Creation and Evolution, Part 2: Deep time
WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
• Overview of creation – evolution.
• Where does science succeed and where does it fail?
• Fossil evidence for deep time.
• How reliable are dating methods?
• The bones of John the Baptist.
• The dilemma of young earth creation.
• Thirsty koala bear in Australian extreme heat drinking water.
On the subject of deep time, this is the second of three parts of a series on creation and evolution. It’s a mix of science and spiritual. As always, I use as much data and facts as possible. Your feedback and comments will be appreciated.
At the end of this blog is an ultra-cute video of a koala bear in Australia’s extreme heat drinking water offered by a cyclist.
LET’S START WITH AN OVERVIEW OF CREATION-EVOLUTION. In Figure 1, the blue boxes show God exists before the universe, as in traditional Christian belief. The big-bang creates energy, and out of energy comes matter (or mass). Life then emerges and the highest form of life, the human brain. Last comes human consciousness (sentience) which we discussed in Part 1 of this series.
NOW WHERE DOES SCIENCE FIT INTO THIS SCHEME? Look at the two green boxes, where science has a defensible explanation, while in the red boxes it does not (my opinion). So there are big gaps in science’s ability to explain the universe and life. In particular, evolution is only one aspect (one green box) of the whole scheme in Figure 1.
AS AN EXAMPLE OF ITS LIMITATIONS, SCIENCE HAS NO EXPLANATION FOR THE ORIGIN OF LIFE (red box at bottom left). Fred Hoyle, a British astronomer in the 1970s addressed the probability that life formed by random processes. He calculated the probability of amino acids forming by random chance in a primitive soupy swamp. The answer he found was the probability is the same as rolling 6 on a dice 5 million times straight. I tried this out with a dice and in six rolls of the dice, I never got even one six. This probability is ridiculously small — it turns out to be the same probability as a bulldozer chugging through a junkyard and creating a computer! As an alternative, Hoyle proposed seriously that life came to earth riding on an asteroid.
In Figure 1, no times are included. MOST SCIENTISTS AGREE THAT THE TIMES ARE VERY LONG. But how long? Well, the big-bang origin of the universe took place 13.4 billion years ago, and the earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago – see Figure 2. These are enormously long times, and we can refer to them as deep time. Using science, there are many different ways of determining times, but they are more-or-less consistent.
For example, the oldest rocks are almost 4 billion years old. Complex living organisms appeared less than one billion years ago. As shown in Figure 3, the Cambrian explosion occurred 530 million years ago, when in the ocean a whole bunch of new critters, about 80 of them, appeared suddenly (relatively speaking). We know this from fossils, which have been dated by various methods, and the dates are reliable.
BEFORE THE CAMBRIAN, THE EARLIEST FOSSILS WERE DISCOVERED ABOUT 100 MILES FROM MY HOME TOWN IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA…. the ediacara fossils (see Figure 4).
Their family tree is a challenge, and it is not even established that they were animals, with suggestions that they were lichens, algae, fungi, microbe colonies, or intermediates between plants and animals. Some have suggested that these represent completely extinct lineages that do not resemble any living organism (that is, a “failed experiment” in multicellular life).
BUT REALLY – HOW RELIABLE ARE THE DATING METHODS? A list of dating methods is shown in Figure 5. Here are three tests of dating methods:
TEST 1. Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and wiped out the city of Pompeii. Rocks produced by this volcanic eruption have been dated to within a few years of 79AD using the argon-argon method.
TEST 2. Live tree rings have been counted back thousands of years, and plotted against measured carbon dates. See Figure 6. Annual lake sediments (varves) agree with tree ring counts. And carbon dating of two biblical events falls right on the tree ring plot: (1) Parchment from the Book of Isaiah in the Dead Sea scrolls, (2) Wood from Hezekiah’s tunnel in the book of 2 Kings, chapter 20. Carbon-14 dating is reliable.
TEST 3. The USA is moving away from North Africa (continent movement is called plate tectonics). We can use radiometric dating to measure the oldest rocks that have moved the furthest and we get 180 million years. From Figure 7 we know how far the USA and Africa have separated (3,480 miles) so this gives us an average speed of separation of 1.2 inches per year. This speed has been checked by satellite measurement in recent years, and we find close to 1 inch per year of movement. This good agreement implies this method of dating of old rocks is reliable.
