I have been a fan of science and the scientific method ever since I was a child. My Dad made sure his home library was stocked with a great selection of books about nature and science. I was the only kid in my grade 6 science class to do a project about why some stars vary in their brightness. (It had to do between the balance between the gravitational force of the mass of the star being to small to completely contain the massive energy output of the nuclear fusion reaction within… But that’s another story.)
Ok. I admit it. I’m a science geek. Not the kind that makes the great scientific discoveries – just the know-it-all kid who reads a lot about science and can usually explain some of its weird workings to work colleagues. That’s because I always took the hardest science classes in High School. In fact, science is the only subject I ever skipped a grade in in High School. I wasn’t so hot in physics, but biology and chemistry were as easy as breathing.
In grade 7 I stumbled across the story of an Austrian monk who was a contemporary of Charles Darwin. Gregor Johann Mendel was also a scientist. His science lab was the monastery garden, which he tended with loving care and a scientific mindset. In this garden he formulated a theory of inheritance that revolutionized science. In fact, he basically invented the science of genetics.
I learned from him that my parents did not adopt me. Yes, they both have brown eyes, and so does my one-and-only sibling. What they each have is two genes. Each has a gene for brown eyes and one for blue eyes. It turns out that I had a one-in-four chance of coming into this world with blue eyes. [OK, I admit that this is an oversimplification.] I beat the odds. (I even have Rh negative blood, also the only one in my family. Somehow I seem to be getting all the recessive traits.)
What I found really odd in school is how Mendel’s science came to be reconciled with Charles Darwin’s unscientific speculation about the origins of species and eventually the origins of life itself. Even to a grade 9 kid taking grade 11 biology it was easy to see how incompatible the two theories are. When I mentioned this to my biology teacher, she basically told me that the curriculum required that she teach biology from an evolutionary standpoint – she had no choice in the matter. I could believe what I wished, but had to pretend it was science in order to pass the exam – which I dutifully did.
While I was in Grade 10 I had a friend who introduced me to writings of the Worldwide Church of God. One thing that they did really, really well, however, is point out some weaknesses of the theory of evolution in a colorful and engaging way. One thing that they did not do, however, was deny that science might be correct about astronomy or the age of the earth. None of them had the science background to speak to issues like that.
Instead, they embraced a kind of “gap theory”. This idea allowed for a “gap” between the first and second verses of Genesis 1. It allowed for dinosaurs and a rebellion by Satan that destroyed the surface of the earth to the point that it became “formless and empty.” I thought that this was a valid reconciliation of science and the Bible. I could disbelieve in God-less evolution if God had created a humanity-free initial world and experimented with life-forms until he decided to create human beings in his own image.
That was until about three months ago. A friend loaned me a book called The Genesis Account by Jonathan D. Sarfati. In this book he points out many scientific, historical, theological and literary reasons to doubt the literal truth of a six-day creation of the earth and the universe. For a theological example, the Bible clearly states that death began at the fall of man in the story of the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3. This is corroborated by Romans 8:18-23.
Historically, the church and all of its early theologians considered the Genesis account to be an accurate narrative of the creation. Only in the late 1700’s did any significant numbers of Christian scholars begin to doubt the literal truth conveyed in the Genesis account.
Literarily, I once believed that the account featured enough poetic devices to be considered a poem, based on what I thought was good scholarship. It turns out to be a fringe idea. The account is a narrative with built-in stylistic features that make it memorable – but it is not a poem in its basic structure.
But the one that really stopped me in my tracks was when he referred to something that has been in the 10 Commandments all along. He points out a clear statement in the Sabbath command (Exodus 20:11). “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” The sabbath command is literally based on a literal six-day creation! And that’s when I finally got it!
Here’s the thing. If you look at verse 1 of Exodus 20 you see who is speaking the 10 Commandments. “And God spoke all these words.”
So who do we believe? God, or a well-meaning group of highly intelligent men and women who have been taught to automatically dismiss the documentary evidence of ancient times in favor of reason that is based on the assumption that only what is happening now is what has ever happened?
When I was taking the Saskatchewan Justice course to become a security guard, they took some time to teach us about how to bring evidence to court. I was surprised to discover that the primary form of evidence acceptable to court is that of eyewitnesses. Their evidence could be presented either in person or in the form of sworn affidavits.
