Reasons to Believe

Connections 2005, Vol. 7, No. 3



Deep Core Tests for the Age of Earth
by Dr. Hugh Ross, Ph.D.

The clash between young-earth and old-earth creationists can seem bewilderingly technical at times. Is there any easy-to-understand scientific data for determining whether Earth is young or old?

In recent months, new evidence has emerged that may be simple enough for everyone to understand, regardless of science background-as simple as counting tree rings.

Scientists are learning much about Earth's past by drilling deep into its surface-both ice and rock-with specialized instruments to remove long cylinders, or "core" samples. Six deep ice cores and one sediment core now provide a clear and continuous record of Earth's history. The ice cores reveal hundreds of thousands of ice layers laid down on top of one another year by year, just as a tree adds one new growth ring per year. Three deep ice cores pulled from Greenland record the past 120,000 years.1 Three deep cores in Antarctica-Dome Fuji, Vostok, and Dome C-allow researchers to look back 340,000, 420,000, and 740,000 years, respectively.2

How do scientists confirm that these ice layers correspond to years of Earth's past history? They can check for telltale markers, such as volcanic ash signatures. The Krakatoa eruption of 1883 and the Vesuvius eruption that wiped out Pompeii and Herculaneum in AD 79 left their specific marks in exactly the annual layers anticipated. Climatic cycles also allow for testing. As it turns out, these cycles-caused by regular variations in the eccentricity or ellipticity of Earth's orbit (period = 100,000 years) and the tilt of Earth's orbit (period = 41,000 years)-correspond perfectly with what's seen in those core layers. Finally, researchers have performed radiometric dating of minerals embedded in the ice to make sure their age corresponds with their annual layer, and in each case it does.

Further corroboration comes from a sediment core drilled off shore from New Zealand's Southern Alps. It reveals the past 3.9 million years of Earth's crustal history.3 Though each layer in this core represents a few centuries rather than a single year, the climatic cycles and events in this core for the past 740,000 years match perfectly with corresponding layers in the Dome C ice core. Such a calibration builds confidence that these cores yield a continuous climatic, geological, and astronomical record for the past few million years at least.

Proponents of young-earth creationism respond to this compelling evidence by pointing to possible problems at the tops and/or bottoms of the core samples as if such anomalies render the entire dating analysis unreliable.4 For example, the bottom 15,000 layers in two of the three Greenland cores are disturbed by ice folding close to the bedrock. Such disturbance (caused by extreme pressure conditions), however, in no way invalidates the 105,000 layers above or the 123,000 layers in the third core (the NGRIP core). The burial of the "lost squadron" of World War II under 250 feet of Greenland ice and snow in only 50 years has been offered as proof that the 10,000-foot-long Greenland ice cores cannot represent 100,000+ years of history.5 However, intrusions into the layers by localized forces and events does not invalidate them. In this case, the lost squadron crashed in a relatively warm area of southern Greenland where, unlike the sites of the three deep ice cores, several melts and refreezings per year can occur and seven times as much snow falls per year.

According to Psalm 19:1-4, God speaks not only through the words of the Bible but also through the record of nature. Since God speaks truth and chooses to reveal Himself, nature's record and the Bible's words can be expected to agree. The ice and sediment cores provide compelling extrabiblical evidence that the earth is indeed ancient. This evidence supports the literal interpretation of creation days in Genesis 1 as six long epochs.6

References:

  1. K. K. Andersen et al., "High-Resolution Record of Northern Hemisphere Climate Extending into the Last Interglacial Period," Nature 431 (2004): 147-51.
  2. Laurent Augustin et al., "Eight Glacial Cycles from an Antarctic Ice Core," Nature 429 (2004): 623-28; Jerry F. McManus, "A Great Grand-Daddy of Ice Cores," Nature 429 (2004): 611-12; Gabrielle Walker, "Frozen Time," Nature 429 (2004): 596-97.
  3. Robert M. Carter and Paul Gammon, "New Zealand Maritime Glaciation: Millennial-Scale Southern Climate Change Since 3.9 Ma," Science 304 (2004): 1659-62.
  4. Larry Vardiman, "Rapid Changes in Oxygen Isotope Content of Ice Cores Caused by Fractionation and Trajectory Dispersion Near the Edge of an Ice Shelf," Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, vol. 11, no. 1 (1997): 52-60: Michael Oard, "Do Greenland Ice Cores Show Over One Hundred Thousand Years of Annual Layers?" Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, vol. 15, no. 3 (2001): 39-42.
  5. Carl Wieland, "The Lost Squadron," Creation Ex Nihilo, vol. 19, no. 3 (1997): 10-14.
  6. Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004), 51-148.

