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Refuting old-earth church publication

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Published: 14 March 2013 (GMT+10)

Bruce B., a generous supporter of our ministry from Australia wrote to us about yet another compromising churchian publication [Ed. note: Following publication, it became clear that some have taken ‘churchian’ to mean a ‘church’ publication, i.e. an organ of the Seventh Day Adventist church, which is not the case. This is a common term in Dr Sarfati’s writings to refer to people who have an affiliation with a church (of whatever denomination) but whose approach to the authority of Scripture is such that it makes it difficult to assume that the label ‘Christian’ is necessarily appropriate. See also endnote 1.]. This one was called Good News for Adventists from New South Wales, Australia, September 2010, in an article “The Age of the Earth” by one Ritchie Way. But this just shows that the craving for secular intellectual respectability has even infected some academics from the Seventh Day Adventists, a denomination historically known [but see comment by Gavin B below, which captures my intent—JS] for a strong stand on Genesis—and many of their churches still support CMI.1 See some astute quotes on the futility of this craving:

Dr Jonathan Sarfati responds to the parts that Mr B. highlighted in the paper.

It’s a shame when professing Christians give away biblical authority and also surrender on the biblical truth of death coming by sin (see Did God create over billions of years? And why is it important? and The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe). This undermines the very good news they claim to proclaim, since Romans 5:12–19 and 1 Corinthians 15:21–22 contrast the death brought by the first man, Adam, with the resurrection brought by the Last Adam, Christ (cf. v. 45).

Ice Age

A lot of that article shows that they know very little about modern creationist arguments. E.g.:

No informed person disputes the reality of the last Ice Age; there is just too much evidence for its existence, not only on land but also on the sea floor.

However, for many years, creationists have affirmed the reality of the Ice Age. The difference with the uniformitarians is that creationists affirm a single Ice Age; one that’s the aftermath of the Genesis Flood, while uniformitarians postulate many ice ages without an adequate mechanism (see Mammoth—riddle of the Ice Age).

The problem is getting all that ice onto the land, which requires snowfall, which requires evaporation, which requires heat. Evolutionary mechanisms postulate that some external cause cooled the entire earth, but that would cut off the evaporation. But the Genesis Flood would have included volcanoes and subterranean water to heat the ocean, while volcanic ash would have been a sunblock cooling the land. This is the perfect condition for an ice age lasting centuries.

All the same, not all evidence attributed to ancient ice ages is conclusive. Some so-called glacial tills mentioned in the article were really submarine landslides (see A classic tillite reclassified as a submarine debris flow). Some transported boulders are better evidence for the Flood, e.g. very hard quartzite boulders show evidence of having been rounded by water transport (see Noah’s long-distance travelers: Quartzite boulders speak powerfully of the global Flood).

Mungo Man

A number of Aboriginal campsites have been discovered around former inland seas in Australia, such as Lake Mungo, which indicates that humans were on Earth during the last Ice Age which came to an end about ten to twelve thousand years ago.

I co-authored an article on that a decade ago: Was Adam from Australia? The mystery of ‘Mungo Man’. My geologist colleague Dr Tas Walker used this as an example of the flaws in ‘dating’ methods in The dating game.

Salt deposits

But sometime prior to all this, the [Mediterranean] Sea had taken one thousand five hundred years to evaporate into salt lakes; become a basin fertile enough to attract elephants and refill again with sea-water. The amount of time required for these events, reveals to us that the Εarth and its biodiversity is much older than is suggested by a superficial interpretation of biblical genealogies.

This idea makes no sense. A slowly evaporating body of water would have time to accumulate dust and other impurities, which we don’t see in the massive pure salt deposits. Rather, they are not evaporites at all but precipitites, resulting from precipitation of very concentrated hydrothermal solutions that would have common in the Flood. See Geology and the young earth: Answering those ‘Bible-believing’ bibliosceptics and The Messinian salinity crisis questioned. Another idea is that they solidified from halite magma—see A magmatic model for the origin of large salt formations.

