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The age of the earth—and why it matters

Are we adopting a Bible-first approach or a secular one?

by

Published: 23 June 2020 (GMT+10)
Previously published in a CMI newsletter, October 2019
book-scene-2

“Why are you so dogmatic about the age of the earth? Just deal with evolution and leave the age of the earth out of it.” We sometimes receive comments like this from well-meaning but, sadly, ambivalent Christians when dealing with the origins issue. It’s often said that raising this issue will also be a stumbling block to evangelism. Nothing could be further from the truth. A 4.5 billion-years-old Earth is actually an icon of evolutionism, a cause of unbelief and a wholesale undermining of the authority of God’s Word.

What’s our authority?

Many theologians and lay Christians try to add ‘deep time’ to the Bible because they were educated in the public realm—where we’ve all been taught an ancient Earth, billions of years in age. It’s virtually impossible to escape the millions of years (MOY) mantra. It’s everywhere—in nature documentaries, TV news, movies, books, magazines, and even in children’s cartoons. We are indoctrinated in it. The idea of MOYs is so strong that even when we present strong biblical and scientific arguments against it, it seems we are talking past each other.

On one occasion I was highlighting the theological problems of gap theory with a gentleman. When he was shown the correct grammar and context of Genesis, plus what the New Testament authors believed, he had no answers except to say, “I just believe the Bible!” The problem was he really didn’t! One does not get the idea of deep time from Scripture. There is nothing in the text to indicate a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, or a Lucifer’s Flood, and nowhere will you see the slightest hint of MOYs in Scripture.

Do you know where the MOY comes from?

Most of us have heard theological teaching that adds deep time to the Scriptures such as gap theory, day-age, framework hypothesis, or local flood theory. It might even have come from a respected pastor. It can then be difficult to think it might be wrong when one has accepted a certain interpretation for most of one’s Christian walk. And the massive discord of MOYs compared to a few thousand years adds to the difficulty. So, I usually start by asking, “Do you know where the idea of MOYs comes from?”

A key point that most—even Bible scholars—don’t know

If an answer to defend deep time is offered, it is usually radiometric dating, because it is assumed that scientists can do tests to establish the age of things.1 This is simply not the case, as there is no scientific test that can prove the age of anything that existed in the past!

The millions of years belief comes from … ?

There are rock strata seen all over the earth, which often-contain millions of fine sedimentary layers. Before Darwin, Hutton and Lyell had decreed that we must explain the past by what’s happening today. And because a flood like Noah’s is not happening today, they decreed (not proved!) that it was inadmissible as an explanation. They asserted that these rock layers must have taken millions of years to slowly accumulate. Darwin avidly absorbed this view because he thought it gave him enough time (MOYs) for his slow and gradual concept of biological evolution to have taken place.

Same facts, different story

Creationists and evolutionists have different concepts of history that influence the way we interpret the facts that exist in the present. Yes, there are sedimentary layers that contain fossils all over the earth. But this oft-cited supposed evidence for deep time is one of the easiest for us to explain if we truly believe the Bible as an historical record. Eyewitnesses lived through the globe-reshaping Flood of Genesis 6–8. And Jesus and the New Testament authors affirmed it was a real historical event. 2 Peter 3: 1–6 declares that “scoffers” will ignore the evidence for a global Flood, and this is exactly what is happening today—because the implications are devastating for evolution theory.

The Genesis Flood washes away the millions of years

The Bible says the Flood lasted 12 months. So, if most of the geologic layers were laid down in one year, then simply there are no MOYs! Thus:

  • There is no time for the alleged trillions of ‘experiments’ that supposedly organized random chemicals into the first living cell.
  • There is no time for the amazing diversity of life to have developed from that supposed first primordial cell.
  • There is no time for slow genetic mutations to turn apes into humans.
  • There is no ‘age of dinosaurs’ 243 to 66 MOY ago.

In short, there is no time for evolution to happen!

 adam-eve-bones
Putting millions of years into the Bible puts death before Fall.

