Is the Age of the Earth a 'Side' Issue?


Many secularists recently criticized Florida Senator Marco Rubio for not affirming, during the course of an interview, the claim that the earth is 4.5 billion years old.1

About a week later, a woman wrote to the American Christian television program The 700 Club, expressing her concerns that her sons and husband were "walking away from God" as a result of intellectual doubts about the Bible:

I have three teenage boys and now two of them are questioning the Bible. . . . They tell me if the Bible is truth then I should be able to reasonably explain the existence of dinosaurs. . . . How do I explain things to them that the Bible doesn't cover?2

Pat Robertson, the program's host, responded that the great reptiles were on the earth "before the time of the Bible." He also said the earth was more than 6,000 years old, citing radiocarbon dating and dinosaur "carcasses."2

But his response didn't address the perfectly sensible issue raised by this woman's sons: if the Bible really is God's Word, then it should provide a logical framework for explaining dinosaurs.

And the Bible does provide such a framework! Dinosaurs were created on Day Six of the creation week along with the other land animals (Genesis 1:24-25). Hence, humans would indeed have seen these great "dragons." In fact, the Bible contains detailed descriptions of two dragon-like animals in Job 40 and 41. But making sense of dinosaurs requires accepting God's Word as it's written without attempting to blend it with evolutionary and old-earth storytelling. Robertson obviously thinks that proclaiming a straightforward understanding of Genesis is likely to drive children from the Christian faith.

But young people can quickly discern intellectual inconsistency, and it is transparently inconsistent to claim to believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and also accept an idea of "millions of years" that is not even hinted at in Scripture. This glaring inconsistency may actually make children question Christianity more—not less.

Moreover, the two "evidences" Robertson cited, when properly understood, actually confirm a young age for the earth. Carbon-14 (radiocarbon) decays relatively quickly, so no detectable carbon-14 should ever be present in carbon-containing specimens that are more than 100,000 years old. Yet detectable amounts of carbon-14 are routinely found in coal and natural gas samples that are supposedly many millions of years old.3

Although Robertson's mention of dinosaur "carcasses" was a garbled reference to fossilized dinosaur bones, he inadvertently touched upon the subject of "soft dinosaur tissue." Fragile organic material (such as blood cells, blood vessels, and even possible DNA) have been recovered from dinosaur fossils.4 Yet how could such fragile organic material possibly survive for tens of millions of years?

Christians tempted to dismiss the age of the earth should ask some questions: if this issue isn't really important, then why the uproar when a well-known person questions an old earth? And why are the enemies of the gospel so eager to marginalize Christians who affirm a young age for the earth?

The answer is obvious: this issue does matter for a number of reasons.5 Although the scientific data overwhelmingly favor a young age for the earth, the enemies of the gospel do have a potent weapon in their arsenal: ridicule. No one wants to be ridiculed, and Satan is shrewd enough to use a fear of ridicule to intimidate Christians from believing—and proclaiming—this vital doctrine.

References

  1. Sullivan, S. Marco Rubio: Earth's age 'one of the great mysteries.' The Washington Post. Posted on washingtonpost.com November 19, 2012, accessed December 4, 2012.
  2. Even Pat Robertson Denies the Earth is 6,000 Years Old. The 700 Club online video. Posted on youtube.com November 27, 2012, accessed December 4, 2012. 
  3. Baumgardner, J.2005. Carbon-14 Evidence for a Recent Global Flood and a Young Earth. In Vardiman, L. et al. (eds.), RATE II: Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth. San Diego, CA: Institute for Creation Research and the Creation Research Society. 
  4. Thomas, B. Dinosaur Soft Tissues: They're Real! Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org August 11, 2009, accessed December 4, 2012. 
  5. Cosner, L. and G. Bates. Did God create over billions of years? And why is it important? Creation Ministries International. Posted on creaton.com October 6, 2011, accessed December 5, 2012.

* Dr. Hebert is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Article posted on December 7, 2012.