved that indicate that they were not produced by one, brief, cataclysmic process.
X — I agree that Earth is billions of years old. To say that it is only 6000 years old is neither Biblically necessary nor scientifically feasible.
My grade from a YEC’s perspective: 4.5/15 = 30%. F
Conclusion: With a Biblical and scientific foundation like this, no doubt some of these kids are “Already Gone.”
Grace and peace
Answers in Genesis had its first ever live chat on Facebook today, where people could discuss the article When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History with one of the authors. Unfortunately, the author who chatted was the editor of Answers magazine, Mike Matthews, not Andrew Snelling, AiG’s geologist. The basic idea of the article is that the entire Pleistocene Epoch can be compressed into a 250-year period between 2250 and 2000 B.C.
In case you missed it, I reviewed this article last week: The Pleistocene is not in the Bible.
The chat is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AnswersMagazine
Here are a few excerpts from the chat. I was the first person to ask a question.
I commented on some other people’s questions:
Sara is a geology student somewhere, and is a young-Earth creationist. I pray that her faith will remain intact through the process of getting a geological education:
One GeoChristian reader was also at the chat, and asked a couple good questions:
The chat was mostly respectful, though there were a few skeptics who dropped by:
My question on Yellowstone volcanism and glaciation hadn’t been answered and the chat time was almost over, so I prompted for a response:
I never did really get an answer beyond, “this is a matter of ongoing research.”
Dialog is good. The people at Answers in Genesis are my brothers and Sisters in Christ, and I love them. I just think they are wrong.
Grace and Peace
Many leading Christian apologists—an apologist is one who makes a reasoned defense for the faith—are old-Earth Christians. They hold firmly to the truthfulness and reliability of the Scriptures, but reject the hyperliteralism of the young-Earth creationist movement. One such scholar is J.P. Moreland, professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology.
In the book Three Views on Creation and Evolution (edited by Moreland and John Mark Reynolds), Moreland offered the following advice to young-Earth creationists:
Suppose we are interpreting some biblical text and we have hermeneutical option A and option B. Suppose further, that on exegetical grounds alone, we compare the text with other portions of Scripture and find that (1) A and B are both plausible, that is, within the bounds of reason exegetically speaking; and (2) A is superior to B. Now suppose further that B harmonizes Scripture with what we have pretty good reason to believe is true outside the Bible, but A flies in the face of these extrabiblical factors. In short, B solves external conceptual problems. Then, in my view, it is hermeneutically permissible to adopt B as the correct interpretation of a text.
In this scenario, we can let the young-Earth “literal” 24-hour calendar day interpretation be option A and various old-Earth interpretations be option B. Some young-Earth creationists acknowledge that old-Earth interpretations are possible, but they think the young-Earth interpretation is better. If the young-Earth interpretation of Scripture were superior and the scientific evidence pointed to a young Earth, then I would be a young-Earth creationist. As it is, however, there are old-Earth interpretations that work well (I like the analogical days interpretation, perhaps with elements of the day-age interpretation tacked on) and are well within the bounds of good hermeneutics and Christian orthodoxy; and young-Earth science fails miserably. I am quite comfortable, therefore, with being an old-Earth Christian.
Elsewhere, Moreland has stated,
Now, when it comes to the days of Genesis…I’m of the view on this that while we ought not allow science to dictate to us our exegesis of the Old Testament, nevertheless, if there is an interpretation of the Old Testament that is exegetically permissible– that is, an old age interpretation; that is to say, if you can find conservative, inerrantist, evangelical Old Testament scholars that say that the interpretation of this text that treats the days of Genesis as unspecified periods of time, and that is a completely permissible thing to do on exegetical grounds alone, then my view is that that is a permissible option if it harmonizes the text with science because that option can be justified exegetically, independent of science.
To believe that the Bible allows for millions of years is not something forced on the text from the outside. One can make a strong case for biblical ambiguity regarding the age of the Earth without any references to geology or astronomy. We can add J.P. Moreland to the long list of old-Earth biblical scholars.
Grace and Peace
One group of biblical scholars who recognized that there is more than one way to interpret the opening chapters of Genesis was the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. They wrote the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which gives a standard definition of what is and isn’t meant by “inerrancy.” Many of the scholars who wrote this document were themselves young-Earth creationists, but they recognized that there are other valid options, and that YEC is not an essential part of the Christian doctrine of Scripture. The vote to leave young-Earth language out of the document was almost unanimous.
Another group of theologically conservative scholars who recognized that old-Earth interpretations are possible, even though many of them are themselves YECs, are those who served on the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) Creation Study Committee. Their report gives an excellent overview of the young-Earth and various old-Earth interpretations.
Young-Earth creationists (YECs) attempt to squeeze most of the geological record into the brief span of Noah’s flood, even though the Bible does not state that the flood was responsible for Earth’s sedimentary rocks, and does not even require that the flood covered the entire Earth (read more here and here). There is an important exception to this, however. Glacial sediments and other deposits of the Pleistocene Epoch—the “ice age” —are usually considered to be post-flood deposits by YECs.
Answers in Genesis recently published an article by Andrew Snelling and Mike Matthews entitled “When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History?” It begins with a true statement:
“The Bible doesn’t say, ‘And then there was an Ice Age.’”
If the authors had stopped right there, they would have written a great article. The Bible does not teach us about ice ages any more than it teaches us about genetics or chemistry. But they did continue, and the result is another bad answer from Answers in Genesis. As blogger James McGrath noted in regards to this article:
I continue to wonder whether the folks at AiG are working to make Christianity look as foolish as possible, even while claiming their aim is to promote it.
Like much else in YEC geological thinking, there are many problems with this article. The geological, paleontological, and archeological records left by Pleistocene Epoch events and organisms are both detailed and complex; and difficult—or impossible—to compress into the suggested YEC timetable. A simpler solution would be to stick to what the Bible actually says about ice ages, which is nothing at all. The whole idea that the ice ages can be tucked into a 250-year period following Noah’s flood is an unnecessary imposition on the text of Scripture, and scientifically indefensible.
SUMMARY OF THE ARTICLE
A good way to summarize the paper by Snelling and Matthews is by presenting the timeline given in the article and accompanying poster:
- 2350 B.C. – Noah’s flood
- 2350 to 2250 B.C. — Antarctica becomes covered by forests, then gets covered by its ice cap.
- 2250 to 2000 B.C. — Ice age on the rest of Earth.
- approx. 2300 B.C. — First mastadons.
- 2250 B.C. — First human tools in archeological record. Tower of Babel.
- approx 2200 B.C. — First woolly mammoths.
- approx 2200 to 2100 B.C. — Age of the Neanderthals.
- approx 2150 B.C. — Humans migrate into Australia.
- approx 2100 B.C. — Humans migrate into North America.
- 2000 B.C. — End of the Ice age. Abram born.
The authors give a variety of “Bible facts,” “geological facts,” and “archeological facts” to support the timeline.
A SHORT LIST OF WHAT WOULD NEED TO BE FORCED INTO 250 YEARS (THE LIST COULD BE MUCH LONGER)
Here is a brief summary of events one would have to squeeze into a 250-year long ice age:
Formation and melting of ice caps. According to the YECs, the ice ages would have begun with the accumulation of ice several kilometers thick over much of North America and Northern Europe, as well as ice caps over many mountain ranges elsewhere in the world. YECs propose that there was extreme snowfall in polar areas during the first part of the ice age. In order to form a 3000 meter thick ice cap over North America, as much as 30 kilometers of dry powdery snow would need to accumulate and compact (powder snow has a density about 1/10 that of glacial ice). Less snow would be required if it were not powder snow, but powder snow is a good assumption based on modern precipitation over ice caps. If the continental glaciers took 100 years to form, this would be 300 meters of snowfall per year. Not only would the ice need to accumulate in a short amount of time, it would need to do a tremendous amount of erosion and deposition to create Earth’s diverse glacial landscapes, and then entirely melt away, perhaps in a few decades. YECs have a hot-ocean proposal for causing the intense precipitation; I have not read their proposal for melting the ice in only a few decades.
Multiple glaciations. Geologists believe that there have been multiple periods of glaciation during the Pleistocene (such as the Wisconsinan, Illinoian, and various pre-Illinoian glaciations), separated by warm interglacial periods. YECs advocate that there was just one ice age, perhaps with some fluctuations along the margins of the ice sheets. If there were only one glaciation, something had to happen that would make geologists think that there were multiple periods of continental and alpine glaciation. The evidence for multiple advances and retreats of the continental ice sheets includes deposition of non-glacial sediments such as wind-blown loess in between glacial till layers, presence of volcanic ash layers and well-developed soils between glacial deposits, and temperate forest fossils deposited between layers of glacial sediments. YECs either ignore this evidence, or state that there must be some alternative explanation, but the evidence is clear: there was not just one ice age.
Ancient soils. There are many places where soil layers formed during the Pleistocene, including instances where there are multiple, stacked paleosols, like in the Palouse Loess of Eastern Washington. Some exposures of the silty, wind-borne Palouse deposits have as many as nineteen well-developed ancient soils stacked on top of each other, implying alternating periods of silt accumulation and soil development, each of which would take time. The soil horizons include animal burrows and root casts, which indicate the passage of time. The paleosols in areas of dryer climate in the Palouse contain typical semiarid soil features such as petrocalcic horizons (a calcite-cemented layer at depth within the soil), which form in the advanced stages of the soil forming process.