Coral reefs

Many Christians believe that the layers of the geological column were laid down in the space of a little over one year at the time of Noah’s Flood. A major problem with this theory is that within these layers are found glacial deposits, lake beds, coral reefs, river deltas and beaches – none of which could have formed during the Flood. There can be no question that the geological column covers a vast period of time. The onus is on those who dispute this, to explain how lakes, coral reefs and glaciers etc. could have formed and left their footprints beneath the waters of Noah’s Flood.

The above ignores the important role of the post-Flood ice age, which explains the mammoth fossils and also the glacial evidence (see above section on the Ice Age). With the coral reefs, according to Dr Rob Carter, an expert on corals, coral reefs grow much faster than most people think, and there is no evidence that there are any genuine coral reefs in the fossil record, even if some limestone fragments are known. See also Dr Carter’s paper in the latest Journal of Creation, 26(3):50–53, 2012: ‘Ancient’ coral growth layers: Countering the Critics.

Radiometric dating

The science of dating rocks, called geochronology, is quite precise. There are labs all over the world dedicated to measuring the ages of rocks that contain naturally occurring radioactive elements. These unstable elements decay into more stable elements, and the rate of decay can be measured quite accurately. Uranium, for instance, decays to lead, and it is known precisely how long this process takes.

This is also nothing new. For example, even if we grant that we know the decay rate precisely, this is not enough to determine age. We must also make assumptions about the starting conditions, and that uranium and lead were from the system measured and nothing got in or out from outside that. However, even the constancy of decay rates claimed in the article has been undermined—see Radiometric dating breakthroughs.

Geochronologists have at least eleven different methods of radiometric dating at their disposal. Three of these methods have been used to date minerals from an ancient volcanic ash-bed in southern Saskatchewan, Canada. The potassium/argon method revealed their age to be 72.5 million years, plus or minus a small percentage. The uranium/lead method dated the ash at 72.4 million years, plus or minus a bit. And the rubidium/strontium method said the ash was 72.54 million years old, plus or minus a little. The date determined by one method is thus corroborated or contradicted by other methods.

These compromisers hope that an alleged example of concordant dates supports their long-age dogma. However, they fondly ignore the many examples where the ‘dates’ from different methods disagree outside their stated experimental uncertainties. Dr Walker provides some examples in Radioactive ‘dating’ methods: Ways they make conflicting results tell the same story, and Ph.D. geologist Andrew Snelling has provided another one where the same sample had radiocarbon and potassium-argon ‘dates’ disagreeing by a factor of 1000—see Radioactive ‘dating’ in conflict! Fossil wood in ‘ancient’ lava flow yields radiocarbon.

Green River Formation

If the great Flood deposited the layers of the Grand Canyon, and the Green River Formation was laid down after the Flood, the Flood could not have occurred later than four million years ago. Even if a highly improbable average of ten varves a year were laid in the lake, that would still mean that the Grand Canyon sedimentary layers were deposited no later than 400,000 years ago.

There is blatant question-begging above: they assume that the fine layers are annual varves to ‘prove’ that the formation took millions of years. But the GRF is actually evidence against millions of years, because there are well-preserved fish fossils which penetrate several layers (see Green River Blues). Also, we know that many layers can form almost simultaneously, as long as there are differently sized particles and horizontal flow—because we have seen it happen, while no one has seen annual varves forming over millions of years. Here is an example from Queensland: Sandy stripes: Do many layers mean many years?

Chalk beds

These chalk beds were laid down over a period of thirty to thirty-five million years during the Late Cretaceous period. It has been estimated that it took one thousand years to lay down fifteen millimetres of chalk. The computation for this rate is based on the thickness of the chalk and the time it took to deposit it, as calculated by isotopic dates of chalk from the top and bottom of the layer. Consider, on the basis of this estimate, how long it would have taken to lay down 400 metres.

The purity of the chalk beds testifies that they were laid down in calm water. Had they been laid down during the Flood–which creationists claim was so turbulent it created the sedimentary layers of the geologic column–the chalk would have either not formed, or would have been contaminated with a great deal of sediment.

