Young Earth Creationism – Why It Will Never Do
To those of you with even a very basic understanding of the way the earth formed, abiogenesis, and evolution, this may seem like a waste of time to read, because you’ve heard it all before. But unfortunately there are people out there who claim, by the words written in their holy books, that the earth can only be between 6 and 10 thousand years old, because, before that, there was nothing. This flies in the face of our actual and scientific understanding of the world and its inhabitants, but what I write below bears repeating in the hope that some of this may help to explain to a Young Earth creationist that their understanding is flawed, and a little education would go a long way to answer many of their questions. There is a lot of ground to cover, so for the sake of brevity, I will only touch on some aspects of the evidence that points to the actual age o our earth.
In the beginning…
Since this is not an article about the origins of the universe, but rather the world and its inhabitants, I will skip over the Big Bang (about 13.8 billion years ago), and move straight to the part where our solar system is settling down into the semblance of an ordered orbit.
The Earth has been in existence for around 4.5 billion years (that’s 4,500,000,000 years), and in that time has gone from being a crudely formed collection of space debris to the relatively smooth and oblate spheroid shape we now see around us. At some point, a small planetoid crashed into the earth causing huge amounts of earth material to be removed from the planet, which over a space of billions of years, and through the force of gravity, formed the moon which now circles the earth. This collision also caused the earth to be an an axial tilt compared to the “flat” disc of its orbit. The moon acts as a stabilising factor in the earth’s rotation, and also, causes the tides to be much higher than they would otherwise be, due to the gravity that the moon itself has. The earth itself did not form any kind of atmosphere as we know it until after the emergence of life on this planet.
About 4 billion years ago, the first signs of life on earth begin to appear (this is linked to abiogenesis), first as simple chains of amino acids (which we can replicate in the lab under the right conditions), then as chemoautotrophs (single celled organisms which use carbon dioxide as an energy source), then we see the emergence of cyanobacteria (bacteria that use the energy from the sun as an energy source, and create oxygen as a byproduct). This process continued for billions of years, with the emergence of various kinds of bacteria and the like, all creating waste products in the form of gasses, which then helped to form our atmosphere.
As the stylised diagram above shows, life as we know it did not appear on earth until much later. About 2 billion years ago, multi-cellular life was common all over the earth, with most of it living in the seas or oceans. As time progressed, slight mutations in these lifeforms allowed for changes to occur in their offspring or progeny, and as these changes occurred, if beneficial or harmless to the lifeforms, these changes accumulated to create new and different species of life, known as speciation. Both plants ans animals owe their existences to this period, and all plants and animals are “related” to these early bacteria and single celled organisms.
The Cambrian era was the period where life under the ocean became a complex menagerie of multicellular life in the form of trilobites and other crustaceans. The boom of life during this period was unforeseen previously, and battles for life and death were between these creatures on a much large scale than we saw previously. We see the emergence of the hunter and the prey, a relationship which still exists today in the animal kingdom.
Jump forward to about a hundred million years ago, we see the rise of The Mesozoic era, a time when life on earth boomed, a time where life was mostly still contained in the seas. Multi-celled life was found in the form of early fish-like creatures, whose offspring would eventually crawl onto land to become the first terrestrial vertebrates. It was the rise of the flowering plants that brought about the largest known example of speciation in the earth’s history. This in turn gave rise to a huge increase in the numbers of insects and terrestrial vertebrates on earth, and was the ground-floor for life as we see it today.
Skip past the dinosaurs because, while they are interesting and occupy and important part of the earth’s history, we do not owe our personal evolution to these behemoths, but rather to a much smaller and seemingly less important eventuation in evolution, the appearance of the mammals. Small, furry, warm-blooded creatures that could withstand the temperatures of colder environments, would eventually become the most notable of creatures on earth, as the dinosaurs were wiped out either by climate change or a sudden catastrophic asteroid impact with earth.
It was the mammals that, through the same processes described above, eventually evolved into ape-like creatures, then to apes, and eventually to Homo Sapiens, or modern day humans. There are no leaps in evolution to bring us here. No lizard ever gave birth to a mammal, and no early mammal gave birth to an ape. Likewise, no hon-human ape ever gave birth to the first Homo Sapiens. This is simply not part of the story, and anyone who tells you this as fact has ignored the evidence we have gathered for the history of the world.