 


Where does Homo antecessor fit?
by Fazale Rana, Ph.D.

Who am I? How do I fit into the grand scheme of things? These questions gnaw at someone going through an identity crisis.

Struggling with this type of uncertainty is unique to human experience. It's unlikely that the hominids represented in the fossil record ever contemplated their identity-but humans sure have. Questions about who the hominids were and how they fit into the human evolutionary scheme consume paleoanthropologists (scientists who study the human fossil record). A fossilized hominid jawbone recovered from the Gran Dolina site in northern Spain has engendered a crisis of sorts, about the identity of Homo antecessor and its place in a widely held human evolutionary scenario.1

Between 1994 and 1996, paleoanthropologists recovered hominid fossils and stone artifacts from Gran Dolina that were dated between 780,000 and 857,000 years ago and assigned to a new species, Homo antecessor. Based on cranial and dental features, many evolutionary biologists consider this hominid to be part of the transitional sequence that led to modern humans. According to this view H. ergaster produced H. antecessor which, in turn, gave rise to H. heidelbergensis. This species then separately produced the lineage that led to Neanderthals and modern humans.2

The evolutionary identity of H. antecessor was based on analysis of immature jaw and facial features. To ensure its place in the human evolutionary pathway, paleoanthropologists needed access to the remains of adult individuals. This most recent H. antecessor find is just what paleoanthropologists had hoped for, an adult jawbone.

Analysis of this new jawbone, however, indicates that H. antecessor cannot be part of any evolutionary sequence that leads to modern humans. Rather it more closely resembles the erectine hominids found in Asia. In other words, from an evolutionary perspective H. antecessor is an insignificant side-branch, a dead end.

This recent discovery leaves a significant gap in the fossil record between H. ergaster and H. heidelbergensis and renders the putative human evolutionary pathway to modern humans sketchy at best. It also shows the speculative character of the various human evolutionary scenarios. It's remarkable that the discovery of a single jawbone can overturn a widely held human evolutionary model. Yet, this frequently is the case.

Given the gaps in the hominid fossil record and the speculative nature of the various human evolutionary scenarios, H. antecessor's identity seems more secure as a nonhuman primate, created by God with some limited intellectual and emotional abilities, but without any spiritual capacity.

References:

  1. E Carbonell et al., "An Early Pleistocene Hominin Mandible from Atapuerca-TD6, Spain," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 102 (2005): 5674-78.
  2. J. M. Bermudez de Castro et al., "A Hominid from the Lower Pleistocene of Atapuerca, Spain: Possible Ancestor to Neandertals and Modern Humans," Science 276 (1997): 1392-95.


SIDEBAR

    What is a hominid?

    An Internet search or a dictionary definition yields that humans and hominids came from the same evolutionary line, but RTB's creation model regards hominids as nonhuman primates. These creatures walked erect (bipedalism) and possessed limited intellectual and emotional abilities, but lacked spiritual capacity since they were not created in God's image. What about Neanderthals? They were hominids. And Cro-Magnon and other so-called cavemen? Humans.

 


GNINOLC: We Have It All Backwards
by Fazale Rana, Ph.D.
If I cloned myself would I be my clone's father or brother? Would a clone have its own identity?

Questions like these elicit images of a bizarre and frightening future that prompt many bioethicists and scientists to call for a ban on human reproductive cloning. As a result, they condemn the efforts of renegade organizations like Clonaid, founded by the Raelians, a UFO cult. They also express concern about the work of legitimate reproductive scientists, like Panayiotis Zavos, who actively pursue cloning as a form of reproductive therapy.

Many in the scientific community, however, support human therapeutic cloning. Biomedical researchers justify therapeutic cloning based on the potential medical benefits that this biotechnology may one day yield. For example, in 2002 the Board of Directors for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) adopted a resolution to ban human reproductive cloning while supporting human therapeutic cloning "in order to realize the enormous potential health benefits this technology offers."1

Both therapeutic and reproductive cloning use the same technique, called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). During this procedure, researchers remove the nucleus (which houses the genetic material) from a human egg cell and replace it with the nucleus from a human body cell. Because the body cell has 46 chromosomes, the outcome is similar to the fertilization process, in which the genetic material from a human sperm cell (23 chromosomes) unites with the egg's genetic material (23 chromosomes). Once the nuclear transfer is completed, researchers artificially stimulate the egg cell to divide to form a developing embryo. If the embryo is implanted in the womb of a human surrogate, the process is termed reproductive cloning. If an embryo is used to harvest embryonic stem cells (a procedure that destroys the embryo), the process is referred to as therapeutic cloning.

