Young earth creationism and Time Dating

As a student attending a Christian high school, a topic I’ve been taught many times is the story of Creation. As I researched the different aspects of creation and the theories surrounding it, I stumbled upon young-earth creationism. It intrigued me as the ideas were quite different from what I was used to. I was slightly confused regarding the timing used to characterize different major events and mass extinctions. I was wondering if the earth truly was only 6000 to 10,000 years old, how come carbon dating says that some fossils we find are generally much older than 10,000 years old? Also, regarding mass extinctions, some of the organisms that have gone extinct could’ve been a keystone species in its ecosystem. How did the organisms recover within the given time frame of young-earth creationism to fill in the multiple niches left behind by the extinct organisms? Thank you, and hope you have a great day!

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Hi, Grace - and welcome to the forum!

I have to say … it is interesting to hear from someone who is attending a Christian high school that is now stumbling on young earth creationism for the first time! Usually (at least here in the U.S.) it is the other way around, and students grew up surrounded by nothing but young earth creationism (YEC) and then later stumble into other forms of creationism.

You should be warned - just so you know what you’re getting into … most folks around here are decidedly not YECers and can expertly give you all the reasons why it doesn’t work. So asking people here how YEC can make sense of things might feel like the equivalent of dropping in at a local chess club to see if they can tell you why playing football is a great idea. You’ll get help here, to be sure … it just might be good to see if it’s the help you had in mind!

-Merv

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Oh thank you so much for letting me know!

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I’m not sure your analogy works… football is a legitimate game and YECism is not. :grin:

For some really great analysis regarding several scientific disciplines, may I suggest visiting this site:

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And please don’t get me wrong … It’s great to hear that other options are being regularly taught these days - which I suppose would already have been true in many countries or in Catholic schools, etc. Don’t let anybody pressure you into saying where you’re from except maybe in the most general terms and only if you’re comfortable even with that. We wish to protect anonymity.

But you can read up on the Biologos organization and the “what we believe” section of the site if you’re curious. A short summary is that you’ll find lots of people here who are excited to take robust science seriously within a context of Christian faith. And there are many other folks of all stripes, both believers and nonbelievers who contribute to good discussion around these topics. You don’t have to believe the same things that Biologos promotes in the link above in order to be welcomed here.

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Thank you, this was really helpful.

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Hello Grace.

Too start off I really don’t know exactly how the billions of years the earth has been here and all that has happened can be reduced to just 6,000. I don’t know how they map it all out. But I can’t imagine it’s scientific in any way.

On the other side , if YEC is even actually a side, there are some things to consider that reject YEC. Within the YEC view all animals and plants were already around 1,000-ish years after Adam during the time of Noah when the whole world flooded. That would mean almost all the animals and plants were all alive at once and all killed in the same catastrophic event. That would mean we should find fossils of all of them in the same layers.

But we don’t. We find different species in different layers. Big and small animals and plants isolated to one or a handful of layers and we also only find them in specific geographic sites. If humans were alive at this time, and already had tools to build giant towers and arms we would find them. We would find evidence for example of humans in the same geographical areas and geological layers as things such as T. rex. But we don’t. We also don’t find thousands and thousands of other animals in the same geological layers and areas as another.

So that can let us know that it’s not impossible by any scientific or reasonable position. They are found in layers separated by millions and millions of years. We also see the development of morphological features. We see layer after layer of four legged animals. Then we see changes to knees and hips and feet and it leads to two legged creatures. We see some mammals going from four feet to four hands. From land to trees. We then see some of these mammals head back to the ground and from those four hands it begins to evolve into two feet and two hands as it begins to go from walking on all fours to being bipedal. I don’t recall these species we trace, and we don’t have every species, but see species slowing developing these morphological traits in different layers and in different areas letting us know it was evolution.

Then we can go to genetics and begin to trace how related various species are. It all comes together fairly seamlessly.

Hi, Grace, welcome!

Young earth creationists do not start not with observations about the world and predictive hypotheses that can be tested and confirmed by further observations. They start with the Bible and the view that the Old Testament records history and facts in a very literal way. So they take the genealogies of Genesis and add up the ages to get a timeline that they think dates back to the very first day of the world’s existence. (If you google Ussher chronology, you could read more about it, but this is often the basis of creation science timelines.) Then they try to make what can be observed in history and science fit that timeline, because they are committed to that literal interpretation of the Bible above all else.

