Mining for the truth
Interview with geologist Jim Farquhar
Jim Farquhar, B.Sc., M.Sc., is a geologist who has worked in the mining industry, in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Australia, for some 35 years. He has been employed by companies exploring for, and mining, gold, platinum, zinc, lead, copper and iron ore.
His Master of Science degree, for a thesis in geological data processing, was awarded by the University of New South Wales in 1998. He currently lives in Western Australia, where he works for Hamersley Iron, part of the large Rio Tinto group.
Jim is well known to me for his work as a volunteer with the Western Australian Friends of CMI group [Editor’s note July 2014: previously called ‘Support Group’] of Creation International Ministries. His geological expertise has often been invaluable in answering audience questions, as well as being an encouragement to people who have been led to believe that geologists would ‘obviously’ not believe what the Bible so clearly teaches about a young Earth and a world Flood.
When we met recently during his visit to our Brisbane office, Jim told me that he had been raised in a very strong Christian home, but to him it was just a lot of formality.
He said, ‘I first realized that there was a bit more to this Christianity when I was about 14, at a Billy Graham Crusade in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). I put my hand up with all the others, but that was it, nothing much really happened after that, until I was about 26, living in South Africa. My wife and I went to a Presbyterian church, and the elderly preacher (he couldn’t preach well at all, but he was a lovely guy) started Bible studies with us. Then I realized again what being a Christian was all about, and he led me through that, and I went home and shared it with my wife Hilary. She was then not particularly interested, but she also “broke down”? and we both became Christians about that time.’
Jim had already been working in the mining industry for some time, and just accepted the ‘standard view’ about the millions of years. He happened to pick up and read the classic The Genesis Flood, by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris.1
He said, ‘I realized that there was more to it than I had thought, possibly the Earth was a lot younger than I had been taught. But that was all there was available, and these American creationists seemed so far away, so for many years I just lived in a world that was sort of split, where there was a church thing and another life—a scientific life, a mining life. But then years later, when we were living in Australia, I came across the work of your ministry. They were putting on a weekend seminar, featuring their own Dr Don Batten, and two American guests, Drs Don DeYoung and Marvin Lubenow.
‘I couldn’t believe it’
‘I remember asking Don Batten at one of the breaks, “So what about this classification scheme of living things? We’re all linked together; isn’t the tree of evolution obvious?” His brief answer showed me that there might be another way of seeing things, so I thought I’d better have another look.’
Jim told me that he was ‘really stunned’ by the ‘tables full of books’ available at that seminar. He said, ‘I couldn’t believe it. Seeing all the materials makes one realize that it’s not just three or four people somewhere in the world, it’s hundreds and hundreds of scientists that are believing it. Can they all be wrong? We bought a whole bunch of stuff then, and haven’t looked back.’ Knowing what the materials did in his life, Jim well understands the reason why the CMI ministry has such an emphasis on books and materials. He willingly helps transport many cartons of books to places where a CMI speaker or film is featured.
Jim Farquhar realizes that ‘the truth and authority of the Bible’ is ultimately the major issue in Christianity, and that the major Christian doctrines are logically grounded in a literal, historical Genesis. He is excited when he talks about seeing ‘heaps’2 of evidence for Noah’s Flood ‘everywhere’. He told me, ‘If we look at what happens today in even small localized flooding, then read the Bible and what it says about the Flood and its’ immensity, it’s more than feasible for that Flood to have caused all these huge deposits of sediments we see.’
‘Once we realize that fossils are not millions of years old, but mainly a record of God’s judgment on sin, then there is no record of death and bloodshed before Adam’s Fall. Suddenly it makes sense when the Bible talks of a once-perfect world, ruined by sin.’
Taking the Bible at face value also means a 6–7,000 year timespan since Creation. To Jim, realizing this truth has been immensely exciting. He pointed out that this meant that one’s own potential lifespan of 70 years was about 1% of the lifetime of the whole universe, which brought God that much closer. He said, ‘It makes life more meaningful. Because prior to that, your life is just a spot, and it’s insignificant. But since the world’s age is that much shorter, then each person’s life has more value.’
No need for millions of years
I asked Jim, with his extensive experience in mining, about the anticreationist claim that if the millions-of-years belief weren’t true, mining companies couldn’t find ore bodies.
He replied, ‘The only reason that these presumed “ages”? are used in the industry is to give a correlation of rocks, to be able to say these rocks belong to a certain group, which is more, or less, likely to contain a particular type of ore. But this classification can be done in other ways, without any “millions of years”? tag to it. For instance, calling a rock system “Jurassic”? can be done based on the sorts of fossils generally buried in it, quite independent of the ages. For instance, where our firm is now mining, the sedimentary rocks labeled as “Precambrian”? are highly likely to contain iron ore. So that’s where we look for it. But you could just as easily classify these as “pre-Flood”? or “early Flood”? deposits. They could be classified by their position relative to other sedimentary layers, and the types of fossils they do or don’t contain. Such a classification would be just as useful to the mining industry, without any “millions of years”? attached.’
I asked Jim whether his many colleagues who believed in, or even taught, billions of years would recognize their bias. He agreed that many would not; but that when faced with the possibility that they might have been misled by such bias into believing something false, it was natural for many to become quite defensive, even emotional.
He said, ‘If you think your whole life’s work has been based on a lie, it naturally causes a reaction. The difficulty is to get them to realize that it’s not that tied up with their work at all. Some 99% of our work as geologists has nothing to do with the millions-of-years belief at all. But this minor part has a major emotional impact, it seems.’ Which may be why some of his colleagues have reacted strongly at first about his belief in Genesis Creation. ‘One of them was really upset when he found out,’ said Jim. ‘He said “Come on, Jim, you don’t really believe that rubbish, do you?”? I think he was upset because he respects me. I like him, he’s a great guy. He made a bit of a scene and went home in a bit of a huff, but he has subsequently been very pleasant to me. He handed me a paper recently giving evidence for a younger Pilbara sequence than originally thought (still millions of years, of course) and said, “You’d better read this, I suppose it is your sort of stuff.”?’
Rocks don’t speak for themselves
This brought to mind the whole issue of the way in which science interprets the past, through the filter of fallible and changing hypotheses and frameworks. Jim said, ‘When we geologists try to interpret what happened to form a particular set of rocks, it is not some hard science, like testing the laws of gravity. It involves deduction, speculation, all sorts of fallible human opinions. The point is that the facts in the rocks don’t just “speak for themselves”?.’
Jim said that there were several instances, relating to ore deposits with which he was familiar, where dogmas about how they formed, once strongly held, had changed completely. In the absence of being able to examine or repeat the past in the same way that experimental science functions, theories often competed on the basis of strong personalities and vehement arguments. He said, ‘I recall one time there were even fists involved at one conference. That is not to put down the competence or general integrity of geologists, just to make the point that interpreting the past is ultimately a fallible human exercise. Reconstructions based on all sorts of uncertainties are often presented as “fact”? when, if we’re honest, they can’t be presented that way.’
Even though I already knew where he stood, I was left feeling encouraged. I know that Jim (like all of us at CMI) wants people everywhere to make a stand for the truth of God’s Word, the Bible, and its Good News of salvation for ‘whosoever will’ cast themselves upon God’s mercy through faith in Jesus Christ.