Most of the public supports the position of the AAAS. Yet this view of human cloning stems from distorted moral reasoning and leads to a backward stance on human cloning. For those who embrace a "culture of life," therapeutic cloning must be condemned, while reproductive cloning, at least in principle, can be tolerated.

The goal of reproductive cloning is to create a human embryo to be implanted in a womb with the full intent that it will grow into a fully developed human being with every opportunity for life. In effect, human reproductive cloning is no different from in vitro fertilization.2 On the other hand, the sole purpose of therapeutic cloning is to create a human embryo only to disassemble it for its "parts" (embryonic stem cells).

On March 3, 2005, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a declaration that calls on all governments around the world to ban all forms of human cloning that are "incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life."3 This is good news. Hopefully this U.N. declaration will help bring an end to human therapeutic cloning and the wanton creation and destruction of human life.
References:
  1. "AAAS Resolution: Statement on Human Cloning," (February 14, 2002)
  2. http://archives.aaas.org/docs/resolutions.php?doc_id=425, accessed May 3, 2005.
  3. From a practical standpoint, reproductive cloning is problematic. The cloning procedure is highly inefficient and clones produced with current technology are unhealthy (based on animal studies).
  4. "General Assembly Adopts United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning by Vote of 84-34-37," Press Release GA/10333,
  5. http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2005/ga10333.doc.htm, accessed May 10, 2005.

Three Christian Apologetic Classics
by Kenneth Richard Samples

"When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food."

These are the words of Desiderius Erasmus, the Dutch Renaissance scholar and theologian. Reading books has been an obsession since my conversion to Christianity when I was a sophomore in college. As a new Christian I sensed that my mind really mattered in serving the Lord, so I began a serious pursuit of the "life of the mind" to the glory of God. Today I have a personal library of between three and four thousand books. Because of this background, people often ask me for book recommendations, especially in such fields as philosophy, theology, and apologetics.

Three Christian books (other than the Bible, the greatest book ever written) are at the top of my list. These timeless classics will cause any serious thinker to grapple with the claims of Christianity. If I had to go and live on a deserted island I would need to take these books with me.
Mere Christianity

"Oxbridge" literary scholar C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) served as a lay Anglican theologian and versatile Christian apologist and was perhaps the most important conservative Christian thinker of the twentieth century. Lewis's work Mere Christianity, published in 1952, was the first Christian book that I ever read and it powerfully impacted my thinking. In this book Lewis explains and defends the central truths of Christianity. What impresses me most about this book is its lucid style and single-minded focus on the essence of the faith. Knowing the core elements of historic Christianity and being able to articulate them with clarity to believers and nonbelievers alike can help all Christians fulfill their God-given role in drawing others to follow Christ.

Over the years I have come to disagree with some of the theological positions that Lewis held, but he certainly deserves respect for his clear, insightful, and courageous witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. I am grateful to Lewis for his careful discussion of such issues as the triune nature of God, the Incarnation of Christ, and the moral argument for God's existence.
Pensées *

In the short span of his life the French thinker Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) accomplished much as a mathematician, physicist, inventor, and an intuitive Christian thinker and apologist. Pascal had been preparing a book on Christian apologetics when he died prematurely at 39. His unfinished apologetic work (consisting mainly of a series of organized notes, outlines, and fragments) was subsequently published under the French title Pensées* (pronounced "Pon-sayz" and roughly translated as "Thoughts"). While the Pensées is more of an outline than a complete book, the content is so compelling that it remains a perennial bestseller.