And this list could go on and on. But here’s the point. The Genesis 6 Flood not only washes away the idea of MOYs but everything that evolution has to offer gets washed away with it. Adding MOYs to the Bible actually imposes a secular (‘non-Christian’) idea upon the biblical texts. And even if one does not believe in evolution, but tries to add MOYs to the Bible, it creates a massive theological problem:

The MOYs come from the rock layers; there are fossils in those rock layers (dead things). So, adding MOYs into Genesis 1 necessarily puts death and disease before Adam’s sin (contra Gen. 3).

This undermines the very Gospel itself.

So the age of the earth is an important issue for all Christians, and it’s a lot easier to simply accept the Bible’s plain teaching on the issue, rather than attempting all sorts of theological chicanery to insert MOYs into Scripture. If you are not familiar with the various attempts to add deep time into Scripture and why they fail, please read Did God create over billions of years? before commenting.

References and notes

  1. Radiometric dating can actually be used to falsify long ages. It has been used on rocks and fossils that we actually know the date of, and dating tests give the wrong dates. See articles under creation.com/dating. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Roger D.
I have met a pastor who tries to fit millions of years in day 7 of creation. He believes in six literal days of creation because there was morning and there was evening. However, these words were not used on the 7th day. He believes that God is still resting and this could be any length of time. How do I challenge him on this?
Gary Bates
Please keep in mind that our search engine is your friend. For example, see Is the seventh day an eternal day? And God’s rest in Hebrews 4:1–11. However, per the article the same principle applies. Why is he trying to insert millions of years into Scripture? Does he even know where long ages come from? Please reread the article on this. And for more info on where the idea of MOYs comes from please read this article. This links will answer your questions.
Clive W.
A lot of people seem to think that 'long ages' is a modern 'scientific' idea. It is worth pointing out that this is not the case. This article might help [link deleted per feedback rules].
David S.
Regarding creation, it all depends on our starting point. Either our starting point is the Holy Bible or the Big Bang Theory. For the former you have to believe in a young earth and in the latter, an old earth.
As for me, my starting point will always be the Word of God.
Daniel T.
A few years ago, when I was a junior in high school, my biology teacher said that creationism was ruled out because it didn't explain fossils. I was a bit incredulous (and I still am, although I try to learn day by day) and I thought that just because of that, creationism was ruled out. Now, I asked her: Why are we taught evolution so dogmatically ?, to which she answered directly: "Well, school (or university) teachers do not have the right to give our opinion regarding what we teach. We can't tell if it's a lie or a fake. " However, it is a bit strange, because apparently she is an evolutionist. I asked him if he believed in God, and he only looked at me with a face that the question bothered him and he did not answer me (the school is Catholic), on another occasion a colleague asked him: "Why do we have an appendix if not?" nothing "(alluding to the vestigial organs)" and she only replied: "Because they belong to our ancestors, when we ate grass, it stayed there as an inheritance". Then I realized that I was apparently an evolutionist. Today I humbly consider that I can be a little more informed about some evolutionary issues and this of the radiometric method. I am not an expert, but I intend to learn a little more every day. Although my focus is history. She had a little query, is it true what she said: "Teachers do not have the right to give our opinion if something is false or true about what we teach"? Since some of the CMI team are teachers, I would like to know your opinion.