Supervolcanoes. Some of the “supervolcano” eruptions that occurred during the Pleistocene of the western United States were one to two thousand times greater in volume than the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. The distal volcanic ash deposits from the Yellowstone Caldera, which had three separate massive eruptions, covered much of the United States, and undoubtedly had global effects. These ash deposits are interbedded with glacial deposits in the central United States and southern Canada, so at least some of the eruptions had to occur between periods of maximum glaciation. But there’s more:
- There were less dramatic, but sometimes still enormous, lava flow eruptions before, between, and after the three caldera eruptions. For example, long after the third supervolcano eruption, the caldera filled in stages with approximately 1000 cubic kilometers of rhyolitic lava.
- After all of these caldera eruptions, as well as after the massive rhyolite eruptions that occurred after them, the Yellowstone Plateau became covered by an ice cap of its own. When did this happen in the YEC calendar?
- Not only was there an ice cap that formed after the final volcanic activity in Yellowstone, there are glacial deposits that are older than some of the volcanic rocks. Therefore, the YECs somehow have to explain a sequence of smaller eruptions–supervolcano–smaller eruptions–supervolcano–smaller eruptions–supervolcano–glaciation–smaller eruptions–glaciation, all in 250 years.
- It wasn’t just Yellowstone. Other Pleistocene supervolcanoes include Long Valley Caldera in California, Valles Caldera in New Mexico, Taupo in New Zealand, and Toba in Indonesia. According to this YEC ice age model, all of these had to erupt between 2250 and 2000 B.C.!
Hyperevolution. According to the YECs, there was very rapid diversification of life forms after the flood. There may have been a few thousand “kinds” of animals on Noah’s Ark, but these evolved into the tens of thousands of species that were on Earth during the Pleistocene (I’m just thinking of vertebrates). An example mentioned in the article is the diversification of the “elephant kind” into elephants, mastodons, and woolly mammoths. How many generations would this have taken? This all happened between 2350 and 2200 B.C., an evolutionary explosion that would make your average punctuated equilibrium advocate blush. This is especially true for mastodons, who have a very different tooth structure from that of elephants and mammoths.
Human prehistory. The YEC ice age model compresses all of human prehistory—Neanderthals, paleolithic, neolithic, and all ancient history before 2000 B.C—into the time from the flood (2350 B.C according to their time chart) to Abraham (2000 B.C.). It looks on their poster like the Neanderthals were around for roughly 100 years. The YECs have to completely ignore archeological sites with multiple levels of habitation.
Human expansion. Humans had to multiply, differentiate into races, and migrate from Ararat and Mesopotamia to the entire world in 250 years. The poster’s timeline has humans entering Australia around 2150 B.C. and North America around 2100 B.C. This happened while supervolcanoes were erupting and either snow was accumulating by tens to hundreds of meters per year over parts of North America, or the landscape was being flooded by rapidly melting ice sheets. No wonder the boy to the right is running!
ADDITIONAL SIGNIFICANT PROBLEMS WITH THE ARTICLE
1. “As a massive ice sheet expanded over Canada, it drove out most living things, and then it continued to push south into the Ohio valley.”
According to this YEC ice age scenario, Northern Hemisphere glaciation started about one hundred years after Noah’s flood. At the beginning of the YEC ice age, the surface of Canada and the Ohio Valley would have been mostly barren, with little vegetation and even fewer animals, as they would have had to multiply and migrate from Noah’s Ark. However, there is an abundant and complex fossil record—of both animals and plants—from the time before continental glaciers appeared on North America. There is a continuity in the fossil record from Pliocene to Pleistocene flora and fauna that is completely inconsistent with the YEC story.
2. “During the Ice Age the earth’s landscapes, forests, and grasslands bore little resemblance to our own.”
As a matter of fact, the types of landscapes and biomes in the ice ages were very similar to those present on Earth today, they were just all compressed toward the equator. Moving from northern Canada to Central America during the Pleistocene, one would have transited ice caps, tundra, boreal forests, temperate forests or grasslands, subtropical forests or deserts, and tropical forests, just like today. The locations of these would have been different—further south in general—but the plants and animals would have been very similar, minus a few well-known species that have gone extinct, such as mastodons and sabre-toothed cats.
3. “The Bible gives us an inerrant chronology for marking historical events. It tells exactly how many human generations passed from the Flood to Abraham’s birth: eight.”
I agree that Genesis is describing real historical events, such as Noah’s flood, the Tower of Babel, and the life of Abraham. I disagree with the interpretation that the flood was global, as well as the idea that it had anything to do with the formation of the geological record. The Bible is completely silent on the topic of glaciation or ice ages.
The issue of whether or not the genealogies in Genesis were meant to be complete is a matter for debate. At the most, the chronologies in Genesis might give us a timetable for Noah’s flood, which I believe was a local flood, though one that seemed universal to Noah. Many conservative Bible scholars (and even prominent YECs such as the late Henry Morris) believe that the biblical chronologies are more flexible. It is a huge and unjustifiable leap to go from this timetable to inserting a massive ice age into a 250-year period.
4. “Apart from Antarctica and a few high mountain chains, sediments deposited before the Ice Age do not show signs of cold-weather environments or ice sheet activity. Indeed, the world appears to have been a pretty balmy place until the Ice Age.”
This paragraph refers to a period of 100 years. That is one hundred years for Earth’s surface to recover from the flood, soils to form, plants to disperse (somehow temperate North American plant seeds all end up in temperate parts of North America, Asian plants ended up in Asia, etc.), ecological succession to occur at various locations, animals to multiply and migrate to their appropriate biomes and continents from their starting point in Turkey (kangaroos somehow knew to hop to Australia, where pre-ice age kangaroo fossils are found), all while volcanoes were erupting, hyper-hurricanes were brewing, and hundreds of meters (in some cases) of Pleistocene sediments were depositing.
5. So it is reasonable to conclude that the start of the Ice Age in the Northern Hemisphere (the Pleistocene) roughly coincides with the Babel judgment, around a century or so after the Flood (perhaps 2250 BC).
No it isn’t. Look again at the serious geological problems I outlined above. The Bible is not about the Pleistocene.
6. “The Bible mentions that some very important cities were established by Abraham’s day and continued to thrive throughout Old Testament times.”
“In no case do these settlements, including Ur, date as early as the end of the Ice Age. At the time of Ur’s settlement it was a port city on the Persian Gulf, but this gulf did not even exist during the Ice Age.”
When Abraham was born in Ur, migrated to Haran, and then to Canaan—with a side trip to Egypt—these were all homes to well-established civilizations with long histories and sizable populations. Nothing in the Bible or archeology hints otherwise. The city states of Mesopotamia were not just getting settled after a few hundred years of geological chaos. The Mesopotamian plain was pretty much the way it had been described back in Genesis 2, without a catastrophic makeover. Abraham was firmly planted in the flow of human history, which had been going on for a few millenia before him.
7. “Archaeologists have found thousands of campsites and small settlements where Noah’s descendants lived after the Babel dispersion during the Ice Age. These early pioneers were daring explorers and settlers, quickly reaching as far as Australia and the Americas.”
These settlements and campsites have a complex history, with many signs of long-term use, often with multiple levels of occupation that cannot be crunched down to the YEC time scale.
8. “The Bible does not reveal much about the biology and geology of the Ice Age,”
I’ll say an “Amen” to that…
“but it does tell us about the languages, culture, and migrations of the people of that time.”
The Bible says a good amount about the languages, culture, and migrations of people in the ancient Near East—the nations listed in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10—but it does not go beyond that.
9. “Various species of the saber-tooth cat (such as Smilodon fatalis) began appearing as the Ice Age got underway, though not in the areas first settled by humans. The woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) did not appear until later, but as the cold increased and grasslands spread across northern Asia and North America, its numbers quickly filled the grassy plains.”
This is YEC hyperevolution in action. Again, how many generations did it take to get from “cat kind” to lions, tigers, jaguars, cougars, sabre-toothed cats, and house cats?
10. “Another interesting development during the Ice Age was the appearance of Neanderthal people, whose range was restricted to Europe and the Near East. Like all other humans, they were descendants of the people who scattered from Babel. Their remains do not appear until the middle of the Ice Age, and they disappeared as the glaciers reached their maximum and the cold, dry weather reached its worst.”
As I already mentioned, the Neanderthals would have lasted for about 100 years. In this time frame the YECs have to compress the various Neanderthal morphologies, as well as signs that various tool technologies developed in one area and spread to other areas. Many Neanderthal archeological sites have multiple levels of occupancy, which is difficult to cram into 100 years.
11. “Sometime after the demise of Neanderthal people, the first “stone age” villages begin appearing all over the Old World. We find them by the thousands, in some instances spread over several acres, and apparently predating any “cities” we know of.”
Again, the YECs are compressing thousands of years of history into a century. If the demise of the Neanderthals was in 2100 B.C., then the entire Neolithic, with its “stone age villages,” lasted from 2100 to 2000 B.C. At the end of this brief stone age, there were full-blown city states in Mesopotamia.
12. “We also know from the fossil record that they faced constant flooding, dust storms, supervolcanoes, massive earthquakes, meteorites, and downpours of snow or rain on a scale never before seen.”
We know from the geological record (not the fossil record as much) that the Pleistocene had times of flooding but also times of dryness, times of dust storms (loess deposits) but also times of landscape stability (soil formation), and supervolcanoes, but also soil development and other geological processes between eruptions.
But we do not know any of this from the Biblical record! Perhaps that is a sign that the Bible is not about the Pleistocene after all.
Whatever the relationship is between the Bible and the ice ages, this is not it. Fortunately there are better ways to think about the Pleistocene Epoch in relation to the Bible.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the Bible says nothing about ice ages.
