Tag Archives: age of earth

Are You Skeptical of Global Warming and Evolution?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

A recent NY Times article linked people who are skeptical about evolution with people who are skeptical about global warming.  The author noted that there seems to be a correlation, that if you doubt one, then you likely doubt the other.

This really has me thinking about why that is, as there is no obvious connection between them.  I am a skeptic of both, but for different reasons.

My initial skepticism about evolution came from my religious views, because I was taught that only a young earth (which does not accommodate evolution) could align with the creation accounts in the Bible.  As I researched both biblical interpretation and the science behind evolution, I eventually moved to a new position.

I now believe that the earth is probably old and that this fits with literal interpretations of the Bible.  I also understand, though I don’t necessarily agree with, why common descent (the idea that all plants and animals are part of a gigantic family tree) is the dominant theory of the origins of species: it has a lot of explanatory power and there’s not a more developed contender out there right now.

But I think that the evolutionary community has no idea what the mechanisms are that would modify plants and animals to the massive extent we see.  Natural selection and random mutation just don’t cut it.  Other proposed mechanisms likewise remain utterly unconvincing to me.  Evolutionary theorists constantly provide micro-evolutionary mechanisms as examples of how macro-evolution works over long periods of time.  The extrapolations don’t convince me.

What about global warming?  I started out skeptical of global warming because it was being exclusively evangelized by political liberals, whom I generally distrust as people who value intentions over truth.  I moved beyond that initial skepticism and tried to think about it scientifically.  As an engineer, I understand how to analyze data and how to test models, and I fail to see how it is possible to accurately model the global climate over long periods of time, given the multitude of variables that must go into these climate models and the incredible uncertainty of predicting climate changes in the distant future.

My suspicions about the data have proved to be correct as some brave climate scientists have admitted that their models have failed to predict the flat-lining of global temperatures over the last 15 years. The truth is that models of the climate have a long way to go before we can bet the farm on them.

So, what is the common denominator for me?  I started out suspecting evolution for religious reasons, and I started out suspecting global warming for political reasons.

I am conservative politically and I am a believer in traditional Christianity, but these don’t necessarily go together.  It seems like there must be something deeper.  The author Thomas Sowell possibly offers an explanation.  In his book, A Conflict of Visions, he argues that a person’s view of the nature and capability of man drives opinions about political, moral, judicial, economic, and even scientific matters (see my post on his book).  His theory makes a lot of sense; maybe he has found the common link.

I don’t have any certain answers to this question, but I’m very curious to know what others think.  What about you?  Are you skeptical about both of these issues?  Why or why not?  Please register your vote in the poll below and leave us some comments about your choices.

What Do God and Science Have to Do with Each Other?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Ever since I became an evangelical believer in Christ, about 12 years ago, I have noticed that there is uneasiness among my evangelical brothers and sisters with certain fields of science.  This uneasiness, I quickly learned, has much to do with the age of the universe and the origins of mankind.  There are other areas, as well, but those are the two primary areas of dispute.

Because of the perceived hostility of science toward basic beliefs of Christianity, some evangelicals have forsaken science altogether.  So what I want to address today is what science and God have to do with each other.

Christians have long recognized that there are two ways that God communicates with mankind: special revelation and general revelation.

Special revelation is what is communicated about God through the incarnation of Christ and the Bible.

General revelation is what is communicated about God through the natural world, including physical nature, human nature, and human history.

Science offers a method for observing and then explaining facts about the natural world, so science is the study of God’s general revelation.  Christians that forsake science are, in effect, dismissing God’s general revelation.

Why?  Because they feel that the findings of science contradict the teachings of Scripture (special revelation).

But the answer is not to throw out one of God’s revelations.  In cases where general and special revelation overlap, we must examine our fallible interpretation of Scripture and compare it to our fallible interpretation of scientific findings.

You see, the Bible is infallible, but our interpretation of it is not.  Likewise, God’s revelation about himself in nature is infallible and will never contradict his revelation in Scripture.  But our interpretation of general revelation is not infallible.

