The Young Earth Creationist (YEC) worldview holds that the Genesis account of creation demands that the earth (and the universe) be on the order of 6,000-10,000 years old, based on their “simple” interpretation of Genesis. This interpretation is based on biblical genealogies and an insistence on the creation days being 24 hours in duration. Old Earth Creationism (OEC), on the other hand, holds that since God is the author of both the Bible and of Creation, any conflicts must be due to mistaken or incomplete interpretations of one or both. OEC’s believe that when all passages in the Bible that refer to creation are read together as a consistent whole, it better supports an ancient earth rather than a recent one. Thus the abundant evidence that supports an earth of about 4.55 billion years and a universe of about 14 billion year does not have to be in conflict. However, YEC’s have often made the claim that this evidence is wrongly interpreted and that there is solid evidence supporting their claims.
Recently a list of 14 “new” evidences has been published by YEC organizations and authors. How do these stand up to examination? Typically, YEC evidences have failed because of one or more of the following:
- (SEL) Selective use of supporting evidences while ignoring contradictory evidence
- (GAP) Using gaps in our current understanding to argue that the opposing theory is unsound, while claiming that it provides support for their theory
- (RAT) Extrapolating past the point of validity by assuming that the rates of some process must be constant, ignoring oscillatory or time-dependent rates
- (ONE) Using the One-sided Equation fallacy, where competing processes and the recognition of equilibriums in the environment are ignored
- (IGN) Using bad arguments based on either ignorance of the facts, misunderstanding, or misapplication of scientific principles
- (OLD) Arguing based on old data that has been revised or overturned by better measurements or understanding
14 YEC “Evidences”
1. Galaxies wind themselves up too fast. (SEL, GAP, OLD)
a. Ignores the fact that active star formation helps to maintain spiral arms. This is supported by the absorption of small dwarf galaxies over time. In fact, older galaxies tend not to have spiral arms, as predicted by current models. The YEC model is far too simplistic.
b. There is observational evidence that “bar” shaped or irregular mass concentrations in the core of galaxies can also maintain spirals.
2. Too few supernova remnants. (SEL, OLD, IGN)
a. These are hard to observe since they spread out over time, but they have been observed, including ones that have been expanding for longer than the YEC theories allow.
3. Comets disintegrate too quickly. (ONE, RAT, IGN, OLD)
a. They are correct about the fact that comets lose material over time and have a finite lifespan. However, the Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belt are the source of new comets.
b. Some Kuiper Belt objects have actually been photographed.
4. Not enough mud on the sea floor. (ONE, GAP, OLD)
a. This is an old argument that ignores competing factors.
5. Not enough sodium in the sea. (ONE, OLD)
a. This fails to account for all sources of input/output. This is a common argument using various chemicals and processes, which all suffer from the same kind of flaws.
6. The earth’s magnetic field is decaying too fast. (RAT, OLD, IGN)
a. This fails to understand the cyclic nature of the Earth’s magnetic fields and the inner dynamics of the Earth’s core.
7. Many strata are too tightly bent. (IGN, SEL, GAP)
a. Ignores the plasticity of rock under high temperatures and pressures. There is no mystery here and is simply based on ignorance of basic geology.
b. Note: Silly Putty will break if the force is applied quickly, but is viscous when applied slowly.
8. Biological material decays too fast. (IGN, ONE)
a. This ignores different environmental effects, including protective and preservative situations.
b. Different biological molecules have different stabilities. Just because some molecules (like DNA) are relatively unstable, does not mean that others (such as collagen or hemoglobin) must also be.
c. Their claim of mitochondrial Eve to have been revised from 200,000 yr to 6,500 yrs is based on misunderstanding of a couple of papers. While there are issues and some unknowns about how reliably we understand the mutation rates, their conclusions are unwarranted.
9. Fossil radioactivity shortens geologic “ages” to a few years. (GAP, IGN)
a. Polonium halos – while this processes is not fully understood, there are theories that explain how these could have come about. The conclusion that the existence of these halos demands a recent creation is unwarranted.
10. Too much helium in minerals. (RAT, ONE, GAP, OLD)
a. Zircons – RATE study (proposed greatly increased decay rates). This claim misunderstands or misrepresents known diffusion rates within these crystals. There are numerous technical issues that flaw this study and its conclusions.
b. There is much evidence, including astronomical observations at different look-back times, which shows that nuclear decay rates have remained stable through the lifetime of the universe. If there was a much higher rate of decay in the past, it would be observable in distant stars and galaxies. In addition, the tremendous increase in energy released would have melted or vaporized the early earth.
11. Too much carbon 14 in deep geologic strata. (GAP)
a. This is generally explained by contamination either in place or by the laboratory methods/instruments. New techniques have shown that there is great variation in measured trace amounts of C-14, even for similar samples, suggesting contamination is the likely source. While there still may be some unexplained traces in some samples, others show nothing but background levels.
12. Not enough Stone Age skeletons. (GAP, ONE)
a. Fails to take into account why we don’t find more skeletons, including: erosion, decay, predators and scavengers, reuse of burial sites and cremation, sedimentary deposition, discovery rates, etc.
13. Agriculture is too recent. (GAP, IGN)
a. At this point, we just don’t have any evidence for large scale farming beyond around 11,000 years ago. Small populations may have had small scale agriculture that don’t show up in the archeological record. It is also possible that there were periods of time where humans had it and then lost it, but there is no evidence either way.
14. History is too short. (GAP, IGN)
a. Oral traditions often predated written records in many cultures. We even see this in the history of the ancient Hebrews, where it appears that Moses first wrote down the creation accounts and stories of the patriarch many years after the events. Mostly likely much of this was from oral traditions passed down throughout the generations, although some of it came through direct revelation from God on Mt. Sinai.
b. There is evidence of rock art around 40,000 years ago. This is a precursor to written languages.
Conclusion - While YEC is a failed model that fails to match reality with its predictions, that failure does not have to drag down the historic Christian Worldview. The discoveries of the natural world can live harmoniously within a theistic worldview as long as we are humble enough to not think that our personal interpretations of either nature or the Bible are not open to correction and testing.