If one is convinced from the Bible that Earth must be young there are some good alternatives:
- One could possibly say, “I don’t know when the ice age occurred.” That would be better than presenting bad science as Christian apologetics.
- One could allow there to be a tension between “I believe the Bible teaches a young Earth” and “Science seems to tell a story of an old Earth.” That might not be intellectually satisfying to many of us, but it would also be better than presenting bad science as Christian apologetics.
- One could say that there is only an appearance of age; that this is all part of what God created in the beginning. That raises interesting theological questions, but this too would be better than presenting bad science as Christian apologetics.
- At a minimum, I would hope that YECs would be willing to budge a bit on the chronological certainty proclaimed by some leading YEC writers and speakers. Henry Morris was willing to do this. This would help YECs to avoid what appears to the rest of us as chronological absurdities, such as Neanderthals existing for only a century between 2200 and 2100 B.C.
There are good old-Earth alternatives that I hope young-Earth creationists would consider:
- There is the old-Earth creationism of Hugh Ross. The science of the Pleistocene and earlier ages stays intact, and he advocates the unity of the human race including the Tower of Babel. This would be far better than presenting the bad science of YEC as Christian apologetics.
- There are those who advocate non-concordism, the idea that there isn’t a whole lot of overlap between Genesis and geology. Many of these scholars hold to Biblical inerrancy. Some of them don’t (C.S. Lewis for example) but are still well within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. This would also be far better than the hyperliteralism that leads to hyperevolutionary YEC being presented as Christian apologetics.
The geological problems that confront the YEC ice age scenarios are the same as those that plague all of YEC flood geology: Too many events, too little time. In the span of a few centuries, soils develop, forests grow, animals migrate from Ararat to the entire Earth, animals evolve at a very fast rate, the Antarctic ice cap forms, Earth is plunged into an ice age, supervolcanoes erupt, supervolcanoes erupt again, and again, an ice cap forms over Yellowstone (I guess it cooled down rather quickly), humans migrate everywhere in a time of geological chaos, all the ice melts, and Abraham arrives on the scene in a setting where it seems like none of this happened!
It simply isn’t in the Bible, and it doesn’t work scientifically
My fear in writing a critique like this is that someone who has been steeped in YEC ideology will have their faith crushed when they see that an important aspect of YEC does not work. They have been taught that if YEC isn’t true, then neither the Bible nor Christianity is true. This is a false dichotomy. Christianity does not need to be propped up by faulty apologetics. Christianity—and the truthfulness of the Bible—is not dependent on the YEC chronology. There are and have been many Christians who reject YEC and who are thoroughly orthodox in their beliefs, such as Charles Spurgeon, Francis Schaeffer, John Piper, and J.I. Packer. Many of Christianity’s leading defenders, such as C.S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, Norman Geisler, and William Lane Craig accept an old Earth.
My other fear is that no one would write a critique like this. Bad apologetics—and there is little doubt that YEC is bad apologetics—can cause believers to abandon their faith (hence many of our youth are “already gone”), and put an unnecessary stumbling block before non-Christians who might otherwise be open to the gospel.
My wish is that nothing I have written be taken as an attack against the authors or any other YEC.
With love for the church,
Grace and Peace
I quoted blogger James McGrath (“I continue to wonder whether the folks at AiG are working to make Christianity look as foolish as possible…”). McGrath is right on this, but in another case I sided with Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham against McGrath:
- The GeoChristian — Ken Ham and I are in complete agreement
- Ken Ham — Do Old Earthers and Young Earthers Agree On Anything?
I would rather get the gospel right and geology wrong than get geology right and the gospel wrong!
According to Collins and Collins, Snelling believes the ice over North America was only 700 meters thick rather than up to 3000 meters thick as glaciologists believe. This thinner ice sheet would not have had the same dynamics as a thicker ice sheet, meaning that it would not have spread as rapidly (and YECs like things to move along quickly), and would have had different patterns of erosion and deposition than what is observed in the landforms and deposits of the glaciated areas. They also report that other papers by Vardiman, Snelling, and Oard suggest that the ice age lasted between 500 and 700 years. That doesn’t help the YEC cause much. There are still too many events, too little time.
I have critiqued work by Dr. Andrew Snelling before:
Since I spent some time discussing Yellowstone volcanism, I’ll mention that some YECs argue that volcanism hit a peak during the flood, and has been tapering off since then. The Institute for Creation Research published an article entitled Volcanoes of the Past, which I critiqued last year in Young-Earth creationism and the intensity of volcanism.
The excellent blog Naturalis Historia has a post on the Toba supervolcano, which erupted a volume of 2800 km3 of tephra about 74,000 years ago. Ash deposits from this eruption lie on top of human artifacts in India. In the YEC ice age chronology, that means that the Toba eruption had to occur after the Tower of Babel, so some time after 2250 B.C.
Neanderthals or Neandertals? I used the spelling used by Snelling and Matthews.
The Northern Hemisphere glaciation map is from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Northern_icesheet_hg.png, and is based on a USGS map.
The reference to 19 paleosols in the Palouse Loess is from Busacca, 1989, Long quaternary record in eastern Washington, U.S.A., interpreted from multiple buried paleosols in loess, Geoderma 45, pp. 105-122. Dr. Busacca was on my M.S. committee in graduate school, and I worked on volcanic ash layers in the paleosols in the Palouse Loess for my research project.
The reference to older glaciation in Yellowstone can be found at http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/Yellowstone/description_yellowstone.html
On my most recent “Around the web” post, I stated that I would be writing a longer response to the young-Earth creationist (YEC) proposal that salt deposits (usually referred to as evaporites) were actually formed through igneous processes rather than being precipitated from seawater. This may not be that longer response. Instead, it is a quick review of Stef Heerema’s article published in the Journal of Creation in 2009 (A magmatic model for the origin of large salt formations) and his more recent You Tube video defending and expanding on this hypothesis. What is really needed is a comprehensive overview of the formation of evaporites in the context of the young-Earth/old-Earth debate, and as I said, this is not it.
This proposal was brought to my attention when I read an endorsement of it from YEC geologist Tas Walker. On his BiblicalGeology blog, Walker wrote:
[Heerema's] research shows that the salt pillars around the world are elegantly explained by the interaction of a melted salt magma with the waters of the worldwide Flood.
I like Stef’s model, and think it is far superior to the uniformitarian attempt to explain the evidence, which I was taught at university in my geology course. That model hypothesizes that hundreds of kilometres of seawater evaporated slowly in an enormous, shallow, secluded area of the coast, over millions of years.
Before I go through the article, I need to comment about what drives Heerema’s igneous model, which is the perceived necessity to fit the geological record into what he calls “the biblical timescale.” It would be much better to refer to this as “the YEC timescale,” because that is what it is; it is not the biblical timescale. The Bible nowhere says that the geological record—virtually all the sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks dated Late Precambrian and later—was formed by Noah’s flood. The “necessity” to squeeze a billion years of Earth history into Noah’s flood is something YECs impose on the text of Genesis, and there are plenty of theologically conservative biblical scholars who disagree with this.
Evaporite minerals include halite (NaCl, rock salt), gypsum (CaSO4•2H2O), anhydrite (CaSO4), sylvite (KCl), and a host of other minerals. The term “evaporite” is not neutral; it implies that the rock was formed by a process that involved evaporation of water. In standard geological models, seawater is isolated from the main body of the ocean in a basin where evaporation leads to precipitation of these minerals. I will stick with the term because it is the common name for these rocks, and because I believe it is an accurate term in most cases.
Heerema’s paper is divided into four sections: Salt formations worldwide, Igneous origin of salt formations, Diagenesis of salt after original deposition, and a conclusion. The entire paper is three pages long.
First section: Salt formations worldwide
In the first section, Heerema describes the worldwide distribution and origin of salt formations. He then attempts to explain why old-Earth models are inadequate for explaining the existence of evaporites. He gives a very brief and incomplete summary of evaporite models used by geologists, then gives what he thinks are four reasons to reject these models:
- “To form a deposit only 1 km thick would require seawater 60 km deep to be evaporated.” — Seawater evaporation rates in tropical areas are on the order of one meter per year. One meter of seawater, if evaporated completely, would leave behind 1.5 cm of evaporite minerals, mainly halite (NaCl). At a rate of 1.5 cm per year, it would take 67,000 years to accumulate 1000 meters of salt, which is a short amount of time geologically speaking. That does not mean that evaporite minerals actually accumulated that quickly; there would have been many other factors involved, including the rate of subsidence of the depositional basin.
- “The salt formations show negligible contamination with sand, contradicting the evaporation model which requires a sandbank in combination with consistently dry weather over a long period of time.” — This is a misrepresentation or misunderstanding of geological models for evaporite formation in marine environments. A common feature of these models is the need for a barrier (often referred to as a “sill”) that restricts movement of seawater into an enclosed basin where evaporation of the seawater can occur, leading to precipitation of various evaporite minerals. Complete evaporation is not necessary. The barrier could be sandy, but that sort of sill would be susceptible to erosion. More likely the barrier would be consolidated or semi-consolidated. Reefs or other biological mounds would work very well for this, and some ancient evaporite deposits grade laterally into reef deposits.
- “The salt formations exhibit negligible contamination with marine fossils” — Most marine organisms do not thrive in hypersaline environments—think of the Dead Sea or Great Salt Lake—so it is unclear why Heerema would expect us to find abundant fossils. One type of fossil that is found in some evaporite deposits is pollen. It makes a lot more sense to posit that pollen was carried to the basin by the wind, than to suppose that a salt lava flow under Noah’s flood somehow absorbed pollen grains from flood waters without metamorphosing them.
