© 2017, Charles A. Clough
Thinking More Deeply About the Bible, Science, Reason, & Language
What is the Age of the Earth?
Beth Haven Church Creation Conference
Charles Clough Lesson 2
May 13, 2017
The topic for this session is what is the age of the earth, and that is fundamental because if you do not have a long earth age then you can’t have evolution because by definition evolution needs a long time and so that’s the conflict. But what I want to do today is I want to again go into the methods that are being used because if you remember, we made a big point that adjectives modify nouns and we have “operational” science and we have “historical” science. Those are two distinctly different methods of going about to arrive at conclusions and the distinction between operational science and historical science is not made clear academically and it’s not made clear anywhere else and today in our discourse, in our public discourse, we’re very sloppy about that.
To cite a political example, let’s take the noun “immigrant.” There are two adjectives that modify that noun: “legal” immigrants and “illegal” immigrants. If you’re against illegal immigration, people are saying you’re against immigration. But that doesn’t follow; there are two subclasses here. Pay attention to the adjectives that modify nouns. God has structured language to communicate things clearly and when we violate the rules of language we violate rules of thought.
So today we’ll go ahead and look at that diagram again, and just to review, we are looking in this diagram at the area of conjecture, i.e., where we have the unobserved past, and if you have an unobserved past you can’t use the normal methodologies where we can observe something and so that’s the major distinction that we are trying to make here. Furthermore, as we said before, we’re looking at men who are involved in the community that have recognized this. This is not some creationist guy that just suddenly thought about this, the other speakers have already given thought to this and that’s why I included these two quotes because they are not from creationists.
We reviewed that and what we want to do again is to think about the Job 38 passage where God asks Job the question, “Where we you when I created the foundations of the earth?” And obviously the answer is that Job wasn’t there and so that means that there was only one eyewitness to the creation and that was God.
Now I want to clarify and repeat what Dr. Baurain just concluded and that is that we are not against science. What we are asking is to just be clear on your methods and honestly face the limitations of those methods. The war is not between Christianity and science and I want to address this specifically. The early scientists, from 1500 to 1800 when modern science got its start, were largely Christian, Bible-believing people and they were interested in science for a theological reason.
I want to take you to a verse in the book of Proverbs that I think encapsulates the attitude of a Christian who is a scientist. Let’s turn to Proverbs 25. I think this Proverb summarizes the attitudes that a real scientist who is a Bible believer has about science so we don’t walk away from this conference thinking that creationists are against science.
In Proverbs 25:2 it says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” Have you ever thought of science and the idea of going out and discovering more things about God’s handiwork as a game of hide and seek? That God has hidden the glories of Himself and His handiwork and He’s beckoning that “namer”, remember, He created us to name things; He’s beckoning us to study His handiwork and that’s a source of praise and glory.
What is so interesting about our day and time today as Dr. Baurain pointed out very eloquently, all of these compromisers, and you sit here, and if any of you have watched the discoveries of creation science in the last 30 years, the stuff that is being discovered … people, we know more about the handiwork of God than any generation for over 2,000 years; for the whole Christian faith. Never has the church of Jesus Christ had access to the glories of God’s handiwork like they do today.
There is absolutely no excuse for the attitude that we’ve got to compromise with science. We have allowed unbelief to totally dominate the landscape and the Bible calls us to give glory to God because of His handiwork.
It’s sad but when you look at a secular educational system like we have in this country, in one way it’s a form of child abuse. When a young kid looks at a microscope in a science class and he sees some of the intricacies, that should be a worshipful moment but it’s not. You can’t give glory because we separated religion from the classroom and so you’ve automatically separated worship from education. You’re trying to look at God’s handiwork and can’t worship it and as a result, this is the spiritual dimension of what’s going on here.
The idea that there’s a war between science and Christianity is a recent idea and I want look at this quote. Nancy Pearcey (b.1952) and Charles Thaxton (b.1939) did nice work in their book, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy, (1994), but look at what they say, and this is after investigating a lot of the source material of early science.
Remember we’re talking about the rise of science from about 1500–1600 on to about 1800, in that period. Almost every scientist in that time was influenced heavily by the Scriptures and so this idea that there is a war going on between religion and science simply is not true. The idea of a war between science and religion is a recent invention.