What do we do when our fallible interpretation of science conflicts with our fallible interpretation of the Bible?  We seek the interpretation that seems more certain and we go with that.  If the special revelation interpretation seems more certain than the general revelation interpretation, then we go with special revelation.  If the general revelation interpretation seems more certain than the special revelation interpretation, then we go with general revelation.  We can’t just assume one is always right and the other always wrong.  That will lead to error.

Notice that this method of seeking the right interpretation requires the Christian to study diligently the Scriptures and the findings of science.  We cannot just study the Bible, but we must also dig into science if we want any hope of finding the answers to these tough questions where science and the Bible seem to conflict.

Fortunately, these perceived areas of conflict are few, and usually do not have to do with essential doctrines of Christianity.  However, they are still important and we owe it to God to honestly and earnestly seek the answers.

Why Do Scientists Believe the Universe is Almost 14 Billion Years Old? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Continuing from the first post on this topic, we will look at two more methods that physicists and astronomers use to determine the age of the universe.  Again, this information has been gathered from Hugh Ross’ A Matter of Days.

The third method physicists use to calculate the age of the universe is to measure the age of stars throughout the universe.  Stars are simple objects, composed of 100% gas, that burn through the process of nuclear fusion, which, according to Ross, is very well understood and experimentally verified.

Because the process of stellar burning is so well understood, the physicist or astronomer can determine the age of a star if he knows the mass, color, and brightness of the star (all characteristics that can be measured from earth).  From this data, the astronomer can know how long the star has been burning, which places a boundary on how old the universe must be (it can’t be any younger than the oldest star).

The fourth method physicists use to calculate the age of the universe is to measure the relative quantities of radioactive isotopes in the universe.  Radioactive isotopes are only produced by supernovae, which are supergiant stars in their last stage of burning.

It turns out that radioactive isotopes decay at rates (half-lives) that are well understood.  Uranium and thorium, for example, have half-lives of billions of years.  Since we still find uranium and thorium in the universe, we know that the universe cannot be so old that these isotopes had completely decayed out of existence.  That sets an upper limit of a few hundred billion years.

On the other hand, those isotopes with half-lives of millions of  years or less (e.g., plutonium, neptunium, technetium) cannot be found on the earth, so we know that at least a billion years have gone by for them to have disappeared.  Since astronomers know how much of these isotopes were produced by ancient supernovae, and they know the decay half-lives, by measuring the amounts of these isotopes in existence today, they can calculate how much time has passed since the first supernovae produced the first isotopes.  Obviously the universe must be older than this.

Summary and Conclusion

I hope you were able to follow, at least at a basic level, these four methods.  Ross claims that there are many other independent methods that have been used to calculate the age of the universe, but that these four are the most simple for lay people to understand.  What strikes me about these methods is that they rely on different and independent measurement techniques, but they all arrive at the same answer for the age of the universe – around 13.7 billion years.

It’s easy to attack one measurement technique as being inaccurate, but when four independent methods give you the same answer, you need to pay attention.  And remember, it’s actually more than 4 techniques.  The laws of physics used to date the universe are very well understood and experimentally verified to a great degree of precision.  To dismiss all of these independent measurements as erroneous betrays a lack of understanding of physics and mathematics.

If you find yourself still questioning these findings, ask yourself why.  The age of the universe does not at all undermine Scripture.  Whether the universe is 13.7 billion years old or 6,000 years old has no bearing on the truths taught in the Bible.  As Christians, we are to seek out the truth, no matter what it may be.  The true findings of science will never the contradict the Word of God, so engage with science and enjoy the discoveries that lie ahead of us.  We have nothing to fear!!

Why Do Scientists Believe the Universe is Almost 14 Billion Years Old? Part 1

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Some in the evangelical community dismiss the science that shows the universe is old (almost 14 billion years), and I think partly because they never considered the reasons why scientists make this claim.

I am not a physicist or an astronomer, but I am an electrical engineer, so I had to take physics classes in college and gain an understanding of physics in order to practice electrical engineering.  I am going to present some reasons the universe is old, but I cannot get into the details of it.  These reasons are taken from Hugh Ross’ book, A Matter of Days.  I am hoping that this post, and the next, will spur some of you to do more research on the topic.

