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Young Earth Creationism

This viewpoint holds to traditional beliefs for the interpretation of the biblical account of creation. It also maintains that the days of creation in Genesis were literal 24 hour days and that the age of the Earth and the universe is about 6,000 years. The age is based on the work of James Usher, who in 1650, dated the first day of creation as Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC. In the "Annals of the Old Testament", he tabulated dates for creation and other events from biblical genealogies. He used the latest scientific information available in his day to fill the gaps. Though science has changed, this viewpoint on creation has not. Young earth creationism has become doctrine in a number of religious institutions.

Biblical Problems with Young Earth Creationism

Creation Must Proclaim the Creator: The fact that qualities of the Creator will be evident in creation is not only an expected scientific result, but is indicated throughout scripture. "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard." Psalm 19:1-3 (NKJ). This clearly states that God's creative acts are apparent through examination of His creation. In modern times, a great deal of information is discovered by viewing the heavens, including facts that prove God's role in creating the universe. This passage may very well be predicting the discovery of God through modern scientific investigation.

The proclamation of creation should not be in conflict with the Bible. When we look at the heavens, we see a universe that appears to be very old. This is an undisputed fact within all realms of scientific methodology. Psalm 19 clearly states that we should learn from the study of creation (science), and this will reveal knowledge about God and His creative work. The dual revelation of God, His creation and the Bible, both are recordings of His actions that must agree when properly interpreted.

Blind Faith Is Not Biblical: Often proponents of young earth creationism say that their interpretation of the Genesis creation account should be accepted by "faith alone", and does not require any evidence or outside support. This sort of reasoning is an appeal to use blind faith. No doubt there are biblical truths that must be accepted by faith, but these are well stated as such in scripture. But any claim of an opinion that takes the same status as scripture itself is problematic at best. Scripture does not support the notion of blind faith as the apostle Paul instructed: "Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil." 1Thes 5:21-22 (NKJ). We are not to test God, but we are to test the doctrine of men. Through study and prayer we must test all things. 

Young Earth Internal Inconsistencies: The Genesis creation account is very self consistent with an old Earth viewpoint (See the Old Earth Time Line), but the young earth view is largely inconsistent and self conflicting. As in this verse:
"This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens" Gen 2:4 (NKJ). Here, the whole creation time period is described with the word "day". If this day is strictly 24 hours in this passage then there is a contradiction with the previous passage that described creation occurring over 6 days. But if these "days" are intended as ages or long unspecified periods of time then there is no conflict.

In the creation account of chapter 1, God often gives commands to his new creations. And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." Gen 1:22 (NKJ). These commands were given and expected to be completed within the time period of that creation day. How can these creatures multiply over many generations to fulfill their commission within 24 hours? Some have suggested that these animals experienced hyper accelerated growth and reproduction so that the Earth could be filled within 24 hours. But clearly this is a stretch of the imagination. If such a deviation from natural breeding was intended here wouldn't that be clearly stated? The simple explanation is that the time period in question is not 24 hours, but intended to be a very long period of time.

Old earth creationism recognizes that the appearance of lights in the sky (which are not named) on day 4, indicate that these bodies are allowed to be seen from Earth's surface at this time, having already been created "in the beginning" before the events of the first day. Young earth creationism holds that the sun, moon, and stars were created on day 4. Not only is this logically inconsistent for many practical reasons, it conflicts with other scripture, such as: "While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields, or the primal dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was there,..." Proverbs 8:26-27a. No clearer statement can be made than this, showing that the heavens were made before the dust of the earth. This actually matches up well with cosmology, which finds that heavy elements are formed inside stars and distributed into space when a star explodes at the end of its life. The earth itself was formed from this star dust long after the creation of the universe in the beginning.

Intent of Biblical Genealogies: The biblical genealogies were not meant to be used as a means to date the Earth. They are included in many passages to demonstrate ancestry, as this was important in Jewish tradition. But we know that it was customary to abbreviate an ancestral lineage, skipping many generations, and include only the more notable individuals. Many examples of this are found when comparing genealogies of the same individuals from different places in the Bible, where one genealogy is shorter and more abbreviated.

Scientific Problems with Young Earth Creationism

Speed of Light: Due to the vast distances between celestial objects, ample time must have elapsed since the beginning to allow light to reach us. Since light travels at a fixed speed, its distance in light years equals the time since the light was emitted. Many stars in our own galaxy are 100,000 light years away, some galaxies in our local group of galaxies are millions of light years away, and the most distant galaxies we can see are over 13 billion light years away.

A supernova is the explosion of a far away star at the end of its life. A certain class of these explosions can be accurately measured for distance, due to having the same peak brightness at the source. Since the apparent brightness of any light source decreases with the square of distance, this measurement yields its distance. The vast majority of these explosions are billions of light years away. These explosions occurred billions of years ago, the light taking this amount of time to make the trip across the universe.

For the universe to be merely thousands of years old, nearly all the star light we see would have to have been created in transit. This doesn't make sense. We see ancient explosions and many slow processes that would be made to have the appearance of age and even past history. God is not capable of deception, but the young earth position seems to suggest that God created the world to appear older than it really is. 

Age of rocks: Radiometric dating is an accurate means of obtaining the age of a sample. Its use is validated by the dating of historical artifacts of known age. The age of the sample is found by careful analysis where the proportion of parent and daughter isotopes for a given radioactive material within the sample. Since the radioactive parent element decays at a known rate, the age can be inferred by the amount of parent material remaining in the sample. There are many radioactive elements that occur naturally in common materials. While there may be a margin of error, due to difficulty measuring trace quantities, using multiple measurements from different samples improves accuracy. Any inaccuracy is not going to be orders of magnitude off, especially when averaged from many samples.