The claims about chalk are wrong on two counts:

  1. To get that much chalk requires a huge algal bloom, on a scale not happening today. But the Flood would have provided ideal conditions: warm water and an immense supply of nutrients from decomposing animals. See Can Flood geology explain thick chalk beds?
  2. The claim that fine deposits require still water has been demolished by geological experiments—see Mud experiments overturn long-held geological beliefs: A call for a radical reappraisal of all previous interpretations of mudstone deposits.

Salt and the age of the Earth

Salt is dissolved from the rocks and is carried by streams and rivers to the sea. Henry Morris, Steven A. Austin, D. Russell Humphries [sic], and others argue that if the world were millions of years old, the oceans would contain much more salt than they do today. The amount of salt in the oceans, they say, supports the theory that life has been on Earth for only ten thousand years or less. These scientists, however, failed to take into account the fact that when God created the Earth he built into it mechanisms for self-correction, one of which is the removal of excess salt from the ocean and lakes by evaporation, which is then buried by subduction or folding of the earth. Some of this salt was deposited at the bottom of the Mediterranean when that sea dried up, but most of it has been buried deep underground in the earth.
Wikipedia.org Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei

Salt and the age of the Earth: one must wonder if this person even read the Humphreys/Austin paper judging by their patronizing nonsense. They explicitly tabulated measured rates of salt input and output. See Salty seas: Evidence for a young earth, which provides later data showing that they had actually underestimated the rate of salt influx. This would lower their estimate for the upper bound of the age (NB, not actual age) of about 62 million years.

The Galileo canard, again

Remember that it wasn’t too long ago Christians believed the Earth was the centre of the universe, and that the sun and stars revolved around our planet. The overwhelming clear evidence of science, however, compelled them to change their unscientific and unbiblical beliefs. Today we Christians face a different challenge; science is revealing that the world is much older than we used to believe.

You didn’t mark that old geocentrism canard, but it’s normal for compromisers to invoke this (see Common errors made by deniers of a young Earth, as well as Galileo Quadricentennial: Myth vs fact).

Death and the Fall

The Bible says, ‘Death came through a man’ (1 Cor. 15:21). An examination of this passage reveals that it is not talking about death in general, but the death of human beings. Verse 22 says, ‘In Adam all die, but in Christ all will be made alive’. It is clear that these two verses are not referring to animals because no animal was ever ‘in Adam’, nor could it ever be ‘in Christ’.

The problem is that even human death is a huge problem for long-earth ideas, because indisputable Homo sapiens fossils have been ‘dated’ to almost 200,000 years old by dating methods they worship (see The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe).

You can read the Bible from beginning to end but nowhere does it establish any connection between the fall of man and death in the animal world.

Evidently this person didn’t read the Bible very carefully, because he would have seen ample connection between the Fall and animal death too. For example, animals and humans were both created vegetarian, and Isaiah 11 and 65 point to an Edenic non-carnivorous state in the future where animals will “no more hurt or destroy” (as you noted yourself in a bold comment on the article). But in between Creation and Redemption, there was the Fall, which had cosmic scope, affecting the entire creation because it was under Adam’s federal headship. This is documented in the paper Cosmic and universal death from Adam’s fall: an exegesis of Romans 8:19–23a. See Shame on Charisma! for more on both human and animal death and the Fall, and The carnivorous nature and suffering of animals.

How did carnivory arise?

Consider this; if God created animals to live without dying, what did tigers and hyenas eat before the Fall? What did sharks and seals eat? What did eagles and swallows eat? Did God create them just as they are today, or have they evolved since the Fall of Adam? Did an elephant never tread upon an ant or worm before the Fall, and did a rhinoceros never eat a caterpillar on a leaf before Adam sinned?

Maybe in return, this author should ask, what did the ferocious piranha eat before the Fall? Answer, just what its relative the pacu eats today— aquatic plants, and fruit that falls from overhanging trees (see Piranha); or what does this official ‘bird of prey’ known as the oilbird eat (only fruits—see The super-senses of oilbirds); or what did this fearsome-looking creature with fangs and carnassials eat (it’s the skull of a fruit bat), or what did theropods (which included T. rex and Velociraptor) eat (answer, mostly vegetarian). It’s so obvious that he hasn’t even read our introductory material, such as ch. 6 of our Creation Answers Book which addresses:

  • How did ‘bad things’ come about?
  • If God’s original creation was ‘very good’, why is ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ now?
  • Did God create animals with defence-attack structures?
  • Or were they re-designed after the Fall?
  • Wouldn’t there be a population explosion if animals did not eat each other?