In the late 19th century in England, several groups of scientists and scholars organized under the leadership of Thomas Huxley, who was one of the associates of Charles Darwin, under the leadership of Huxley, “to overthrow the cultural dominance of Christianity, and they said so.”
See this is where we don’t even read history. We’re very ill-educated in the area of history. I was talking to a middle school public school teacher and he was sitting in the faculty lounge and we’re all talking about the history courses that are left in the public school and he was asking whether we ever study the Vietnam War. The teacher looked at him and said that it was irrelevant today. Do you study World War II? No, those aren’t relevant for today. I beg to differ but they are relevant today. And so the attitude that there’s no purpose, see this is where this purposelessness we’re talking about comes in; there’s no purpose to why we’re studying history.
When I was a non-Christian, I could care less about history; I tolerated the history courses, memorized the dates, got an A on the exam, went to the next week and memorized a few more dates. But after I became a Christian and I realized history is His story then I became interested in history because history has a purpose. Look at this this quote: Huxley and these guys wanted to overthrow the cultural dominance of Christianity. Their goal was to replace Christian worldview with scientific naturalism and they confessed it and here’s proof of it. They understood very well that they were replacing one religion by another, for they described their goal is the establishment of “the church scientific.” Huxley even referred to his scientific lectures as lay sermons. This is the dirty little linen that’s gone on here that we don’t even know about. These guys were forthright; they knew what they were doing and they deliberately were doing it.
(Sir Charles) Lyell (1797–1875), the father of modern geology … the reason he was able to produce a consensus of a historical geologist wasn’t just because of his arguments. The reason he produced consensus was because he had money and he dominated the journal.
I see that in my area of atmospheric science. This whole climate thing that they say is a “consensus of 97%”; of course there is, but it’s an artificial consensus because they don’t allow people to publish in their journal. One of the MIT originators of the textbook that most of these guys use in grad school on atmospheric physics can’t publish his papers in any American journal. He has to go to Asia to publish his papers. Now tell me that science is objective, no it isn’t.
Modern science is expensive; where do you think the money comes from? 98% of the money in scientific research is coming from Washington, D.C.; it is political from the beginning. And if you are the head of a laboratory, and I know one as I work with him every six months and I was involved in moving $4 or $5 million a year into that laboratory to do work that we were doing with the Army so I know all the little ins and outs of financing.
If you have a laboratory and you’ve got 60 PhDs who are getting paid and supporting their families, and you have to compete for research to keep those guys employed, and you have to go defend your proposal before Congress, how are you going to do that? You’re going to make it “urgent;” that there is a terrific problem out there and we need money to fix it. And if you aren’t successful at appealing to congressional funding for your scientific research what happens to your PhDs? You lose these guys and if you lose men and women who have worked four or five years on models and all of a sudden they go out the door because they’ve got to get a job somewhere else, what happens to your science program?
I’m trying to show you the sociology of science today. Think of the money …who is paying for the research and under what conditions? How you get funded depends on what you are doing and this is operational science; this isn’t even historical science. That’s some of the background and the paper that I have back there on climate is where I document what’s going on in the area of climate change.
So this is their goal and we also want to know that they knew very well that it was a religious issue. Naturalism is a religion; it is making a metaphysical statement. Think about it: naturalism argues that God is irrelevant to reality. Is that or is that not a theological assertion? It is making a theological metaphysical assertion and don’t say it’s neutral. It isn’t neutral, it’s a religious statement. Think about the epistemological: it’s saying that they know; they know that it’s an epistemological claim; they know definitely that God is not involved in history. That’s an epistemological claim; it’s a religious claim.
And furthermore they have an ethical claim that science should not be influenced by supernaturalism; that’s an ethical claim and that’s a religious claim. It’s a bogus thing to say that this is all philosophically neutral. It is not. It is religious; metaphysically, epistemologically, and ethically.
Now we go to the issue of the age of the earth, and I want to first point out as I’ve shown before that there only two views involved, and I want to look at this diagram and talk about paganism and the Christian religion prior to the rise of science.