- “The evaporation areas need to be in regions of high sunlight and low rainfall if the seawater is to evaporate. However, the distribution of salt deposits globally contradicts the idea that all of these areas were once near the equator for the required time to achieve such a result.” — First, Heerema assumes that deposits that are now far from tropical areas were far from tropical areas when they formed. Contrary to this, there is good evidence that the equator ran through North America during the middle of the Paleozoic. Other parts of the world that are now polar or temperate were also once much closer to the equator. Second, Heerema assumes that climate patterns have been similar throughout Earth history. He is applying a Quaternary (ice age) picture of the world to times in the past that were probably much warmer, even at high latitudes.
Second section: Igneous origin of salt formations
This section began with a quote from James Hutton’s Theory of the Earth back in 1788:
“It is in vain to look, in the operations of solution and evaporation, for that which nothing but perfect fluidity of fusion can explain.”
Hutton may not have been able to envision how contorted layers could form in evaporites, but in the two hundred years since we have made a little bit of progress in the Earth sciences. There is plenty of laboratory and field evidence that salt can flow—in the solid state!—in amazing ways, whether in the subsurface or on the surface as salt glaciers in places like Iran.
Heerema lists six evidences for the igneous origin of evaporites:
- “The temperature required to melt salt and create a salt “magma” are well within the range of magmatic temperatures for silica [sic] magmas.” — However, there is no evidence that something like a salt magma has ever existed in the Earth. Contacts between evaporite formations and other rocks show no signs of contact metamorphism (alterations to minerals caused by heat and hot fluids). Some evaporite minerals, such as carnallite and bischofite, can form by precipitation from seawater, but cannot form from a salt melt.
- “Molten NaCl flows easily like water.” — What Heerema does not demonstrate is that an NaCl lava flow could spread out underwater over many tens of thousands of square kilometers, which is what he is proposing. Heerema claims that calcite and anhydrite could form when water boils in contact with a salt magma, but does not state how this would happen or give any references.
- “It is well known that silica [sic] magmas can produce layered igneous intrusions. Likewise, the crystallization and cooling of the salt “magma” after emplacement will cause segregation of the different salts into layers within the core of the deposit, as found in the formations.” — This paragraph was very confusing. It is not clear whether he was advocating a salt lava flow extruding onto the ocean floor beneath the waters of Noah’s flood, or a salt magma intruding into already existing sediments. In addition, layering of different evaporite minerals generally follows the order of precipitation from solution rather than the order of crystallization from a melt, though there are many exceptions.
- “The Great Rift Valley is a 6,000-km-long geographic trough formed as the result of a parting of the continental crust from northern Syria in southwest Asia through the Dead Sea and the Red Sea into central Mozambique in East Africa… Given the location of these massifs it seems obvious that these have a volcanic origin.” — No. What is common about evaporites along the rifts of of Southwest Asia and East Africa is that they are in basins caused when blocks of Earth’s crust sink as the crust is being pulled apart. Thick evaporite layers occur in locations where there is rifting, a hot, dry climate, and restricted connection to the sea, like the Dead Sea and Danakil Depression. This is precisely what old-Earth geological models for evaporite formation propose. There is no direct association between evaporites and volcanic areas. Many evaporite deposits occur in areas with no volcanic rocks at all.
- “For a modern analogy of magmatic salt formation we can look at the Ol Doinyo Lengay volcano in the north of Tanzania within the Great Rift Valley.” — The only analogies between carbonatite volcanism and Heerema’s proposed salt magma are that carbonatite lavas have a low viscosity and some carbonatite rocks are rich in sodium (Carbonatites are rare igneous rocks based on the carbonate ion, CO32-, rather than on SiO2). Oldoinyo Lengai (Earth’s only known active carbonatite volcano) is in no more a modern analogy for salt magmas than the fluids in a vinegar and baking soda “volcano” would be.
- “Organisms and vegetation deposited in the valleys (or under the water) that are overrun by the flow of salt magma will, in the absence of oxygen, be transformed into coal, oil and gas…. The magmatic origin of these salt formations explains the connection between the salt deposits found around the globe and the associated coal, oil and gas reserves.” — There is no association between the occurrence of evaporites and coal. Coal deposits are usually terrestrial, and most large evaporite deposits are in shallow marine sequences. Hydrocarbon reservoirs are more often associated with evaporite deposits, but the presence of evaporites are not required for the transformation of organic material into oil and gas. The association is more of a coincidence; oil and gas form in marine sedimentary basins, and evaporites also form in marine sedimentary basins.
Third section: Diagenesis of salt after original deposition
In this brief section, Heerema writes about post-depositional changes (diagenesis) affecting salt. These changes include intense deformation that is present in most rock salt formations. However, he did not relate this to his igneous evaporite model.
He also mentioned the existence of salt hot springs in the Danakil Depression of Eritrea. Again, I am not sure how this related to his model. One would expect hot water percolating from the ground after transiting thousands of meters of salt to be salty. This brine is not coming from the mantle or deep in Earth’s crust; it is coming from within the basin itself, so is completely irrelevant to the model.
A few additional observations
Most large evaporite deposits are associated with shallow marine sedimentary rocks—limestones, sandstones, and shales that contain marine fossils—which is further evidence that these precipitated from seawater rather than having been formed by igneous processes.
If salt magmas were rising from Earth’s crust beneath a sedimentary basin, one would expect there to be hydrothermal alteration of the country rocks (the rocks the magma was moving through). Hydrothermal solutions are mineral-rich hot water solutions associated with igneous and metamorphic processes, and are the source of veins in rocks, such as the quartz veins that can contain gold deposits. I would not expect gold-containing solutions, but I would expect some sort of hydrothermal activity.
Heerema provided no evidence for feeder dikes—the conduits through which the supposed salt magma erupted.
Fluid inclusion studies indicate that evaporites formed from seawater. Fluid inclusions are tiny bubbles that contain remnants of the original fluid. Young and Stearley, in their discussion of evaporites, refer to a paper in which the composition of the brine in Silurian salt in the Midwest was consistent with a marine origin, and the researchers determined that the fluid inclusion must have formed at a temperature between 2° and 25°C, which is far below the melting point of NaCl.
Heerema focused on halite (NaCl), but made only passing references to anhydrite (CaSO4), and did not mention gypsum (CaSO4•2H2O) at all. In some evaporite deposits, anhydrite and gypsum dominate over halite. He also did not mention terrestrial evaporites, such as those found in the lake deposits of the Green River Formation.
Peer Review in the YEC technical journals
The home page of the Journal of Creation states that the journal is peer reviewed. Peer review is an essential component of the process of publication of research results, and has many benefits both for the author(s) and the scientific community as a whole. A paper can, in some cases, be submitted to a journal, reviewed, and be sent back to the author several times before it is published, a process that can take over a year. Not only does this process lead to a much better report, but it weeds out some papers that are not suitable for publication.
The publication of a paper such as this demonstrates that the Journal of Creation does not do an adequate job of putting geological papers through the peer review process. In saying this, I am not referring to the implausibility of Heerema’s igneous origin for evaporites, but the little things in the article that a good geological editor or peer reviewer should have noticed:
- Minerals do not evaporate from seawater, they precipitate.
- One of the substances listed as an evaporite mineral is magnesium chloride (MgCl2). Magnesium chloride does not exist as MgCl2 in evaporites, though its hydrated form (bischofite, MgCl2•6H2O) does occur.
- Evaporation leading to evaporite mineral formation is not greatest at the equator, but in the desert belts 10° to 40° north and south of the equator.
- Heerema does not properly distinguish between a magma, which would be within the crust, and a lava, which is extruded onto the surface. For example, he states that “a salt magma will flood into the lowest areas.” For this reason, the first time through the article I was not sure whether he was proposing instrusion of salt magma—a salt batholith—or salt lava flows, especially since in one place he refers to layered igneous intrusions.
- There are two references to silica magma when he meant silicate magma. A silica magma implies molten SiO2 (a magma that does not exist in nature), whereas a silicate magma contains many ions (iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, aluminum, and many others) and dissolved gases in a silicate ion (SiO44-) melt.
I do not primarily blame the author for these errors but the Journal of Creation for letting them slip through. A valid peer review and editing process would have eliminated these sorts of errors.
This has always been a problem in YEC technical literature. Back in my YEC days, when I was a student member of the Creation Research Society, I remember cringing at some of the stuff that got printed in what was then considered to be the premier YEC scientific journal, the CRS Quarterly.
The YouTube video
I will not present a detailed analysis of this video, but do want to make a few comments:
- 4:15 — A hydrothermal origin for salt formations was briefly discussed, but this would only deposit evaporite minerals within pre-existing rocks, not in large, separate evaporite layers.
- 8:20 — “Carbonatite” was listed as an evaporite mineral. Carbonatite rocks are formed from carbonate magmas, and have a very distinctive mix of minerals. There is little overlap between the lists of minerals found in evaporites and carbonatites. One exception is calcite (CaCO3), which is formed in a very wide range of geological settings.
- 10:30 — There was a presentation of a NaCl-CaSO4 phase diagram, which he got basically correct in terms of which mineral would crystallize first. But the final crystallization would produce an interlocking mesh of halite and anhydrite, not segregated layers of the two.
