Even though the Seventh-day Adventist Church has taken a clear stand on the topic of origins (specifically endorsing and tightening its language regarding a literal 7-day creation week last summer at its General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas – 1, 2), there are many within or closely associated with the church who still have sincere questions and even strongly held beliefs regarding the existence and evolution of life on this planet over many hundreds of millions of years. And, the church has given such voices of dissent a platform – sometimes within our schools (especially at La Sierra University where professors remain who continue to promote various forms of Darwinian evolution over vast periods of time while receiving financial support and accreditation from the church) or even behind our own pulpits. Even during the GC session in San Antonio this last summer the church gave booth space to organizations that ardently oppose the church’s position on origins (as well as other fundamental positions of the church) – to include both Spectrum Magazine and Adventist Today. Both of these organizations often publish articles promoting some form of neo-Darwinism or theistic evolution on this planet over very long ages of time. And the church, despite its own “fundamental” stand on a literal creation week, takes such organizations seriously enough to give them a voice from within the overall umbrella of the church body.
So, I thought I’d present here the most recent arguments published along these lines – this time by Adventist Today. The author is Jack Hoehn, a physician, who often writes articles promoting what he considers to be the empirical reality of very long ages of life and death on this planet – all guided by the hand of God and summarized in the Biblical account of origins.
Dr. Hoehn’s latest salvo is a five part series entitled, “Natural Clocks” (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5). In this series Dr. Hoehn argues that there are many different clock-like natural phenomena that mark the passage of time – things like tree rings, ice layers in Greenland, thick layers of ash in Washington State, mutation rates in DNA, and decay rates of radioactive elements. Of course, Dr. Hoehn argues that all of these natural clocks started ticking long long ago – strongly supporting the notion that life has in fact existed and evolved on this planet over many hundreds of millions of years of time. In short, the Biblical notion of a literal 7-day creation week simply isn’t consistent with the “facts” of science.
So why then would any sane person maintain membership in a church that seeks to promote, as a fundamental ideal, the obviously insane notion of a literal 7-day creation week? – just because the Bible appears to make this claim? Is the SDA religion outdated or beyond rational thought or empirical evidence? Or, perhaps, it is the very nature of faith-based religions to go above and beyond the empirical evidence? For many this is the very definition of faith – something that goes beyond what can be seen or felt or evaluated by the five senses alone. However, for me, I’ve never been a fan of this type of fideistic faith. For me, like Galileo, if God exists and if he made me a thinking rational being, then why should I stop thinking when it comes to my religion? I just don’t see any example where the God of the Bible ever asked anyone to believe any of His claims without first providing with the “weight of evidence” to provide a rational basis for faith in His word – empirical evidence that appeals to the candid mind of anyone who is honestly searching for truth.
Why then should any rational thinking person join the SDA Church? – and deny what Dr. Hoehn has presented as overwhelming empirical evidence against the church’s position on origins? For me, if I thought that Dr. Hoehn’s arguments were clearly correct and conclusive, I for one would certainly leave the SDA Church behind – as well as my current view of the Bible as the “Word of God” – full of privileged information. Why then do I still choose to carry the title of Bible-believing Seventh-day Adventist Christian?
I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life reading and thinking and writing about many of the arguments Dr. Hoehn finds so compelling. However, the more I’ve studied these popular claims of modern science regarding the origin and evolution of life on this planet, the more and more tenuous I’ve found them to be – with many shown to be downright wrong over the years. The more I’ve studied these questions the more and more the growing empirical evidence seems to support the biblical concept of a literal creation week with the origin of life and its marvelous complexity arising recently via the Hand of an extremely intelligent Designer. So, in this line, I’ll present the main arguments forwarded by Dr. Hoehn (in bold font) followed by my own observations as to why Dr. Hoehn’s arguments simply don’t hold water for me.
Table of Contents
- 1 Tree Rings as a Natural Clock:
- 2 Ice Core Layers as a Natural Clock:
- 3 Thick Volcanic Ash Layers as a Natural Clock:
- 4 DNA as a Natural Clock:
- 5 Radioactive Decay as a Natural Clock:
- 6 Invoking Ellen White?
- 7 The Bible’s Claims Regarding Origins:
- 8 The Implications of Long Ages of Life and Death:
- 9 False Advertising:
- 10 Short List of Natural Clocks that Favor a Literal Creation Week:
Tree Rings as a Natural Clock:
We cannot date a worldwide flood 4,000 YBP with bristlecone pine mountain trees 5,066 YBP still alive in California. And with continuous growth records of Sub-Boreal Pines and German Oak trees going back 11,490 YBP [years before present] with cross matching for European trees. But this is just one kind of natural “clock.” (Link)
There are several fundamental problems with using tree rings as reliable natural clocks. Beyond the fact that more or less than one ring can be added to a tree per year, the main problem with using “dendrochronology” as a reliable natural clock, independent of other forms of calibration, is that matching rings from different pieces of wood isn’t remotely a dependable science. And, this has been known for some time now. In a 1986 paper, “Interpretation of cross correlation between tree-ring series“, Yamaguchi recognized that overlapping tree rings from different trees tend to “auto correlate” or actually cross-match with each other in several different places within a tree-ring sequence. What he did to prove this is quite interesting. He took a 290-ring Douglas-fir log known, by historical methods, to date between AD 1482 and 1668 and demonstrated that it could cross-match in multiple different places within the Pacific Northwest Douglas Fir Master Growth-ring Sequence to give very good “t-values.” A t-value is given to a “wiggle-match” on the basis of a statistical analysis of the correspondence between two wood samples. This statistical assessment is done by computer which assigns high t-values (3 and above) to good wiggle-matches and low t-values (below 3) to those with poor correspondence between the ring patterns. Amazingly, using such t-value analysis, Yamaguchi found 113 different matches having a confidence level of greater than 99.9%. For example, Yamaguchi demonstrated that his log could cross-match with other tree-ring sequences to give t-values of around 5 at AD 1504 (for the low end of the ring age), 7 at AD 1647 and 4.5 at AD 1763. Six of these matches were non-overlapping. That means that this particular piece of wood could be dated to be any one of those six vastly different ages to within a 99.9% degree of confidence (Link). Because of this fundamental problem, many of the most well-known tree-ring series are fatally flawed.
Should one expect tree-ring-growth patterns to produce genuine correspondences at the same historical dates when the climates (and in particular the micro-climates) of Ireland, England and Germany are so different? Clearly, dendrochronology, although possibly helpful for the dating of certain relative events, is nowhere near an exact science. In this line, consider the frustration of Rod A. Savidge, a professor of tree physiology/biochemistry, Forestry, and Environmental Management at the University of New Brunswick. He vented the following interesting comments regarding the science of dendrochronology, published in a Letter to the Editor in the New York Times, November of 2002:
“As a tree physiologist who has devoted his career to understanding how trees make wood, I have made sufficient observations on tree rings and cambial growth to know that dendrochronology is not at all an exact science. Indeed, its activities include subjective interpretations of what does and what does not constitute an annual ring, statistical manipulation of data to fulfill subjective expectations, and discarding of perfectly good data sets when they contradict other data sets that have already been accepted. Such massaging of data cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered science; it merely demonstrates a total lack of rigor attending so-called dendrochronology “research” . . . It would be a major step forward if dendrochronology could embrace the scientific method.”
More at: Tree Ring Dating
See also an Adventist Today article by William Abbott (who works in the forest products industry) responding to Dr. Hoehn’s article on Dendrochronology: Artful Clocks: Dendrochronology’s Limitations
Ice Core Layers as a Natural Clock:
Adventist physician and scientist Brian Bull has presented the evidence for how many years snow has fallen in Greenland in a series of classic Spectrum articles. This concise series of articles does not attempt to present the hundreds of studies done on Greenland’s ice shield, but gives a readable summary that at the most conservative shows at least 60,000 years of annual snowfalls. And in the deeper levels where the ice layers are so compressed to make counting much more difficult, the consensus would suggest 135,000 YBP.
How accurate is this natural “clock”? The first 2,600 years of the clock are confirmed by historical data on when lead mining was first started by humans. This coincides perfectly with the time when lead begins to be seen in the dust between annual ice layers. If the first 2,600 YBP layers are confirmed by historical records, there is no reason to question the next 57,400 YBP or so annual layers until they become so compressed that one has to begin estimating. (Link)
Just a Few Problems:
The idea of ice core dating seems simple and straightforward enough – very much like tree-ring dating or the dating of sedimentary layers or varves within lake beds. All you have to do is count the annual layers and that will give you the correct age. But, it’s not that simple. With ice core dating in particular, the layers get compressed and stretched and thinned until they simply cannot be recognized with the naked eye – at relatively high levels in the ice sheet. At this point, the layers are detected by chemical analysis or annual signatures. The problem with these chemical signatures is that the chemicals themselves do not say put in the ice layers. They move and form pseudo-layers (Link). Beyond this, multiple layers can be deposited in a single year, which also significantly complicates the issue.
