In the previous post I outlined what I believe to be a fairly strong case for the age of the earth being older than 6,000-10,000 years. This was originally written to a private mailing list consisting of some of the brightest and most God-honoring people I’ve ever met or had the privilege of worshiping with. The following is a follow-up to some objections and feedback I received.
I want to first say that the views of a pre-adamac race and Darwinian evolution are not required in order to hold to an old-earth view. While these views certainly do require an old earth view as their basis, an old earth view does not logically lead to these extraneous views. Additionally, one does not need to be driven by evolutionary or extra-biblical presuppositions in order to arrive at an old-earth view. I think it muddies the waters when we presume to preempt arguments by speculating on each others motives and sources as opposed to attempting (at least insofar as we are able to as humans) objectively examine the merits and failings of each view’s ability to explain and account for the various pieces of evidence.
I’ll consider the Biblical case closed as you seem to accept the frailty of the geological evidence used in favor of the YEC view. I am supposing we can at least agree that the Bible does not constrain us to accept one view over the other though I suspect the question of death pre-fall will still come up later and as such I’ll save it for then.
Now on to the science!
Regarding the dating of Mt St. Helens. There is widespread criticism in the scientific community of how the dating method was applied to the rocks from Mt. St. Helen’s. I certainly don’t think that one test invalidates the whole potassium-argon (K-Ar) dating mechanism. Now, if we were talking about carbon 14 (C-14) I might be inclined to agree that the mathematics and calibration involved include a wide margin of error. However this was also noticed by the scientific community themselves and C-14 has subsequently been abandoned in favor of more accurate radiocarbon dating techniques in many areas.
Regarding the salt buildup of the oceans. I think this argument fails to take into account the salt-removing processes that exist within the ocean. Using the same argument we would expect the level of greenhouse gases to smother us within a few short years as well. And while this view is certainly promoted by the global warming alarmists like Al Gore, even climate scientists are forced to admit that they do not understand the biosphere’s role in scrubbing the atmosphere of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. At the end of the day, though, I believe both methods suffer from the disease of “not enough understanding about the system as a whole”. That is, ecological systems are rarely (if ever) closed and we are still not completely sure how large scale systems such as climate or oceans operate so any extrapolations based on them should be taken with a grain of salt at best.
In regards to the evidence for an older earth; you’ll note that my strongest argument for the dating of the universe into the “billions of years” range comes from cosmological evidence which contains several distinct advantages, of which I’ll name two for the sake of brevity.
1.) It is based on universal constants such as the speed of light. This is very important because the speed of light is one of the anthropic principles governing our universe. In other words, it is not something that can change since it is a finely tuned physical constant required for a whole host of other things to exist and function.
2.) It is not subject to the fall of man or the flood. The constants involved could not have changed without affecting the sustainability of life on the planet. And the flood, while providing possible answers for geological changes on earth, cannot account for evidence that appears outside of the universe (such as redshifts, background radiation, etc.)
Finally, regarding scientific inquiry. I don’t think eroding our confidence in our noetic facualties is really helpful. Sure, we are finite beings and can and often do get things wrong. However we also are made in the image of God and have been placed in a world suited to our senses such that we can and should expect to be able to accurately measure and understand (at least to some degree) the world around us.
It is a great mistake, therefore, to pit scientific understanding against the specific and divine revelation given to us in Scripture. As Aquinas taught, there is a book of nature and a book of revelation. Each given for a specific and interconnected purpose of teaching us about God.
Proverbs 6:6 tells us “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” This seems to indicate that we can learn about the universe God has made and derive lessons from it through mere observation of nature.
Further, Romans 1:18-20 seems to indicate that such natural revelation is even accessible by those who are not Christians.
So given all that, I believe we are more than warranted in trusting the senses God has given us. I would further argue that we are even justified in accepting the observations of others regardless of their ideological persuasion.
As I said at the outset, the question here is twofold:
1.) Does the book of revelation speak directly to this issue? I maintain that it does not.
2.) Does the book of nature speak directly to this issue? I believe it does and the overwhelming majority of evidence points us towards an older view of the earth. How old? I must admit I’m not sure, however the vast majority of scientific measurements place the age well past the 6,000-10,000 year range.