- 12:45 — Here the discussion of salt pillars (salt domes, diapirs) begins. Heerema proposes that these salt pillars, which can rise through thousands of meters of sediments, formed while the salt was molten beneath flood waters. The salt developed a crust, but this crust would crack at times, creating upward convection currents of steam. The molten salt would rise up in the steam and water column to form a salt pillar thousands of meters tall. He showed a video of a transparent tank containing a layer of molten NaCl beneath water. The two were separated by a barrier simulating the solid salt crust. Then he exposed the water to the molten salt, which led to the formation of steam. What would have been really impressive would have been a time-lapse movie of a solid salt pillar forming in his tank, but he did not do that.
- 19:20 — Heerema discussed how the upturned sediments around these “salt pillars” could easily have been formed by deposition from fast moving water currents circulating around the salt pillars, but are impossible to explain by standard geological theories. This was the typical YEC “only explainable by catastrophe” tactic. What he missed is that upturned sedimentary layers next to salt domes show every indication of having been deposited horizontally, and then punctured by rising solid but moldable masses of salt. These layers show the typical signs of strain associated with deformation, including folding, fracturing and faulting.
The proposal that evaporite formations were formed by primary igneous processes is not a step forward for YEC flood geology. The hypothesis has little evidence to support it in terms of global distribution, relationship of evaporites to surrounding rocks, or known geological processes. The publication of this paper demonstrates that there are serious problems with the YEC peer review process.
I want to state again that none of this is biblically necessary. The Bible is not a book about the origin of evaporites, or any other sedimentary rock. This sort of “research” discredits the Bible and Christianity, which is both tragic and unnecessary.
Any upper-division undergraduate textbook on sedimentary petrology will have a good discussion of the characteristics, distribution, and origin of evaporites. This week, I read the section in Principles of Sedimentology and Stratigraphy by Boggs, which I am reading this spring just for fun. The fifth edition is listed on Amazon for $146. I bought it new in South Korea two years ago for only $42. College textbooks are such a scam.
Carbonatites are fascinating igneous rocks. Again, any good upper-level undergraduate or graduate textbook on igneous petrology will have a discussion about these. For some good pictures of Oldoinyo Lengai in action, click here (National Geographic) or here.
I am not saying that salt magmas are impossible. I am saying that there is no good support to Heerema’s hypothesis.
The fluid inclusion study on Silurian evaporites was discussed in Young and Stearley, The Bible, Rocks and Time, pp.303-304.
I got a few of the ideas presented here from a comment by steve660 (the comment on Sat Mar 16, 2013 8:13 pm) on the British Centre for Science Education web site. He recognized problems with the stability of magnesium salts at high temperatures that I did not catch.
Grace and Peace
In a way, I really do not enjoy writing something like this. Young-Earth creationists are my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
One of my favorite places to hike in the Billings area is Zimmerman Park, which is mostly atop the Rimrocks, a cliff formed by sandstone of the Cretaceous Eagle Formation. The Eagle Formation is usually interpreted to be either a barrier island deposit, similar to Padre Island in Texas, or a shallow marine sand bar that ran parallel to the shoreline. The sand was deposited in the Western Interior Seaway, a shallow body of water which stretched across North America from the Arctic to Gulf of Mexico. From Billings, sedimentary rocks become increasingly marine-dominated to the east, and terrestrial to the west.
Here are a few pictures from today’s late afternoon hike:
Around the web 3/22/2013 — The ice age only lasted 250 years, evaporites formed from magma, environmentalism is bad for us, and more
THE ICE AGE (SINGULAR) OCCURRED BETWEEN 2250 AND 2000 B.C. — Answers in Genesis posted an article in February by Andrew Snelling and Mike Matthews entitled When Was the Ice Age in Biblical History? As usual, none of this is necessary Biblically, or workable scientifically.
Here is everything they want to squeeze into 250 years after their date for Noah’s flood (2350 B.C. on the accompanying map with timeline):
- 2350 to 2250 B.C. — Antarctica becomes covered by forests, then gets covered by its ice cap.
- 2250 to 2000 B.C. — Ice age on the rest of Earth.
- approx. 2300 B.C. — First mastadons.
- 2250 B.C. — first human tools in archeological record.
- approx 2200 B.C. — First woolly mammoths.
- approx 2200 to 2100 B.C. — Age of the Neanderthals.
- approx 2150 B.C. — Humans migrate into Australia.
- approx 2100 B.C. — Humans migrate into North America.
- 2000 B.C. — End of Ice age. Abram born.
Again, the Bible says none of this! When Abram is born, he is born into a stable civilization on a stable Mesopotamian plain that isn’t much different than how it is described in Genesis 2. There has been no massive transformation of the Tigris-Euphrates valley!
But the geological problems with the YEC picture dwarf the biblical problems. Not only do they have to squeeze Antarctic glaciation, Neanderthals, the ice ages (there is plenty of evidence that glaciation happened multiple times), and human migration into Australia and the Americas into 250 years, one would have to throw in things like multiple eruptions of a number of “supervolcanoes” (e.g. Yellowstone, Toba, Long Valley), growth of other volcanoes (e.g. Cascade Range), growth of modern coral reefs, and deposition of in some cases many hundreds of meters of ice age sediments around the world. Add in a few biological marvels as well — hyperevolutionary adaptive radiation going from “elephant kind” to mastodons, woolly mammoths, and modern elephants; as well as dispersion of animals and humans throughout the globe.
Don’t teach this to the church or our youth as biblical truth or scientific apologetics!!!!
EVAPORITES (SUCH AS SALT) FORMED FROM MAGMA — YEC geologist Tas Walker has endorsed Stef Heerema’s magmatic model for for the origin of large salt formations. Heerema’s Journal of Creation article is here, and a more recent YouTube video is here. I am writing a longer response to this one, but for now I’ll say that this all shows that, despite YEC claims to the contrary, the Journal of Creation cannot possibly be a peer-reviewed journal.
ENVIRONMENTALISM IS A THREAT TO CIVILIZATION — So says Evangelical writer Cal Beisner, a spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance. There are some good things in the Cornwall Alliance’s Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, but…
Here’s what Beisner recently said about why humans could not be doing any catastrophic harm to the Earth by adding excess greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, as reported at Huff Post Green:
“That doesn’t fit well with the biblical teaching that the earth is the result of the omniscient design, the omnipotent creation and the faithful sustaining of the God of the Bible. So it really is an insult to God,” Beisner said.
Isn’t that sort of like saying that it doesn’t matter what we do to our bodies—smoking, excess alcohol and drug use, etc.—because God has designed us in such a way that the things we do could not possible cause us catastrophic harm?
THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION – The biblical doctrine of creation isn’t primarily about how old the Earth is. See Bigger Than We Think by David Wilkinson.
PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANITY CONTINUES – Iran puts five Christians on trial for their faith, Christian protesters decry Muslim mob’s arson spree following blasphemy charge, Christians, churches dwindling in Iraq since start of war 10 years ago.
I want to write, write, write, but can’t keep up with it all.
Grace and Peace
And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.”
– Genesis 3:17-18 (ESV)
Suppose I were to tell you, “Sometimes it rains cats and dogs in St. Louis.” How would you interpret my statement? If you didn’t know English idioms very well, you might be quite confused by what I said, or come to the conclusion that I was—intentionally or unintentionally—speaking nonsense. Because you know it does not really ever rain cats and dogs, you probably would not take me as actually believing that cats and dogs fall from the sky.
Now suppose that the biblical account of Noah’s flood (Genesis 6-9) contained a verse that said, “And Noah looked out of the window of the ark and saw that it was raining cats and dogs.” How would we interpret this statement? The most natural way to interpret it would be to assume there was some sort of idiom or metaphor in use, and to interpret it as “it was raining very hard.” Unfortunately, we would not be able to look up “raining cats and dogs” in the 1400 BC edition of Hebrew Idioms for Dummies, so we might have to do some educated guesswork.
On the other hand, if we had little stomach for idioms or other literary devices as we read the Old Testament, we might come to the conclusion that the deluge was so cataclysmic that, in this instance, cats and dogs must have been sucked up from the watery surface by strong updrafts, and then hurled down upon the deep, as witnessed by Noah. This would be a reading that goes far beyond seeking the literal, or intended, meaning of the passage. This would be an example of what some call hyperliteralism; a reading of the text that allows for no figures of speech whatsoever.
Now Genesis does not contain the phrase “raining cats and dogs,” but it does contain examples of non-literal writing. Take for example the phrase “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” in Genesis 3:18. This is part of the curse God pronounced on the ground after Adam and Eve sinned. After humanity’s fall into sin, God pronounced a curse on the serpent, Satan; and spoke words of discipline and judgement (and promise) to Adam and Eve. Rather than experiencing the blessings of Eden, Eve would experience, among other things, pain in childbirth, and Adam would experience “thorns and thistles.”
What is the meaning of the phrase “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you?” One common interpretation of this passage is that it teaches that there were no thorns or thistles on the Earth until God made this pronouncement. In Eden, so the interpretation goes, there could not possibly have been things like thorns and thistles; not only do they cause pain and draw blood when they prick our skin, they are specifically mentioned as part of the curse on the ground here in Genesis 3. In other words, thorns and thistles did not exist until they became part of God’s curse on the ground.
Following this line of reasoning further, we have to consider the fact that the fossil record contains plants that have thorns and thistles. If one holds to the “literal” interpretation, then it is clear that these plant fossils could only have formed after Adam sinned. Therefore, the fossil record—and by correlation this would mean just about any rock of Phanerozoic (Cambrian and more recent) age—had to have formed after Adam. This is one of the supposed Biblical foundations for young-Earth creationist “flood geology.”
