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Anselm: The Second Paradigm: The old Earth

Peter Eyland, 02/09/06, Updated 7 March 2014

The second paradigm is about the age of the Earth.

Peter’s Slideshow on " Historical Christian responses to scientific paradigms: The Old Earth"

This was recently given on the Pacific Princess cruise over the Pacific Ocean. (February 2014)












































































Summary information


James Ussher

James Ussher (1581-1665) was the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh. In his Annals of the Old Testament, by counting back through the genealogies, he declared that the first day of Creation began at nightfall preceding Sunday October 23, 4004 BC in the proleptic Julian calendar, near the autumnal equinox. ("Proleptic" because this was before the Julian calendar was being used).

Again, the desire for concordance meant that some Christians wanted the Bible to be in exact correspondence with modern science. However Ussher's date was in conflict with Charles Lyell, who started a new paradigm in Geology.

Charles Lyell (1797-1875)

Charles Lyell

The Principles of Geology, An Attempt to Explain the Former Changes of the Earth's Surface by Reference to Causes now in Operation (1830,1832,1833),
In these volumes, Lyell argued against theories of geology based on Genesis. He reasoned that one sudden geological catastrophe was not enough to explain the fossil remains of all extinct species. He believed in Uniformitarianism, i.e. a vast time scale was needed for the age of the Earth in order to lay down the various strata and their fossils. The Earth could not appear 6000 years ago in 6 days. Also, the flood of Noah would have needed an impossible amount of rain water and destroyed the saltiness of the sea.

Hugh Miller (1802 -1856) was a leading Scottish evangelical who became a popular writer. His concordist leanings induced him to argue that the geological record fitted in with Genesis, if the story was interpreted as periods of time rather than literal days. Possibly because of the mounting evidence against his theory, he unfortunately committed suicide.

Henry Morris and Creation Science (1918 – 2006)

Henry Morris and John C. Whitcomb published The Genesis Flood in 1961. This revived catastrophic flood geology as an explanation of the fossil record. He then founded the Creation Research Society in 1963 and the Institute for Creation Research in 1970. These organizations are dedicated to concordance, i.e. the validation of the Bible as historical fact through the use of science.

Arkansas Legislature Act 590, 1981
" 'Creation-science' includes the scientific evidences and related inferences that indicate:
(1) Sudden creation of the universe, energy and life from nothing,
(2) The insufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of all living kinds from a single organism,
(3) Changes only within fixed limits of originally created kinds of plants and animals,
(4) Separate ancestry for men and apes,
(5) Explanation of the earth's geology by catastrophism, including the occurrence of a world- wide flood, and
(6) A relatively recent inception of the earth and living kinds."

Three topics in creation science

Creation biology

God created a finite number of "created kinds" (baramins) of life. One kind cannot interbreed with or transform into another kind, and new kinds cannot arise spontaneously. Speciation took place through inbreeding and harmful mutations in a population bottleneck after Noah’s flood. Note that “kinds” were general categories and not species. Dinosaurs and humans lived together. Changed conditions after the flood killed them off. Dragons, Leviathan and Behemoth all refer to dinosaurs. A major emphasis in creation biology is pointing out weaknesses of evolutionary theory.

Arguments for this:
Evolution is contrary to the well-proven Second Law of Thermodynamics.
The fossil record, our only documentation of whether evolution actually occurred in the past, lacks any transitional forms, and all types appear fully-formed when first present.
Basic plant and animal types were created with their characteristics complete in the first representatives.

Arguments against this:
The Second Law of Thermodynamics only applies to isolated systems.
The fossil record does show intermediate forms, e.g. elephants, whales. Transitional forms would only occur in small populations. Since there are only 250,000 specimens from 10 million present species, which is <1% total species that lived, it is unlikely that any would be found.

Flood geology
Many of Earth's geological formations were created by Noah's flood when fossils and fossil fuels were formed from buried animal and plant matter. Sedimentary strata are sediments predominantly laid down after Noah's flood.

Arguments against this:
In 1862, William Thomson (1824 - 1907 later Lord Kelvin) of Glasgow, assumed that the Earth had been created as a completely molten ball of rock, and determined the amount of time it would take for the ball to cool to its present temperature. He fixed the age of the Earth at between 20 million and 400 million years. He averaged it at 100 million years. The calculation was incorrect because he was unaware that the Earth had an ongoing heat source from radioactive decay. He remained a devout believer in Christianity throughout his life and daily chapel was part of his routine. His time was both too long for concordists, and too short for Lyell. However mainstream Christianity generally accepted an old Earth.  