Now we’re going to go into some of the church fathers. And the reason I want to go into the church fathers is because they were battling paganism in their day. For example, here’s Augustine (354–430) in the City of God, Book XII; I looked up all these quotes. Think of the dates; the date of Augustine is 354 to 430. In City of God, chapter 12 he confronts the issue of the age of the earth, and here’s what he says, “Of the falseness of the history which allots many thousand years to the world’s past,” he says, “these pagan authors are deceived too by those highly ambitious documents which profess to give the history of many thousands of years, though reckoning by the sacred writings we find that not 6,000 years have passed.”
That’s Augustine. Now granted it’s not 4004 B.C., but the point is he was grappling with the pagan idea of “long ages” long before natural science. This is an old, old thing that’s been going on. You can read pagan documents; there are Syrian passages in pagan literature where they talk about the ages of the kings before the Flood being 200,000 years. Paganism has always thought of an old earth. This is not new, this is old stuff, and Augustine had to deal with it.
Then I have another quote, again, some of these are on your handout, in chapter 11, Augustine says, “Of those who suppose that this world indeed is not eternal (long ages), ... perpetually resolved into its elements, and renewed at the conclusion of fixed cycles.” That’s the idea of the Hindu; the idea that you have growth in the universe and then collapse, then you have growth again and then you have collapse, it’s cyclic and it seems to go on forever.
Carl Sagan (1934–1996) in his book, Cosmos, says that the “closest picture in ancient times of modern scientific cosmology and evolution is Hinduism,” because Hindus believed this long, long before modern science.
Martin Luther (1483–1546) in his Genesis commentary, and keep in mind the dates of Luther, 1483 to 1546, that’s predating modern science. What does Luther say in his Genesis commentary? Genesis 1 to 11 … they are literal days … the sun and the stars were created on the fourth day. That’s Luther.
Think of John Calvin (1509–1564); literal days of Genesis; some 6,000 years ago; sun and stars on the fourth day. The church fathers for centuries were dealing with the “old earth” question because the old earth question was typical of unbelief.
John Wesley (1703–1791); creation 4,000 years before Christ; he even says the rock strata were formed by the Noahic Flood and that’s significant because in the Middle Ages there were people who argued that the fossils in the fossil record were just freaks of nature, they never thought of it as an aqueous deposition of a Flood product. It was actually the Christians that kept referring to it as Flood deposition.
Now we want to go into this issue of clocks and to do that. Will has a candle here. I want to take this candle out and ask a question. We can turn this candle into a clock by asking this question: how long has the candle burned? What do you need to know in order to answer the question, how long has the candle been burning? Well, if you look at your hand out there, at that slide, you have to know:
1. how tall the candle was when it was new; when we started the flame. So you have to know the initial condition, which in this case is the length of the candle when it started to burn. Now right here none of you know, I don’t even know, how tall that candle was when it started to burn. But the point here is, notice what you need to do to make your calculation, you need to know the initial condition in order to decide how long the candle has been burning. That’s why; in the equation here we have L0; that is the initial condition starting in inches. What else do we have to know? We have to know:
2. the burn rate. Now I don’t know what Will did, maybe he had a fan back there blowing on the candle that made the candle burn faster than we are seeing it burn today. So that’s the problem of determining the rate of change in length versus time. How do we know that the rate that we currently observe has always been true since the candle was lit before? Has the rate changed?
I don’t care what the clock is folks, it doesn’t matter; the math is the math. To solve the equation you need the original condition and you need to know the rate, and it’s true of every clock. So if you think again in terms of the discipline of looking at the equation, you’ve got to plug-in values; two values you’ve got to have: you’ve got to have the initial condition and you’ve got to have the rate.
This is true of all kinds of clocks and you can solve the equation here. If you want to solve for the burn duration you’ve got to solve for t and that’s the equation you need. The red, that is the initial condition in the rate, you’ve got to deal with that and you can’t solve the equation unless you plug-in values. And where is your source of values to plug-in to make the equation? That’s true of every clock, it doesn’t matter what it is; whether there is radioactivity or not.
Here is a general equation for radioactive decay, and keep in mind the equations that are really used for rubidium, strontium, uranium, and lead are a lot more involved than this. This is just a simple equation to show you the principles involved, but remember what we’re trying to do in these conferences is we’re trying to just think through the methods that we’re using to answer questions; there’s always a method involved.
