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God created with functional maturity, not ‘appearance of age’


Philip Gosse (1810–1888)

Extracted and adapted from the author’s landmark 2015 book The Genesis Account: A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1–11.1

One striking feature of the record of God’s creative acts in Genesis 1 is that the created things are fully ready to perform their appointed tasks. On Day 3, God created the plants mature, already bearing seeds. Later on, on Days 5 and 6, He created animals as adults ready to multiply, and finally Adam and Eve, likewise as adults, able to speak and multiply. For inanimate objects, on Day 4, God created the sun and stars already shining. All this is creation with functional maturity.

In contrast, there is an errant concept of ‘creation with apparent age’. One obvious flaw is that age has no appearance! Rather, we infer an age from appearance, after making certain assumptions about processes changing over time, and about the starting conditions.2

I will try to explain further, presenting some case studies from Scripture and from various Christians, including the errant but often-misunderstood ideas of Philip Gosse.

What would be observed

A hypothetical modern observer who travelled back in time to see Adam and Eve at the end of Day 6 might infer that they were 20-year-old adults, but in reality they were less than a day old. However, they were mature adults. Also, when created, the blood in their arteries was already oxygenated so it could power the cells in the body. Nowadays, the oxygen comes from the air through the lungs into the blood.

Photo 134137495 | Tree Rings © Alexey Borodin | Dreamstime.comtree-rings

But one striking feature, distinguishing them from all their descendants, would be the absence of navels, since the navel (umbilicus or belly button) is the scar where the umbilical cord attached us to our mothers via the placenta. There is also a thinning of the abdominal muscles, which is a potential vulnerability to hernias. Adam and Eve were direct creations of God, so had no navel. A navel in either of them would seem to have no function apart from looking like a history that never happened.

Some have fallaciously claimed that Adam and Eve had navels, because they would have had genes for them to pass on to their offspring. However, it’s not just a matter of having genes for a navel. Genes are also switched on and off in precise sequence during embryonic development. Any genes controlling the navel are expressed during embryo development as tissues accommodate the umbilical cord. So today, our tissues are arranged in this way because of developmental sequence more than genetic coding per se. So since Adam and Eve had no mothers, there would have been no development of the navel.

Such arguments also overlook that Adam and Eve also had genes for embryonic and fetal hemoglobin, deciduous teeth, growth hormone, and controlling the changes in puberty, since these were also passed on to their descendants. But in this founding couple created as fully grown adults, these genes were never expressed either.

Similarly, the trees on Day 3 would be mature trees, and a time-travelling observer might infer that they were hundreds of years old. But if he chopped a tree down, he might be dumbfounded by the lack of growth rings. Growth rings today are a record of mostly seasonal changes in the rate of wood growth, although not always annual. E.g. in dry climates, such as those in which the long-lived bristlecone pines grow, each heavy rainfall can produce a new ring. Also, even trees growing next to each other don’t always have the same growth patterns, so correlations are problematic.3

Similarly, God probably created the sun with a fair amount of helium. A good amount of helium seems like a design feature so that the sun is hot enough. The reason is as follows. A helium nucleus (alpha particle) takes up less room than four hydrogen nuclei (protons). This makes the core contract, and the higher temperature and pressure increases the rate of nuclear fusion, hence energy output. It may also be responsible for the sun’s exceptional stability.4

But working back, a pure hydrogen sun would be much cooler—this is called the faint young sun paradox.5 Evolutionists and long-agers believe that life appeared on the earth about 3.8 billion years ago. But if that were true, the sun would be 25% brighter today than it was back then. This implies that the earth would have been frozen at an average temperature of –3°C. However, most paleontologists believe that, if anything, the earth was warmer in the past.6

Does ‘mature creation’ make God a deceiver?

By no means! Since age is an inference based on assumptions, there is no deception involved when people make the wrong assumptions about the starting conditions. Indeed, how could God be deceiving when He has told us plainly when He created? Rather, those who deny His word are deceiving themselves. A charge of deception could only apply if the appearance of a false history were created, one which was totally unnecessary for functional maturity. Some examples are given in the discussion on Gosse and ‘Light created in transit?’ in the boxes below.