Calibration by Carbon 14:
Radiocarbon dating helps a bit, but it ends up being that the ice core layers themselves are not very helpful as a source of independent age calibration. The same is true of other layer-based age calculations. For example, lake varves, along with tree rings, etc., have long been used to “calibrate” C14 dates. The reason for this need for calibration is because the ratio of C14/C12 in the atmosphere doesn’t stay the same. It changes and has changed significantly over time and can be affected by various kinds of catastrophic conditions (like a Noachian-style Flood for instance; Link). That means, of course, that if you date something by C14 methods that is also used to calibrate the C14 dating method, you’re obviously going to get a “straight line” agreement because it becomes a circular argument where two different methods are used to validate each other. And, as with counting tree rings and ice core layers, varve layers are not reliable annual markers to use as an independent means of calibrating C14 – and are themselves often calibrated by radiocarbon dating (again, completing the circular argument).
Greenland was once Green:
It is also interesting to note that Greenland, in particular, has not always been covered in ice. It was once truly green – all over. In fact, within the Hypsithermal period or “warm age” (which, according to mainstream thinking, is said to have lasted some 7,000 years, ending only some 2,500 years ago), the northernmost parts of the planet were very much warmer than they are today. Studies on sedimentary cores carried out in the North Atlantic between Hudson Strait and Cape Hatteras indicate ocean temperatures of 18°C (verses about 8°C today in this region) during the height of this period of time between 4,000 to 6,000 years ago (again, according to mainstream thinking). Given that the Greenland ice sheet is currently melting at a fairly rapid rate, it’s rather hard to believe that it existed at all during the very warm Hypsithermal period – a period when millions of mammoths along with many other types of warmer weather plants and animals happily lived within the Arctic Circle all around the globe along the very same latitudes as Greenland (Link). A 1995 study of mammoth remains located on Wrangel Island (on the border of the East-Siberian and Chukchi Seas) shows that mammoths persisted on this island till about 1,700 B.C. (Vartanyan S.L, et. al., 1995). And yet, somehow, Greenland was still covered with thick sheets of ice when everything around it was warm and balmy, supporting huge herds of animals and lush forests with fruit bearing trees and abundant grasslands? This seems quite unlikely to me…
More at: Ancient Ice
Thick Volcanic Ash Layers as a Natural Clock:
Historically, we have human records or legends of volcanic eruptions during the last 4,000 years of at least 10 major Cascade volcanos. And Mount St. Helens in Washington is estimated to have erupted every 100 to 150 years during observable times. But these eruptions recorded by observers or legends are only the top ash layers of many others. Mt. St. Helens has left at least 12 identifiable ash layers on and about the mountain and where the winds have carried this soil. In between the layers are thick deposits of non-volcanic soils from the erosion of rock and ash by many years of rain, storms, floods. So each layer of ash, and then the thickness of the soils formed between the layers, all across eastern Washington, is a kind of ash clock…
The massive 1980 St. Helens eruption made a 15-mile-high ash cloud the deposited soil carried by the wind that was three feet deep near the volcano and six inches across the Palouse as far away as Spokane. So if a volcano went off every year, and put down six more inches of soil every year, it would take 1,000 years to make the 500 feet of volcanic ash soil in my backyard. But we know this only happened once since 1857, so if it did happen as frequently as every 100 years, that means it would take at least 50,000 to 100,000 years to form the Palouse soils that cover 18,000 square miles (25%) of Washington State. This is a volcanic ash clock. And underneath the volcanic soils of the Palouse are fossil-bearing rocks, so life itself has to be older than this. (Link)
Today the Same as Yesterday:
This particular argument is entirely based on the assumption that the current rate of volcanic activity in this particular region has always been the same throughout history. Clearly, this is not the case – especially in this particular region of the world. Volcanic activity has been much much greater in the past than it is today in numerous places around the world – especially in the Pacific Northwest. In the states of the Pacific Northwest, to include Washington State, hundreds of thousands of square miles of territory were engulfed by floods of basaltic lava (during the “Tertiary” or post-Flood period just a few thousand years ago) which must have flowed like huge rivers and stacked up layers thousands of feet thick. Volcanic activity on this scale is simply unheard of in the modern world. For example, the Colombia River Basalt Group (CRBG) of Washington State was rapidly created by numerous sequential lava flows that eventually reach more than 1.8 km (5,900 ft) in thickness (Link). The standard notion that these layers formed over several million years (from ~17 to 6 million years ago via radiometric dating methods) does not hold water due to several features of this formation:
Lack of Erosion:
One of the major problems with the idea that these flows span a period of over 11 million years of deposition is that there is significant physical evidence that the CRBG flows were deposited relatively rapidly with respect to each other. The average time between each flow works out to around 36,000 years. However, there is very little if any evidence of erosion between the layers. The very fact that these flows cover such great distances indicate that the individual flows traveled at a high rate of speed in order to avoid solidification before they covered such huge areas as they did. Also, there are several examples where two or three different flows within the CRBG mix with each other. This suggests that some of the individual flows did not have enough time to solidify before the next flow(s) occurred. If some 36,000 years of time are supposed to separate each of the individual flows where is the evidence of erosion in the form of valleys or gullies cutting into the individual lava flows to be filled in by the next lava flow? There are no beds of basalt boulders that one would expect to be formed over such spans of time between individual flows.
Some have suggested that the rates of erosion on these basalts was so minimal (< 0.5 cm/ka) that it would not have resulted in a significant change even after 36,000 years. However, a subsequent study by Riebe et. al. to determine the effects of various climatic conditions on erosion rates of granite showed that erosion rates averaged 4 cm per 1,000 years (ka) with a range of between 2 cm/ka and 50 cm/ka. What is especially interesting is that despite ranges in climate involving between 20 to 180 cm/yr of annual precipitation and between 4 to 15°C the average erosion rates varied by only 2.5 fold across all the sites and were not correlated with climate indicating that climatic variations weakly regulate the rates of granitic erosion (Link). Another paper by Lasaga and Rye, from the Yale University Department of Geology and Geophysics, noted that the average erosion rates of basalts from the Columbia River and Idaho regions is “about 4 times as fast as non-basaltic rocks” – to include granite (Link). This suggests that one could reasonable expect the erosion rate of basalts to average 16 to 20 cm/ka. Over the course of 36,000 years this works out to between 6 to 7 meters (19 to 23 feet) of vertical erosion. This is significant erosion and there should be evidence of this sort of erosion if the time gap between flow was really 36,000 years. So, where is this evidence?
For several other such flows in the United States and elsewhere around the world the time intervals between flows are thought to be even longer – and yet still there is little evidence of the erosion that would be expected after such passages of time. For example, the Lincoln Porphyry of Colorado was originally thought to be a single unit because of the geographic proximity of the outcrops and the mineralogical and chemical similarities throughout the formation. Later, this idea was revised after radiometric dating placed various layers of the Lincoln Porphyry almost 30 million years apart in time. But how can such layers which show little if any evidence of interim erosion have been laid down thousands much less millions of years apart in time?
Layers out of Order:
Other examples, such as the Garrawilla Lavas of New South Wales, Australia, are found between the Upper Triassic and Jurassic layers and yet these lavas, over a very large area, grade imperceptibly into lavas which overlie Lower Tertiary sedimentary rock (supposedly laid down over 100 million years later) (Link). Robert Kingham noted, concerning this formation, (during a 1998 Australian Geologic Survey Organization) that, “Triassic sediments unconformably overlie the Permian sequences. . . The Napperby depositional sequence represents the upper limit of the Gunnedah Basin sequence, with a regional unconformity existing between the Triassic and overlying Jurassic sediments of the Surat Basin north of the Liverpool Ranges. The Gunnedah Basin sequence includes a number of basic intrusions of Mesozoic and Tertiary rocks. These are associated with massive extrusions of the Garrawilla Volcanic complex and the Liverpool, Warrumbungle and Nandewar Ranges.” (Link). Now, isn’t it interesting that Tertiary sediments in the Gunnedah Basin sequence, which are thought to be over 100 million years younger, exist between Triassic and Jurassic sediments?