In this case, when you have a radioisotope that’s decaying the number of parent molecules versus time is changing because as they decay the number gets smaller and smaller. The problem is that it’s not as simple as the candle because you have R, which is the rate of decay, but you also have RN. In other words, as the number of molecules decreases the rate of change is changing.
Now you need to know a bunch of things and so let’s think about this. If we’re going to solve this equation, which is down here, I’ve got to know the initial number of molecules of the parent element. I’ve also got to know the rate of decay over the entire period; whether it’s changed or not.
In order to make this all work out and I want to show you that there are actually three things you have to keep your eye on here. The first one is that this is a closed system, because if somebody’s messing with the molecules, like adding water to the parent or adding to the daughter, it’s changing the ratio; it’s changing the molecules. You’ve got to have it closed, you can’t have contamination all during the time that you’re doing the measurement; that’s a very restrictive condition.
The second thing you need to know is the decay rate: is it constant, has it been tampered with, or are there variables with this thing? Then when we solve the thing we again of course have to know the initial state of the parent. So you’ve got to solve the problem, and I point this out because here’s the equation, and I think the discipline of knowing the math makes you, it forces us, to focus on the information we’ve got to have to make the clock work. You can’t fudge this; you can’t solve the equation unless you plug stuff into the equation and you’ve got to have those values for those terms.
So when you look at radioactive decay, when it was first discovered it was thought to be the answer but sadly, because these assumptions are so restrictive, it hasn’t worked very well. Now let’s look at some of the discordant dates here.
Here’s a case, and there’s hundreds of these, and I won’t bore you with all the hundreds, we don’t have time anyway, but I just picked out a few to give you a sense of the flavor of the kind of problems that you run into with this kind of thing. Here in New Zealand was an eruption in 1954; 60 years ago. The dating gave an age of 270,000 years for potassium (K) argon (Ar), 133 million years for rubidium (Rb)–strontium (Sr), 200 million years for samarium (Sm)–neodymium (Nd), and 3.9 billion years for lead–lead (Pb); four different equations describing radioactive decay.
Why are we getting four different answers? It’s because we’re not sure of the values we’re plugging into the equation, and all four of them are badly overestimating aren’t they, when the eruption was only in 1954? So when you hear somebody say that the radioactive decay rate has proven this just keep in mind there was an equation, people had to plug values in and assumptions had to be made.
Let’s look at another one: East African rift valleys; the lava from the Pliocene; supposedly less than 5 million years old by normal geology and he gave a Rb–Sr date of 773 million years. Don’t you see a little error between 5 and 773? This is the magnitude of variation and we’re not blaming the guys in the lab that do this. They have a tough job trying to do this and that’s why when you send materials in for radioactive decay dating, they usually want you to tell them what strata it came from. And the reason is because depending on what the values are they may have four different answers and they’ll pick the one that fits best because it’s just so tenuous working on this kind of thing.
Here is another one: Igneous rocks on the rim of the Grand Canyon give dates that are the same or older than igneous rocks at the bottom; that’s kind inverse to what you’d expect. So all we’re trying to show you here is that radioactive decay is not the end-all, it doesn’t solve all the problems because it requires restrictive assumptions to make the equations work.
Now here’s an interesting thing: Carbon-14 (C-14); for years and years it was thought that carbon-14 would be the great tool at least archaeologically. When Bill Nye (b.1955) (Answers in Genesis, www.answersingenesis.org) had his famous debate, the first words out of his mouth were a big error when he said, “By carbon-14 the universe is 1 billion years old.” Well wait a minute, carbon-14’s half-life is only 5,600 years. So if carbon-14 is cutting its decay down by half every 5,600 years, by 70,000 or so, there shouldn’t be any more evidences of carbon-14. It should have all decayed by now.
Let’s go through some of the problems with carbon-14 because it so often quoted. Cosmic ray protons penetrate the earth’s magnetic field to turn nitrogen-14 into C-14. Now around the earth there is what are called the Van Allen belts which control how the cosmic rays penetrate the atmosphere. So right away we’ve got a variable, don’t we?
How do we know that the rate of cosmic rays impinging upon planet Earth is a constant? We don’t. It’s contingent on solar activity. One of the things in climate change now that we’re debating is the effect of solar activity on aerosols that are generated by cosmic rays because it controls all the earth’s cloudiness and cloudiness affects surface temperatures and it’s not known, it’s a variable.