This concept has been cleverly illustrated by a parable about a candle, which I thoroughly recommend as a good way of understanding why maturity is not deceptive.7

Gosse and Omphalos

Philip Henry Gosse (1810–1888) was an English biblical creationist who was also a leading science writer and popularizer, almost the David Attenborough of Victorian England (apart from Attenborough’s staunch atheopathy of course). He was also an accomplished marine biologist and ornithologist, and inventor of the seawater aquarium. Unfortunately, he is best known for one monumental blunder.

Gosse was a contemporary of Darwin. To understand the background, Darwin’s biological evolution was firmly based on geological evolution and long ages as taught by his mentor Charles Lyell,8 and Lyell’s hero James Hutton (1726–1797).9 By Darwin’s time, much of the church had already capitulated on the latter.10

Gosse had not though. In 1857, two years before Darwin wrote Origin of Species, Gosse tried to refute long ages with his Omphalos: an Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot. Omphalos (ὀμφαλός) is Greek for navel, and Gosse believed that Adam and Eve were created with them.

Most modern readers actually misunderstood what Gosse proposed. Gosse’s failure was unfortunately to propose the unbiblical idea that time moved in a circle, which God interrupted when He created. Gosse called this time of real history since creation, ‘diachronic’; while ‘before’ creation, the cycling time was unreal, ‘virtual’ time he called ‘prochronic’. Thus Adam and Eve would have been created with a navel to reflect a prochronic history of growing from a mother’s womb, even though there was no real ‘diachronic’ history of such a thing. Indeed, no evidence in the present could differentiate features produced in diachronic or prochronic time:

… we cannot avoid the conclusion that each organism was from the first marked with the records of a previous being. But since creation and previous history are inconsistent with each other; as the very idea of the creation of an organism excludes the idea of pre-existence of that organism, or any part of it; it follows, that such records are false, so far as they testify to time; that the developments and processes thus recorded have been produced without time, or are what I call ‘prochronic’.

However, he won not a single convert to his views at the time, precisely because Christians thought that it would make God a deceiver. As shown, this was not Gosse’s intention, but this is what everyone inferred. Also, scientists didn’t like it because it was ad hoc, and making no practical difference was also thus untestable.

Nor has any modern creationist ever accepted the idea of God faking it, or planting evidence to test faith or such rubbish—despite the rather dishonest claims to the contrary by some misotheists, and even some sloppily-researching theists who should know better.11 But under an atheistic morality, what’s wrong with deception? One evolutionist educator is even on record claiming that it’s OK to deceive kids if it helps them believe in evolution.12

However, although Gosse was trying to defend the Bible, the Bible teaches a real linear history. Indeed, this was one feature that led to the blossoming of modern science in Christianized Europe.13 Conversely, a cyclical view of history goes back to the pagan Greek philosophers and is still followed by eastern religions. Gosse’s view also contradicts 2 Peter 3:3–6:

Scoffers will … deliberately ignore this fact, … the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.

This suggests that the Flood must have left some dramatic evidence, otherwise why would scoffers be held culpable for ‘deliberately ignoring’ the fact of the Flood if there is no evidence? Yet Gosse’s theory of prochronic time is by definition indistinguishable from uniformitarian real time. By similar reasoning, Romans 1:18–22 is a good argument against theistic evolution. Verse 20 says:

Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

This passage clearly teaches that unbelievers won’t have the slightest excuse for unbelief, because God’s power and deity can be ‘clearly seen’ from nature. This seems to be a strong support for the argument from design. Both these passages imply that the fault is not just ignoring the testimony of God’s written Word, although that is bad enough. Rather, they hold the unbelievers culpable even for ignoring the independent support in nature.

