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Friday, December 19, 2014

My “Top Five” Reasons for Believing in a Young Earth (Part 1 of 6)

Posted by jlwile on May 24, 2009

Having told you why I am skeptical of the idea of an ancient (millions or billions of years old) earth, I would like to give you some of the data that lead me to believe in a young earth. I am certainly open to changing my view on this, as I see no inherent reason to believe in any specific age for the earth. However, based on what I know about science right now, it seems to me most reasonable to believe that the earth is on the order of thousands of years old, and it seems to me incredibly unscientific to believe that the earth is on the order of billions of years old. So over the course of the next few weeks, dear reader, I hope to present to you my “top five” reasons for thinking that the earth is young.

Before I do that, however, I need to provide bit of scientific philosophy on this issue. I don’t think most scientists are equipped to evaluate this question, at least not in any scientifically meaningful way. In fact, I personally think that creationists are the only people who can address the age of the earth scientifically. I don’t think that all creationists are qualified to address this issue (as will become apparent in a moment), but I don’t think a single committed evolutionist is qualified to weigh in on the age of the earth, at least not in a scientific manner.

Why do I say this? Well, in order to scientifically evaluate any issue, you must view the data in as unbiased a way as possible. It is, of course, impossible to completely rid yourself of all your biases. Nevertheless, a scientist must try as hard as possible to check his preconceptions at the door and look at the data honestly and openly. Only then can the scientist hope to make a reasonable conclusion based on the data.

There is simply no way for a committed evolutionist to look at the data related to the age of the earth openly and honestly. After all, the “magic formula” for evolution is:

random change + natural selection + billions of years = people

Thus, an evolutionist is forced to believe in a billions-of-years-old earth. There is simply no other alternative, as there is simply no other way to construct an evolutionary scenario for the life that we see on this planet. As a result, any data that indicate a young age for the earth must simply be dismissed. Period. End of discussion. This is not a scientific approach to the data. Committed evolutionists, then, simply cannot evaluate data related to the age of the earth in any meaningful scientific way.

Now, of course, there are creationists who also cannot evaluate the data related to the age of the earth in any meaningful way. Any creationist who thinks Scripture requires you to believe in a young earth is just as unqualified as a committed evolutionist when it comes to evaluating the data related to the age of the earth. After all, like the committed evolutionist, a creationist who thinks that an orthodox member of his or her faith must believe in a young earth is just as biased as the committed evolutionist. As a result, any data that indicate an ancient earth must be dismissed. Period. End of discussion. Once again, this means that such a creationist cannot be trusted to evaluate the data related to the age of the earth in any meaningful way.

Most reasonable creationists, however, are not forced into any preconceived notion about the age of the earth. For example, a Christian or Jewish creationist who has spent any serious time trying to understand what the first few chapters of Genesis tell us will understand that there are several possible orthodox interpretations for the events recounted therein. As a result, a reasonable Christian or Jewish creationist need not be committed to either a young earth or an old earth. Creationists such as these are really the only people who are qualified to address the age of the earth from a scientific perspective.

When you strip away your biases (as much as is humanly possible), then, what does science tell you? Overall, I think it tells you the following:

If the earth is billions of years old, there are a myriad of natural processes (some of which we have been studying in detail for hundreds of years) that we simply do not understand. However, if the earth is on the order of thousands of years old, there are only a few natural processes that we don’t understand, and most of them are processes we have not been studying for long.

As a result, it seems to me that the most scientifically reasonable belief is that the earth is on the order of thousands of years old. As I continue this line of posts, I will detail five of the processes that are easily understood in a young-earth framework but are utterly mysterious in an old-earth framework. I hope you find it all as fascinating as I do!

Comments

8 Responses to “My “Top Five” Reasons for Believing in a Young Earth (Part 1 of 6)”
  1. DanteD says:

    On an unscientific note:

    If the earth were billions of years old (I suppose that
    evidence for his would be in the fossil record), then that
    would mean there was death before Adam sinned, and that’s a
    problem. If there was death before sin, then why did Jesus
    die? If there was death before sin, then passages such as
    Romans 6:26 would be a lie wouldn’t it?

  2. jlwile says:

    Thanks for reading, and thanks for posting a comment! There is no Romans 6:26. Are you referring to Romans 6:23? That verse (in the NASB) reads, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This verse is not referring to physical death, however. After all, if it were referring to physical death, the end of the verse would indicate that we who are in Jesus would have eternal physical life, and that is clearly not true. The death being referred to here is spiritual death – separation from God forever. Sin gave us spiritual death, but God through Jesus gives us spiritual life. We know this is a valid understanding of this passage, since Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says the Greek word used for death here (thanatos) can be taken either literally or figuratively. Since the end of the verse indicates that we cannot take it literally, we must take it figuratively. Note that if God had specifically wanted to make it clear that this passage refers to physical death, He could have made Paul use a Greek word that can mean only physical death, such as teleute.

