Thursday, 9 October 2014

Speak to the Earth and it shall teach thee the folly of YEC

If you want to understand the natural world, the only credible option is to study it with an open mind. That means if you want to learn how old the Earth is, you turn to science. Not creation science, which is perhaps the ultimate oxymoron, but genuine science. The AiG statement of faith shows why creation science is science falsely so called, as it privileges flawed human understanding of the creation narratives over the clear testimony of deep time written into the rocks:
By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record.
Anyone who assents to that no longer has the right to call themselves a scientist, or have anything they say on the matter treated with anything other than deep suspicion at best.

Thankfully, AiG, CMI, ICR, and other fundamentalist pseudoscientific bodies form a tiny minority of Christians working in science. Organisations such as the Affiliation of Christian Geologists (AFC) have unlike the YECs had the humility and wisdom not to listen to the wisdom of men who torture the creation narratives, but rather to what the Earth says, and unsurprisingly accept that the Earth is not 6000 years old, 60,000 years old, but 4600 million years old.

Emeritus professor of geology at the University of Western Ontario C. Gordon Winder in an AFC essay reflects on how his professional life confirmed the reality of an ancient Earth:
During fifteen seasons of geological field mapping I found that thick sections of fossiliferous sedimentary rocks conformed to the succession in the geological time scale:
  1. In the Shubenacadie River basin of Nova Scotia the succession was folded Mississippian limestones and evaporites and Pennsylvanian red beds, overlain by horizontal Triassic red beds.
  2. In the Lakefield-Havelock area of Ontario, horizontal Middle Ordovician limestones overlay deformed Precambrian metamorphic rocks that were intruded by igneous rocks.
  3. Subsurface studies in southern Ontario, for example Cambrian to Mississippian fossiliferous sediments with a thickness of 1500M at Sarnia, increasing to over 5000m in central Michigan, with Precambrian metamorphics below.
  4. In the Alberta foothills and the Rocky Mountains, a succession of several hundred meters includes Devonian carbonates with reef structures and Cretaceous conglomerates, sandstones and shales, with ten or more coal beds.
  5. In every location there are glacial deposits at the top of the succession, including an outcrop in a small river running adjacent to the Western Ontario campus where research reveals that the till layers were deposited by glaciers that came from opposite directions.
The geology courses I have taught include introductory, historical, stratigraphy, paleontology including micropaleontology, sedimentology, and carbonaceous fuels. My research papers have been in the fields of stratigraphy, paleontology, carbonaceous fuels, and the history of geology. On field excursions from coast to coast in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom (including Siccar Point in Scotland which contributed to Hutton’s conclusion, "we find no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end"), northwestern Europe and Australia I examined the consistent succession in accord with the geological time scale and the consistent succession of diagnostic fossils. Field camp and several excursions in northern Ontario provided opportunities to examine complex rocks of the Precambrian that are interpreted by the experts as extremely old. Radiometric dating gives absolute ages. I have faith that the geochronologists are striving for precise figures. My conviction remains firm – the Earth must be old.

I have pointed out before that YEC is a deviation from the original Christadelphian consensus on the age of the Earth, with figures such as Thomas, Roberts, and Walker in agreement that the Earth was far older than 6000 years, with Walker acknowledging that the age was measured not in millions, but billions of years. Allegations that these men were 'seduced' by 'worldly wisdom' or 'compromised' the 'clear teaching' of the Bible are often made without any evidence (other than personal opinion or uncritical citation of YEC pseudoscience) and ignore the fact that the antiquity of the Earth was recognised in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, well before Darwin published The Origin of Species. Far from being 'compromisers', these Christians were known for their defence of a theologically conservative Christianity. As Winder notes:
I could wax eloquently and at length about the individuals living over a century and a half ago such as James Hutton, William Smith, and Charles Lyell, who gathered the evidence and initiated the modern understanding that the Earth has great age. The book by Claude Albritton, ‘The Abyss of Time’ (Freeman, Cooper, 1980) provides an excellent summary. In the late nineteenth century, such prominent geologists as James Dwight Dana, Yale professor, Michigan geologist Alexander Winchell, and Charles Hitchcock, Dartmouth professor, acknowledged a great age for the Earth, and at the same time were committed Christians. Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield believed that the Scriptures are inerrant but acknowledged an ancient earth. I recommend a book entitled ‘Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders’ by David Livingstone, Eerdmans, 1987, for more examples.
In Elpis Israel, John Thomas recognised that the Earth had a pre-history before Adam:
Fragments, however, of the wreck of this pre-Adameral world have been brought to light by geological research, to the records of which we refer the reader, for a detailed account of its discoveries, with this remark, that its organic remains, coal fields, and strata, belong to the ages before the formation of man, rather than to the era of the creation, or the Noachic flood.
One should not fault him for endorsing the Gap theory, as it was held by many educated Christians of the 19th century, and was a commendable attempt to try to reconcile the clear evidence of an ancient Earth with a conservative reading of the Bible. While the Gap theory is not tenable due to the lack of evidence of any recent global destruction and recreation in the geological record dating back around 6000 years, Thomas' advice to turn to science for an understanding of when and how God created is timeless advice which every YEC should follow.