The first method physicists use to calculate the age of the universe is to measure the expansion rate of the universe.  The universe is growing larger (like a balloon expanding by someone blowing into it), and if we can measure at what rate it is growing, we can calculate how long ago the universe came into existence.  We can mathematically reverse the expansion until the universe reverts back to a singularity, a point so small the human eye cannot detect it.  This is the beginning of the universe.

The way the expansion is calculated is by measuring the distance from other galaxies to us, and observing how fast these other galaxies are moving away from us.  If we know the distances and velocities of enough galaxies, we can calculate the expansion rate of the universe, and thus the age of the universe.

The second method physicists use to calculate the age of the universe is to measure the cosmic background radiation temperature.  When the universe came into existence, it generated a lot of heat!  Ever since that creation event, the universe has been cooling down as it ages.

When we measure the cosmic background radiation (“take the temperature” of the universe), the readings indicate that the temperatures all around us are about -455 deg F (only 2.725 deg C above absolute zero) and vary little – less than 1 part in 10,000.  Given the geometry of the universe and these temperature readings, physicists can calculate how long the universe has been cooling, and thus the age of the universe.

In the next post, we will look at two more methods for determining the age of the universe.  I hope you’ll stick around to learn about them.

How Old Do You Think the Earth Is?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

I consider the age of the earth to be a secondary issue among Christians (not something to divide over), but I am curious about what the readers of this blog think about it.  If you have not answered the poll question on the home page of Tough Questions Answered, please drop by and vote.   The poll is located on the right side of the home page, in the sidebar area.

God bless,


Was There Death Before Adam?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

One of the most popular arguments from young earth creationists (YEC’s) that the “days” of Genesis must be 24-hour days is that if the “days” represent long periods of time (millions or billions of years), then there must have been animal death before the Fall of Adam and Eve.  According to YEC’s, there could not have been any death before the Fall.  Because of this, they argue that old earth creationists (OEC’s), who believe the earth is 4 1/2 billion years old, must be incorrect.  An old earth would necessitate animal death before Adam and Eve’s Fall.

For many years, I heard this argument and just assumed that there must be some passages in the Bible that plainly state that there was a complete absence of death before the Fall.  I never bothered to look for myself.  Then, a couple years ago, I decided to actually look up the verses that are cited to show that there was no death before the Fall.  The two most common are Rom. 5:12 and 1 Cor. 15:20-22.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12)

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:20-22)

Now, if you just read these two passages without ever having been told what they mean, it seems to me that they are clearly speaking of human death, not death of animals.  In fact, if you read these verses in context with the surrounding verses, you can easily see that the text is speaking of human sin and human death.  I cannot imagine how someone can interpret these verses to be talking about general animal death.  Animals cannot sin and animals are not redeemed by Christ, but that is exactly what these passages are referring to.  If you don’t believe me, go read the passages in context.  See for yourself.

If YEC’s want to prove that there was no animal death (OEC’s agree there was no human death) before the Fall, then they need to point to some other passages in Scripture.  Rom. 5:12 and 1 Cor. 15:20-22 just do not make their case at all.

Are Scientists Persuaded by Evidence for a Young Earth?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Young earth creation organizations have written many books and published numerous articles over the years presenting scientific evidence to prove that the earth is young (6,000 – 10,000 years old).  Several years ago, when I read these books and articles, I found many of them to be convincing.

But, I wanted to hear both sides so I started reading opposing viewpoints from scientists who believe the earth is older (4.5 billion years old).  Inevitably, these other organizations who believed in an old earth countered and refuted virtually all of the young earth arguments.  Now, this wasn’t surprising, and you could always go back to the young earth side to find refutations of refutations, and so on.

Although I have a degree in electrical engineering, I am not an expert in radiometric dating, geology, astronomy, astrophysics, or any earth sciences.  But what I found is that the virtual unanimous consensus of all branches of science that study the age of the earth and universe agreed that the earth is old.  This included Christians and non-Christians.

I realize that truth is not determined by a vote, but to have so many different disciplines agree on the age of the earth is something to think about.  But I still figured that maybe they were all wrong, until I heard something that surprised me.

