On the Young Earth


On the Young Earth

This started as a response to a comment, but grew too long and too interesting to confine to the comment box. I thank Mr. Culbreath for bringing it up. At the end of a comment below Mr. Culbreath comments, "No one has even said that the Bible tells us the age of the earth. Saying that the biblical record -- that which is recorded as history and was understood as history by Our Lord and the Apostles and the Fathers until the Age of Darwin -- is a reliable guide to the approximate age of the earth is not to concoct scientific theories. It is to give science a necessary starting point, that is all. Sedimentation rates, the fossil record and the rest of it are in fact more comprehensible in a young earth scenario and are not obstacles."

I appreciate your point of view and respectfully demur. Simply the fluid dynamics of what you suggest would entail catastrophic floods--and by this I mean floods that would cover continents every single year to a depth of about 10 meters or more. Unless one posits that the Lord chose to create rocks with fossils in them already--which, while possible, is suggestive in ways that I don't care to contemplate.

Take one example--the Permian sequence of the Glass Mountains of Texas, is on the order of 2 km thick. If we postulate an age of about 6000 years for the Earth (young earth) and say a modest 1,000 years for full incorporation of the sediment into rock, we have 2000 meters of rock deposited in 5,000 years. This yields about .4 meters of sediment per year, or about a foot and a half a year. This Permian sequence resembles modern reef formations. Reefs do not even grow at this rate. Moreover, reefs generally grow in areas with little or no sedimentation--they contain photosynthetic algae that require sunlight to survive. So sedimentation rates along reefs are very low, generally consisting of the disintegration of calciferous algae into constituent components.

The principle of uniformitarianism (by the way developed in large part by Niels Stensen, also known as Steno, Bishop of Münster and presently beatified) suggests that the processes we observe on earth today are a good guide to how these same processes occurred on the Earth in the past--both in terms of rate and activity.

I honestly do not see how a "young Earth" solves any of the difficulties I point out. Further, I do not read the principle of Inerrancy as setting any agenda for science.

I know we disagree on this matter and we will continue to do so. I do not really hope to convince you, and I feel no need to. As you very rightly pointed out in your own location--it isn't a matter of doctrine. If the field you work in does not require resolution of the seeming discrepancies, there is no reason not to hold a young earth theory. Speaking practically, it is may be faith enhancing, but its implications are meaningless of the rest of one's life. That is, other than concurrence with the Bible, it little matters how old the Earth is as one goes about one's daily activities. However, having worked in Palaeontology for quite some time, I know the full nature and extent of the problem and must admit to some aggravation when a person tells me about how much simpler the young Earth theory makes everything.

All of this said, I may misunderstand what you mean by "young Earth." On your blog you state categorically, "Corollary B: The biblical genealogies refer to real people and real events." One must assume that these genealogies also refer to "real durations." (It is a corollary to the inferred working definition of inerrancy.) On that basis one can give a very good approximation of the age of the Earth and the Bishop Ussher chronologies of the seventeenth century did precisely that. Using precisely this data Bishop Ussher estimated the age of the Earth at about 6,000 years. Even multiplying this a thousand times gives rise to the same difficulties outlines above.

I do not believe that the Bible sets an agenda for the faithful scientist. I DO believe the Bible to be absolutely inerrant in all that it teaches. Both of these positions may be held simultaneously with no inherent problem.

I also believe that we both seek the truth in the matter--a truth that will not be revealed in its fullness until we have "Crossed the Bar." I welcome the diversity of opinion under the banner of Charity. Sometimes I have to chill myself from cross-eyed apoplexy before charity can rule. It is an important exercise of a Christian vocation. Thank you for reminding me of that duty.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 29, 2003 8:14 AM.

Inerrancy and Accuracy was the previous entry in this blog.

Request for Prayers is the next entry in this blog.

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