Massive Floods of Washington State:
What is also interesting along these lines is that the Scablands of Washington State, which were long thought to represent millions of years of erosion, were finally proved, by J Harlen Bretz against strong opposition for decades, to have been very rapidly created by catastrophic floods (Link). Very similar features are also seen in places like the Grand Canyon…
DNA as a Natural Clock:
If we can count the genetic differences between two women or two men and know the mutation rate with some accuracy, then we can know how long ago our common Adam and our common Eve lived. The problem for creationists in the past was that the Eve was dated at 200,000 years ago and the Adam at about 60,000 years ago, but recent studies have tended to make those dates converge.
David Poznik, et al. Science 02 Aug 2013: Vol. 341, Issue 6145, pp. 562-565 DOI: 10.1126/science.1237619
Archeology suggests that artifacts showing advanced cognitive abilities begin to appear about 70,000 years ago, if not before. So, placed together, DNA and archeology place Eden closer to 100,000 years ± 50,000 years ago. You have no text in your Bible to contradict those numbers. “In the beginning” is a statement of fact, but not a date. (Link)
Higher Mutation Rates using Known Historical Family Lineages:
Using the DNA mutation rate would be great as a natural clock if only we could determine how fast mutations were actually occurring in various regions of DNA (different regions of DNA mutate at different rates). The fact is that most of the DNA clocks are based on particular regions of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). So, how are the mutation rates determined for these regions of mtDNA? Well, most of the time evolutionary assumptions are used to estimate the mtDNA mutation rate – such as the evolutionary relationship between humans and apes or time spans based on radiometric dating methods rather than known historical dates. However, when known historical families are used to determine the mtDNA mutation rates various studies showed that the actual mutation rate was much higher than previously thought. These scientists were “stunned” to find that the mutation rate was, in fact, about 20 times higher at around one mutation every 25 to 40 generations (about 500 to 800 years for humans). It seems that in this section of the control region of mtDNA, which has about 610 base pairs, humans typically differ from one another by about 18 mutations. By simple mathematics, it follows that modern humans share a common ancestor some 300 generations back in time. If one assumes a typical generation time of about 20 years, this places the date of the common ancestor at around 6,000 years before present. But how could this be?!
Thomas Parsons seemed just as mystified when he published similar findings in the journal Nature Genetics (April, 1997):
“The observed substitution rate reported here is very high compared to rates inferred from evolutionary studies. A wide range of CR substitution rates have been derived from phylogenetic studies, spanning roughly 0.025-0.26/site/Myr, including confidence intervals. A study yielding one of the faster estimates gave the substitution rate of the CR hypervariable regions as 0.118 +- 0.031/site/Myr. Assuming a generation time of 20 years, this corresponds to ~1/600 generations and an age for the mtDNA MRCA of 133,000 y.a. Thus, our observation of the substitution rate, 2.5/site/Myr, is roughly 20-fold higher than would be predicted from phylogenetic analyses. Using our empirical rate to calibrate the mtDNA molecular clock would result in an age of the mtDNA MRCA of only ~6,500 y.a., clearly incompatible with the known age of modern humans. Even acknowledging that the MRCA of mtDNA may be younger than the MRCA of modern humans, it remains implausible to explain the known geographic distribution of mtDNA sequence variation by human migration that occurred only in the last ~6,500 years.”
Modern Techniques have Solved the Problem:
Dr. Hoehn argues that things have improved since 1997, but they really haven’t. In his article he cites a 2013 paper by Poznik et al. However, “to compare the Y-chromosome genome to the mitochondrial genome,” Poznik et al. estimated their respective mutation rates by using phylogeographic patterns, or genetic patterns seen from geographic distributions, from a well known event – the settlement of the Americas 15,000 years ago (Link). In other words, the mutation rates used by Poznik et al. were calibrated based on radiometric dating methods. They were not based on known historical families. In fact, a year later (May, 2014) Jaramilloa et al. published a paper about mtDNA noting that:
“We also lack an accurate estimate of the germ-line mtDNA mutation rate in humans, with pedigree and phylogenetic studies producing conflicting results” (Link).
In this paper the authors specifically cited the work of Parsons et al. as the basis for their doubts regarding the actual mtDNA mutation rates over time – a problem for the mainstream position that simply hasn’t been resolved over time.
In response to this evidence, Dr. Hoehn argued (in the comment section associated with his original article – Link) that he wasn’t all that convinced that the DNA clock was very reliable after all – as an independent clock:
“So… [you are right] if you accept a very fast rate of mutation, and the scientific consensus is right if you find a slower rate of mutation. I am willing to hold the question of the exact date of Adam and Eve’s creation as not yet established by the DNA clocks. But there are fossil remnants of humans that date with the independent C-14 radioactive clock to 40,000 years, and there are archeological remains of intelligent creatures including art and tools that radioactive date to 70,000 to 80,000 years ago. So for this reason alone it appears impossible to me for calculations for mutation rates that give dates closer to 10,000 years ago to be correct. The CSR folks have choosen mutation rates based on modern studies over a few short years, the slower rates are based on comparison with fossilized human remains and modern humans over 40,000 years, which is much more accurate as it is over a longer period of time than recent Anabaptists or Russian Czars.” (Link)
Again, for neo-Darwinists and theistic evolutionists like Dr. Hoehn, it all boils down to calibrations based on assumed evolutionary relationships or the assumed reliability of radiometric dating methods to support the longer ages that the Darwinists require. The strong evidence of much much faster DNA mutation rates based on direct analysis of several known historical family lineages is rejected, out of hand, for what reason? Because it simply doesn’t fit with the popular Darwinian paradigm of the day? and that is why mutation rates and dates based on radiometric dating assumptions are favored instead? Does anyone else see the obvious bias here? If the time indicated by a particular natural clock doesn’t fit with the primary paradigm, neo-Darwinists and theistic evolutionists either ignore that clock or make it appear to tick faster by calibrating it by another natural clock that appears to be more in line with the favored paradigm… which completely undermines Dr. Hoehn’s original claim that DNA mutation rates offer independent support for long ages of theistic evolution on this planet. Like all of the other dating techniques, DNA mutation rates have also been calibrated to “fit” properly with the favored paradigm while the evidence against this favored paradigm has been discarded because of an a priori philosophical position.
The Problem of the High Detrimental Mutation Rate:
Beyond this, the known overall DNA mutation rate is a problem for both evolutionists and old-Earth creationists as well. How so? Because, the vast majority of functional mutations are actually detrimental and because there are simply far far too many detrimental mutations, in each generation, for natural selection to effectively remove. What this means, then, is that all slowly reproducing creatures, to include all mammals as well as humans, are devolving – headed for eventual genetic meltdown and extinction. This also means that, contrary to the assertions of Dr. Hoehn, slowly reproducing living things could not have existed on this planet for even a million years – not by a long shot.
For more information on this particular problem of DNA mutation rates see: Summary of Detrimental Mutation Rates
Radioactive Decay as a Natural Clock:
As we introduced this topic, having multiple clocks increases our chance of knowing the right time. If several separate clocks agree on the age of an artifact, then our chance of being correct is increased. In addition to those radioactive clocks mentioned above there is Electron Spin Resonance, Thermoluminescence Dating, Fission Track Dating for glass-like minerals, Uranium/Thorium Dating, Oxidizable Carbon Ratio, Varve Analysis, and Obsidian Hydration Dating. Each technique has strengths, weaknesses, and range of time it can estimate, but the agreement of several methods on the same samples gives independent support to the validity of the age of the specimen.
The problem with this argument is, of course, that these various methods are not really independent dating methods. The fact of the matter is that all of these methods must be calibrated by some other dating method. So, how or by what method(s) are they generally calibrated? Well, they are calibrated against each other – usually based on the potassium-argon method (K-Ar). For example, the Ar-Ar dating method must be first calibrated against the K-Ar dating method – according to the New Mexico Geochronology Research Laboratory:
“Because this (primary) standard ultimately cannot be determined by 40Ar/39Ar, it must be first determined by another isotopic dating method. The method most commonly used to date the primary standard is the conventional K/Ar technique. . . Once an accurate and precise age is determined for the primary standard, other minerals can be dated relative to it by the 40Ar/39Ar method. These secondary minerals are often more convenient to date by the 40Ar/39Ar technique (e.g. sanidine). However, while it is often easy to determine the age of the primary standard by the K/Ar method, it is difficult for different dating laboratories to agree on the final age. Likewise . . . the K/Ar ages are not always reproducible. This imprecision (and inaccuracy) is transferred to the secondary minerals used daily by the 40Ar/39Ar technique.” ( Link )
Fission Track Dating:
Fission track dating is in no better shape. Faure (1986, pp. 345-346) mentions that fission track dating is calibrated (the “zeta calibration”) using rocks of “known” ages – which are themselves dated based on other radiometric dating methods (usually K-Ar). Also, because of numerous potential errors, most forms of fission track dating use a form of calibration or “comparison of spontaneous and induced fission track density against a standard of known age. The principle involved is no different from that used in many methods of analytical chemistry, where comparison to a standard eliminates some of the more poorly controlled variables. In the zeta method, the dose, cross section, and spontaneous fission decay constant, and uranium isotope ratio are combined into a single constant” (Link).
