The illusion of millions of years
“Hey presto!” and the rabbit appears in the hat. “Abracadabra!” and the woman in the box vanishes. Many enjoy this kind of ‘magic’, but we know there is a trick involved—it is all sleight of hand, ‘smoke and mirrors’, an illusion. Our sense of wonder disappears when we are let into the magician’s secret (“so that’s how he does it!”). It is easy for the magician to make something disappear if it is only an illusion to begin with.
When we read that “The dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago”, or that “The earth is 4.6 billion years old”, we need to ask if these inconceivably long ages are real or merely an illusion. If they are imaginary, an illusion, we should be able to discover where the trickery is taking place.
To be real, they need to be the result of scientific measurement, but this is not possible, because there is no direct way of measuring the age of something. Nor can we determine exactly when a past event happened, unless a witness accurately recorded it. On the other hand, indirect evidence is very subject to interpretation. For example, when in the 1700s James Hutton looked at the rocks at Siccar Point in Scotland, he saw “no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end”, and so imagined millions of years were necessary for the rocks there to form.
Mostly, the long ages bandied about these days are the result of similar imaginings by other people in what is called “uniformitarian” thinking—the idea that things have always gone on as they are now, without any unusual interruptions. This thinking makes long periods of time necessary, because, if there has been nothing unusual to interrupt the normal patterns, the things we observe on the earth today would have taken a long time. Hence the large estimates.
But what if there have been interruptions to normal processes? The Bible tells us that the Creator has worked outside ‘normal processes’ in acts of creation on several occasions to perform what are usually called “miracles”. These would make a huge reduction in required time—the millions of assumed but imaginary years would disappear!
Take evolution, for example; the claim that all living things descended from one accidentally formed and self-vitalized cell. If evolution really happened, it must have taken immense amounts of time for the genetic experiments the theory requires. However, if God created living things in all their basic variety in a few days, as the Bible describes, then the long ages become totally unnecessary.1 The question is simple: Can God create fully functioning living things, or can’t He? After all, our increasing knowledge of the amazing workings of living cells and whole organisms, and that ingenious information storage system, DNA, all tell us that evolution, as commonly understood, is impossible, so the Bible account of instantaneous creation of life appears more and more credible as these scientific discoveries continue.
The big bang idea for the origin and development of the universe is popular today, but it is a theory that scientists are finding increasingly difficult to support with evidence.2 It requires anything up to 20 billion years of imagined time to fulfill. But the Bible records that God produced all the matter in the universe, and formed it into the earth and all the heavenly bodies in just a few Earth days—nearly instantaneous creation. Not even one year required!
Uniformitarian geology teaches that the rock layers we see today are the result of long ages of slow deposition following slow erosion. However, most of today’s erosion and deposition agents are far too weak to have performed such a huge task (e.g. the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon). But what of the earth-covering Flood of Noah’s time, during which the whole earth was re-surfaced, much as is seriously suggested for the surface of Mars? Computer modeling and sedimentation experiments indicate that such a Flood can easily explain the rock layers. Yet that Flood lasted only about a year, so once again, the millions of years are unnecessary, if the Bible is true.3
According to people who believe in evolution, man’s history is one lasting a million years or so, including a long period as ‘stone age cave men’. But there is no clear line of human development in different parts of the world. Anthropologists have little idea where languages came from, and some people apparently still live ‘in the stone age’.4 However, the biblical story of Babel5 explains the instantaneous origin of languages not much more than 4,000 years ago. There is no need, then, for years of slow evolution of languages in isolated people groups, and no need to speculate about a long history of ‘cave men’ evolving into ‘modern man’. It is obvious that, as people dispersed from the rich culture and infrastructure of Babel and spread out across the world in their language groups, they would lose some skills and knowledge, and become ‘cave men’ with primitive tools until they settled and re-built a culture with infrastructure, metallurgy, writing and so on. Again, long ages disappear if the Bible is true.
One of the most legitimate questions for those who are skeptical about the Bible’s account of history is how the light from stars millions and even billions of light years away is visible here on earth.
How could it get here in only 6,000 years (or less, if Adam was able to see them)?
The answer is complicated, and still being investigated, but the Bible nevertheless gives us a clue—it says that God “stretched out the heavens”. This is interpreted to mean that He created the stars close to us, and then stretched out space, warping time6 in such a way that light covered the relatively short early distances in only a little bit of earth time. So, the processes of star formation, though they take a long time by present earth clocks, would have happened in such a way that we now see the remnants of these processes in action in very distant stars.
Thus, millions and millions of years disappear. No magic! No tricks! After all, they were only imaginary in the first place.
So who needs them? No one, except those who refuse to believe the Word of the One who is outside of time: the God of the Bible.
References and notes
- Some minor changes may have occurred during those 6,000 years, but changes from one kind to another, or from simple to complex, do not have to happen if the main kinds were created over a short time as the Bible indicates. See Refuting Evolution, chapter 2, 2002; creation.com/re-2. Return to text.
- See Williams, A. and Hartnett, J., Dismantling the Big Bang, Master Books, Arkansas, USA, 2005. Return to text.
- See Millions of years are missing, Creation 31(2):46–49; 2009 and creation.com/geology. Return to text.
- See: The Stone Age a figment of the imagination? Creation 27(4):13, 2005; creation.com/stone. Return to text.
- This event, like the Flood, is confirmed by the traditions of various cultures around the world, including the Chinese, whose writing system and careful history match the Bible story and even reflect biblical theology in their early culture. See Thong, C.K., Faith of our Fathers, Campus Crusade Asia, 2007. Return to text.
- Einstein’s Theory of Relativity explains how gravity and velocity warp time, and it has been confirmed in many experiments. For example, a clock running at sea level will run slower than one several kilometres up in the mountains where gravity is weaker. A new theory, called “cosmological general relativity”, takes Einstein’s ideas a step further and applies them to the outer regions of space and particularly to the period of rapid acceleration during the “stretching out” of the fabric of the universe. See Hartnett, J., Starlight, Time and the New Physics, Creation Book Publishers, www.creationbookpublishers.com, 2007. See also Humphreys, D.R., New time dilation helps creation cosmology, Journal of Creation 22(3):84–92, 2008; creation.com/timedilation. Return to text.