The age of the oldest mineral grains on Earth is 4.4 billion years. Apollo moon rocks have been dated to 4.5 billion years ago, along with some of the oldest meteorites.  All of these sources agreeing closely, so the age of the solar system is estimated at 4.5 billion years.

Layered Strata: Over time sediments collect in some areas like in seabeds and erode from other areas like mountains. Where sediments collect, they form layers that are characterized by the conditions from which they formed.  Since they form sequentially, one on top of the other, they provide another avenue for dating. The major layers within this strata and certain markers are identifiable by there composition and are consistent world wide. Some of these layers form with the seasons and leave annual sub-layers. Within the major layers there are radioisotopes that can be used for dating. Once an identified layer is dated, that date can be applied globally for specimens within that layer. The United States Geological Survey publishes the established dates for all major layers within the strata.

One common young earth creation claim is that these layers were formed during the biblical flood. But this is simply not the case. Such an event would jumble everything up in no order at all. What we actually see are narrow layers, with consistent composition reflecting atmospheric and oceanic compositions of each age. Additionally, fossils are always found within the appropriate layer for their age. Simple small shelly fossils in the Cambrian layer, dinosaurs in the Triassic through the Cretaceous layers, and finally large mammals in the uppermost layers of the strata. Of course the strata is much more detailed than this and is very consistent on a world wide basis. There is no singular disaster mechanism that could produce such an ordered sorting of fossils and deposition of minerals as we find in the strata.

Cosmology: The theory of relativity forms the basis for big bang cosmology. The many verifications of the big bang provide sound evidence for old earth creationism, but runs counter to the young earth creation point of view. Big bang cosmology shows how the universe expands over time. The age of the universe can be estimated from the rate of this expansion yielding 13.7 billion years since the moment of creation.

Nearly all cosmological processes require large amounts of time to complete. We see these processes ongoing in various places at different stages. Processes like star formation, galaxy mergers, planet formation, star life cycles, element production, the fading of supernova remnants, stellar orbits, etc all occur over long periods of time and are seen at all stages of completion.

Misinformation and Falsehood

Junk Science: Junk or fringe science represents the erroneous claims of science from non-expert, often uneducated individuals. Often these are over zealous individuals looking to prove their belief, and propose wild theories that disregard known principles to legitimize their view. They often rationalize their form of science with their belief that the Bible can only be interpreted one way, and that interpretation is infallible. This leads to quick acceptance of incomplete or inaccurate findings because it fits their point of view. These people may sincerely believe their claims are valid, but simply lack the scientific understanding or the will to see the error in it. Fringe science is not limited to young earth theories, there are many forms of junk science that generally have a non-scientific agenda.

Fraud: Some individuals have learned to capitalize on the demand for young earth "science", and so produce the sought after data by deception. One famous young earth creationist, known as "Dr Dino" created a ministry aimed at teaching young earth science and made a multi-million dollar business out of it. He gave lectures, took donations, sold books and fossil replicas, and even has his own theme park. Most of the information he distributed was false or grossly misrepresented. He is now serving a ten year prison term for tax evasion and other forms of fraud. In spite of this, his son still runs his organization while he is in prison.

Spread of Misinformation: 
Due to the lack of scientific evidence in support of a young Earth, some proponents of young earth creationism resort to the acceptance and use of junk science. Once an unqualified or deceptive individual produces a piece of false information, it is gladly accepted by those eager to find justification of a young earth. These people trust those supplying it because they are endorsed by pastors or other leaders in the young earth movement. They believe that the sources of this information would not mislead them, and so they pass it along as well.

The problem is that there is no check to junk science. Without any mechanism for evaluating the accuracy of the content, it is easy for false or erroneous information to be spread. Mainstream science is subject to peer review before even being allowed to be published. All sources must be documented and original work must be backed up with data. The theory or finding receives further scrutiny after publication from the scientific community at large. Any error found in the work will then be publicly exposed. By this process mainstream science maintains a high level of quality control that is not practiced in the fringe science arena.

Practical Considerations for Young Earth Creationism

A young earth view rejects some of the very science that provides proof of God. This evidence was incorporated into creation for us to discover and to share with those who have not yet met the Lord. But this powerful message is denied, and hidden away, when it should be celebrated.

Another problem that accompanies the rejection of science is that through science the creation account is verified. The old earth view of creation lines up beautifully with scientific findings. It is not just compatible, but shows how Genesis provides a stunning degree of precision in predicting the future discovery of our time. Again, young earth creationism misses grand revelations of God in nature, that are proclamations of His glory and proof to the world.

Science has accidentally unearthed so many lines of evidence in support of a created universe that atheism's best argument, are the failures of young earth creationism. First, by the young earth claims from junk science, which are easy to disprove. And second, by making scripture out to be in conflict with well established facts. So young earth creationism is really the atheists best friend and only hope of maintaining credibility in public view.

Often times it is difficult to admit when you are wrong, especially with such a core belief. I know this was the case for me, having been a young earth creationist most of my life. I used to just avoid any subject matter that conflicted with my own world view. Refusing to listen to other opinions. But eventually I realized that this approach was not rational or biblical. If my views were true, then they should hold up to testing and scrutiny. It was through years of pursuit and study that I came to realize the validity of the old earth position. Through this experience I realized faith and reverence for God as I had never known. I had to admit I was wrong, I had to trust God when data didn't appear to go right. Then I saw revelation of God within the discoveries of those who deny Him. In my lifetime, science has turned 180 degrees, revealing God everywhere. As believers, we have nothing to fear from science. The case for God keeps getting stronger, and I believe this will continue as science advances.

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updated Oct 22, 2012
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