God bless you
Gary Bates
Daniel, you will find all the answers you need on our website. For example, the article you responded to explains that fossils and the rock layers they are buried in, are actually better evidence for the Bible's history. The problem is that most people, including your teacher, have never heard another explanation of them except for an evolutionary one.Start with these articles. It's not science; / Did God create over billions of years?; / The appendix. Ultimately, it will come down to what you choose as your authority. Either the Bible or the ever-changing secular interpretation of the natural world.
Adimchi O.
The contention of where the theory of MOYS originated from is not the issue. Highlighting this in your article is begging the question. The question should have been, is it wrong of right? And unfortunately you weren't convincing. I will however make time to read your referred article. I hope the argument therein won't be as "clumsy" as it is in this present article. By the way I am not an evolutionist. I am a born again, Bible-believing, Christian. I believe in gap theory scientific creationism.
Gary Bates
I don't see anything clumsy there at all. The article was based upon experience of speaking in thousands of churches over 30+ years and ministering to tens of thousands and listening to reasons why they try to insert deep time into Genesis. The issue is that most people do not know where the MOYs comes from. they've just accepted it blithely. In all my years, when I asked the question of an individual where the MOYs comes from, only once did they understand it was an interpretation of the geologic record. And that person happened to be a geologist. And your experience is? But you revealed your hand when you say you are a gap theorist. But why? A natural, plain reading of Genesis 1:1-2 does not reveal any deep time gaps. Nor does the grammar and contents of those passages allow it. I suspect you really don't fully understand gap theory (like most gap theorists I've met) and the concept of Lucifer's Flood in the gap either. How could Lucifer have fallen inbetween Genesis 1:1-2 when God pronounced all of His Creation as "very good' much later on Day 6? Simply, if Lucifer was a created being (a fallen angel), he could not have fallen before day 6 of Creation. Gap theory was an attempt to insert MOYs artificially in Scripture because they'd accepted a secular interpretation of the rock/fossil record which, instead, could have easily been explained by Noah's Flood (hence again why it is the issue). I suggest you read up and fully understand Gap Theory and why it creates all sorts of theologocial problems including introducing death before the Fall, which in turns makes it a serious undermining of the Gospel. I recommend reading the following articles to be fully informed. Gap Theory from the Creation Answers Book; / Gap theory revisited.; / Genesis 13 undermines gap theory.
Mark S.
"Before Darwin, Hutton and Lyell had decreed that we must explain the past by what’s happening today." I'm curious: is that mantra current as well? If so, how is the idea of multiple ice-ages reconciled, since that fails the "...what's happening today." constraint? Blessings! And I pray the covid-19 issue resolves soon, of course to remove the associated deaths, etc., but also to re-enable CMIs presentations at churches!
Gary Bates
Uniformitarianism is still very much a part of secular geology, but they have added catastrophism as well. But, of course still believe in millions of years. To do otherwise would not allow time for evolution. With regard to questions, please use the search engine. For example, This article explain secular catastrophism. With regard to multiple ice ages, they appeal to unseen mechanisms of the past to explain it. A search for 'multiple ice ages' on our site would reveal many articles including Have uniformitarians rescued the ‘Pacemaker of the Ice Ages’ paper?; and or Astronomical troubles for the astronomical hypothesis of ice ages. The many ice ages concept is based upon something known as the Milankovitch theory which appeals to not observed/unknown changes in the earth's tilt or orbit in the past.
Jeffrey C.
Thanks, Gary, for this article -- concise, to the point. A proper grasp of the Deluge "washes away" a lot of "brainwashing"!
Egil W.
Hi,
Very good article!
The illustrative picture saying ‘Miilions of years = death, disease, suffering’ nails it.

Last night I watched a nature-documentary on YouTube; there was a section of (just) 1 minute and 43 seconds I was hardly able to watch.

The commentators said that what we regarded as pure cruelty was just a battle for survival.

Yeah, the predadory animals don’t know better, but thinking this would be The Omnibenevolent God’s way of creating diversity of life on Earth, cannot but be theological suicide.


Some strong wording to come, I’m not without emotions or empathy with life:

The above description, would be my nicest, - my most tolerant wording - for the position of ‘theistic evolutionism’.

I had it as a teenager, - thinking the theory of evolution was fact, and nothing more to say, - giving me theological headaches and cognitive confusions beyond comprehension, - I’m glad I’m utterly rid of the damnable doctrine of a god-of-cruel-and-random-trial-and-error, cursing living creatures without cause.