It’s really hard to take these compromisers seriously when they fail to conduct even basic research on the view they are attacking. Also, we have often pointed out that insects probably don’t count as life in the biblical definition of nephesh chayyah. See for example Venus flytrap: Ingenious mechanism still baffles Darwinists and Captivating chameleons.

This bat eats fruit, although it’s classified as a carnivore because of its fangs and carnassials.
This bat eats fruit, although it’s classified as a carnivore because of its fangs and carnassials.
The piranha’s vegetarian relatives, known as pacus.
The piranha’s vegetarian relatives, known as pacus. Photo: Don Batten

Genealogies

Genealogies were sometimes shortened, either to save space, or to make them easier to remember. Christ’s genealogy in Matthew, for example, was trimmed, so that each of its three sections would have exactly fourteen generations (Matt. 1:17). If you compare the genealogy in Matthew 1:8–9 with the one in 1 Chronicles 3:10–12 you will see where Matthew shortened his genealogy. (Please note that Uzziah was also known as Ahaziah.)
David’s name in Hebrew had a numerical value of fourteen, so some generations were excluded from this genealogy so that a person committing David’s line to memory just had to count the number in each category to ensure he had all fourteen generations.

We are of course perfectly aware that Matthew’s genealogy was selective, but he told us he was selecting 3 sets of 14 (see for example The genealogies of Jesus). But Genesis 5 and 11 provide the ages of X at the birth of X+1 in the line. So even if X+1 were a great-grandson, say, instead of a son of X, there are still Y years between them. So even if they were not strict genealogies, they were strict chronologies, hence “chronogenealogies”—see Biblical chronogenealogies. Since this compromiser also mentions the slightly longer Septuagint chronogenealogy, this article also explains why the Masoretic Text should be preferred to the Septuagint, which in any case doesn’t help his millions-of-years compromise.

The pre-Flood and post-Flood genealogies, as given in Genesis 5 and 11 respectively, have exactly ten generations each, and the last generation in each genealogy has three named sons.

Perhaps he should learn to count! From The Genesis 5 and 11 fluidity question:

Külling highlights an important point that most scholars seem to have overlooked; namely, that the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies are not really symmetrical. The genealogy of Adam contains ten names (Adam to Noah), with the tenth having three sons (Shem, Ham and Japheth). The genealogy of Shem records only nine names (Shem to Terah), with the ninth fathering three sons (Abraham, Nahor and Haran).

Adam’s genealogy


(Gen 5:1–32)

Shem’s genealogy


(Gen 11:10–26)
1. Adam 1. Shem
2. Seth 2. Arphaxad
3. Enosh 3. Salah
4. Kenan 4. Eber
5. Mahalaleel 5. Peleg
6. Jared 6. Reu
7. Enoch 7. Serug
8. Methusalah 8. Nahor
9. Lamech 9. Terah (three sons, including Abram)
10. Noah (three sons)
To say that Abraham (Abram) counts as the tenth generation in Genesis 11 is no help to symmetry, because consistency would then demand that Shem be counted in Genesis 5 (compare 11:26 with 5:32). The supposed symmetry does not really exist.

Conclusion

Hope this helps. This article is really nothing to fear—it’s severely outdated, grossly ignorant of what biblical (“young-earth”) creationists teach, and undermines the good news they claim to defend.

References

  1. Ed. note: To be clear: the official stand of the Adventist church continues to support a recent creation in six days of all life on Earth, and a global Flood (though unlike CMI, it leaves room ‘soft gap’ theories that postulate an ancient earth and/or universe, though no death before sin). Unfortunately, this instance is not the only case where even in this strongly creationist denomination, some academics are increasingly defying the hierarchy by coming out in favour of compromise with evolution and/or an old age for living creatures, i.e. death before sin. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Refuting Compromise, updated & expanded
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
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The Greatest Hoax on Earth?
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
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The Genesis Account
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