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The Eclectic Pen - The Age of the Earth: Science and the Bible

By: Sarah C. (aleya)   + 13 more  
Date Submitted: 12/12/2007
Last Updated: 11/19/2008
Genre: Religion & Spirituality » Bible & Other Sacred Texts
Words: 2,571

  The Age of the Earth: Science and the Bible
A thousand years in Your sight are as a day that passes, as a watch in the night.
- Psalm 90:4
"Is God Dead?" read large letters boldly printed across the cover of Time magazine. It is the spring of 1966 and the magazine is contemplating the question that has been plaguing the world since the discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin. Have scientific discoveries laid the Bible to rest? Although some believe that science is absolutely in defiance with the word of God, others have compromised. Surveys consistently report that over seventy percent of the western population believes both in evolution and a divine creator (Schroedner). In my own beliefs however, there is no middle ground. Two theories live in contradiction. There is only one truth. One debate encircles all others. How old is this earth on which we live? Science proves earth’s existence to travel back millions of years, while the Bible argues that its age numbers only in the thousands. However, I postulate that when examined, modern science and the Bible can, after all, coexist.
A myriad of scientists believe that they have proved the age of the earth to be millions upon millions of years old. They examine such evidence as radioactive dating, light waves, and rock strata, and believe that it consistently backs their theory. Believing, by faith, in a creator and the Bible, many Christian scientists affirm that nature evidences an earth merely thousands of years old. Others interpret Genesis differently, citing it as proof of an ancient universe. It seems these groups will never reach a consensus. However, if we take an intelligent view of the possibilities, perhaps truth will be discovered.
One of the problems with the age debate it that many theologians are not easily literate in recent science and many scientists are somewhat ignorant of the Bible. They are not able to contrast beliefs. Without knowing all the information, they commonly write off the beliefs of the other side of debate without pausing to consider possible truths. And the debate continues. A person must know, inside and out, the arguments of an opponent before they can validate their own beliefs. Religious literacy polls say that only half of US adults know the title of even one gospel. The majority cannot name the first book of the Bible (Biema 4)
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1)The prominent theory in science today pertaining to the origins of the earth is the Big Bang theory, stating that the universe exploded from an immeasurably dense and hot state some 13.7 billion years ago. Evidence for the Big Bang is primarily the expansion of the universe that we observe today (Wikipedia). The Big Bang is widely believed by Christians. Unlike science however, Christianity has an explanation as to what caused it, and as to how that condensed speck was brought into existence. "And the earth was unformed (tohu) and void (bohu.)" (Genesis 1:2) A fair translation of tohu is unformed or chaotic; however bohu does not only translate as void. Both the Talmud and Nahmendies offer another translation—filled with the building blocks of matter (Schroeder 57).
The primary method that scientists use to measure age is radioactive dating. Radioactive dating exploits the fact that radioactive isotopes decay at a measurable rate. Simply enough, as explained by chemistry professors, a radioactive isotope is an atom whose nucleus is not stable due to the loss or gain of electrons. (Biddle, Parker) To become stable the nucleus must decay. Half-life is a scientific term describing the time taken for half of a sample of radioactive isotope to decay. Theoretically, half-life is infinite but eventually the amount still to decay is so small that the effects are negligible. Perhaps because it is found in all living things, 14C is commonly used for radioactive dating. 14C is a type of carbon, known also as carbon 14. According to the scientific knowledge of Dr. Jay Wile, 14C possesses a half-life of 5730 and begins to decay immediately after an organism dies. (321) All living things are constantly exchanging 14C with their environment. For example, humans exhale carbon dioxide, which consists of small amounts of 14C, and we eat animals and plants that contain it. Amazingly, the amount of 14C in a living organism is a measurable percentage of the amount in the earth's atmosphere. Theoretically all a scientist needs to know to measure the age of an object is the amount of 14C present when it died. To do this, scientists assume that the amount of 14C in the atmosphere always the same as it is today. However, there is a problem. Using the rings that form around trees for each year of life scientists, through a complicated process, can measure the amount of 14C in a ring and determine how much 14C was in the atmosphere when it was formed. Scientists have examined rings three thousand years old and have found that the amount has changed by up to seventy percent. (Wile 68) Scientific writer Lawrence Richards discovered that the rate of decay differs depending of factors such as heat and radiation, though it is unlikely that many objects would come under these conditions.(50) Disregarding this, one would then assume it is possible to measure how much 14C was in the atmosphere using the rings and date objects that way. Trees are not infinite, therefore only for objects less than 3,000 years old can carbon dating be believed, because it is impossible to make correct assumptions concerning the amount of 14C in the atmosphere at any given age. Studies in Flood Geology a book written by John Woodmorappe cites more than 350 radioactive dates that conflict with each other or generally accepted dates. (Wile)
Another way scientists measure age is by examining rock strata. Rock strata are laid down in many different layers. Cambrian, the lowest, contains trilobite rock and is estimated to be 550 millions years old. Each layer is deemed geologically as many years older than the next. (Richards 85) The problem is that the individual ages of the layers are impossible to accurately calculate. Possibly, many layers were caused by a sudden disaster such as a flood or volcano. For example if it was known that Rome was established before New York which was established before Frisco, yet assumed that the same number of years passed between each, the information would be inaccurate. The order is correct, but you would have no way of knowing that Rome was founded in 753 BC, 2378 years before New York City and that Frisco was founded a mere 279 after that. (Wikipedia) Secular scientists, such as John Aliff, blame Christians for picking out and magnifying unconformities in this method of determining age.
