‘Millions of years’ are missing
Jonathan Sarfati interviews biologist and geologist Ariel Roth
Posted on homepage: 26 July 2010 (GMT+10)
Dr Ariel A. Roth was born in Geneva, Switzerland, and grew up in Europe, the Caribbean and North America. He holds a B.A. degree in Biology from Pacific Union College, a Master’s degree in biology and a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Michigan. He has taken additional training in geology, mathematics and radiation biology at various campuses of the University of California.
Dr Roth is a former director of the Geoscience Research Institute in Loma Linda, California. During his career he held numerous university positions, including professor of biology and chairman, Loma Linda University, where he directed a university team for underwater research on coral, which was sponsored by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He has authored over 150 articles on origins issues and for 23 years edited the journal Origins (GRI).
Ariel Roth is a highly qualified scientist and well known as a doubter of evolution. With his record, he must smile at those who claim, ‘No qualified scientist doubts evolution.’ So I asked, why does he? First of all, he answered in general terms:
‘First, evolution does not even seem to be true. It requires a tremendous acceptance of one incident of extreme good luck after another to even imagine that life arose all by itself and then even more implausible improbabilities to evolve to advanced forms such as humans. Christians should not advocate error. Our knowledge of physics, chemistry, and probability dictates that the evolutionary scenario is essentially impossible.’
Then he explained some specifics:
‘There are legions of problems ranging from the precision of the forces of physics, the intricate complexity of biochemical systems of the first life, to the higher characteristics of our minds such as consciousness, reason and goodness.1 While there are many things that we don’t know, it is amazing how many of the recent discoveries in science raise serious questions about the validity of the general evolutionary scenario.’
Geological evidence against evolutionary long ages
But a particular area of interest for Dr Roth is the existence of ‘flat gaps’ or ‘paraconformities’ in the fossil record. What on earth (literally) are they? Consider the geological column in many text books, where many rock layers are supposed to have formed over billions of years. Dr Roth explains that in many places:
‘First, there are major gaps in the layers; rock layers that should be present are missing at these localities. Second, the layers below and above the gaps are flat. The brown layer at the right in the diagram (right) represents a layer missing to the left of the illustration. The jagged green line on this diagram shows the expected erosion surface contrasted with the flatness of the contact plane between the layers.’
So why is this a problem? First, he explains what we would expect if there really were millions of years between the two layers:
‘An outstanding feature of erosion is the highly irregular surface (topography) it creates as streams and rivers keep cutting deeper gullies, canyons, and valleys into the landscape. Even Australia, which tends to be very flat, has a lot of irregular topography in many areas. Erosion tends to produce highly irregular surfaces over most of our continents.’
But what do we find instead?
‘The problem these flat gaps especially pose for the long geologic ages is the lack of erosion of the underlayer expected at these gaps. Over the many millions of years postulated for these gaps, you would expect pronounced irregular erosion, and the gaps should not at all be flat.
‘In fact, according to average erosion rates, many or all of the layers should be gone. Since they are there and flat, this indicates that the millions of years postulated for these gaps never occurred. These flat gaps are so common (see the pictures at right and below for some examples), that they pretty much challenge the validity of the whole geologic time scale.’
Dr Roth explains further as:
‘The striking contrast between the flat pattern of the layers, especially the tops of the underlayers of the many paraconforities, compared to the eroded highly irregular topography of the present surface of the region, illustrates the problem these gaps pose for the long geologic ages. If the many millions of years had actually occurred, why are not the tops of the underlayers highly irregular as is the case for the present topography of the region? It looks like the millions of years suggested for the geologic column never occurred. Furthermore, if geologic time is missing in one locality, then it is missing around the whole earth.’
Dr Roth summarizes the problem for long ages:
‘The problem these gaps pose for the long geologic ages is that on the surface of our restless earth, over the proposed millions of years of weathering, tectonic activity, and drifting of continents, you have either deposition or erosion of the sedimentary layers. If you have deposition there is no gap because, the layers just keep building up. If you have erosion the contact surface (underlayer), should be highly irregular, and not flat. Because these gaps are flat, little time has occurred at the gaps.’2
Dr Roth is also a Christian. He explains, ‘Fortunately, I grew up in a wonderful Christian home. However, I did not accept Christ as my Saviour until I realized that He had forgiven my sins and that He was there to help me.’ So how does a scientist come to this conclusion? Ariel explains:
‘Science, in its present secular ethos, has failed to come up with significant explanations for the marvels of the universe and life that have been discovered. Questions that the scientific data pose indicate that there has to be a very perceptive Creator. And such a Creator would be expected to leave some communication, and the Bible is the only reasonable candidate. The picture I get by combining the data of nature with the Bible makes the most sense.
‘Besides that, scientific evidence like the flat gaps I mentioned previously strongly support biblical history. That is, only a few thousand years ago, it took only six days for God to create the various basic forms of life. Subsequently, a worldwide flood was responsible for depositing much of the fossil record. This is the most logical conclusion I can come to.’
How important is biblical creation to Christianity?
While some people claim that it’s divisive3 to talk about creation, according to Dr Roth, Christianity depends on biblical creation:
‘The first 11 chapters of Genesis are not allegorical, as too often surmised. They are presented as the history of our earth. A basic problem in suggesting that this history is not factual, is that the leading biblical personalities such as Peter, Paul, Christ, and God, all treat the biblical account of beginnings as factual.4
‘God Himself in the Ten Commandments instructed that the Sabbath should be kept holy because He rested on the seventh day after He had created everything in six days. It would be a strange kind of God who would create over millions of years and then command keeping the Sabbath holy because He created all in six days [Exodus 20:8–11]! If you cannot trust the leading personalities of the Bible, there remains little reason to believe the rest of the Bible and Christianity.’
Then there is the problem of death and suffering, as Ariel explains:
‘Evolution, with its selfish competition and the destruction of all but the fittest, is in sharp contrast to God’s goodness as seen in His concern and forgiveness for the weak sinner. The evolution and creation views are going in opposite directions, and the harsh evolutionary system cannot be adequately reconciled to the goodness engendered by Christianity.’
References and notes
- Dr Roth: ‘I discuss many of these in my new book, Science Discovers God: Seven Convincing Lines of Evidence for His Existence.’ Return to text.
- For further discussion see: Roth, A.A. Those gaps in the sedimentary layers, Origins (GRI) 15:75–92, 1988. For a briefer version see: Roth, A.A., Implications of paraconformities, Geoscience Reports 36:1–5, 2003. The topic is also discussed on pages 222–229 of Roth, A.A., Origins: Linking Science and Scripture, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Hagerstown, Maryland, USA, 1998. See also his paper Flat gaps in the rock layers that challenge the long geologic ages, Journal of Creation 23(1), 2009. Return to text.
- Cf. Batten, D., But it’s divisive! CMI Prayer News, October–December 2004;
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- Sarfati, J., Genesis: Bible authors believed it to be history, Creation 28(2):21–23, 2006;
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