THE BONES OF JOHN THE BAPTIST?
Six small bones were discovered in an ossuary in Bulgaria (eastern Europe) in 2010. See Figure 8. Purported to be bones of John the Baptist. They were carbon dated to the time of Jesus. All six bones are from one man. A DNA sample implied the man was likely to be from the Middle East, e.g. Palestine. So dating of the bones increases the probability they were from John the Baptist, although it’s not definite proof.
BUT, a finger bone of John the Baptist in Kansas City was dated to 500 AD – a medieval forgery.
THE DILEMMA OF YOUNG EARTH CREATION. Young earth means less than 10,000 years old. Standard dates are
• Adam and Eve were created 6,000 years ago.
• Noah and the great flood were 4,500 years ago.
However, Figure 9, based on annual tree rings and lake deposits, leads to a science conclusion: the earth cannot be younger than 50,000 years. How do we reconcile this with a seven-day creation period in Genesis 1? This will be addressed in Part 3 of this series on creation-evolution.
• If science is right, tree rings and lake varves show the earth is older than 50,000 years. This is a dilemma for a Young Earth Creation of less than 10,000 years.
• If science is right, Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and the universe is 13.5 billion years old. This is called deep time. These dates are based on several different dating methods, and are generally reliable.
• It’s a challenge to discern the truths in the Bible and in science concerning our origins. It depends on how much we trust science, and how much we trust the Bible. But in my opinion, the two are complementary, not incompatible.
The very order, disposition, beauty, change and motion of the world and of all visible things silently proclaim that it could only have been made by God. [St Augustine, circa 400 AD]
The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of… we know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart.
[Blaise Pascal, physicist, mathematician, Christian philosopher, circa 1640]
Here is AN ULTRA-CUTE VIDEO (2 mins) of a thirsty koala bear drinking water from a cyclist in Australia’s extreme heat. Click HERE.
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Hey Ian, have you read “Undeniable” by Bill Nye? I found it compelling.
Hi John, no I haven’t. I’ll put it on my list. Thanks.
Thanks Ian, again you have posted a very interesting and informative blog. I am a believer in the Bible, and I do not find it incompatible with the science presented here. Two wise and knowledgeable men made the following statements: First, “The idea that the religion of Christ is one thing, and science is another, is a mistaken idea, for there is no true religion without true science.” Second, “The human spirit yearns for enlightenment. Whether truth comes from a scientific laboratory or by revelation from God, we seek it!” In my mind it all boils down to this: God lives and knows all things, Jesus Christ is His Son, the living Christ, Savior of the world. The Universe and our Earth was created by God for His own purposes, through Jesus Christ. Knowledge builds faith, without knowledge how can one have faith in something they know not of. Good job Ian.
Don, the “Language of God” by Francis Collins (the man who managed the group who decoded the human genome in 2001), addresses this and argues strongly that science and Christian faith are compatible. He also once debated Richard Dawkins, the number one new-atheist. When Dawkins said science can’t prove God therefore God doesn’t exist, I think Collins replied that God was outside of science meaning He created science (and to me, this means God is not provable by science, which a lot of scientists would agree with).
Ian, I agree we cannot prove God exists. However we are commanded to be ready to make a defense of the hope that is in us-with reverence and respect. 1 Peter 3:15. I understand that this verse and others provide a boundary as well as a guide to follow to share our faith. God has simply not provided the means to prove He exists but allows for the exercise of reasonable faith to lead us to the knowledge of the Truth.
I believe we need to recognize there are two different categories “science and scientism”. The latter is a corruption of the scientific method which results in individuals making claims not justified by the facts. I believe the evolutionary description of origins is an example of scientism.
While I appreciate Francis Collins stand for he Gospel as a scientist I feel that the attempt to combine evolutionary principles with the teaching of scripture particularly the book of Genesis is inherently contradictory. This belief generally known as Theistic Evolution is at odds with the words of Jesus in terms of Noah as well as the theology of the Apostle Paul writing about the Fall in the context of the first Adam and the second Adam, Jesus.