    Romans 5:12 is the verse most young-earth creationists use to argue that there could not have been any death before sin entered the world through Adam. It says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-” (NASB). However, this verse is clearly not referring to the death of animals. After all, the verse tells us a man brought sin into the world, which brought in death, which then spread to all men. He says nothing about it spreading to all creation – just to men.

    Indeed, we know that there was plenty of plant death before the Fall. After all, God says that He gave all animals plants for food (Genesis 1:29-30). This means that a LOT of plants died before sin entered the world. Thus, when we read passages like Romans 5:12 and Romans 6:23, we know they can’t refer to ALL death, since plants died well before sin entered the world. Thus, we know we must determine the kind of death such passages discuss. That’s why it is so important to read the verses carefully. Otherwise, our theology gets pretty sloppy.

    So human death entered the world through sin, as did spiritual death (separation from God). Jesus died so that we would not suffer spiritual death, even though we all still suffer physical death.

  3. DanteD says:

    Hm, I haven’t thought of it like that before. Very interesting.

    Isn’t it also possible that Adam and Eve only ate the fruits,
    not killing the entire plant?

    (By The Way, I did mean Romans 6:23. It was a typo. =/)

    I enjoy your blog Dr. Wile and am happy to respond. :D

  4. jlwile says:

    Thanks for responding. I enjoy the dialog!

    It is possible that Adam and Eve ate only the fruits. I find it unlikely, however, as fruits do not supply all the nutrients a vegetarian needs. A vegetarian must also eat roots (like carrots), and that would definitely kill the plant. If Adam and Even ate only fruits, the fruits were MUCH different from what we see today.

    Even if Adam and Eve ate only fruits, however, some animals certainly did not. Many herbivores don’t eat fruit, and some actually cannot eat fruits. They survive on roots, stems, and leaves. Even those who eat seeds end up killing a plant, as a seed contains a plant embryo, which is, indeed, alive. Thus, it is hard to understand any scenario where plants given for food do not result in at least some of those plants dying.

  5. DanteD says:

    I see, but it would still pose a problem for those who would like to point
    to the fossil record as proof of an old earth, wouldn’t it?

    That would mean that the animals would have to die as well as
    plants.

  6. jlwile says:

    My point about plants was just that since we know plants died before the Fall, we also know that all the references to death entering the world as a result of sin cannot mean death in general. Thus, we must interpret verses carefully to make sure we understand what “death” means. The fact that we know plants died before the Fall, then, helps us determine what the Bible means when it refers to death.

    Now, of course, a LOT of young-earth creationists do say that there was no ANIMAL death before the Fall. This is because they think the Bible makes a distinction between animals and other forms of life. For example, in Genesis 7:21-23, we read that “all flesh,” which includes all “beasts” and “things that creep,” have the “breath of life” (Hebrew: nishmat chayyim) in them. That makes them different from plants, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi. It is the removal of the “breath of life” that many young-earth creationists think is referred to as “death” in Romans 6:23 and Romans 5:12. If that is your definition of death in these two verses, then yes, animals could not have died before the Fall.

    However, I think that is reading FAR TOO MUCH into those passages. If you take that definition of “death” in Romans 6:26, then those of us who are in Christ will have the breath of life forever. That means we will never physically die. That clearly is not what the passage is saying, as Christians die just like everyone else. For Romans 5:12, you cannot take that definition for “death,” because it specifically says that death spread to MEN. That rules out the idea that animal death came in as a result of the Fall.

    It all hinges, then, on what you think the word “death” refers to in such passages. I see no reason to say that it refers to animal death. In one passage, it is specifically discussing spiritual death, and in the second passage, it specifically tells us it is talking about human death. As a result, these passages tell me there was no separation from God (spiritual death) and no human death before the Fall. That is consistent with an old-earth perspective. Now please note that I do not agree with the old-earth perspective. However, I heartily defend as a possible orthodox perspective.

  7. ethan says:

    Hi Dr. Wile,

    Enjoying reading your blog and am looking forward to the next
    five parts in this series.

  8. jlwile says:

    Hi Ethan,

    Thanks for reading! Don’t hold your breath on the next five parts. Unfortunately, I still have a day job!

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