The next one: Carbon-14 becomes CO2, which plant life absorbs in the ratio of C-14 to the surrounding atmosphere. So the amount of carbon-14 in a plant, carbon-14 only works with plants because they absorb, and that’s the other thing I love about all this climate change talk and everyone freaking out over CO2 … CO2 is plant food and as CO2 levels have increased in our atmosphere, the earth is greening up.
There are places in the Sahara desert now that have never, as far as we know, had green vegetation. They do now, why, because CO2 is there. It’s good stuff; CO2 is great, it’s plant food; it’s fertilizer and why are plants important? They’re the first step in the food chain and so it increases agricultural production. So anyway, the point is that carbon-14 has to be absorbed by the plants, which means the amount of carbon-14 originally absorbed by the plant before it died has to be known and we’re back to the rate problem.
Look at another thing: the plant dies isolating C-14 from the surrounding atmosphere so it decays at the half-life of 5,730 years. Here’s a bombshell of a finding that was found by Project RATE, which was done by the Institute for Creation Research (http://www.icr.org/rate/), Project RATE, Radioactive Age of The Earth, R-A-T-E, was the most expensive apologetic project in the history of the Christian religion.
It took over $1 million to study the kind of things they studied there and here’s what they found: You can’t find any rock stratum that doesn’t have C-14 in it. Now let’s just stop right there. Let me repeat what I said and see if you can see the implication here: If you can’t find any rock strata without C-14 in it, what does that tend to imply about the age of the earth? It’s young; carbon-14 shouldn’t be there after 70,000 years. Why is it that you can’t find strata without it?
The reason this came up folks is because the guys that were measuring C-14 in the laboratory wanted to calibrate their instruments against a zero-CO2 environment and so therefore they looked all over the globe trying to find sample material that they could bring into the laboratory to calibrate their equipment and they couldn’t find it. The only excuse now being said by the old-earth people is that somehow the C-14 leached into all the strata, rain and water and so forth.
But the point is that we’ve got some serious stuff here that’s orders of magnitude in uncertainty, and yet you hear these declarations in the media, in the press, in the classroom, and they’re never qualified, they’re never cautious, they’re never humble, they don’t have the integrity to explain the variants that are involved here, they just plop out with a headline.
It’s like they used to say about General Patton (1885–1945) in World War II: Give General Patton headlines and he’s good for 400 more miles. And the idea there is that media stories encourage financing … financing… and so the point is that we have a lot of problems and I want to conclude so again we can get some good Q&A: Is the earth 6,000 years old or is it 4.6 billion? The answer is that it’s 6,000, why?
First, it can’t be answered by the normal operational scientific effort because normal operational science does not have the tools to answer that question. There’s been a constant and radical disagreement between biblical revelation and unbelieving thought, the “old earth” paganism preceded science. Think of Carl Sagan again. What is the worldview in ancient history that most clearly corresponds to the modern “old earth”? Hinduism. Hinduism is ultimately a religious pagan view of an old earth.
Third thing: Biblical revelation is the only source of observational data. God was there and he communicated it to Adam. Now either God, as Dr. Baurain pointed out, is so incompetent linguistically that He can’t use language which He himself invented or He’s giving us a bona fide historical observation; an eyewitness. Anti-biblical naturalism is pure conjecture and has systematically produced discordant age estimates. When I see errors from 773 to 5 and you’re telling me that I’m supposed to put my faith in that kind of a method? I’m sorry but I don’t buy into that.
Here is an interesting quote by a frustrated physicist who, when people were criticizing creationists for our 6,000 year date, was asked in Chicago one time at a science conference what he thought about it, and this is classic, “It is universally thought that it is impossible to construct a falsifiable theory that is consistent with thousands of observations indicating an age of billions of years but which holds the universe is only a few thousand years old. I consider such a view to be a slur on the ingenuity of theoretical physicists. We can construct a falsifiable theory with any characteristic you care to name.” He wasn’t trying to demean physicists; he was just trying to say you can create models with certain constraints to fit whatever you want.