These problems have resulted in several interesting contradictions, despite calibration. For example, Naeser and Fleischer (Harvard University) showed that, depending upon the calibration method chosen, the calculated age of a given rock (from Cerro de Mercado, Mexico in this case) could be different from each other by a factor of “sixty or more” – – “which give geologically unreasonable ages. In addition, published data concerning the length of fission tracks and the annealing of minerals imply that the basic assumptions used in an alternative procedure, the length reduction-correction method, are also invalid for many crystal types and must be approached with caution unless individually justified for a particular mineral.” Now that’s pretty significant – being off by a factor of sixty or more?! No wonder the authors recommend only going with results that do not provide “geologically unreasonable ages”.
Like ice-core dating and tree ring dating, sedimentary layers in lake beds, or “varves”, as previously mentioned, are also not independent time clocks, but must also be calibrated based on other dating methods (Link). The same is true for amino acid racemization dating, which is also not an independent dating technique (Link).
Beyond the numerous problems with radiometric dating techniques, some of the most popular radiometric dating methods are often very inconsistent with other popular radiometric dating methods. For example, radiocarbon dating is very commonly used to date organic materials thought to be less than 100,000 years old (since C14 has a relatively short half-life of ~5,730 years).
Dinosaur Soft Tissues and Radiocarbon:
In this light, consider the fairly recent discovery of original soft tissue remains within the bones of numerous dinosaurs thought to be more than 60 million years old (Link) – soft tissue that maintained flexibility and elasticity as well as cellular structure and original antigenic activity (based on fairly large intact portions of proteins). By itself, this finding was completely unexpected from the evolutionary perspective since it was long argued that soft tissues and proteins (even fragments of DNA) could not be maintained longer than 100,000 years or so due to the problem of kinetic chemistry where such organic molecules self-destruct (because of their constant movements/vibrations) over relatively short periods of time at ambient temperatures.
However, beyond this little conundrum, it has also been shown that such soft tissues contain significant quantities of radiocarbon (C14). Surprisingly, C14 has actually been discovered in the soft tissues of many dinosaur bones examined thus far, producing ages ranging from 16,000 to 32,000 years before present – essentially the same as the radiocarbon ages reported for large Pleistocene mammals such as mammoths, mastodons, dire wolves, etc. (Link, Link). Also, pretty much all coal samples contain fairly significant quantities of radiocarbon. The usual counterarguments of either contamination or in situ production don’t hold water when it comes to explaining the very high levels of radiocarbon so consistently and generally found throughout the fossil record (Link).
So, you see, radiometric dating isn’t exactly an overwhelming argument in favor of the Darwinian perspective on origins and certainly doesn’t overcome the strong evidence in favor of the biblical position on a literal 7-day creation week.
Invoking Ellen White?
The Great Controversy, Page 60. “The condition…presented a fearful and striking fulfillment of the words of the prophet Hosea: ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.’ Hosea 4:6.” (Link)
What really amazes me is that Dr. Hoehn thinks to invoke Ellen White, of all people, to support his position on origins – on the existence and evolution of living things on this planet over the course of many hundreds of millions of years?! As Dr. Hoehn surely knows, Mrs. White was well aware of Darwinian arguments in her own day and she strongly opposed such arguments. She also strongly argued in favor of the literal nature of the 7-day creation week – in no uncertain terms. White writes what she was “shown in vision”:
“I was then carried back to the creation and was shown that the first week, in which God performed the work of creation in six days and rested on the seventh day, was just like every other week.… God gives us the productions of his work at the close of each literal day.” – EGW, SG, Vol. 3, p. 90.
“Like the Sabbath, the week originated at creation, and it has been preserved and brought down to us through Bible history. God Himself measured off the first week as a sample for successive weeks to the close of time. Like every other week, it consisted of seven literal days. Six days were employed in the work of creation; upon the seventh, God rested, and He then blessed this day, and set it apart as a day of rest for man.” – EGW, PP, p. 111
“But the assumption that the events of the first week required thousands upon thousands of years, strikes directly at the foundation of the fourth commandment. It represents the Creator as commanding men to observe the week of literal days in commemoration of vast, indefinite periods. This is unlike His method of dealing with His creatures. It makes indefinite and obscure that which He has made very plain. It is infidelity in its most insidious and hence most dangerous form; its real character is so disguised that it is held and taught by many who profess to believe the Bible.” EGW, PP, p. 111
How then can Dr. Hoehn think to invoke Mrs. White when it comes to considering his diametrically opposing view of origins? – a view that she calls “infidelity in its most insidious and hence most dangerous form”? – since it is “held and taught by many who profess to believe the Bible”? In short, either one accepts Mrs. White’s claims to have been divinely inspired and to have been given privileged information about the origin of life on this planet, or one must reject her claims as coming from a deluded mind. One simply cannot reasonably have it both ways.
The Bible’s Claims Regarding Origins:
The Lion and the Lamb:
The authors of the Bible are in consistent agreement that the creation week was a literal week and that God created all life on this planet in such a way that death did not originally exist for sentient creatures. The Bible paints God as suffering and experiencing real pain whenever He sees even a little sparrow fall wounded to the ground (Matthew 10:29) or when He sees animals in general suffer and die (Jonah 4:11, Proverbs 12:10). It also paints God as wishing to create a place where sentient animals do not harm or eat each other – where lions, leopards, wolves, calves, lambs and little children, current natural enemies, co-exist happily and peacefully together in the world made new as it was originally intended to be (Isaiah 11:6). It is hard to imagine then that such a God would deliberately create using a painful and evil mechanism of the “survival of the fittest”, where carnivorous animals are “red in tooth and claw” in a place with untold amounts of suffering, pain, and death for billions upon billions of sentient creatures over vast eons of time, and then call it “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
A Bit of Interpretation:
Yet, when presented with the reality that the Bible does not support the concept of long-ages of suffering and death for sentient creatures before the fall of mankind, Dr. Hoehn responded as follows:
The more I look there is EVERYTHING outside of the Bible to suggest suffering and death for all kinds of creatures before the late arrival of men and women on this planet… [as is] so clearly testified in every fossil, every tar pit, every shale bed, every coal bed, every oil field, every Hawaiian island, every ice field, every drill core in the world, then he [Sean Pitman] is making the Bible false. If the Bible can’t be read and reinterpreted in a way to agree in concept with the facts of nature, then the Bible is falsified.
And this I am not willing to do. If I think the Bible says “White,” when the facts of nature say “Black,” it is time for me to reread and rethink my Bible. And all the creative arguments trying to make what is truly Black, look White through rose colored glasses become not only quixotic, but also harmful to the Bible. The Bible teaches us to love nature, and worship its God, it teaches us to love truth, and seek wisdom, nowhere does the Bible tell me to reject observable facts and bend them into cleverly designed fables to fit my preconceived interpretations of the Bible.
Dr. Pitman knows I am not any more Darwinian than he is. Old earth creationists are creationists, not atheists or agnostics, some of us are even Biblical inerrantists (I am not but some are). Yet we all interpret the Bible differently. Dr. Pitman’s claims rule out suffering and death because it says “good” and “very good” in Genesis. Isn’t it possible what is “good” and “very good” to God may be different to what Dr. Pitman thinks is “good?”
For example when God fights precreation darkness (with Satan and his angels lurking in it) with His light, the outcome of that battle God calls “good.” When God fights the pre-creation darkness of no atmosphere with a “firmament”, and progresses another step in Creation, God calls that “good” and that “goodness” doesn’t mean that billions of oxygen creating bacteria didn’t thrive and reproduce and die for ages, to make that “good” oxygen rich firmament.