So, if radiocarbon dating yields a result that doesn’t fit, then they believe something must be wrong with the process. Or if physics says the earth has to be much older to explain the movement of tectonic plates, or redshift observed by astronomers, they say that fundamental constants may have been different in the past. If the annual layers on ice cores show glaciers are older than 6,000 years, they propose that many layers could have been formed each year in the past. If the pyramids of Egypt were built before they say all the earth was destroyed in a flood, they move the date they think they were built up to fit their timeline.

All the evidence that doesn’t fit the idea of natural history they got from the literal reading of the Bible, they call into question (even if it can be cross-checked and verified in many different ways) and they try to fit observations into their predetermined ideas, even if other explanations fit the whole fossil record much better. (“Look, seashell fossils are found on top of mountains, that must mean the mountains were once covered by Noah’s flood.”)

You will find that virtually all the Christian science professors at Christian colleges accept that the earth is ancient and young earth creationism is not scientific and is demonstrably false in its claims. Young earth creationism is an extreme minority position among Christians who have relevant expertise in scientific fields, even though it is more widely accepted by Christian lay-people. Lots of people who love God and take the Bible seriously think that there are other ways to interpret the creation story, the genealogies in the Bible, the account of the Flood, and other parts of the Old Testament in less literal ways so that their truth and meaning can be harmonized with what scientists have clearly shown is true about the world.

But many Christians find young earth creationism compelling because it fits their view of the Bible being a reliable source of truth. Their commitment to honoring God’s word is a good thing. Unfortunately, they confuse “God’s word” with their interpretation of what the Bible means. I believe the Bible is a reliable source of truth too, but that doesn’t mean we can read it in a simplistic way, far removed from the context and culture in which it was written and claim that our understanding is automatically true and nothing in science is allowed to challenge our understanding. It is a false dichotomy to say that you either believe the Bible or science. You can have both.

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With the mass extinctions ranging from the Ordovician-Silurian extinction to Cretaceous-tertiary extinction, wouldn’t different organisms become extinct every time? It would be expected that different organisms have developed to a certain point in that 35 to 50 million years time span of the different mass extinctions. Would the organisms who filled the niches left behind become that much different? (knees, limbs, etc.). Their ecosystems would be essentially the same minus the extinct organisms and the ones that filled it in would be ones that have already existed right? What would be different is that genetic diversity would be higher and microevolution would likely happen for them to adapt. How did microevolution lead to joints and bipedals existing?

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Yes I agree with the statement that the Bible and science can go hand in hand. Science is like finding the footprints God left behind.

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That was my point unless we are somehow not understanding one another.

We can see evolution taking place because we see it in the strata layers of earth. Different layers means different times and in those different times we see different species meaning those species were not alive at the same time.

Micro evolution is the same process as macro evolution just on the shorter changes.

Yes max extinctions resulted in niches being filled by surviving species resulting in speciation.

I don’t quite have the time to dive into human evolution. But there is a great podcast called, “The Common Descent Podcast” that dedicated a show or two to human evolution. There is also the Leakey Foundation podcast: Origin Stories, that is almost mostly focused on shorter podcasts talking about human evolution.

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Also it was not just mass extinctions for now reason. They occurred for various reasons from plate tectonics creating new physical barriers, continental drift isolating species and bringing many others depending on the era, climate changes, volcanoes and ect…

Ice ages lead towards different changes than forests developing. When landmass collected it created areas that was more dry and less humid and other things. Lots of changes drove evolution.

For 2000 years man’s awareness of space-time has been expanding. But when much of the Bible was written this was a small sphere of space-time in which the earth is a flat table and the past only went back a few thousand years. Only now do we see the earth as a planet orbiting the sun which is only one of the 100 billion stars in the galaxy which is only one of the 100 billion galaxies in the universe. And likewise our awareness of the past has stretched back 13.8 billion years to when the universe began.

So… why should we cling to the limited awareness of 2000 years ago and insist on a universe only a few thousand years old any more than we would insist upon seeing the earth as a flat table? Why would it make any sense to respond to all the data which God sends us from the earth and sky by calling Him a liar?