The age of the Earth has been estimated around 4.567 billion years, with various strata at more ancient times than the flood.
Scientific ways of estimating the age of rocks.
Radioactive decay: Uranium to Lead (half-life 713 million years)
Potassium-40 to Argon-40 (half-life 1.25 billion years)
40 independent isotopes have been used.
Tree rings: Sierra-Nevada bristle-comb pines are up to 11,800 years old.
Ice layers: Greenland ice goes back 180,000 years.
Lyell’s arguments and scientific dating contradict one recent catastrophic flood as the origin of all the strata.

Creationist Cosmology
Hugh Ross (Creation and Time, Navpress, 1994) is an important figure in Creationist Cosmology

Arguments against the scientific estimate of the age of the Universe.
• (1) Astronomers have measured the distances to the stars and galaxies incorrectly.
All measurements have some uncertainty or “error”, but the measurements have been checked using several different methods. If the stars were much nearer to us, as might be expected in a younger universe, they would either have to be very much smaller, either so small that they could not contain enough energy to ignite the nuclear furnace that causes them to burn, or else they would be so bright that the whole night sky would be lit up and there would be no darkness.

• (2) In the beginning God created the light from distant stars already in transit.
The spectral lines from distant stars are broadened to an extent depending on the distance of travel. If God had fixed the broadening to give the appearance of a long travel time when in fact it had only travelled for ten thousand years, then God has deliberately set out to deceive humanity.
Also, this is an un-falsifiable statement, e.g. how can anyone prove that we were not instantly created 3 hours ago with memories intact and all physical evidence provided?

• (3) The speed of light may have been greater a few thousand years ago.
Norman and Setterfield collected various measurements of the speed of light made over the last thousand years or so and claimed there appeared to be a change with time. However if they had plotted their graph with error bars on it, it would have been clear that no change could be deduced. Michael Burton and colleagues at UNSW have recently suggested that the speed of light may have changed in the past. However measurements suggest that the change occurred over a period of several billion years and the changes ceased several billion years ago. This is right outside the reference frame of 10 thousand years used by the Creation Scientists.

• (4) Light travels in highly curved lines, not in straight lines.
This builds on the “space is curved” idea from general relativity but neglects to calculate the degree of curvature. In their picture the curvature is so great that we would see light coming from the same galaxies in two different directions!

• (5) There were no scientists present to observe and record the creation and long-ago events.
But astronomers do see today distant stars as they were long ago. They cannot see the star as it is today. Even when we look at our Sun, we see it as it was, 8 minutes ago. Looking at the 2.7K cosmic background radiation, we are looking back 17 billion years.

A central tenet of creationist cosmology is that God created the universe out of nothing and by Divine fiat. They thus assume that it was not a natural event.
Morris wrote:
"A. Creation cannot be proved
1. Creation ... is inaccessible to the scientific method.
2. It is impossible to devise a scientific experiment to describe the creation process, or even to ascertain whether such a process can take place." (Morris, Scientific Creationism, 1974, p. 5)

Morris also wrote:
• "The creationist model does presuppose a God, or Creator, who did create things in the beginning." (Morris, Scientific Creationism, 1974, p. 4)
• "The only way we can determine the true age of the earth is for God to tell us what it is. And since he has told us, very plainly, in the Holy Scriptures that it is several thousand years in age, and no more, that ought to settle all basic questions of terrestrial chronology." (Morris, The Remarkable Birth of the Planet Earth, p. 94)
• "The only Bible-honoring conclusion is, of course, that Genesis I-II is the actual historical truth, regardless of any scientific or chronologic problems thereby entailed." (Morris, The Remarkable Birth of the Planet Earth, p. 82)

Duane Gish wrote:
"Thus, using special processes operating nowhere in the natural universe today, God created all the heavenly bodies, including the earth, the moon, the sun, and all the other objects in the solar system."  (Duane Gish, The Moon, Creation, and Composition, p.6)

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court held that, by advancing the religious belief that a supernatural being created humankind, which is embraced by the term creation science, the act impermissibly endorses religion.
( Edwards v. Aguillard, 482, U.S. 578, 55 (1987) U.S. Law Week 4860, S. CT. 2573, 96 L. Ed. 2d510 )

Summary 2nd Paradigm

Mainstream Christianity generally accepted Lyell’s Uniformitarianism and an old Earth.
Legal decision & scientific opinion was that Creation Science was not science.

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