So each Creation Day starts in “darkness” of some kind, and ends with “light” of God’s doing, and each stage that God was watching (God saw, the Bible says) when some fault, some deficiency, some failing of this earthly Satanic prison was battled through, God saying at the end of the struggle that it was “good” says nothing about how many life-forms lived, reproduced, and died to fashion a good place for the man and woman in his image.
At the end of a war, to say that the peace achieved and the victories won, and the dangers averted is “good” does not deny that there was much death and suffering to achieve that “good.”
I have found Bible references to death before Eve’s fall and have written about them in my Adventist Today print article referenced above.
So good for you Sean, you are a great battler for your conclusions. But since everything Outside of the Bible contradicts your present interpretation of the Bible, please consider using your talents to help the Bible agree with the overwhelming message of Nature by fashioning a theology of creation suitable for the testimony of nature.
The main problem here, of course, is that Dr. Hoehn is willing to maintain the Bible as the “Word of God” regardless of what it actually says. In other words, the credibility of the Bible cannot really be tested against empirical reality. Why then should we take it to be anything more than an interesting and very ancient moral fable? – if the testable empirical claims of the Bible are demonstrably false?
Personally, I’m a believer in the Bible in particular as the Word of God, among all other competing options that make the same claim, because I see the Bible as unique with regard to the very strong empirical evidence in support of its claims. For me, the testable claims of the Bible have proven true while the claims of biblical critics throughout history have been consistently overthrown – to include the claims of modern neo-Darwinists.
The Clear Intent of the Biblical Authors:
Beyond this, the biblical authors are not ambiguous with regard to the issue of origins. They make very specific empirical claims regarding how long God took to create life on this planet – just seven literal days. There really is no valid counter argument here. After all, even secular scholars of Hebrew agree that the authors of the Bible, especially the Genesis account, all intended to convey to their readers that the creation week took place during seven literal days. There is simply no rational basis to argue otherwise. The texts are quite clear in their intent. Even Jesus taught that the Genesis account of origins was a literal account (Matthew 19:4 & 24:37). Again, even secular scholars understand this. Take, for example, the comments of well-known Oxford Hebrew scholar James Barr:
Probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that: (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience. (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the “days” of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.
Letter from Professor James Barr to David C.C. Watson of the UK, dated 23 April 1984.
Right up front, then, Dr. Hoehn is being inconsistent. He is trying to maintain the Bible as “The Word of God” while interpreting important empirical claims found in the Bible contrary to the obvious intent of the biblical authors. Of course, he is not alone in this effort. But why do so many feel so compelled to try to twist and distort the clearly intended message of numerous biblical authors? Well, Dr. Hoehn, and many others like him, are trying to live in two different worlds – a conservative religious Bible-believing word and a largely secular neo-Darwinian world. The Biblical world view provides meaning and hope while the neo-Darwinian world view is held by the most intelligent, well-educated, and intellectual people in modern society – a society within which those like Dr. Hoehn wish to be taken seriously. There is, therefore, obvious motivation to maintain key elements of both world views – if possible.
The Implications of Long Ages of Life and Death:
While I sympathize with those who honestly find themselves where Dr. Hoehn seems to have arrived in his thinking, the problem is that such efforts remain inconsistent – a fact that even Darwin himself recognized early on. For example, William Provine, late professor of biological sciences at Cornell University, gave a very interesting speech for a 1998 Darwin Day keynote address in which he pointed out the following:
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly.
- No gods worth having exist;
- No life after death exists;
- No ultimate foundation for ethics exists;
- No ultimate meaning in life exists; and
- Human free will is nonexistent.
Provine, William B. [Professor of Biological Sciences, Cornell University], “Evolution: Free will and punishment and meaning in life”, Abstract of Will Provine’s 1998 Darwin Day Keynote Address.
Provine also wrote, “In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology (and indeed all of modern science) if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.” – Academe January 1987, pp.51-52
It seems to me that Provine, contrary to the claims forwarded by Dr. Hoehn, was right and was most consistent with the implications of accepting neo-Darwinian claims of long-ages of living things evolving and dying on this planet. Even if it is accepted that God’s hand was involved in this process, a form of evolution by deliberate design so to speak, such a conclusion paints God in the most unattractive light possible – as downright evil in fact.
Regardless, let’s say that Dr. Hoehn is right and that the SDA Church is wrong, but the SDA Church doesn’t realize its mistake. Why then doesn’t Dr. Hoehn just leave the SDA Church to join another church that more accurately reflects his own views? I for one, even though I’ve grown up in the Adventist Church and way of life, would not long remain in the church if I ever became convinced that the arguments forwarded by Dr. Hoehn were actually correct. For me, being a member of a church organization is more than just being a member of a nice social club. It’s a public assent to the primary goals and ideals of the organization to which I belong. Otherwise, for me, it’s nothing more than false advertising.
Short List of Natural Clocks that Favor a Literal Creation Week:
- Continental erosion rates: Time constraint: < 10 million years ( Link )
- Mountain sedimentary layer erosion rates: < 10 million years ( Link )
- Ocean sediment influx vs. subduction: < 5 million years ( Link )
- Detrimental mutation rate for humans: Extinction in < 1 million years ( Link )
- Radiocarbon in dinosaur fossils, coal, and oil: < 100,000 years ( Link )
- Preserved proteins in fossils: < 100,000 years ( Link )
- Paraconformities: < 10,000 years ( Link )
- Erosion rates between layers: < 1,000 years per layer ( Link )
- Pure thick coal beds: < 100 years ( Link )
- Minimal bioturbation between layers < 5 years per layer ( Link )
- Worldwide paleocurrent patterns: < 1 year ( Link )
Such time constraints are far more consistent with catastrophic events vs. mainstream thinking which seems to be off from the maximum allowable ages suggested above by several orders of magnitude…
32 thoughts on “Common Arguments Against a 7-Day Creation Week”
Nicely done, Sean. Gracious, and very thorough. Thank you.
Art Chadwick(Quote)View Comment
@Art Chadwick: Thank you Art.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
I’ve posted this reply at my article on Nature’s Clocks, on atoday.org:
Sean Pittman has devoted a great deal of attention to my articles, and his article is well worth reading for those interested in this topic, I strongly recommend it. He is one of the best of the clock deniers, and is very good at finding the problem here, the inconsistency there, and the “question” there, to challenge the whole world’s scientific consensus. He even found a photograph of me from somewhere to illustrate his article with!
He quotes scientists who point out that different radioactive clocks depend on one another FOR ABSOLUTE DATES, but not one denies that the clocks tick at a fixed and invariable rate of radioactive decay. So I hope I can assume that he agrees that although the absolute date of the rocks may be not certain, THE AGE OF THE ROCKS ARE IN BILLIONS of years, not thousands? So perhaps he believes in a Billions of years old earth and universe, upon which a 6 day recent creation 6,000 years ago happened? That would be a good start to having a discussion. But then does his Biblical Literalism insist that earth predated the Sun and Moon by 4 days?
I maintain that there are no serious scientific questions about the age of the earth in general terms, while the details are still subject to further revision and recalibration. But nothing in the past present or future can be imagined that will give us a 6,000 year old planet.
If we can all agree with an old earth, it is very hard not to agree with the shorter clocks that all agree on a much longer than, 6,000 year old life story. So I maintain again that there are no serious scientific issues for Adventists, only theological issues. And Dr. Pittman has suggested several times that I should leave his version of the church.
Sir I love God and Truth too much to walk away from this wonderful church, just because you don’t get it yet. It is not the science that is your problem, it is your 18th century theology that needs to be revisited.
Ellen White led me to Christ, and she has assured me she is fallible. We have enough proof to accept that as a fact. (See my tribute to our wonderful fallible prophetess, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.) So I accept her teaching that church councils have often erred in the past, like our recent one did in the present. I understand but don’t accept her account of how volcano’s form or the age of the earth. She was born before germs were discovered, and thought malaria came from bad air and that Orion was a few miles across. Not her fault, mine if I don’t contextualize her ministry, and reinterpret her messages to fit more up to date information suitable for faith in the 21st century. To let Ellen White keep our church in the 18th century is simply idolatry.
Jack Hoehn(Quote)View Comment
While there is some recent evidence of the variability of radioactive decay rates being influenced by solar flares (Link), it seems like this variability is rather small. So, yes, the overall rate of radioactive decay for radioactive materials does indeed appear to be fairly constant and predictable. However, this isn’t the problem with using radioactive elements as a clock. The main problems include determining the original ratio of parent to daughter isotopes within a given specimen and the leaching in or out of parent or daughter isotopes over time. This is the reason why the radiometric dating of igneous rocks simply isn’t a reliable clock.