But is this the best way to understand God’s “thorns and thistles” curse? A better interpretation is that there is a figurative aspect to “thorns and thistles.” If so, the young-Earth interpretation is an example of hyperliteralism, an over-reading of the text caused by focusing on the literal words on the page rather than the main thrust of the section. A broader view of the text is that God was removing his blessing on mankind’s work. The intention at creation was that Adam and his descendants would be fruitful; not just in reproduction, but in their stewardship and dominion over the rest of creation. There would be shalom between man and his Creator, within each person, between man and wife, between individuals, and between humans and nature. This was all frustrated by Adam’s rebellion, and we have been living with the consequences ever since. Thorns and thistles may have existed before, but with the advent of sin they could now have dominion over humanity rather than humanity having dominion over them. All of our work is now frustrated to one degree or another by figurative thorns and thistles, whether it be the weeds in our garden, the broken relationships with coworkers and clients, mistakes we make in our work, or bugs in the latest software on our computers.
Genesis 3:18 is not about thorns and thistles any more than Genesis 3:14-15 is about how snakes lost their legs. Genesis 3:18 is about how our work in general is frustrated because of sin, and Genesis 3:14-15 is about the humiliation of Satan, grovelling in the dust just as defeated enemies of some Mesopotamian ruler would be forced to do. It is much better, in terms of the literary imagery of the passage, to take thorns and thistles as having a broader meaning in terms of our work and relationships rather than narrowing the meaning down to the appearance of weeds in Adam’s garden.
The undoing of the curse on our work is found in the work of Christ, who bore a crown of thorns as he suffered on our behalf. We live in confident hope that all of creation will one day come under the healing rule of Christ, and that our broken bodies will be resurrected whole. In the new (or renewed) Earth there will be gardens, and I won’t be at all surprised if we find roses growing there.
Grace and Peace
The Phrase Finder has an article about the origin of “raining cats and dogs.”
The ESV Study Bible comments:
Gen. 3:17–19 God’s punishment of the man involves his relationship with the very ground from which he was formed (see note on 2:5–7). Because he has eaten that which was prohibited to him, he will have to struggle to eat in the future. Given the abundance of food that God provided in the garden, this judgment reflects God’s disfavor. Adam will no longer enjoy the garden’s abundance but will have to work the ground from which he was taken (3:23; see note on 2:8–9). The punishment is not work itself (cf. 2:15), but rather the hardship and frustration (i.e., “pain,” itstsabon; cf. 3:16) that will accompany the man’s labor. To say that the ground is cursed (Hb. ’arar, v. 17) and will bring forth thorns and thistles (v. 18) indicates that the abundant productivity that was seen in Eden will no longer be the case. Underlying this judgment is a disruption of the harmonious relationship that originally existed between humans and nature.
Derek Kidner, in his commentary on Genesis (p. 72 of 1967 printing), writes,
Thorns… and thistles are eloquent signs of nature untamed and encroaching; in the Old Testament they mark the scenes of man’s self-defeat and God’s judgment, e.g. in the sluggard’s field (Pr. 24:31) and the ruined city (Is. 34:13). They need not be envisaged here as newly created, but as henceforth a perennial threat (as the unconquered Canaanites would be to Israel, Nu. 33:55); for man in his own disorder would never now ‘subdue’ the earth.”
At times it seems like the young-Earth creationists have a virtual monopoly on science curriculum materials for the Christian homeschool market. There are popular homeschool magazines that ban advertisements from curricula—secular or Christian—that teach an old Earth or biological evolution. The same goes for homeschool conventions and curriculum fairs.
At the extreme in the homeschool movement are those who want to build walls around their children to protect them from all evils, such as evolution. We were part of a homeschool parents’ group in St. Louis whose leader had a rather dominating personality. I think one of our last appearances at the monthly meetings was when she stood up and virtually forbade members of the group from taking their kids to the St. Louis Zoo because of its new talking statue of Charles Darwin. That didn’t stop us, of course, from taking our kids to the zoo, even with the animatronic Darwin. My anecdotal experience is that the outcome for families who took the build-a-wall-around-our-children approach to homeschooling was not positive, either academically or spiritually.
We homeschooled our children in their early elementary years and they all have done very well in middle and high school, and in college. One of the primary sources for our material was Sonlight Curriculum, which has been banned from some homeschool conferences and magazines because they carry old-Earth material along with young-earth. John Holzmann of Sonlight has written an excellent article: Young- and Old-Earth Creationists: Can We Even Talk Together? A quick search for “Sonlight curriculum evolution” in your web browser will turn up a multitude of “We don’t use Sonlight because it includes evolution” blog posts and articles.
The Atlantic has recently posted an article entitled Old Earth, Young Minds: Evangelical Homeschoolers Embrace Evolution. Here are a few excerpts from the article:
Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.”
The assertion that anyone who believes in evolution “disregards” the Bible offends many evangelicals who want their children to be well-versed in modern science. Jen Baird Seurkamp, an evangelical who homeschools her children, avoids textbooks that discredit evolution. “Our science curriculum is one currently used in public schools,” she says. “We want our children to be educated, not sheltered from things we are afraid of them learning.”
Meanwhile, professors at evangelical colleges that attract homeschoolers often have to deal with objections from Young Earth proponents. “We do have to address some one-sided perspectives in biological science that some of our freshman biology majors come pre-loaded with,” says Jeffrey Duerr, a biology professor at George Fox University, a Christian university in Oregon. “But we do this by first addressing why science and Christian faith are compatible and then by teaching biology to them.”
I think that at present finding an appropriate homeschool curriculum for middle school or high school Earth Science would be a real challenge. The choice seems to be between selecting a secular textbook that is not very homeschool-friendly, and one of several YEC textbooks that are homeschool-friendly but contain numerous scientific inaccuracies and questionable biblical interpretations.
My experience from teaching in Christian schools is that it is far easier to undo any shortcomings in secular textbooks (the shortcomings were not all that many) than it was to undo the bad science and questionable biblical interpretations I saw in Christian textbooks. But I was able to do this based on a solid education in geology and secondary education and years of thinking about Bible-science issues. Most homeschool parents don’t have that background.
What is the solution? What are some good curriculum options for Christians who want to give their middle school or high school students a semester or year of Earth Science?
Grace and Peace
HT: Martin Lack
THE “NOT SCIENCE FRIDAY” SHOW — From Christianity Today: Creationist Pastor Loses to NPR over ‘Science Friday’ Radio Show. Apparently the name of the radio program—Real Science Friday—was too close to NPR’s Science Friday program. It is now Real Science Radio.
THE LAW OF SUPERPOSITION IS WRONG? — At least according to the above mentioned radio program (the law of superposition states that newer sedimentary layers are deposited on older sedimentary layers).
Here’s a quote from Real Science Radio’s Liquefaction Made Most of the Paper Thin Fossils:
The “Law of Superposition” Is Wrong: As a general description of the world’s sedimentary layers, this alleged natural “law” wrongly claims that, “Sedimentary layers are deposited in a time sequence, with the oldest on the bottom and the youngest on the top.” In reality, a tremendous amount of sorting of minerals and fossils occurred underground when the continents’ mile-deep sediments were first deposited.
I guess they are trying to extrapolate from small-scale sediment liquifaction events (e.g. during earthquakes) to explaining large-scale features of the geological column. It appears that much of this is based on Walt Brown’s hydroplate theory, which is not promoted by “mainstream” YECs such as those at Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research.
TUNNELING TETRAPODS — Naturalis Historia has a note about Triassic Fossilized Animal Burrows in Argentina. In the YEC scenario, these were either formed by very busy terrestrial critters who somehow survived the Cambrian to Permian part of the flood only to dig sophisticated burrows during some brief respite before the Jurassic to Tertiary part of the flood, or they only look like animal burrows, complete with horizontal burrows, vertical burrows, and nesting chambers; accompanied by well-developed paleosols (ancient soil layers).
HOW MUCH DID IT SNOW IN THE WINTER OF 22,375 B.C.? – A 30,000-year ice core from Antarctica. The YEC response will once again be, “they only look like annual ice layers,” even though the older layers look just like the layers formed in historic times.
HT: Geology.com News
THIS STATEMENT IS FALSE — Stand to Reason has a post about self-refuting statements, such as:
- “There is no objective truth.” (Is that statement objectively true?)
- “It’s arrogant to assume you know the truth with certainty.” (Are you certain that is a true statement?)
- “Science is the only way to determine truth.” (What experiment did you run to determine that statement?)
- “Tolerance requires us to accept all views equally” (Except, of course, any view that doesn’t accept all views as equal.)
WHAT MANY DO WITH THEIR COLLEGE DEGREE — CNN Money reports that 1 in 4 retail workers, 1 in 6 bartenders, and 1 in 4 amusement park attendants have a college degree, and that “about 37% of employed U.S. college graduates are working in jobs that require no more than a high school diploma.”
THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT JACK — Clive Staples Lewis, that is. Go to 30 Things You Might Not Know About CS Lewis and you will probably learn something you didn’t know about Jack. I think I knew about 12 out of the 30 things; here are some that I did not know:
- 3. He never learned to drive.
- 7. He failed his Oxford entrance exam, twice.
- 22. Mere Christianity never mentions the Resurrection.
- 23. He read every single book from the 16th century.
Grace and peace
The age of the Earth is and should be a secondary doctrinal issue within Christianity. It is not up there with central Biblical teachings such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, or justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Nor is it up there with doctrines such as baptism, the Lord’s supper, election, and the work of the Holy Spirit, all of which Christians have differences on.