Many Christian scientists believe that secular scientist refuse to admit the fallacies in radioactive dating because it loans credibility to evolution (Richards). It is impossible to enter into a discussion concerning the age of the earth without any mention of evolution. If the theory of Evolution was proven correct, then the earth must indeed be millions upon millions of years old. However, if the former were disproved, the theory of a young earth would be more than plausible. Firstly an important distinction must be made between micro and macro evolution. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines microevolution as, "Evolutionary change involving the gradual accumulation of mutations leading to new varieties within a species.” Regarding microevolution there are no arguments as to its validity. With the concept of macroevolution however, that the controversy begins. Macroevolution is, "Major evolutionary transition from one type of organism to another occurring at the level of the species and higher taxa.” (Webster) Secular scientists propose that life began as a result of chance on a newly formed earth. Pages and pages could be written here concerning evolution, but that would be counterproductive to the central theme of this paper. Therefore it shall only be elaborated upon as it pertains to the age of the earth. Some evidence disproves evolution, and therefore the theory of an old earth.
One piece of such evidence is the soil covering the earth. Soil is here defined as fine land on earth surfaces that contain the materials needed to support plant and animal life. Soil is largely composed of minerals washed out of rocks and weathered rock itself. However without any other components soil is sterile. It must contain vast numbers of living organisms to support life (Richards 51). According to the Encyclopedia Britannica a square foot of rich soil may contain up to one billion organisms. It must also contain organic matter, matter from plants and animals that have already died. Only then is it fertile. Some cite the soil as proof of an old earth. Vast amounts of time would be needed to break rock down to the extent that we enjoy today. However if the earth is as old as they say, where did the soil those livings things need in order to exist come from before there were living things to fill the soil with. If it developed slowly over billions of years, plant and therefore animal life could never exist as we know it. The reason being that before animal and plant life evolved there would have been nothing decaying in the soil; there was no way to support life.
One theory that attempts to rationalize science with the bible is that God may have put the fossils in the ground to make the universe look old. Although this hardly seems plausible it must be admitted that, similar to other theories, there is really no way to disapprove it (Richards 46). Critics of creationism say that the scientific creationist wants everyone to accept that the earth was created six to ten thousand years ago. "Their logic is similar to proving that UFOs are angels" (Aliff). This is a prime example of scientists who view biblically bases theories only on a surface level.
. Commonly, as reviewed in this paper, the sciences of Geology and Astronomy are used to research the age of the earth. However, when physics is applied the results are startling. It seems that there is a theory that uses science to support information in the Bible. It is the year 2007 and the biblical calendar has reached the year 5768. Contrary to popular belief however, it is not measured from the beginning of time but from the creation of humankind on the sixth day. The first six days of Genesis are written in a completely different way than the rest of the bible. There is no flow of time .Events are described in a block, and the reader is told that one day has passed. Surprisingly there is a possibility that the six days of Genesis contained the billions of years of the cosmos, at the same time remaining 24 hour days. Two verses in the Bible lend this theory credibility. "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the day that the Eternal God made earth and heavens" (Genesis 2:4) and "this is the book of the generations of Adam in the day that god created Adam" (Genesis 5:1)
This was not understood by theologians until Albert Einstein provided humanity with a better understanding of time. The law of relativity says that the flow of time at a place with high gravity or high velocity is slower than at a location with lower gravity or lower velocity. This is known as time dilation. Since the first six days were measured alike time wise there is no way for there to have been an earth based prospective simply because for the first of these six days there was no earth. Literally, there are billions of places in the universe where a clock could be placed, and would tick so slowly that only six days would be recorded while fifteen billions of years passed on earth. The clock of the universe is light waves. The light waves from the sun have a lower frequency than similar light waves on earth my 2.12 millionths. This different frequency tells us that time is slower on the sun. For every million seconds on earth the sun loses 2.12 seconds. The expansion of the universe alters the perception of the flow of time as measured by the universal cosmic clock. Universal time is measured by cosmic waves. (Shroeder 50) Regularly cosmic waves move out from an object at a constant frequency. But as objects move apart our measurement of the frequency is distorted. For if two objects move apart the measurement of the frequency is slower and if they move together the measurement is faster. This is called the Doppler Effect and when applied to our universe, it tells us that as the galaxys expand, the passage of time slows by two hundred percent. Although we are trapped in time and cannot fully grasp this concept, visible light rays, microwaves, X-rays and gamma rays are all classified as electromagnetic radiation. Because they have no mass they are in a state in which time does not pass. Universal time is relative.