That idea, - theistic evolution - meaningless suffering incomprehensible for hundreds of millions of years without cause - ; damn it all.
Mark C.
It seems to me that this is a devastating argument. I have a friend that is a big fan of Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe. I emailed him a link to this article today and asked him where he fit the MOY into the Genesis account keeping in mind that RTB says, "In a nutshell, RTB holds that all humans (including the Australian Aborigines and American Indians) descended from Adam and Eve, who were a historical couple existing sometime between 6,000 and 100,000 years ago." I asked, "Would this not require you to put the MOY before Adam and Eve? Which would then require you to believe - based on the fossil record - in MOY of death, disease, and suffering before the Fall? As Kirk said to Spock once, “Simple logic.”" This is a perfect example of cognitive dissonance - believing that sin and death began with the Fall but believing that there were MOY of sin and death prior to Adam's existence.
Gary Bates
Mark, Rossites would try to weasel out of the argument by saying that Romans 5:12 doesn't apply to humans in terms of physical death (it's spiritual death only). Therefore, animal death in the fossil record before the Fall of man is ok and not a 'bad' thing, when God pronounced Creation as 'very good'. For example, see our response to a Hugh Ross teacher at a homeschool confererence which answers this. However, there are human fossils in the fossil record anyway so this argument is undermined on that basis alone (although evolutionists might claim they are intermediates). Although they know that most laypeople don't know this so it is easy to bluff. Ross also predicted neandertals were pre-Adamic non-humans and that DNA studies would confirm this. Being caught out by this (as all humans possess some neandertal DNA) he claims that humans committed bestiality with neandertals. It's always a moving target but really bad biology because if neandertals are not the same species how can they interbreed with humans. I recommend reading up on our Ross rebuttals before engaging We've found their apologetics to be slippery indeed. Here's a start: More false claims by Hugh Ross. / Hugh Ross bluffs at church meeting.
Josh C.
I enjoyed the article, Thanks. Couple of my family members argue that the Earth can be old without gap theory because God could've made Earth any age he wanted, I haven't found an article to help factually dispute that (even though they have 0 facts to begin with it seems burden of prroof falls to me). Any suggestions for rebuttal or article?
Gary Bates
The key words to type in would be 'the appearance of age'. Try Is apparent age biblical? and The earth: how old does it look?
Dean C.
Gary, this post is co-written by 4 physicists, 1 mathematician and 1 biochemist. We're all Christian and don't subscribe to gap, framework, day-age (as correctly defined), local flood or theistic evolution, which I believe you call progressive creation. We've always been puzzled by the constant barrage of articles insisting on a 6000-year-old Universe, this website gets so many other things correct. After reading Creation Answers Book (Chapter 5 pg. 93) I think we've come to an understanding as to why we're like two ships passing in the night. You ask the question "...but six days as measured by which clocks?" You conclude, "If we say "God’s time" we miss the point that He created the flow of time as we now experience it." Really? This is an illogical conclusion. God is the perfect being doing the creating, Man wasn't created until day six and somehow there's a problem with understanding the time spoken of in scripture is based on God's reference frame? You continue with, "This entails that words and logical inferences must be the same for God and man, otherwise Scripture would not be able to equip us with truth He reveals". This is a demonstrably false statement for several reasons, to presume events that occurred before Man existed require a reference frame for an imaginary stationary observer on Earth or we can't be equipped with his truth is preposterous. Darwinism doesn't need short time frames to be falsified. The alleged 12.6 billion years that the Universe has existed isn't enough time to brute force all the amino acids that exist. The central Darwinian claims of natural selection and random variation does not account for what we see. Our best science evidence for God comes from fine-tuning evidence, not arguing about time.
Gary Bates
You are commenting on a chapter of the Creation Answers Book rather than the article itself. I shall forward your comment into our ticketing system where it may be answered by one of the Answers Book editors and there is a section of our site for asking other questions. I confess that I am sure as alleged academics you would confuse theistic evolution with progressive creation. They are not the same at all. I'm not trying to be facetious in this regard but anyone with any decent knowledge of the creation vs evolution debate would not make this mistake. So, it does call into question for me how well read you are on creation apologetics before deciding to weigh into this. Have you thoroughly researched our site for answer?