Some young-Earth creationists will say that the reason the age of the Earth is a primary issue is because if one does not interpret Genesis the way they do, one denies the authority of the Scriptures on which all other doctrines are based. This allegation is demonstrably false. Like many other old-Earth Christians, I believe the Bible from the very first verse, and my old-Earth beliefs do not compromise a single core doctrine of the faith.
One example of a young-Earth creationist who looks at the age of the Earth as a primary doctrinal issue is Henry Morris III, CEO of the Institute for Creation Research, and son of ICR founder Henry Morris. According to the ICR article Geologist Claims Creationists Abandoned Faith (an article which brings up another topic I really need to write about), Morris was asked, “Do you believe that you can be a committed biblicist and come up with an old age view as [old-Earth Christian Glen Morton] has done?” Henry Morris’s reply was,
“It’s kind of like asking: Can you be a Christian and an adulterer.”
I’m wondering if Dr. Morris replies in a similar way to Christians who disagree with him on other doctrinal matters:
Christian: Can I be a Christian and differ with you on baptism?
Morris: “It’s kind of like asking: ‘Can you be a Christian and an adulterer?’”
Christian: Can I be a Christian and differ with you on the timing of events in the end times?
Morris: “It’s kind of like asking: ‘Can you be a Christian and an adulterer?’”
Christian: Can I be a Christian and differ with you on the Holy Spirit?
Morris: “It’s kind of like asking: ‘Can you be a Christian and an adulterer?’”
Grace and Peace
Back in 2009, I posted a six-part review of a series of young-Earth creationist (YEC) articles on “Six main geologic evidences for the Genesis Flood.” The YEC articles appeared in “Answers” magazine, which is published by Answers in Genesis. As part of my “blog recycling program,” I am providing links to my posts:
Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 1) — Fossils at the top of Mount Everest are not evidence for a global flood. Most fossil-containing layers, such as crinoid-rich Mississippian limestones, are extremely difficult to explain using young-Earth creationist flood geology. How did all of those fossils stay together in an ecological package in a global flood?
Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 2) — A global flood is not necessary to explain “fossil graveyards.” In fact, a global flood would scatter fossils vertically and horizontally, and would abrade delicate structures that are preserved in the finest fossil specimens.
Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 3) — There are sedimentary rock layers that cover well over a million square kilometers. Rather than suggesting global-scale catastrophism, the continent-wide extent of these formations makes the deposition of subsequent layers extremely difficult to explain by flood geology.
Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 4) – The YEC claim is that it is impossible for normal geological processes to explain the transport of sediments from one side of a continent to another. But in reality, rivers such as the Mississippi, Nile, and Amazon do that very thing.
Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 5) — Erosional gaps between sedimentary formations are consistent with old-Earth geological explanations. Young-Earth creationists, on the other hand, have a difficult time explaining paleosols (preserved ancient soil layers) and paleokarsts (preserved limestone dissolution features) in the rock record. Because paleosols and paleokarts imply the passage of time, YECs usually resort to an “it only looks like _______” argument, like “it only looks like an ancient soil, despite the root casts, filled critter burrows, and preserved soil horizons.”
Six bad arguments from Answers in Genesis (Part 6) — The YEC claim is that layers of sediment must be soft in order to be tightly folded. Both laboratory and field studies prove that this is simply not true, and it is usually straightforward to determine whether rocks were consolidated or unconsolidated when deformed.
As you read these, it is important to keep in mind that the Bible nowhere says that the geological record was formed by Noah’s flood. The Bible does not require a young Earth nor does it require a global flood. In light of this, no one should reject Christ or Christianity because of the findings of the geological sciences.
Grace and Peace
THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION WAS/IS A DISASTER – Broken families, sexually-transmitted diseases, abortions. So says writer A.N. Wilson (who speaks from experience) at Mail Online: I’ve lived through the greatest revolution in sexual mores in our history. The damage it’s done appals me.
I made myself and dozens of people extremely unhappy — including, of course, my children and other people’s children.
More than half of those questioned in the GfK’s most recent survey said that it was a stable relationship which made them happy. Half those who were married said they were ‘very happy’, compared with only a quarter of singles.
The truth is that the Sexual Revolution had the power to alter our way of life, but it could not alter our essential nature; it could not alter the reality of who and what we are as human beings.
It made nearly everyone feel that they were free, or free-er, than their parents had been — free to smoke pot, free to sleep around, free to pursue the passing dream of what felt, at the time, like overwhelming love — an emotion which very seldom lasts, and a word which is meaningless unless its definition includes commitment.
How easy it was to dismiss old-fashioned sexual morality as ‘suburban’, as a prison for the human soul. How easy it was to laugh at the ‘prudes’ who questioned the wisdom of what was happening in the Sexual Revolution.
About one-third of marriages in Britain end in divorce
Yet, as the opinion poll shows, most of us feel at a very deep level that what will make us very happy is not romping with a succession of lovers.
In fact, it is having a long-lasting, stable relationship, having children, and maintaining, if possible, lifelong marriage.
The Bible has it right — Life-long commitment. Self-control. A stable environment for raising children.
THE EGYPTIAN ANGLE ON GENESIS 1 — Usually Genesis is compared to Mesopotamian creation accounts, such as the Babylonian Enuma Elish. Apologist Greg Koukl (Stand to Reason) has a short video on Understanding the Creation Account in Genesis in which Egyptian creation myths are given stronger consideration, which makes sense being that the immediate background for the Pentateuch is not Mesopotamian but Egyptian.
THE DAYS OF GENESIS 1 — Tough Questions Answered Blog posted this in 2009, but it showed up in my Google Reader this week. What is the Meaning of the Word “Day” in Genesis? gives a nice refutation of the YEC insistence that the only valid way to understand the Hebrew word yom is a literal, 24-hour, consecutive, solar day only a few thousand years ago.
THINGS YOUNG-EARTH CREATIONISM DOESN’T EXPLAIN, PART 568 — From Naturalis Historia, The World’s Largest Rock Tumbler and the Age of the Earth.
OLD EARTHERS ARE NOT ORTHODOX AND ARE NOT WANTED — I don’t get involved in that many conversations on other blogs. I wandered into a discussion about Tim Keller on the A Daughter of the Reformation blog. I commented because the post had to do with what is going on within my present denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. One of many things that attracted me to the PCA is that it has allowed for a diversity of views on the timing of creation since its inception, just as conservative Reformed theology has for well over a hundred years. But not all are happy with the status quo.
I posted a few comments, several of which never made it out of comment moderation, or, if they did, were severely edited (to the point of no longer making sense in one case). I guess dialog regarding Genesis is not encouraged.
[Update 1/20/13 -- All of my comments have now been deleted]
THIRTY YEARS AND STILL ERUPTING — Kilauea has been erupting continuously for thirty years, since January 3, 1983. NASA Earth Observatory.
Grace and Peace
I have updated the “Best of the GeoChristian” link up at the top of the page.
There is a good variety: posts on Christianity, geology, creationism, the environment, atheism, apologetics, and more.
I would be interested to hear if there is a post that has been especially meaningful or helpful to you, or one that you think is the best of the best of The GeoChristian.
Thanks for reading,
Grace and Peace
For a geologist/cartographer like me, this could be as mesmerizing as Google Earth!
The U.S. Geological Survey has done an absolutely wonderful job of presenting geological maps online with its National Geologic Map Database MapView. This site offers a seamless view of geologic maps produced by the USGS and state geological surveys. A good geologic map in itself is a thing of beauty, and the USGS has done just about everything right in making this page both a work of art and easy to use. MapView is a useful tool as well, and can be used to locate and download the PDF geologic maps that were used to create it.
The only significant shortcoming is that this map shows raster data (images, scanned maps), so one cannot do queries on individual map polygons. When one uses the “Identify” tool, the site provides information about the map that is being viewed rather than the geological unit. On the Beartooth Mountains map above, for example, the Identify tool will open a window that says that the map is the “Preliminary Geologic Map of the Red Lodge 30′ x 60′ Quadrangle,” but will not tell not inform one that Jm is the Jurassic Morrison Formation, or that Asw4 is the Lower Anorthosite Zone of the Stillwater Complex; one would need to download the PDF map or report for that information. Still, this site will prove to be a great tool for viewing and downloading geological maps.
Grace and Peace
The Cassini probe, in orbit around Saturn, has captured a new radar image showing a long river on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
From the European Space Agency:
“The international Cassini mission has spotted what appears to be a miniature extraterrestrial version of the Nile River: a river valley on Saturn’s moon Titan that stretches more than 400 km from its ‘headwaters’ to a large sea.
It is the first time images have revealed a river system this vast and in such high resolution anywhere beyond Earth.
Scientists deduce that the river is filled with liquid because it appears dark along its entire extent in the high-resolution radar image, indicating a smooth surface.
Titan is the only other world we know of that has stable liquid on its surface. While Earth’s hydrologic cycle relies on water, Titan’s equivalent cycle involves hydrocarbons such as ethane and methane.
Images from Cassini’s visible-light cameras in late 2010 revealed regions that darkened after recent rainfall.”
HT: Clastic Detritus
Grace and Peace
From NASA Earth Observatory’s Image of the Day — my favorites for November 2012:
A Changed Coastline in New Jersey — These images show why building (or rebuilding) on a barrier island is not a really good idea. These two aerial photos show a view of Mantoloking, New Jersey before and after “Superstorm” Sandy in October, 2012.
Kilomanjaro’s Shrinking Ice Fields — For whatever reason, the Snows of Kilomanjaro are shrinking.