It’s common to claim that this book made Gosse a lifelong failure, largely because of the purported biography Father and Son (1907) by his embittered apostate son Edmund (1849–1928). In reality, Omphalos was more an anomaly, written in the months after Philip’s beloved first wife Emily died painfully of breast cancer. In the three years after Omphalos, Gosse published four books and over 30 scientific papers. And in 1860, he began a second very happy marriage with Eliza Brightwen (1813–1900), who became a loving stepmother to young Edmund. A modern biographer of the Gosses has documented serious errors of fact in Father and Son, and argued that Edmund was jealous of his father’s superior abilities and tried to elevate himself by denigrating his father’s character.14

Light created in transit? A modern Omphalos

Many creationists in the past have proposed a solution for the distant starlight problem: that God created not only the stars but also the light beams in transit. But this is reminiscent of Gosse’s Omphalos idea. It fails for the same reason: while neither Gosse nor these creationists intend this, it would make God into a deceiver, by showing ‘evidence’ of events that have not happened. That is, this light pattern would show events that under this theory have never happened.

For example, a supernova is an explosion of a massive star that temporarily outshines its entire galaxy. But in ‘core collapse’ supernovae, this explosion is preceded by a collapse of the outer layers. This results in huge amounts of fusion reactions that produce enormous numbers of neutrinos. These are ghostly particles that interact only by the ‘nuclear weak force’, so mostly pass straight through matter. Then this implosion ‘bounces’, creating the explosion that we see. But because neutrinos pass almost unimpeded through matter, while light doesn’t, we detect the neutrinos from a supernova several hours before the light.

But the ‘light-created-in-transit’ model would entail that a neutrino stream was created followed by a light stream, and just appear as if a supernova had exploded according to the laws of physics.

First published: 10 March 2015
Re-featured on homepage: 23 December 2023

References and notes

  1. Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA. Return to text.
  2. Wieland, C., The earth: how old does it look? Creation 23(1):8–13, 2000; creation.com/earth-look. Return to text.
  3. Batten, D., Tree ring dating (dendrochronology), creation.com/tree-rings, 2001. Return to text.
  4. Sarfati, J., Age of the Sun, creation.com/sun-age, 13 November 2011. Return to text.
  5. Sarfati, J., Our steady sun: a problem for billions of years, Creation 26(3):52–53, 2004; creation.com/faint-sun. Return to text.
  6. Faulkner, D., The young faint sun paradox and the age of the solar system, J. Creation 15(2):3–4, 2001. Return to text.
  7. Wiebe, Garth, The Parable of the Candle, creation.com/candle. Return to text.
  8. Statham, D., Darwin, Lyell and Origin of Species, creation.com/darwin-and-lyell, 5 November 2009. Return to text.
  9. Reed, J., St Hutton’s Hagiography, J. Creation 22(2):121–127, 2008; creation.com/hutton2. Return to text.
  10. Mortenson, T., The origin of old-earth geology and its ramifications for life in the 21st century, J. Creation 18(1):22–26, 2004; creation.com/oldearth. Return to text.
  11. E.g. philosopher Alvin Plantinga (1932– ) wrote that biblical (‘young earth’) creationists “often suggest that when God created the world 6,000–10,000 years ago, he created it in a ‘mature state’, complete with crumbling mountains, fossils, and light apparently travelling from stars millions of light years distant.” (Where The Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, & Naturalism, p. 10, Oxford University Press; see review by Kay, M., J. Creation 28(2): 29–34). Of course, even a modicum of research would have shown that creationists believe that fossils are the result of rapid burial, mostly during Noah’s Flood, and that today’s mountains were uplifted after the Flood. Return to text.
  12. Zivkovic, B. (aka ‘Coturnix’), Why teaching evolution is dangerous, scienceblogs.com, 25 August 2008. See also Sarfati, J., Evolutionist: it’s OK to deceive students to believe evolution; creation.com/deceive, 24 September 2008. Return to text.
  13. Sarfati, J., (1) Why does science work at all? Creation 31(3):12–14, 2009; creation.com/whyscience; and (2) The biblical roots of modern science, Creation 32(4), 2010; creation.com/roots. Return to text.
  14. Thwaite, Ann, Glimpses of the Wonderful: The Life of Philip Henry Gosse, 1810–1888, 2002. Return to text.

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