As nearly as I can tell, God is the only eyewitness to the creation of heaven and earth who has ever told us about it. No scientist, living or dead, was around at the time of earth’s formation. A group numbering 600,000 men, plus their spouses and families were gathered to witness this statement, and swore to believe, remember and uphold the words spoken by God in a formal ceremony in chapter 24 of Exodus.
So the only eyewitness to the creation gave his testimony in front of at least 1.2 million people, who as good as signed in blood to agree. The document was written on the paper of the time as well as etched on two stone tablets that were stored in the most holy and protected place in the country. First, in the the Tabernacle, and eventually the Temple in Jerusalem.
That testimony is included in one of the most widely distributed documents in the world: the Bible.
But what about the science that “proves” that the earth is billions of years old?
Now we come to the kind of evidence normally described as circumstantial. Only if a large amount of circumstantial evidence can uniformly point in the same direction can we say that it makes the case ironclad.
One of the first “geologists” to propose a very old earth was Scottish physician James Hutton, who published his Theory of the Earth in the late 1700’s. His theory presupposed that the Bible account was not reliable – that there was no biblical flood, for instance. His work was repackaged and popularized by Charles Lyell, a lawyer and friend of Charles Darwin, in a book called Principles of Geology. The subtitle of the book indicates his philosophy: “Being an attempt to explain the former changes of the earth’s surface with reference to causes now in operation. In other words, if it isn’t happening now, it didn’t happen in the past. (No worldwide flood.) Thus the modern version of geology was born.
Notice three things. These are what modern geology is based on.
- It is, in Lyell’s own words, “an attempt to explain.” It was not observational science, using all resources, including historical documents and observations. It was an interpretive framework that limited the investigation by dismissing historical observations that if finds inconvenient.
- It was devised by a physician, not a geo-scientist. That doesn’t automatically disqualify it, but it does make me wonder. There were geo-scientists around who did not agree.
- It was promoted by a lawyer who was a friend of the originator of the theory of evolution.
What scientists do not report to the general public is that there are problems with a “uniformitarian” approach. For instance, nowhere in the world do we see coal in the process of being formed. Why not, if the same forces are always at work? The same goes for oil.
Another problem is something called “polystrate fossils.” We have some in Nova Scotia, and others have been found in many other locations, such as Australia and New Zealand. We see fossilized trees upright through many layers of rock strata that theoretically should have taken millions of years to deposit. There is no way that a tree could survive intact long enough without rotting away under the conditions needed for sediments to deposit.
When it comes to scientific circumstantial evidence the true kicker for me in the case of radiometric dating. That should conclusively prove the age of rocks and fossils, shouldn’t it?
Creation ministries tried to see how accurate dating by radioactivity in the rocks is by sending samples of volcanic rock from the Mount St. Helen’s volcano in 1984 and several from Mt. Ngauruhoe in New Zealand that erupted in 1949, 1954 and 1975. In a bit of a dirty trick, they sent the samples to an ordinary lab that routinely does dating for “real” scientists, but did not tell them the origin. None of the rocks had been formed before 1949.
The youngest age measured “scientifically” in the New Zealand samples was < 270,000 years, with other techniques yielding a range of up to 3.5 billion years. I suppose that < 270,000 years is technically correct, but it sure makes me wonder how accurate the technique is. The Mt. St. Helen’s rocks measured at between 340,000 years and 2.8 billion years, depending on the technique used.
The opposite problem occurs with carbon dating of coal. Using coal samples from the US Department of energy that were variously dated between 37 million and 318 million years old, scientists used a C14 test. The thing about C14 is that it decays very fast compared to Uranium and other radioactive substances. In theory you can’t detect any C14 after about 90,000 years. Surprisingly, they found enough C14 to date the coal to an average of 45-60,000 years. (Now there are other problems with C14 that I won’t go into here, but suffice it to say that the millions of years are impossible to sustain.)
The only hope for evolution, slender as it is, is if the world can be shown to be billions of years old. I can no longer believe that. The science that we have been taught makes a lot of pronouncements, but proves nothing of the sort.
For myself, I would rather rely on the eyewitness account of the God who actually did the creating.
The Apostle Peter prophecies about a time like ours, when he says,
3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. [2 Peter 3:3-7 NIV]
Earlier in the same letter he notes that God not only judges, but also redeems.
2:5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.[2 Peter 2:5-9 NIV]
Make no mistake. Jesus is returning. When he does, there will be both judgment and redemption. The only way to experience redemption rather than judgment is to come to Jesus while there is still time.