Science and origins
Religion and origins
In Six Days
Why 50 Scientists Choose
to Believe in Creation
Danny R. Faulkner, astronomy
Dr Faulkner is professor of astronomy and physics at the University of South Carolina, Lancaster. He holds a B.S. in mathematics from Bob Jones University, an M.S. in physics from Clemson University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. both in astronomy from Indiana University. Dr Faulkner’s primary research interest is stellar astronomy and, in particular, binary stars. He has published 38 technical papers in the area of astronomy research.
Most people have the impression that scientists are methodically logical people who harbor no preconceptions and thus reach rational conclusions unencumbered by preconceptions. As with most stereotypes, this is almost entirely incorrect. Scientists are people, complete with all the foibles and lapses in judgment that are common to man. Probably the least appreciated biasing factor among scientists is the starting assumptions that we make. We all make assumptions, whether we realize it or not. Contrary to popular opinion, presuppositions are not necessarily bad. In fact, it is impossible to have no presuppositions. Self-recognition of our starting assumptions allows us to acknowledge our biases and in some cases adjust for them. A tremendous problem arises when we are not aware of our assumptions, because then we think that we have no bias.
Much of science today is based upon the assumption that the physical world is the only reality, though this has escaped the notice of most people. This has not always been the case. When science as we know it began to develop more than three centuries ago, scientists came to realize that the world follows certain rules. Sir Isaac Newton and many of his contemporaries believed that these rules were God-ordained, and that the rules were divinely imposed at the time of creation. Today most scientists assume that physical laws merely exist and that they can be extrapolated into the past to tell us how creation happened. In other words, God is irrelevant to the question of origins. This does not mean that most scientists are atheists, for I have found that most are not. Unfortunately, this does mean that for all practical purposes much of science has become an atheistic enterprise. Sadly, the god of most scientists is at best the one of the deists and at worst entirely ad hoc.
So what kinds of assumptions do I make? I assume that there is a Creator (I cannot fathom the world otherwise). I assume that He is interested and involved in the world. I assume that He has revealed himself to mankind through the Bible. Interestingly, the Bible never attempts to prove God’s existence or that the Bible is God’s unique revelation—it merely assumes these propositions to be true. Given these assumptions, the biblical account of creation must be true. Genesis tells us that creation was accomplished in six days. The six days is just one of the many aspects of the biblical account of creation that is at variance with what much of modern science says about the origin of the world. Note that my quarrel is not with all of science, but merely the assumption that science alone can give us ultimate answers to question of origins.
Were the six days of creation literal days? How old is the world? The answers to these two questions are related. The best exegesis of the creation account of Genesis 1 is that the days were literal (roughly 24-hour) days. Many Christians attempt to find ways to read these days as long periods of time, but I am convinced that these attempts start with the assumption (from science) that the world is very old. This is eisegesis, not exegesis. The chronologies of the Old Testament give us a pretty complete history of mankind, and allow us to roughly date the period of time since the creation week at about 6,000 years.
This is a radical idea, and many people are astonished to find that there are scientists who take this idea very seriously. It is the job of creation scientists, such as myself, to study and interpret the world with this presupposition. Is there evidence of recent creation in the world around us? I think that there is. Keep in mind that some indications of recent origin act as an upper limit. That is, they give a maximum age, but the actual age could be less than the maximum. All this tells us is that the world could be at most a certain age, but no older.
As an example, consider the earth-moon system. Most people assume that the moon has been orbiting the earth since about the time the two bodies formed. To most scientists, the time of formation for either body would have been about 4.5 billion years ago; for recent creationists it was about 6,000 years ago. Over a century ago George Darwin, the astronomer son of the famous Charles Darwin, discovered that the moon is slowly spiraling away from the earth. The cause of this effect is the tidal interaction of the earth and moon, which also causes the earth’s rotation rate (the day) to slowly increase. We cannot theoretically predict the rate of tidal evolution, because it depends upon the complex interplay of the ocean tides with the continental shelves. However, we can measure the current rate. Each year the moon moves about 4 cm farther from the earth, and the day is increasing at a rate of 0.0016 seconds per century. These are very modest changes, but over time they accumulate. More interesting, the rate of tidal evolution is a very steep function of the earth-moon distance, so in the past when the moon was much closer to the earth, the rate to change would have been far greater than today. Fixing the modern rate and extrapolating the theory into the past, we find that the moon would have been in contact with the earth as recently as 1.3 billion years ago, about one-third the supposed age of the earth-moon system. About a billion years ago the moon would have been so close to the earth to cause monstrously high tides. No one believes that this was the case.