But for my two cents worth, we do have a definition and a reference frame. The creation itself. God clearly defined time, because time itself is a created entity. I don't view it as God's reference frame. It's a reference frame created for us as it's inhabitants and as we experience it. God is outside of time so any concept of deep time is irrelevant when trying to frame any concept of God's time. He did not, does not and will not exist in time. If God has defined our time bound existence, then what is your reference frame for anything else? It's an appeal to an unknown for some illogical reason. But I believe you are overthinking this. There is complete internal consistency within Scripture as to what a day constitutes. In the Creation Answers Book you will see the amount of times the word yom, evening, morning and number etc. are used. In fact, there are 523 occasions in the OT alone and on every single occasion no one believes they are anything but 24 hour days. You say you are not day-agers, but why are you then arguing for deep time in Scripture? If Scripture is your authority then I suggest it is completely inconsistent to try to insert any other time reference into Scripture other than what the Bible defines. The days that preceded (before) man was created (as you allude to) were the same as the one he was created on (day 6) and those that followed it. And if you somehow think that the earth was billions of years old before He commenced creating on day one, then you are missing the point of the article. There are two areas for inserting deep time into Scripture. One is based upon a belief that the distant starlight is measured in terms of taking millions of light years to have reached the earth (we have tons of articles on this invoking both general and relativistic physics--please do a search on our site on this). And second, a belief in an ancient earth which comes from the rock layers. There are answers for both concepts. So, if you don't accept either of these ideas as representative of deep time then I simply don't understand your purpose or need to argue for deep time. One final thought. You say we get so many other things correct. Well, our starting point is always Scripture first. That is, gleaning a clear understanding of what the text says first. A secular, scientific interpretation of the natural world is not our guide. When we start with Scripture we have found no inconsistency with our scientific observations. Wouldn't it be strange that we get so much correct but our wildly wrong on this issue. I would suggest you question yourself first and foremost, why you think the cosmos or the earth is old. BTW in terms of scientific evidence for a biblical age of the earth please read 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe.
Steve W.
I believe you are missing two different time periods of the Earth - Lucifer's time and Adam's time. God made Adam the first modern man but the Bible does not say God made Adam at the same time He created the Earth. The angels were there when God laid the foundation Job 38:4-7 but not Adam. If Genesis 1:1 is 4.5 billion years ago and Genesis 1:2 is only 6000 years ago there is plenty of time for Lucifer to fall and God judge the earth with the first flood in 2 Peter 3:5-6, THE WORLD THAT THEN WAS, BEING OVERFLOWED WITH WATER, PERISHED. There were no survivors in this first flood. Isaiah 14:12-17 mentions Lucifer at one time having nations and cities under him and he ruined all that. Do you not notice a drastic change in the condition of the earth in Genesis 1:2 after God created Heaven and Earth in Genesis 1:1? There is no reason God would create the earth a formless and empty big ball of water. There is darkness and deep water everywhere. This indicates God's judgment in the first flood. The time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 also explains the Dinosaurs roaming the earth 165 million years, the Grand Canyon being carved out over 6 million years and the Neanderthals dying out 50,000 years ago, so therefore they could not be descendants of Adam at 6,000 years ago. An old Earth in no way gives any validity to evolution and it doesn't undermine the Gospel. What Christ did on the cross for us has nothing to do with the age of the Earth. Lucifer brought sin and death in the world in a time prior to Adam Ezekiel 28:15 and Isaiah 14:12-17. Notice Lucifer was in Eden as a beautiful angel before Adam's time Ezekiel 28:13. In Genesis 1 after God does a literal 6 day restoration of an old Earth and says everything is good, Adam brings sin and death back into the earth.
Gary Bates
Steve, you have clearly not bothered to search our site which is a requirement before submitting a comment. You are referring to nothing more than Gap theory, Lucifer's Flood which has been answered time and again on this site and even mentioned in the article! Does Scripture allow for Gap Theory and read the many links in the article. Also, read this chapter from our Creation Answers Book. Also in an earlier comment on this article I wrote: "How could Lucifer have fallen inbetween Genesis 1:1-2 when God pronounced all of His Creation as "very good' much later on Day 6? Simply, if Lucifer was a created being (a fallen angel), he could not have fallen before day 6 of Creation." But you've really missed the point of the article. No, actually, you've made my point. Gap theory was an attempt to insert MOYs artificially in Scripture because they'd accepted a secular interpretation of the rock/fossil record which, instead, could have easily been explained by Noah's Flood (hence again why it is the issue). So, my question to you is 'Why are you trying to insert deep time into the Bible? No, it's not because you think there is a gap there (and that's what you've been taught). The gap was inserted to create a space for deep time because they thought the rock layers represented millions of years. Please reread the article again, and carefully please. Putting dinosaurs or any living creature before the Fall of man in Genesis 3 puts death before the Fall. You've just undermined the Gospel!