While I do refer to myself as a “young life” creationist rather than a “young Earth” creationist, I do not do so because of any radiometric dating technique. The Bible itself claims (along with Ellen White) that the universe and other intelligent beings on other planets pre-existed the creation week of our particular planet. Also, Genesis itself suggests that the basic material of our planet was also already present prior to its manipulation during our creation week. This is consistent with various other features of our visible universe which seem to require vast periods of time to produce – such as the arrival of light from stars and galaxies that are billions of light years away from our planet.
As far as the appearance of the Sun and moon on “Day 4” of creation week, I’ve always seen this being as a result of an Earth-bound perspective of the observer – so that the Sun, moon, and stars only became visible from an Earth-bound perspective on Day 4. Here’s a short commentary on this option from Richard Davidson:
This view is the one that makes the most sense to me personally…
The problem, you see, is that your belief in an old Earth is based on the validity of radiometric dating techniques while mine is not. The problems with your position, as I’ve explained in my essay above, are numerous and fundamental. Not only are radiometric dating methods not independently useful, but there are some key inconsistencies that very strongly suggest a recent arrival of life, in particular, on this planet. For instance, it seems to be extremely difficult to explain away the problem the high detrimental mutation rate for all slowly reproducing creatures on this planet and their eventual genetic meltdown and extinction. It also seems to me very hard to explain the high levels of carbon 14 being found in the soft tissues of dinosaurs and other specimens thought to be many tens or even hundreds of millions of years old – not to mention the very existence of intact dinosaur soft tissues to begin with. These aren’t just trivial problems for your position – they are fundamental problems.
I have no doubt regarding your love for God or your sincere search for truth as you see it. I’m sure that you’re quite a sincere and honest man. My question only deals with why anyone who is so sincere and honest, as you obviously are, would wish to carry the title of an organization that so fundamentally disagrees with your own fundamental doctrinal positions? It just doesn’t seem like a good fit nor does the SDA title seem like an appropriate representation of what you actual represent.
Well, you see, the Bible itself hasn’t changed and it still clearly says what it always said for ages past. Your problem is that you simply disagree with what the authors of the Bible clearly intended to say. So, either you accept the claims of the Bible or you don’t. It has nothing to do with having a modern or 18th century mindset – aside from the fact that many modern theologians have become heavily influenced by modern Neo-Darwinian philosophies.
We all agree that prophets, even biblical prophets, were human and fallible. However, what a prophet says in the name of God (as in what a prophet was specifically shown in vision or in other direct communications with God) is not fallible because God himself is not fallible. The Bible lists this as a specific test of a true prophet – if what they say they were shown, by God, actually pans out as true. If it is shown that what the prophet claimed he/she was shown by God is actually false, that prophet is to be viewed as a false prophet. In other words, you have be to able to separate the prophet’s own personal human opinions from what they were shown by God as privileged information beyond what is available to those of us who do not have access to such direct communications with God. You simply cannot pick and choose what you like about what someone who claims to be a prophet is saying. Either they are or they are not in privileged communication with God.
And, in this particular case, Mrs. White says that she was directly shown by God, in vision, that the creation week as a literal week. It seems to me that either you accept this as privileged information, coming directly from God, or you are forced to conclude that Mrs. White was entirely deluded – not the prophet she claimed to be. I fail to see how you can have it both ways? I also fail to see how this particular claim of hers has anything to do with 18th century theology? It’s a direct claim that she was shown, directly by God, the literal nature of the creation week – take it or leave it.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
What an excellent reply to Jack Hoen’s comments. Thank you for defending the reliability of God’s Word in such a thorough and understanding approach.
When I first read the argument about Mount St Helens ash, it reminded me of the intriguing studies of several geologists about the rate of production by volcanoes. See my book ORIGINS: LINKING SCIENCE AND SCRIPTURES, pp 267-268. On the basis of current volcanic activity, it can be estimated that over geologic time there should be 74 times as much volcanic material out there compared to what is found.
There are many geologic factors such as: rates of erosion, paraconfrmities, uneroded “ancient” flat surfaces, the paucity of paleotopography in ancient sedimentary deposits, rates of mountain uplift, and residual carbon-14, that all support the the biblical creation model better than the long geologic ages model. While interpretations of the past history of the world cannot be as objective as we would desire, we are not without sufficient scientific evidence to believe God’s Word.
Ariel A. Roth(Quote)View Comment
Indeed! Thank you for your note and very helpful observations Ariel. I’ve added a short list of “natural clocks” that favor the biblical perspective on origins – to include the one’s you’ve just listed…
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
A great deal of work went into this response to Dr. Hoehn’s articles. You have even impressed Dr. Hoehn which is no easy task.
I’d like to add that Jesus Christ related the Genesis creation account as literal and true as well as Noah, the flood and the entire body of scripture. Jesus’ teachings on divorce, remarriage, and adultery are more dependent on the Genesis account than they are the law of Moses.
Dr. Hoehn excuses Mrs. White with a plea to her ignorance about germ theory, etc. Can he make such excuses for Emmanuel (God with Us)? If Jesus Christ was ignorant and less wise and unable to know all that we know today, what sort of a Messiah is Jesus of Nazareth? Nothing could be clearer. Jesus Christ knew, believed and depended on the Scripture to understand Himself. If our Savior had that kind of faith in the Bible, how can we be His disciples and teach something contrary to what He taught?
William Abbott(Quote)View Comment
Of course I agree, and even quoted a few passages in my essay above where Jesus referenced the Genesis account of origins as a literal account. It seems rather difficult for a Christian to argue that Jesus didn’t really known what He was talking about… but it still happens anyway for some strange reason.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
Sean, I very much appreciate your well-reasoned and kind defense of young life creationism. For those who are opened-minded, there is a plethora of scientific evidence in favor of this position. I also appreciate what you said about Ellen White. I do not believe that we should regard everything she said or wrote as infallible. In fact, it is clear that she sometimes changed her mind on issues and grew in her understanding. However, when it comes to her belief in and promotion of a literal creation week, she makes it very clear that this was not merely her opinion, nor did she derive it from her contemporaries or from the other Christian authors she read and quoted in her books. This was something that she plainly saw in vision. And since her position on this matter is also affirmed by careful exegesis of scripture and has been the historic position of the Christian Church, it seems to me that the contrary argument is not directed against Ellen White or any other human being. It is directed against God.
Bob Helm(Quote)View Comment
Thanks Bob – always appreciate your thoughts. While prophets are human and subject to error like the rest of us, this doesn’t mean that their privileged communications with God are in the same category. Such information is demonstrably reliable and credible, which is the reason the Bible has stood the test of time against a host of critics. It is an anvil that has worn out many hammers…
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
Awesome stuff Sean. Much appreciated. Very few of us will ever (on this earth) have the understanding of these things the way that you do. But we trust God’s Word and know there must be answers to these arguments that are continually being flung against us. When we line your answers up against the arguments, the truth shines through and oh, how encouraging it is to see God’s truth vindicated and our beliefs strengthened. God bless you my brother.
Colin Maunder(Quote)View Comment
Thanks Colin 😉
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
This passage from the book Patriarchs and Prophets might have been seen as abject nonsense ten years ago. But trusting and waiting has enabled us to begin to see the mechanisms of the processes by which the influence of the parents, both father and mother are transmitted to the offspring. We have much more to learn, but no informed individual can question that the processes described here can occur and can affect the offspring (see, for example http://www.adventistreview.org/1601-19 ).
Art Chadwick(Quote)View Comment
Note added in proof:
arthur chadwick(Quote)View Comment
All of these arguments have been published multiple times elsewhere. The young-earth argument I feel is most compelling is not as well known. It is the fact that after 2 million years, the ratio of 234U to 238U should be 0.0000553 everywhere uranium is found–but it isn’t. In some places the ratio is much higher, and in some places it is much less. (See “U-Series Dating” at http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v16i10f.htm.)
R. David Pogge(Quote)View Comment
It’s an interesting but fairly complicated argument that really doesn’t seem to me to be clearly in favor of one side or the other (young or old Earth) – because of the primary reason that I don’t generally trust radioactive “clocks” to begin with. That is, rocks or crystals that contain radioactive materials aren’t really closed systems. In any case, here’s the basic argument you’ve presented on your website, as far as I can tell, and my problem with it in a nutshell:
After 2 million years, whatever amount of 234U that was originally created would all be gone – which seems pretty straightforward due to the relatively rapid decay rate of 234U. Therefore, all the 234U in the world today would have to have been created by the decay of 238U, and the rate that 234U is being created by the decay of 238U would equal the rate at which 234U was being lost through radioactive decay – which is good so far. So, everywhere uranium is found, the rate of production should equal the rate of loss. However, this isn’t what is generally found in real life. In real life there are places with much higher levels of 234U than there should be. Some places have up to eight times, or more, than the expected levels of 234U. How can such findings be explained?