The EO site explains:
Despite Mount Kilimanjaro’s location in the tropics, the dry and cold air at the top of the mountain has sustained large quantities of ice for more than 10,000 years. At points, ice has completely surrounded the crater. Studies of ice core samples show that Kilimanjaro’s ice has persisted through multiple warm spells, droughts, and periods of abrupt climate change.
But trends beginning more than a century ago suggest Kilimanjaro’s peaks may soon be ice-free. Between 1912 and 2011, the mass of ice on the summit decreased by more than 85 percent. Researchers say it’s no longer a question of whether the ice will disappear but when. Estimates vary, but several scientists predict it will be gone by 2060.
Rising air temperatures due to global warming could be contributing to the ice loss, but a number of other factors are just as important, if not more so. An increasingly dry regional atmosphere, for example, is starving the mountain of the fresh snow needed to sustain the ice fields. Drier air is also reducing cloud cover and allowing more solar energy to warm the ice surfaces.
Ashfall from the Karymsky Volcano — It seems that there is always a volcano erupting somewhere in Kamchatka.
Bylot Island in Winter and Summer — Bylot Island is in the Canadian Arctic. The winter shot, with the sun very low in the sky, has elongated shadows which accent the topography.
Grace and Peace
I was visiting with a young-Earth creationist (a dear brother in Christ whom I did not know) during a break at the Nathaniel Jeanson presentation earlier this month. In the course of the conversation, I mentioned that there are a good number of prominent, conservative Evangelical scholars and pastors who advocate acceptance of an old Earth, and who view this as perfectly compatible with Genesis. I don’t remember exactly who I listed, but probably men like J.I. Packer, Charles Spurgeon, Francis Schaeffer, and John Piper. These Bible teachers—all of whom hold to the inerrancy of the Scriptures—did not come to an old-Earth interpretation because they were compromisers or friends of the world, but because they looked closely at what the Word actually says and doesn’t say on the topic, and came to the conclusion that a 6000-year old Earth is simply not required.
This brother in Christ told me that I will not have any of these men standing next to me when I stand before God in the judgement; that I would have to give an account to God for my false teaching on the age of the Earth. My response was that if I am wrong on this topic, I have someone even better that Packer, Spurgeon, Schaeffer, or Piper who will stand next to me before the Father, and that is Jesus Christ.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2 NIV84)
I have no doubt that I don’t have all of my doctrines correct. I feel rather strongly about some doctrines—the Trinity, substitutionary atonement, the solas of the Reformation—but probably misunderstand some of the nuances of these core teachings of Christianity. There are a number of secondary doctrinal issues that I could be wrong on as well, such as in the areas of eschatology, ecclesiology, and pneumatology. But, praise be to God, Jesus died for my sin of false doctrine as well as for my sins of lust, greed, selfishness, indifference, and so forth. If not, I’m sunk. And so, most likely, are you.
Does this mean I think it doesn’t matter whether I get my doctrine correct? Not at all.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15 ESV)
Could I be wrong about what the Bible says about the age of the Earth? I really do believe the Bible is ambiguous on the topic, but I acknowledge that I could be mistaken.
Could young-Earth creationists be wrong about what the Bible says about the age of the Earth? I think they are guilty of hyper-literalism (e.g. thinking Genesis 3 is a story of how snakes lost their legs rather than being a story about Satan grovelling in the dust). I think they are guilty of reading things into the text that are not there, such as there being no animal death before Adam’s sin, or that Noah’s flood was global and created most of the geological record. Those things are not in the Bible. So the answer is “yes,” they certainly could be mistaken.
If I am wrong about the age of the Earth, some would say I will lose a reward in eternity. This is one of those doctrinal areas that I don’t understand; there are plenty of passages that seem to teach rewards for the good works of believers, but can we really claim any credit for our good works when whatever good we do is by the grace of God just as much our justification? In either case—rewards or equality—I will watch my life and doctrine closely as best as I can. I won’t get either of these perfect, but I will press ahead.
But the main point is that I will be with God forever—in a state of eternal joy—because of the finished and complete work of Christ.
Of course some YECs would say I won’t be in heaven at all, but those YECs have a much bigger problem with their understanding of the Gospel than whatever they think my age of the Earth problem is.
Grace and Peace
|This is the fifth post in a multi-part review of a young-Earth creationist (YEC) presentation given by Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson of the Institute for Creation Research in Billings, Montana in November 2012.
Part 1– The Relevance of Genesis (I was in complete agreement with Dr. Jeanson). The YEC version of the scientific method.
Part 2 — Hyper-rapid post-flood diversification of species. Five fossil facts that YECs think point to Noah’s flood.
Part 3 — Distortion of “uniformitarianism.” Mount St. Helens.
Part 4 — Seawater. Mud sedimentation rates. Radiometric dating.
Part 5 — This page. Dinosaurs in the land of bunnies and daisies. My question in the Q&A.
I am an old-Earth Christian and strongly disagree with much of what Dr. Jeanson presented. I believe that young-Earth creationism is neither Biblically necessary nor scientifically feasible. Dr. Jeanson is my brother in Christ, and nothing I am writing in this series should be taken as an attack on him or any other YEC believer.
There are two additional posts related to this conference. In I do have an advocate before the Father, I discuss a conversation I had with a fellow attendee at the conference. In There is more than one way to be really wrong about the environment, I critique a video that was shown promoting a radical anti-environmental documentary.
Dinosaurs in the land of bunnies and daisies
Dr. Jeanson concluded his two-day seminar on young-Earth creationism with a segment on dinosaurs. It was the standard YEC presentation on the topic:
- Dinosaurs lived with humans as recently as 4300 years ago.
- Tyrannosaurus ate plants and mosquitoes sucked plant juice.
- Dinosaurs are mentioned in the Bible, and proof that they existed until quite recently can be found in places like Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
- Part of the reason they went extinct could be the ice age, which occurred between 2300 and 2000 B.C. (“The flood is the best, or only, explanation for the ice age.”)
- Or maybe they are not extinct; they might still be alive today in the dark jungles of Africa.
I’ll make just a few comments, and will make no attempt to address everything said:
- Dinosaurs are not mentioned in the Bible. I’ve addressed this in my post The ESV Study Bible on creation — Dinosaurs in Job? Do the YECs really want us to believe that a sauropod could hide under the lotus plants along the Jordan River?
- The carving at the Ta Prohm complex at Angkor Wat, Cambodia, is not a Stegosaurus. I wrote Stegosaurus in Cambodian temple? in response to this common YEC claim. The “plates” on the back of the critter in the carving are part of a leaf motif that occurs throughout the site, and the tail has no spikes.
- The Bible does not say that there was no animal death before the fall of Adam, as I demonstrated in my post Death before the fall — an old-Earth Biblical perspective. YECs are reading something into the text, and then taking that as proof that dinosaurs couldn’t have died before Adam sinned.
- The dinosaurs did not go extinct during the ice age only 4000 years ago. Pleistocene terrestrial fossils (in what YECs would call post-flood deposits) include mastodons and sabertooth cats, but not dinosaurs. The whole “ice age occurred only 4000 years ago and lasted only a couple hundred years” scenario is almost harder to accept than “flood geology.”
- The Mokele-Mbembe argument (there really are large dinosaurs in the jungles of Africa) should be on Answers in Genesis’s Arguments we don’t use page. Until someone actually provides evidence that there are sauropods roaming the jungles, this is just Sasquatch science.
Many of these problems stem from the YEC “bunnies and daisies” interpretive framework for Genesis 1. In the Bible, Adam and Eve are placed in a garden, a safe place that is distinct from the rest of the Earth. Adam is given the command to go out and rule over the Earth; to subdue it and have dominion over it. This implies that Earth was somewhat wild and in need of being subdued. In the YEC framework, on the other hand, the entire Earth is a gentle place, filled with kind animals and soft flowers out of a cartoon created for four-year-olds.
My question in the Q&A time
I made a brief statement and asked a question in the Saturday question and answer time. It went something like this:
I have a Master’s degree in geology and was once a member of the Creation Research Society, but abandoned young-Earth creationism when I figured out it wasn’t Biblically necessary. By God’s grace, my faith stayed intact throughout my transition from young-Earth creationism to acceptance of an old Earth, but this hasn’t been the case for many geology students when they figure out that much of YEC science simply does not work. For example, I have heard that some former students in the Institute for Creation Research’s Master’s degree program in geology went on to have their own crises of faith. This is anecdotal evidence; I have no statistics, but few if any have gone on to be involved in creation research or ministries. Why do you think it is that almost no geologists have been convinced by evidence presented by young-Earth creationists?
First of all, Dr. Jeanson was able to name an ICR geology M.S. student who is still active in YEC teaching and research, and that is Dr. John Whitmore of Cedarville University. I knew that, but it had slipped my mind when I asked the question. I would be very interested, however, to see statistics of what has happened to ICR geology students over the years.
Dr. Jeanson’s reason for why so few geologists have been convinced had to do with worldviews. Geologists have been indoctrinated by an anti-God, “uniformitarian” way of thinking, and simply cannot see the evidence that is before their eyes. But this does not explain why so few Christian geologists have been convinced by YEC arguments. As a Christian with geological training, my problem with YEC science is not that I have a wrong worldview (my worldview is probably very close to that of Dr. Jeanson), but that most of what YECs teach simply does not work in the real world of rocks, seas, streams, glaciers, volcanoes, and fossils.
The tragedy for geologists, and many other scientists, is that all this bad evidence—promoted as true to the Bible—closes the door for the gospel. They cannot believe because they have been convinced by both skeptics and YECs that to do so would require them to accept YEC science, which is neither necessary Biblically nor workable scientifically.
Grace and Peace