Steve W.
Gary, an old earth does not undermine the Gospel. The time of the Dinosaurs has nothing to do with Adam's fall millions of years later. There was plenty of death before Adam with the Dinosaurs and Neanderthals. Adam brings sin and death back into the world after the six day restoration in Genesis 1. Our eternal God has no beginning. 4.5 billion years to Him is nothing. You are trying to cram 4.5 billion years of the earth's history in the six days of Genesis 1. You are missing many points from the scriptures that I gave you on why the earth is old. Lucifer was a beautiful angel in Eden well before Adam came along in Ezekiel 28:13. Lucifer had to reign and fall in Isaiah 14:12-17 in between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Then in Genesis 1 God does a six day restoration of an old earth and declares everything good. Then Lucifer (Satan) shows up in the Garden of Eden as a serpent causing the fall of Adam. Genesis 1:1 is 4.5 billion years ago. Genesis 1:2 is only 6000 years ago. It took a global-level catastrophe to make 900 plus species of dinosaurs go extinct. If it happened in the last 6000 years we wouldn't be here either. You are completely ignoring the world before Adam in 2 Peter 3:5-6 THE WORLD THAT THEN WAS, BEING OVERFLOWED WITH WATER, PERISHED. The gap is a fact, not just a theory. An old earth does not undermine the Gospel or give validity to evolution.
Gary Bates
Clearly it's going to be difficult to have a scholarly debate if you don't even bother to read the articles I sent you, which clearly you did not. How can you make an informed position if you don't? Contrastingly, nothing you said is new and has not been covered by this site. And just because you may have been taught a view, and have held to it for a long time, simply firing backoe, making dogmatic assertions and just repeating what you've already stated does not make the correct. You are actually incorrect on so many levels it's hard to know where to begin and are clearly not up to speed with creation literature. Nowhere in Scripture is Lucifer's Flood mentioned. It is an eisegetical approach (inserting into Scripture). There is no millions or billions of years of Earth time. The Creation is 6,000 years old as given by Scripture read How does the Bible teach 6,000 years. Dinosaurs are terrestrial/land animals so they were made on day 6 along with man, so they could existed millions of years before Adam. Neandertal DNA has now been sequenced and they are human. In fact, both you and I possess some neandertal genes. 2 Peter 3:6 is referring to Noah's Flood. And I've already mentioned that Satan was still very good until at least day 6. Scripture itself refutes your idea that he must have fallen in some sort of artificial gap in day one. But you seem to fail to comprehend the issue. I said 'Where do the MOYs come from?" You didn't answer that. Instead you think there is a gap of MOYs but you've got it backwards. The whole concept of deep time is based upon an interpretation of rock strata layers all over the earth (think layers in the Grand Canyon, for example). This is a secular interpretation, meaning slow and gradual uniformitarian ideas. The gap theory does not come from Scripture, it was put into Scripture to reconcile the fossil layers by invoking a fictional Lucifer's Flood. Theologians tried to reconcile a secular (that is, non-Christian) interpretation of the strata and fit MOYs in Scripture. The rock layers contain fossils of animals (even human fossils) which could not have existed before they were created on days 5 and 6, for example. The cannot preexist in a gap before the Bible says they were created. The majority of the rock layers were laid down during Noah's Flood--post Creation. The problem with inserting MOYs into the Bible is that the MOYs are based upon the rock layers. But the rock layers have fossils in them which puts death before the Fall in Genesis 3. This is a Gospel issue. Please read the articles sent to you previously and investigate our site. I trust you sincerely seek the truth on the matter. But there will be no more discussion or publication of your assertions unless you can deal with the points in the articles previously sent to you.
Craig R.
Magnetic shield. 5% reduction in past 100 years. There is no known natural dynamo or regeneration of the shield. None. This means the earth is 10,000 yrs old or less. Life ceases to exist in 1600 yrs at this decay rate. Big bang is not science, but ridiculous fiction.
Gary Bates
Very true, and the protagonists who've commented that we ignore scientific facts that defy a billions of years old universe say so ignorance themselves. For example, our site has an article called 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe.
Philip R.
I've heard claims like those of Steve W before, and have to wonder if they've really thought about what they claim. He says that the original earth was destroyed (remaining intact) by a flood before Genesis 1:2, then God restores everything in six days. So how did that supposed flood of Lucifer destroy the sun, moon, and stars so that they had to be restored on the fourth of those six days?

And then what about Exodus 20:11 which doesn't say "For in six days the Lord made/restored the sea, and all that is in it", but "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, [a merism for "everything"] the sea, and all that is in them".

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