So I’m going to stop there with the age of the earth. The age of the earth, in summary, cannot be answered in any systematic, reliable way if you don’t have eyewitness information and the Bible is the only source of eyewitness information. So the answer is I go with what the eyewitness information tells me; namely, that it’s 6,000 years old.
Very well stated…I have a question in the back:
Q: Is there anything that we can look at within the observational/natural sciences that would indicate a young earth; is there anything that would indicate that? We looked at the radiometric dating as always pointing to old but is there any of their data that they don’t want us to know about that actually indicates a young earth?
A: Well carbon-14 is one that was just discovered in Project RATE; 70,000 years isn’t going to fit any existing cosmology, and so they’ve got a problem; this is observed data and their answer was that rain water would contaminate the sample because now they’re arguing that it couldn’t be a closed system to solve the equation. We, of course, argue that it can be a closed system, but now when the data goes against them, now they are employing our argument on the equations.
The ultimate counter to that accusation, that you have an open system that’s been contaminated systematically, was when Project RATE also discovered that carbon-14 was found in diamonds. How do you get the carbon-14 atoms to infiltrate diamonds? So there are those and there are also those pleochroic halos back in the Tennessee Valley Authority laboratories.
There was a man, (Robert V.) Gentry (b.1933), who years ago pointed out that you’ve got pleochroic halos. Pleochroic halos are burns in the rock matrix from a radioactively decaying element, and he found that the pleochroic halo has a radius to it and you can measure the radius of that very burn mark and infer what caused the burn and so he found out it was polonium-214 (Po-214) or something like that, and it only has a half-life of five seconds.
So what Gentry is arguing is, wait a minute, I’m looking at granite, the base rock of the whole Earth’s surface, and I see pleochroic halos in there. It only has a half-life of five seconds so how long did it take? It must be a residue; that God instantly created the granite solid, not molten, solid granite, cold, and polonium-214 without apparent element and it just decayed in five seconds. How do you explain that one? So there are these things.
Dinosaur bones in Montana found by a non-Christian PhD gal and she started looking at the bones of the dinosaur; 200 million years old, whatever, and she saw what looked like cells of flesh still on the bone and Jeff Christiansen and I were talking about it a year or so ago and I asked Jeff to go on the Internet and see what the excuse is for this one and he came up with the fact that “that just shows you how much flesh can last.”
Moderator: If you want more information I have a copy of the book on the RATE Project giving the data in layman’s terms. They do have the map in there which makes a lot of people go, “Whoa,” but you can actually get the conclusions from the data in a book called, Thousands … Not Billions (2005, Donald DeYoung).
Clough: And by the way regarding that book, there is one chapter by a professor of Old Testament at The Master’s Seminary. He did a marvelous work and he went into statistics, and if you haven’t got a lot of statistical background it kind of blows you away. But here’s what he did: he went through the Old Testament text and he looked at the form of perfect and imperfect verbs and the pattern that you see in narrative versus the patterns you see in poetry, like Isaiah is largely poetic, but take for example, Exodus 14 and 15. You have one that is narrative and the other is the song of Moses. It’s Miriam with the ladies in an antiphonal choir and their singing about the Exodus; that’s poetic.
But the narrative of the Exodus event is a narrative, it’s not poetic. So he went through and did all this work without going to Genesis, no Genesis involved in this model, but he went through and asked what does a narrative look like, statistically, in its verb structures and what does poetry look like in its verb structures? Then he went back and checked Genesis 1 to see what the probability of that being a poetic structure versus a narrative and it was something like a 0.0001 probability of that being a poetic narrative.
Let’s pray … “Father, thank You very much for being an awesome, creator God who is in control of all things. You are the Creator who has given us life; You are the Creator who has intervened in our sinful nature and have given us hope through Jesus Christ; You are the Creator who has given us revelation through Your Word so that we don’t have to guess; we can look back, evaluate the information, and understand who You are through what You have told us; that is amazing. Help us to appreciate it; help us to understand it more; and help us to be able to worship You in spirit and in truth.
“I thank You for the amazing people within this community who have provided not only the opportunity here for special guests, but also to be able to enjoy meals together. We ask Your blessing upon them and help us to be able to enjoy our meal; to enjoy the conversations we have; to make them glorifying and edifying to us. Thank You and we praise You, our God. We appreciate everything. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”