One possibility, of course, is that the Earth itself is less than 2 Ma and that the original created level of 234U was quite high and has yet to be exhausted because of the Earth’s young age. However, another option (which seems much more likely to me) is that unequal contamination is to blame due to the fact that the rocks and crystals being evaluated simply aren’t closed systems. This scenario also seems more likely to me given the fact that almost all groundwater throughout the world has a ratio of 234U/238U that is >1 (evidently since 234U is a bit more water soluble than 238U). This throws everything off and makes the uranium clock completely unreliable as far as I can tell.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
Please give me the references for the facts that “almost all groundwater throughout the world has a ratio of 234U/238U that is >1” and “234U is more water soluble than 238U.”
R. David Pogge(Quote)View Comment
“In soils and rocks, [if] the activity of 234U and 238U is identical; they are said to be in secular equilibrium. In natural waters, however, the 234U is slightly more soluble and the activity ratio of 234U to 238U varies from 1:1 to more than 20:1. Consequently, the conversion from activity to mass or vice versa, requires knowledge of the concentration of each of the three uranium isotopes.” (Link)
“238U decays via two very short-lived intermediates to 234U (Fig. 12.2). Since 234U and 238U have the same chemical properties, it might be expected that they would not be fractionated by geological processes. However, Cherdyntsev and co-workers (1965, 1969) showed that such fractionation does occur. In fact, natural waters exhibit a considerable range in 234U/238U activities from unity (secular equilibrium) to values of 10 or more (e.g. Osmond and Cowart, 1982). Cherdyntsev et al. (1961) attributed these fractionations to radiation damage of crystal lattices, caused both by ” emission and by recoil of parent nuclides. In addition, radioactive decay may leave 234U in a more soluble +6 charge state than its parent (Rosholt et al., 1963). These processes (termed the ‘hot atom’ effect) facilitate preferential leaching of the two very short-lived intermediates and the longer-lived 234U nuclide into groundwater. The short-lived nuclides have a high probability of decaying into 234U before they can be adsorbed onto a substrate, and 234U is itself stabilised in surface waters as the soluble UO2++ ion, due to the generally oxidising conditions prevalent in the hydrosphere.” (Link)
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
R. David Pogge(Quote)View Comment
My response to the issue of solubility is found at http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v20i9f.htm. The PDF version is at http://scienceagainstevolution.info/vol20-9.pdf.
R. David Pogge(Quote)View Comment
I just want to add my appreciation to you Sean, for you excellent response to Dr. Hoehn. I can never do as good a job as you . Thanks again.
Your comments needs to be read as widely as possible. Might I suggest that you post all your responses on Adventist Today also so that readers there will get the full benefits of your efforts.
Chris Chan(Quote)View Comment
Thanks Chris. Please do feel free to use any of the information that you might have found helpful here in your own discussions. However, I’m not sure I need to re-post this discussion yet again at the AT website. For now, I think it’s good enough that I’ve posted a link in the comment section of Dr. Hoehn’s essays at AT to my response here. And, there are already numerous AT readers who are at least reading my response here – as well as many others on a daily basis. So, that’s good for now I think. However, I do thank you again for your support and kind words…
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
Dear Brothers and Sisters. You wrap yourselves in a cloak of “the Bible says” and you are sure you know “what Jesus thought” about the age of the earth. I have looked long and find no dates in my Bible on creation, only assumptions and suppositions–interpretations. I find no statements by Jesus on the age of the Universe, only a promise that he had many things to tell us, but that his disciples couldn’t bear it at that time. It took his church about 70 years to accept that the Jewish Christian wasn’t superior to the Gentile, about 1700 years to accept that there should be no slave or free, and we are still struggling with the idea that in Christ there is no male or female. Your basic principle is that the Bible is always right, and must interpret science, but the weak underbelly of that position is what you are really saying is, “My interpretation, and the interpretation of my fathers in faith must be correct.” The alternative is to accept that all Bible believers must understand that in all things we only see through a glass darkly, we know in part, only. That the Bible is the introduction to truth, not a limit on truth, and as the Bible can help us understand what we learn by science, also science should help us understand how to interpret the Bible. I have had to cling to Ellen White’s statement that things we have always believed will not suffer from careful investigation, and her prophecy that we will have many things to unlearn as well as many things to learn, if we are to know the mind of Christ for us in this present age. If Adventism fossilizes it will become a relic. If you wish the Bible said, God so loved the Adventists that He gave his only begotten Son….then keep on holding dear your present understandings and close your mind to any challenge to previously held beliefs. But if you believe God so love the world, then some of you who are still flexible enough and in love with Jesus enough to give up your cherished opinions in the face of rather clear evidence, ask the Holy Spirit His opinion on this, not mine, Sean’s, or Ellen White’s. And let me be clear I don’t think it important that you change your opinion on the age of the earth. I think it only important that you don’t elevate your opinion or belief to status of a doctrine. That you refuse fellowship and blessings on fellow believers in the Advent Message and mission in this world, who feel that progressive creation and intelligent design are paths that bring us back to a place where we can become again useful in the conversations and issues of our age, instead of marginalized outsiders purifying our little lives while the world goes to hell in a handbasket without a Jesus they could believe in, untarnished by scientific feudalism and unsupportable chronologies. It is not your belief in a young life creationism that is the problem, it is your insistence that it is the only valid belief and exclude the considerable other interpretations of Scripture and understanding of science.
Jack Hoehn(Quote)View Comment
The question here isn’t about a specific “date” for creation. The question is if the Bible is correct when it says, quite clearly, that all living things on this planet were created in just 7 literal days. You argue that the Bible is not correct in this claim – that long ages could be represented and that the literal nature of the creation week is actually in question. However, it is clearly evident that the authors of the Bible themselves didn’t think so. They actually intended to convey, to their readers, the literal historical nature of the 7-day creation week. There simply is no rational way around this conclusion as far as I’ve been able to tell. To argue that they simply didn’t know what they were talking about does in fact undermine the overall credibility of the Bible’s claim to be the “Word of God.”
Again, we aren’t talking about the “age of the universe” here. As already mentioned, that’s simply not part of this discussion since the Bible itself claims that the universe pre-existed the creation week of our little planet. What we are talking about then is the literal nature of the 7-day creation week for our particular planet described in the Bible and even mentioned by Jesus Himself in literal terms. Jesus referenced Genesis several times as a literal historical account. He also strongly supports the truth of the writings of Moses. In John 5:45–47, Jesus says, “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you — Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” Besides writing or compiling the Genesis account, Moses also copied the Ten Commandments that were originally written by God’s own finger – to include the passage found in Exodus 20:11 which states: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” This only reflects the literal nature of the Genesis account of origins which Jesus clearly endorsed.
We should also note the way Jesus treated as historical fact the accounts in the Old Testament, which religious and atheistic skeptics think are unbelievable mythology. These historical accounts include Adam and Eve as the first married couple (Matthew 19:3–6; Mark 10:3–9), Abel as the first prophet who was killed (Luke 11:50–51), Noah and the Flood (Matthew 24:38–39), Moses and the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14), Moses and the manna from heaven to feed the Israelites in the wilderness (John 6:32–33, 49), the experiences of Lot and his wife (Luke 17:28–32), the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15), the miracles of Elijah (Luke 4:25–27), and Jonah and the big fish (Matthew 12:40–41).
As New Testament scholar John Wenham has compellingly argued, Jesus did not allegorize these accounts but took them as straightforward history, describing events that actually happened just as the Old Testament describes. Jesus used these accounts to teach His disciples that the events of His death, Resurrection, and Second Coming would likewise certainly happen in time-space reality.
We are also told elsewhere in Scripture how Jesus created: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6-9). We see the meaning of this when we consider the miracles of Jesus during His earthly ministry. All the miracles occurred instantly—at His Word. He instantly turned water into wine in His very first miracle, which “revealed His glory” as the Creator (John 2:1–11; John 1:1–3, 14, 18). It was the instant calming of the wind and the waves that convinced His disciples that He was no mere man. So it was with all His miracles (Mark 4:35–41). He did not speak and wait for days, weeks, months, or years for things to happen. He spoke and it was done. So, when He said, “Let there be . . .” in Genesis 1, it did not take long ages for things to come into existence.