A few important aspects about the overall philosophy of science that is significant to young earth creationists is what would fall under the question of “uniformitarianism”… i.e., are the processes that we see operating in the exact same manner as they always have since the beginning of creation, and throughout creation. Has the speed of light always been the same, has radioactive decay similarly always been constant? Is the evolutionary process of divergence into certain species occurring at the same rate now as it always has? This would effect all manner of questions of radioactive dating, genetic dating, time dilation or compression across the universe, etc., past certain points, of course.

another related aspect is the fact that had God chosen to create a world or universe instantaneously de novo, in some fashion similar to what is described in Genesis, the world would have been created with apparent age of some sort. For instance, if a doctor had examined Adam 10 minutes after he was created as an adult male, he would likely have concluded that Adam was certainly some number of years old. (This would presumably also be the case any time God, or one of his messengers/angels, appeared in human form, such as those that appeared to Abraham). Had God chosen to create a world de novo immediately in six days, much “appearance of age” would simply be inescapable. I for one am unimpressed by arguments that God doing so would have amounted to “lying”.

i for one am am also not impressed by arguments that suggest that God could not have created the world as described in Genesis in 6 days… because even if for instance if God had created the stars immediately as described, we would have had to have waited so many odd millions of years for their light to reach us. As if the God who stopped the sun in the sky to benefit Joshua would have found light traveling from distant galaxies an insurmountable problem, if he wanted those stars to light the sky for the first people he created. This of course doesn’t argue that God did do such a thing, simply that i find “scientific” arguments for what God could or could not have done, or “scientific” obstacles for god creating the world as described in Genesis to be very supremely uninteresting.

As you might notice, I am sympathetic to many of the questions raised by the formal young-earth-creationist camp, even if I am skeptical of many of their methods. So i’m happy to answer any specific questions if you have further, if i can help. Even if i am skeptical of some methods and approaches, I for one think they raise very valid scientific and big-picture philosophical questions: Their biblical presuppositions incline them to question numerous assumptions that other scientists would never consider questioning… I think they are legitimate questions that no one else seems to be even allowing to be considered. And for that reason alone I appreciate the thoughts and contributions of the so called creation scientists.

The problem with what YECs describe as “uniformitarianism” is that it is not a philosophical worldview as they claim, but a collection of testable hypotheses. Scientists do not blindly assume that rates have not changed; instead, they ask the question, to what extent could these have changed in the past? They do this by asking what would we expect to see if they had changed in the past, and do we actually see it?

For example, we can be confident that the speed of light has not changed, because it is one of the fundamental constants of nature. This means that a whole lot of other things depend on it, from the amount of energy that we get from the sun, to the physical, chemical and biological properties of the elements themselves. If the speed of light were to change, the effects would be very far-reaching and the evidence that we would see in nature would be glaringly obvious. In fact, so confident are scientists that the speed of light has not changed in the past, that since 1983 it has been used as the basis for the definition of the metre.

Similarly, we can be confident that nuclear decay rates must have been the same in the past because they too are determined entirely by the fundamental constants of nature.

On the other hand, there are other rates of change that we can not realistically assume to have been constant in the past. Nobody expects rates of erosion or deposition to have been constant in the past. Nobody expects the rate at which salt gets washed into the sea to have been constant in the past. Nobody expects the rate at which the Earth’s magnetic field has changed to have been constant in the past. And nobody expects the rate at which the human population has grown to have been constant in the past.

The question isn’t whether God could have created everything in six literal 24 hour days, but whether He would have created everything in the way that it is today in six literal 24 hour days, complete with evidence for 4.5 billion years of history that is (a) extensive, (b) self-consistent, and © mathematically precise. Why would He go to all the trouble of making hundreds of thousands of different measurements line up precisely in order to provide an illusion of a history of events that never happened? Is that really in keeping with the character and nature of the God of the Bible, who tells us in Romans 1:20 that His divine nature and eternal character are accurately reflected in creation?

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That post you responded to has been deleted because the guy clearly had no idea what he was talking about and/or was messing with you. The half-life of carbon-14 is 5,730 years, so it is used to date objects younger than 50,000 years. It is impossible to carbon date something to “at least 3 billion years.” The earth is 4.54 billion years old (not "probably trillions), and this is a measurement with known error bars obtained from multiple kinds of calculations, not a wild guess.

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Very much appreciate the thoughts, but I fear you have simply illustrated my points…

Respectfully, that is simply begging the question. The very question is as to whether these particular aspects of nature are or are not constant. It would not terribly convincing to a YEC, or to someone sympathetic to their ideas as myself, to assert that these forces simply “are” conatants, when that is the very question being asked.

This is exactly the kind of thing I was referring to above, by the way, when I noted that YECs seem open and willing to challenge cerrain assumptions that other scientists seem entirely unwilling to even entertain.

Again, saying “we can be confident that the speed of light has not changed, because it is one of the fundamental constants of nature” is again begging the question - though I do appreciate you gave further reasons for that belief. But it still looks far more like an assertion, or an assumption, than a conclusion.