Does this mean that the earth-moon system is only 6,000 years old? No, but this is consistent with a 6,000 year old earth-moon system. That is, this information does not eliminate the possibility that the earth-moon system is 6,000 years old, as it does for a 4.5 billion year old system. How do those who believe that the earth and moon are billions of years old respond to this? They assert that we live in a time of unusually fast tidal interaction, and that in the past the tidal interaction was far less. This is a possibility, but how does it stand up to scrutiny? Let us assume that the world is billions of years old and that rock layers have been laid down over time pretty much as scientists claim. There have been several studies of fine layers of sedimentary rock that supposedly show daily high and low tides. This establishes a relationship between the lengths of the day and the month, which are all that are needed to track tidal evolution. These studies span over a half billion years and show that the current rate has been prevalent during this time. This means that by the evolutionists’ own data the current rate of tidal evolution is not unusually large, and that there must have been some large event a little more than a billion years ago. This is not a problem for the recent creationist, but it is for those who believe that the earth and moon are more than a billion years old.
Similar evidence comes from the sun. We believe that the sun gets its energy from the thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium in its core. According to the theory, the sun has enough nuclear fuel to power itself for about 10 billion years. If the sun is 4.5 billion years old, then it has exhausted about half of its potential lifetime. During those 4.5 billion years the sun would not have remained static—the sun must have gradually changed. The conversion of hydrogen into helium in the solar core would have altered the core’s composition, which would have resulted in the sun’s core slowly shrinking and increasing in temperature. This would have increased the nuclear fusion rate and hence brightened the sun. Calculation shows that the sun ought to be about 40 percent brighter today than when it allegedly formed 4.5 billion years ago and that the sun ought to be 30 percent brighter today than when life supposedly appeared on the earth 3.5 billion years ago. With all the concern today with global warming that some fear will happen if we increase the retention of solar energy only slightly, one must wonder what effect that gradual solar warming would have had. If there had been no change in the terrestrial atmosphere over billions of years, there would have been a 16–18 C increase in the average earth temperature. Since the current average earth temperature is about 15 C, the early earth ought to have had an average temperature below freezing. No one believes that this is the case. Most assume that the average terrestrial temperature has not changed much, if at all, during earth history.
How do we explain this early faint sun paradox? Evolutionists, who believe that the earth and sun are billions of years old, must assume that the atmosphere of the early earth had much more greenhouse gases than our current atmosphere. As the sun gradually brightened, the earth’s atmosphere gradually evolved so that it had less greenhouse gases to counter the increase in the sun’s luminosity. How two completely unrelated processes could have evolved in exactly compensating ways for billions of years is amazing. I find it more reasonable to assume that the earth was created only a few thousand years ago with pretty much the atmospheric composition that it now has and that the sun has not brightened appreciably since its formation a few thousand years ago.
Comets are extremely fragile things. Comets may be lost by collisions with planets, as was witnessed in 1994 when a comet smashed into Jupiter. Another catastrophic loss of comets is by gravitational forces of planets that kick comets out of the solar system. This has been observed a number of times. Perhaps more often comets just wear out. A comet’s coma and tail are composed of dust and gas that are dislodged from the tiny comet nucleus as the comet nears the sun once each orbit. As a comet nucleus loses material each orbit, there is less material available in each successive orbit. Since comets gradually wear out, we can estimate an upper limit upon the length of time that comets can orbit the sun. Even with the most generous of assumptions, there should be no comets left after a few tens of millions of years. This is far less than the assumed 4.5 billion-year-old age of the solar system. This would seem to rule out the possibility of a solar system that is billions of years old, but not one that is only thousands of years old.
Of course, astronomers have long been aware of this problem and have devised a solution. Short period comets are said to originate in the Kuiper belt, a collection of comet nuclei orbiting the sun beyond the orbit of Neptune, while long period comets come from the Oort cloud, a swarm of comet nuclei orbiting much farther out. Gravitational perturbations are suggested to rob comet nuclei of energy and cause them to fall into the inner solar system to replace older comets as the older comets die. Thus, there has been a nearly steady state of comets for billions of years. Starting in the 1990s many large objects have been discovered orbiting where the Kuiper belt is supposed to be. Most astronomers assume that these are larger members of the Kuiper belt. However, these objects are orders of magnitude larger than any comet nuclei ever seen. This raises questions as to if these actually are comet nuclei. Far more problematic is the Oort cloud. No Oort cloud object has ever been detected, and given the great distance of the hypothetical Oort cloud, none likely ever will. With no evidence and no realistic possibility of evidence, the Oort cloud hardly constitutes a scientific concept.
Do not think that creationists have all the answers. There are many perplexing problems that we must study within our starting assumptions. The greatest is the light travel time problem. Simply put, the universe appears to be billions of light years in size, so how can we see distant objects if the universe is only a few thousand years old? A number of solutions have been proposed, but I do not find any of them to be entirely satisfactory. My primary interest is stellar astronomy, the study of stars. Creation scientists have spent very little time discussing exactly what our creation model has to say about stars. I look forward to this work.