If the scientific arguments of young earth creationists were truly persuasive, then they should have convinced at least some scientists, apart from the Bible, of their viewpoint.  After all, scientists will eventually listen to presentations of strong evidence.  But according to young earth creationists, no scientist, as far as they know, has ever been convinced of a young earth by scientific evidence alone.

According to Dr. John Ankerberg, who was a young earth creationist earlier in life:

When I was arguing for the young earth view in the early years of our television ministry, I remember when my friend Dr. John Morris, the President of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and one of the world’s largest young earth organizations, was being interviewed on KKLA radio in Los Angeles. He was asked, “Had he or any of his associates ever met or heard of a scientist who became persuaded that the universe or earth is only thousands of years old, based on scientific evidence without a reference to a particular interpretation of the Bible?” Morris’ answer was no, he had not.

Ankerberg continues:

Later, Duane Gish, also of ICR, was asked the same question. I was interested in his answer as I had invited Dr. Gish to be my guest in the very first debate I held on science and the Bible. I had arranged for him to debate Dr. Vincent Sarich, who was the Chairman of the Department of Anthropology at Berkeley and an evolutionist. When Dr. Gish was asked if he knew of any scientist who had ever been persuaded by the scientific evidence that the universe or the earth was 6,000 years old, he also said no.

My conclusion from these statements is that the scientific evidence for a young earth is significantly weaker than that for an old earth and that the refutations of the young earth evidence by old earthers is probably more trustworthy.

It seems that unless you start with a 24-hour interpretation of the “days” in Genesis, an interpretation that is highly disputed among conservative evangelicals and other conservative Christians, you will not arrive at the young earth position by studying science alone.

The science just does not back up the young earth position, and until young earthers are able to convince scientists based on scientific arguments alone, their position will remain less convincing to me.

Does a 4.5 Billion Year Old Earth Prove Evolution is True?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

No, even though I often hear Christians talk as if it does.  Many believe that if you interpret the “days” in Genesis to be long periods of time and you accept the current scientific consensus that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, then you are “siding” with evolution.

The ironic thing is that when scientific evidence started showing that the universe is only billions of years old and not infinite, some bemoaned the fact that there just wasn’t enough time for the Darwinian mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection to work.  They had been assuming a practically infinite amount of time.  Billions of years was not a boon to evolution; it was a serious problem!

In fact, one of the greatest challenges for Darwinian evolution in the fossil record is the Cambrian explosion, where over 95% of known animal phyla suddenly appeared over a period of 5 to 10 million years.   According to the fossil record, evolution had to work in an extremely short period of time for these animal phyla to appear, so the situation is even worse than billions of years – they have to deal with only millions of years!

Bottom line: whether it is thousands of years, millions of years, or billions of years, it doesn’t matter.  The random process of Darwinian evolution needs far more time to manufacture the biological complexity and diversity we see on earth.  Whether evolution is true or not has little to do with the age of the earth being 4.5 billion years.

When thinking about creation, learn to decouple evolution from the age of the earth.  They are two completely separate issues that need not be considered together.  It absolutely does not follow that a 4.5 billion year old earth or 13.8 billion year old universe lead inexorably to the truth of Darwinian evolution.

What is the Meaning of the Word “Day” in Genesis? Part 5

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In this series of posts, we are looking at the meaning of the Hebrew word yom as it is used in the first chapter of Genesis.  Does yom refer to a 24-hour day or to a long period of time?

Today we will review two final arguments from young earth creationists who assert that the 24-hour “day” is the correct interpretation of Genesis 1.  Again, we will use material from Norman Geisler’s systematic theology, volume 2.

First, young earth creationists accuse old earth creationists of actively supporting Darwinian evolution by interpreting long periods of time in Genesis.

It is well known that the theory of evolution (or common ancestry) depends on very long periods of time for life to develop from a one-celled animal to human beings. Without these long periods of time, evolution would not be possible. Thus, it is argued by young-earthers that granting long periods of time is an accommodation to evolution.

This is an important argument that persuades many Christians, so how would old earth creationists respond?