Humanity arose as a species about 200,000 years ago, and developed much of its societal structure about 100,000 years ago. Living in small bands and tribes, moving about the planet, and sharing the world with several other Homo species who developed independently from a common ancestor, H Sapiens eventually outlived all other Homo species due to a combination of intelligence, dexterity and inventiveness. Civilizations as we now know them emerged in the Middle East around 10,000 years ago spurned on by an increase in collective knowledge and language. Many civilizations sprang up in other areas of the earth in the centuries to follow, including China, India, Greece and Egypt. The nomadic lifestyle was, for the most part, abandoned in favour of domesticated agriculture and the taming of livestock with subsistence farming practices.
At about the time the Young Earth Creationists say that Genesis occurred, the ancient Sumerians had already built great cities and had in place a form of feudal government. The Bronze Age as it is also known brought with it ancient pottery (the ability to create ceramics for use in domestic life), and mor importantly, the ability to forge bronze tools and weaponry. Ancient Sumer, in what is now known as Iraq, was the first known example of a large and organised city-based civilization. Ancient Sumerian civilization eventually declined after several hundred years, and the period ended about 2000 years before the supposed birth of Christ.
In the beginning…
Now if we look at the (very brief) historical timeline I have presented above of the history of this planet, we can see just how magnificent and complex this process has been, and that it is an unguided process eventuating with the world we now see. There have been, along the way, many mass extinctions, much fluctuation in the weather and climate, catastrophes and massive events that have lent to these extinctions, and above all in the animal kingdom, evolution.
The truth as we understand it is in this instance much more complicated than the explanation served up in the opening paragraphs of the Old Testament, which read in part:
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
A poetic as that may be, it really doesn’t answer anything. What it infers is that the earth was formed “as is” in its current form, and nothing has changed since. This denies the billions of years it took for the earth to get to the stage it is at, and in the process, cuts off the conversation even before it has started, if you believe the Old Testament is the inerrant word of God.
But where does this figure, “6-10 thousand years”, come from? The original number, the arbitrary 6,000 years posited by Young Earth creationists, apparently comes from counting the generations as laid out in the bible, where “so and so begat so and so”, assuming each generation since Adam and Eve had a similar lifespan, that they all bred at an ad-hoc rate, had however many children as would be required to reach the population of 7 billion people we now see today. Of course, given what we know about genetics and DNA today, and the horrible health implications which come from prolonged first generation siblings having children, we can safely set this number aside. Not only that, but the rate of births versus deaths in this required “mathematical” equation means that some individuals must have lived for hundreds of years and had thousands of offspring, which we know is impossible. And what of the bottleneck caused by the Great Flood, which killed off all humans, excepting Noah and his immediately family? Another genetic nightmare waiting to happen as Noah sowed his seed in his daughters to produce all manner of birth defects.
But this is not the end of the problem. Since the “generational” model of the biblical account is so fraught with holes, Creationists have taken it upon themselves to find other ways to back the biblical claim. What they now call “Creation Science”, a contradiction in terms from the beginning. What the “Creation Scientists” hope to do is to reconcile the age of the earth to a larger number (between 10,000 and 200,000 years) by misusing data and information from the world of real science. This page shows no less than 68 different ages of the earth and 68 different ways of judging this age, all using science as it suits them to back their claim. Cherrypicking science is worse than cherrypicking scripture, because misinformation in the sciences is dangerous to lives. This new wave of “proof” is backed by many including the “experts” like Ken Ham and his “Creation Museum” in the USA.
Why is the Young Earth Creationist idea dangerous?
There is nothing wrong with deluding oneself, with one proviso; Self delusion, when pushed onto others, causes others to believe weird and dangerous things. The implications of a Young Earth are denial of all of the history of mankind, all of the history of the world, and all of the history of the universe. By implication, the belief backs the rest of the bible’s claims, including all of the hatespeak of Leviticus, and the Armageddon fantasies of the end of days. It teaches children to be satisfied with not knowing the truth, and it makes adults intellectually lazy in their views of the universe. Worst of all, it is wrong, and although we do not have all the facts about the origins of life on earth, or the formation of the stars and planets, the “real” explanation can be seen as far more likely than just “springing into existence” at the wave of a magic wand by some unseen all powerful force.
This blog is far too brief to cover off all the topics involved with Young Earth Creationism, but I hope it serves as a starting point for those who wish to pursue the truth of the matter.