We also know that Jesus is in fact called the Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1–3).
In this light, consider Exodus 20:1: “And God spoke all these words, saying . . . .” Because Jesus is the Word, this must be a reference to the preincarnate Christ speaking to Moses. As we know, there are a number of appearances of Christ in the Old Testament. There is no doubt, with rare exception, that the preincarnate Christ did the speaking to Adam, Noah, the patriarchs, Moses, etc. Now, when the Creator God spoke as recorded in Exodus 20:1, what did He (Jesus) say? As we read on, we find this statement: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11).
There you have it. Jesus did explicitly say He created in six days. Not only this, but the one who spoke the words “six days” also wrote them down for Moses: “Then the Lord delivered to me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words which the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly” (Deuteronomy 9:10).
Jesus said clearly that He created in six days. And He even did something He didn’t do with most of Scripture — He wrote it down Himself. How much clearer and more authoritative can you get than that?
Look, none of the examples in your list of things the church had to unlearn flew in the face of any clear Biblical statement(s). Rather, all of these things that had to be unlearned were based on cultural or social norms and ideas – not on the actual “Word of God” found anywhere in Scripture.
Now, while it is true that science and the Bible, both gifts of God, shed light on each other, it is not true that very clear claims found in the Bible, such as the literal nature of the 7-day creation week in this particular case, can therefore be viewed as falsified by popular claims of modern scientists – while yet maintaining the notion that the Bible is still the “Word of God”. Such claims are referred to, by Mrs. White, as “science falsely so called.” (Link).
As Mrs. White explains:
The fact is that you yourself reject the claims of mainstream science when it conflicts with at least some of your religious views. For example, you don’t accept the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations and natural selection as being responsible for the diversity of life on this planet. You’re not really a Darwinist then. Why not? You’re evidently a theistic evolutionist. But, why do you reject the conclusion of the vast majority of scientists along these lines in particular? – while accepting their conclusions regarding the overall age of life on Earth? You reject the naturalistic mechanism for the diversity of living things forwarded by mainstream science, but accept the naturalistic time frame proposed by the very same scientists? Again, it seems to me like you’re just not being consistent in the reasons for the positions you accept vs. the ones that you reject…
Of course there are many many more things to learn and unlearn – even for you I dare say. However, that doesn’t mean that some of the clearest statements of God found in the Bible and in the writings of Mrs. White are therefore open for potential falsification – if one wishes to maintain that these writings are really “Divinely Inspired”.
Again, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t keep invoking Mrs. White as some kind of voice of authority in support of your position when she specifically claims that she was shown, directly by God, the literal nature of the creation week and that this truth would be foundational as a basis of the 7th-day Sabbath until the end of time. She also goes on to claim that those who present alternative views of long-ages for life on this planet, in an effort to harmonize the clear claims of Bible with the claims of “infidel geologists”, are engaging in the “worst form of infidelity”. So, I really don’t think Mrs. White is someone that you should be trying to use as an authority figure in support of your arguments here. She simply doesn’t help your cause.
Having solid “pillars of faith” isn’t the same thing as “fossilization” or lack of growth potential. Just because some truths are set in stone does not mean that additional truths cannot be found.
You see, if you view everything as open for “reinterpretation” you really have no solid basis for viewing the Bible as authoritative on any subject. For you, the popular views of scientists trump the even the clearest claims of the Bible. Why then view the Bible as authoritative on anything? – if it is so inconsistent and obviously false when it comes to some of its clearest empirical claims?
And how does the Holy Spirit speak to you? – contrary to the claims of the Bible or a modern prophet like Mrs. White? Do you think you have access to more direct communication with God than Mrs. White or the even the authors of the Bible? Really? How then are we supposed to “test the spirits”? (1 John 4:1 & Isaiah 8:20).
The literal nature of the creation week has always been elevated to the status of foundational doctrine for the Seventh-day Adventist Church since it was first established by the found fathers, and mother, of the SDA Church. Mrs. White, in particular, wrote an entire chapter on the literal nature of the creation week as a foundational concept and truth in chapter 9 of her seminal work “Patriarchs and Prophets” entitled, “The Literal Week.” (Link).
First of all, where have I argued for “refusing fellowship” with those who don’t yet accept the claims of the Seventh-day Adventist Church? Fellowship isn’t the same thing as membership or being a paid representative of a particular organization. Some of my best friends are not Adventists (shocking I know!). Some are agnostic or even atheistic in their views. Yet, we are good friends just the same. It’s just that they don’t claim to be “Seventh-day Adventists”. They are not as inconsistent as you seem to be. Remember, its Ok not to be an Adventist. Non-Adventists can still be good people and having a saving relationship with Jesus. It is just that, if you one claims to be an Adventist, one would think that such a claim means something – as in the idea that taking on the title of an organization means that you actually believe in and support at least the primary goals and ideas of the organization you claim to represent.
Beyond this, where is your solid scientific support for doubting the claims of the Bible? I mean, what you’ve presented so far as “science” seems pretty weak, at least to me – especially in the face of numerous strong evidences for a recent arrival of life on this planet. Why not at least try to address some of the problems, that appear fundamental to me, with your “science” that I’ve presented in my discussion of your claims? – as well as some of the evidences that seem to strongly argue in support of Biblical position on origins? Such a discussion would be most interesting – at least to me.
For now, it seems to me like you really haven’t thought very critically about the arguments you’ve presented. It seems more likely you’re simply parroting various claims you’ve heard from others without doing very much of your own personal investigation into the actual credibility of these popular but misguided claims of modern “science”.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
Sean, it’s reassuring — and quite amazing, considering all your many responsibilities and activities — to have you back in business here, and responding in such a masterful and comprehensive way to this latest intramural challenge. I don’t know of anybody who is capable of, or actually does, respond in such detail. Thanks so much!
wesley kime(Quote)View Comment
Thanks Wes. You’re most kind 😉
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
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I don’t think that Jesus thought or really cared about the age of the earth. I think he cared much more about how his devotees got along with each other. On the whole, these endless arguments are much about little. They do essentially nothing to bring us closer to Jesus, to do the work He has asked of us, and to prepare us for eternal life.
Jesus talked about Genesis in literal terms – to include the literal 7-day creation week and the worldwide nature of the Noachian Flood. Clearly then, the credibility of the Scriptures mattered to Him since He often cited Scripture, and the accuracy of its historical claims, as the basis of authority for many of His arguments against His opponents.
So, while it is possible to be saved in ignorance of the Scriptures and their credibility (by living according to the Royal Law that is written on the hearts of all mankind), it is the Bible that is the means by which God offers us meaningful hope in and understanding of the reality of the “good news” of the Gospel Message in this life – a message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in order to bring us a solid hope and rational understanding of a new and better life beyond this current evil world. It is this hope that gives the Christian who has such knowledge an edge, a serious advantage, in this life. This gospel message of hope, based on historical knowledge of real events, helps to make this life more bearable. And, it is this hope that we are told to spread to those around us who are living in darkness without a conscious hope of a bright future to come while living in this evil world.
So, when someone undermines the credibility of the claims of the Biblical authors they are also, at the same time, undermining the rational basis of the Christian hope. After all, even Paul said, “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-19). Notice here how Paul ties in the basis of hope and rational meaningful faith with a real historical event – the resurrection of Jesus.
The same is true for the rational basis of the Christian Hope today. It’s all based on the credibility of the claims of the Bible.
Sean Pitman(Quote)View Comment
Our work is to imitate Jesus Christ. How can we do that if we read Scripture differently than He did? How can we imitate Christ if Scripture doesn’t have the same authority for us that it did for him. Endless arguments? About what Jesus believed? Read carefully, the deep time people don’t care what Jesus believed. Read this thread or any other and look at how difficult it is to engage them in a discussion about what Jesus believed.
Jack Hoehn’s April 30 comment is exhibit “A”. He condemns those who “know what Jesus thought” and then precedes to prove he himself doesn’t care what Jesus believed or thought about scripture. Jack Hoehn knows the truth about earth’s long, evolutionary, deep-time, past. He is an evangelist for this ‘truth’. He writing shows he is not very interested in Jesus of Nazareth who said, “I am the way the truth and the life.”
I wish I could engage Jack Hoehn in an argument about what Jesus Christ believed.
William Abbott(Quote)View Comment
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