More significantly, though, the reasons you gave (if God had allowed the speed of light to be faster in the past, it would have had this other such and such result on other forces of physics)…this is also exactly the “God couldn’t do X because of these scientific reasons” I mentioned above…

As if God, when creating the world, if he had wanted to have the speed of light faster at the beginning for his purposes, would have been unable to anticipate the consequences on other physical forces, been unable to coordinate them to accomplish his ends, or unable to similarly adjust the other universal “constants” in order to achieve his purposes. Again, I’m not claiming this is how God did it… but point is that I find any argument of the form, “God couldn’t have done this because it would have the following scientific consequence” to be supremely uninteresting.

I recently discussed over on another thread: I have seen skeptics use the story of God stopping the sun in the sky, and ridicule the idea on the grounds that, if God had instantly stopped the earth’s rotation, everything on the earth and all the people would have gone flying through the air due to their inertia. I find this objection absolutely ludicrous. As if a God who is actually knowledgeable and powerful enough to instantaneously stop the earth’s inertia would have had neither the foresight nor power to also stop the inertia of everything on it.

Now again, I am not personally arguing that this is how God stopped the sun in the sky. I simply find any argument of the kind that says, essentially, “God could not have done it this way because such-and-such would have followed due to the laws of physics” to be supremely uninteresting.

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You are right to say that it’s incorrect to state that “God could not do” such and such. However, this is really not the substantial way those who study these topics object to YEC. What people say, time and again, is that the YEC articulation of how the universe fits in with their interpretation of scripture doesn’t match the analysis of the physical universe. And, so, when one applies probing questions, as you have done here, to the YEC explanations (or interpretations) they also are not satisfying. God could have created the universe last Thursday, it is true, with all of our memories in place. But, when we look at the physical properties of the universe, we see that, if this is the case, God went to a lot of work to build a history that never existed. The objection is not that Last Thursday-ism is impossible; rather it is that the hard evidence does not support it. It’s not precluded, but it is not supported.

God could have done things however He desired, but He left a history that lines up with His doing so another way. It is not a scientific opinion that God could have done something that violates the laws of physics (ie stop the earth from rotating, and the moon, too, for that matter, as would have been necessary for this story.) This question does not fall within the realm of science. It is well within the realm of science, however, to observe and analyze our surroundings and to determine what story God’s general revelation is telling. The evidence overwhelmingly points away from the YEC interpretations at every opportunity. This does not, as you have said, disallow God to have violated the laws of the system that He created, but there are implications that are problematic, if he did so.

(Regarding Joshua’s long day, I have often wondered what advantage would it have given Joshua to have a long day. Why would this not also have benefited his enemies? If it occurred, why would it not have been echoed by other cultures throughout history? I don’t see explaining how it happened as being the primary issue. That might be explaining what it means in the first place, and why it is strategic to begin with.)

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My church runs a boarding school for boy choristers (grades 4-8) , who sing the treble part in the choir of men and boys. (They sing like angels!) The science curriculum is excellent:

Fifth Grade science focuses on Earth and space. In the fall, students learn about the processes and features found on Earth’s surface. We study maps and globes, continental drift and plate tectonics, biogeography, earthquakes, volcanoes, weathering and erosion. In the spring, we study space: planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies and the Universe. Students learn about the accelerating expansion of the Universe, dark matter, dark energy, black holes, gravity, electromagnetic radiation and spacetime.

Sixth grade science focuses on basic biological structures and processes. In the fall, students learn about cell structure and function (organelles, membranes, receptors, channels and transporters), basic molecular biology (DNA, RNA, protein), Mendelian genetics, the cell cycle, respiration and photosynthesis. In the spring, students study taxonomy, evolution, phylogeny (the “tree of life” showing relatedness among organisms) and ecology.

Seventh grade science focuses on chemistry in the fall and physics in the spring. In chemistry, students learn about atomic structure, the periodic table, bonding, chemical reactions, acids and bases, organic chemistry and chemical energy. In physics, students study motion (including velocity, acceleration and force), waves, electromagnetic radiation, visible light, sound, electricity, magnetism, and kinetic and potential energy.

Eighth grade science reviews much of the work from sixth grade and go into greater detail. In addition, students study human physiology (the nervous system, cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal and pulmonary physiology), pharmacology, immunology, animal behavior, and molecular biology and other modern research techniques. Considerable emphasis is placed upon reading and interpreting articles from the current literature, including professional journals such as Science and Nature , from Scientific American and other science magazines, and from newspaper articles.

Heck, I’m not sure I could do all that! They also study theology, singing, music theory, Latin, French,
etc. But good science is taught in the science classroom.

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