 In response to this charge, it must be observed that allowing for long periods of time for the development of life came long before the idea of evolution. Augustine (354–430), for one, held to long periods of time for the development of life (CG, 11.6).  Also, even in modern times, scientists had concluded that long periods of time were involved before Darwin wrote in 1859.  Furthermore, long periods of time do not help evolution, since without intelligent intervention, more time does not produce the specified complexity involved in life. Natural laws randomize, not specify. For example, dropping red, white, and blue bags of confetti from a plane at 1,000 feet in the air will never produce an American flag on the ground. Giving it more time to fall by dropping it at 10,000 feet will diffuse it even more.

The truth is that old earth creationists challenge the ideas of Darwinian evolution just as much as young earth creationists.  Neither group believes that evolution, alone, can explain how all of the diverse plant and animal species arrived on earth.  Both sides believe that evolution can explain limited change within species, but above the species level the evidence thins out rapidly.

Here is one final argument for the 24-hour “day” view.

Mark 10:6 affirms that Adam and Eve were created at the beginning.  According to this text, “At the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’”  If God created humankind at the beginning of Creation, then they were not created at the end of millions of years, as the old-earth view contends.

The response is fairly straightforward:

First, Adam was not created at the beginning but at the end of the creation period (on the sixth day), no matter how long or short the days were.
Second, the Greek word for “create” (ktisis) can and sometimes does mean “institution” or “ordinance” (cf. 1 Peter 2:13).  Since Jesus is speaking of the institution of marriage in Mark 10:6, it could mean “from the beginning of the institution of marriage.”
Third, and finally, even if Mark 10:6 is speaking of the original creation events, it does not mean there could not have been a long period of time involved in those creative events.

Thus concludes an introduction to some of the most popular young earth arguments and responses to them.  In future posts, we will look at further lines of evidence from the old earth creation side.  There is much more to be said about the old earth view, and considering that this view is rarely heard within the evangelical community, we should study them here.

What is the Meaning of the Word “Day” in Genesis? Part 4

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In this series of posts, we are looking at the meaning of the Hebrew word yom as it is used in the first chapter of Genesis.  Does yom refer to a 24-hour day or to a long period of time?

Today we will review two more arguments that young earth creationists make and the responses to these arguments by old earth creationists.  Again, we will use material from Norman Geisler’s systematic theology, volume 2.

Young earth creationists argue that plants and animals must exist at the same time because they rely on each other for survival.

Plants were created on the third day (1:11–13), and animals were not created until later (1:20–23). There is a symbiotic relation between plants and animals, one depending on the other for its life. For example, plants give off oxygen and take in carbon dioxide, and animals do the reverse. Therefore, plants and animals must have been created closely together, not separated by long periods of time.

This is more of a scientific argument than a biblical argument, but it is still worth reviewing in this series.  How would old earth creationists respond to this argument?  Can plants live without animals for a long period of time?

Some plants and animals are interdependent, but not all. Genesis does not mention all the plants and animals, but only some. If the “days” are six successive periods, then those forms of plant and animal life that need each other could have been created together. In fact, the basic order of events is the order of dependence.  For instance, many plants and animals can exist without humans (and they were created first), but humans (who were created on the sixth day) cannot exist without certain plants and animals. . . . In any event, the argument from the symbiotic relation of plants and animals does not prove that the six “days” of Genesis 1 must be only 144 hours in duration.

Another common argument made by young earth creationists is that there was no death before Adam.  I, myself, have heard this argument many times used by friends of mine.  Here is how it works:

According to the old-earth position, there was death before Adam. Nevertheless, the Bible declares that death came only after Adam, as a result of his sin: “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12; cf. 8:20–22).

But does the Bible really say this?  I asked one commenter, who posted on our blog, this very question, but I never received a response.  Here is why:

There are several problems with this argument.
First, Romans 5:12 does not say all animals die because of Adam’s sin, but only that “all men” die as a consequence.
Second, Romans 8 does not say that animal death results from Adam’s sin, but only that the “creation was subjected to frustration” as a result of it (v. 20).
Third, if Adam ate anything—and he had to eat in order to live—then at least plants had to die before he sinned.
Fourth, and finally, the fossil evidence indicates animal death before human death, since people are found only on the top (later) strata while animals are found in lower (earlier) strata.

The Bible does not, in fact, say that there was no death before Adam’s sin.  This argument just does not work.

In our next post, we will look at the final two young earth arguments.