Gerald Schroeder exhibits a full grasp of this concept as he explains it in his book The Science of God. He says,
“To measure the age of the universe, we look back in time. From our perspective using Earth-based clocks running at a rate determined by the conditions of today's Earth, we measure a fifteen-billion-year age. And that is correct for our local view. The Bible adopts this Earthly perspective, but only for times after Adam. The bible's clock before Adam is not a clock tied to any one location. It is a clock that looks forward in time from the creation, encompassing the entire universe, a universal clock tuned to the cosmic radiation at the moment when matter formed. The cosmic timepiece, as observed today, ticks a million million times more slowly than at its inception."
When applied, this information has startling results. According to many the dinosaurs roamed earth for one hundred and twenty million earth years. But if we divide this by cosmic time, a million million to one ratio, it lasted only an hour. (Schroeder 58)
Time in the years after Adam was earth based. Archeology proves this. The radioactive decay method measures the dates of the Bronze Age, the battle of Jericho, and the beginning of writing. These dates closely match the dates for these events as set in the biblical records.
Although they are widely accepted, many fallacies exist in the way that we date this earth. Many writings on the topic contain errors, and some are simply ignorant. The conflicting theories often spark debates which rarely lead to agreement. The majority of people do not know why they believe what they believe. Frustrated, some Christians deny any information discovered by science, and vice versa. However informed one might be, it is impossible at this time to discover, with complete certainty which theory is correct. Although I did not find the age of the earth, one thing has become apparent. Science and the Bible do not contradict. The more that science divulges, the more it supports the words of God.

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Comments 1 to 5 of 5
Sarah C. (aleya) - 12/12/2007 1:10 PM ET
This i a paper for a college class I am taking. please comment and let me know if it is understandable/logical/persuasive. Thanks!
Pat N. (patmat) - 12/13/2007 2:35 PM ET
Well written. I was able to follow the flow of it. It is a good argument for the two "sides" of this debate to come together.
anansi - 12/22/2007 1:38 AM ET
I think your argument sounds like a pained attempt to rationalize ancient mythology by cherry picking elements from objective science, while grossly misrepresenting said science. Your examples are random and ill considered. The soil example is a good indicator that you don't have the barest understanding of biological dependencies. You have a lot of learning to do - and much of it should be attempted from books written in the last thousand years. Your grammar is poor, your sentence structure is confusing and in general I'm dismayed that you would consider this paper suitable for academic review. Example: "Regarding microevolution there are no arguments as to its validity." This sentence says that there are no arguments in favor of microevolution - that it is universally understood as invalid. I think, though I can't be sure (there are a lot of logical fallacies throughout the writing) that you meant to say the opposite. Maybe you meant "There are no arguments against its validity" - but even so, that is a false statement - as you yourself wrote, many religious people reject science whole cloth. Best wishes for your continued education - and a sincere desire for you to learn your science without requiring that it fit into a cosmology from a couple of thousand years ago.
Paul H. (nessus19) - , - 1/16/2008 10:38 PM ET
I will not enter into a lengthy rebuttal regarding your entry. However, I do need to make some comments and observations. While I applaud your efforts to make several points in a seemingly reasoned and articulate manner, the conclusions you draw are weak, at best, and, at worst, smack of apologetics. Christian science--an unsupportable phrase in itself--is no stranger to errors in logic such as one I believe you have made consistently throughout a rather pedantic commentary. That is: because science (at this point in time) cannot definitively prove a theory or exactly quantify a phenomena, it most bow out and give the nod to a contrived, supernatural entity. And from there, it's an easy slide down the slipperly slope to the tired "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" argument. Your spurious statement "The more that science divulges, the more it supports the words of God," would seem to make the point for me. It seems more likely to me that the more that science divulges, the more it encourages a reasoned, testable, verifiable, and open consideration of the data available. A collaboration and process of rigorous testing. Science is a process by which we come to know our universe. It is a slow process, and stumbles into many blind alleys, but it works. Over and over again. It is the triumph of the mind over the myth...and over the myth makers. Finally, remove the word "Christian" from your entry and, in its place, insert the phrase "a segment of the world's population who believe a supernatural entity that transcends time and created imperfect beings on an imperfect planet, as well as a realm of eternal suffering into which these creatures might wander..." Suddenly, your take on geology, physics, biology and epistemology doesn't seem quite as convining. My advice to you is the same I would make to any scientist: keep your mind open, but not so open you'd willing to let anyone pour something into it. Remember...understanding can evolve, too.
Sabrina H. (sharper36) - 11/7/2008 9:38 AM ET
What a boring world it would be if we all thought and believed in the same way. I am happy to find a mind that does not close when it is opened to possibilities beyond the realm of science alone. Logic is only logical when it is tempered with imagination and inventiveness. I found your article entertaining, intellectual, and thoughtful. But I am not a rocket scientist and I don't care for technical explainations. I am curious as to how it got into the childrens section of The Eclectic Pen...good ideas though.
Comments 1 to 5 of 5