The Pensées reveals three distinctive Pascalian apologetic themes. First, Pascal argues that Christianity uniquely explains the enigma of man as a paradox of "greatness" and "wretchedness" (great because man is created in God's image but wretched because humans are fallen). Second, he speaks of "reasons of the heart," meaning that while religious belief is not contrary to reason, nevertheless there are limits to human reason and the human heart plays a critical role in intuitively forming one's most basic beliefs. Third, Pascal introduces his famous "Wager" argument in which he attempts to shake people of their indifference to ultimate issues (God, death, immortality) by appealing to the ultimate cost-benefit analysis of belief.
Confessions *

Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) is arguably the most influential Christian thinker outside the New Testament. History knows him as a theologian, philosopher, church bishop, and a gifted and tenacious defender of orthodox Christianity. A prolific classical author, Augustine wrote more than five million words, with three of his works becoming both Christian and literary classics of Western civilization. Confessions* is his best known and most popular book.

Confessions gave birth to a whole new genre of literature in Western culture--the autobiography. The work chronicles Augustine's intellectual, moral, and spiritual pilgrimage from paganism to Christianity. The title "Confessions" can be understood in a triple sense: Augustine's candid and contrite confession of sin, his sincere confession of newfound faith, and his thankful confession of the greatness of God.

The content of the Confessions may provide the most penetrating spiritual and psychological self-analysis of any work ever written. Written in the form of a prayer to God (similar to the Psalms), the work also serves as thought-provoking devotional literature. Augustine quotes and expounds the Scriptures throughout and suffuses the text with profound theological, philosophical, and apologetic insights. While the Confessions records Augustine's extraordinary life and spiritual pilgrimage, the book may really be about every human soul's search for God.

Skeptic and Christian alike will benefit from familiarity with these significant works. As classics they are readily available in paperback, so there should be money left over for buying food.

* Although there are many translations of these two works available, the author recommends these: Pensées (New York: Penguin, 1995); Confessions (New York: Penguin, 1961).

YOU ASKED

This question was taken from a live edition of RTB's Web broadcast, Creation Update.

Does Psalm 104:5 teach that the Earth is the center of the universe?
("He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.")
--Mike from Little Rock, AR

Hugh Ross: The consensus of the church today is that what we see here in Psalm 104 is phenomenological language. Galileo said at his trial that Bible interpreters need to understand the author's frame of reference. When King David (assuming he wrote this psalm) says that the foundations of the Earth are immovable, from what context is he speaking? If David is on a rotating Earth that's revolving around the sun, he's moving with the Earth. From his point of view, the Earth indeed is immovable. So there's nothing incorrect about what the Bible is saying, if we properly establish the frame of reference. Galileo cautioned against the mistake of failing to identify the authorial frame of reference or point of view.

Fuz Rana: From a historical perspective, the Galileo affair not only led to the emergence of heliocentrism over geocentrism, but also it provided theologians with a hermeneutic that allowed for phenomenological language. People realized that they could simultaneously take the text literally and also phenomenologically. Galileo's trial advanced biblical interpretive methods.

Historically, has the church stymied scientific thought? How much damage has been done?

Fuz: I would argue that we are still feeling the damage of improper Bible hermeneutics today, because time and again people will cite the Galileo affair and heliocentrism versus geocentrism as evidence that Christianity leads to error and that science is ultimately the way of truth.

Hugh: Let me point out two other areas where you get damage. People sometimes send me manuscripts where I think they put way more science into the Bible than the text warrants. When that happens the Bible can come under unfair criticism for saying things it doesn't say. But there's a flip side. Some people are frightened about putting science into the Bible. They try to strip the Bible of all scientific content so that there's no opportunity for Christians to be embarrassed by some well-established scientific discovery. You want to walk that fine line in between putting too much science into the Bible and not enough science for Christians to be equipped for witness to a secular scientific society.

Kenneth Samples: Sometimes we make more of some of those historical difficulties than we ought. I have had skeptics bring charges of Christianity's historical errors to my attention. I realize that there have been controversies and anti-intellectual pockets within church history that probably stood in the way of progress. But we sometimes forget that even in the high Middle Ages there was a growing scientific consensus with the development of universities in Europe and reflection about the universe. And then the Reformation ushered in a very strong intellectual era. So, yes, there have been anti-intellectual times in church history, but there have also been times when Christians have been the force behind great advancements in learning.

SIDEBAR

Phenomenological language refers to the language of appearances. It describes something as it looks, irrespective of how it is. Examples of phenomenological language in the Bible include "the four corners of the Earth" or that "the Sun rises and sets." Obviously, the earth does not have four corners (or quarters, as some translations read), but it might look that way to an ancient reader. The sun appears to rise and set, but this motion is actually due to the rotation of the earth rather than to motion of the sun around the earth. In rare cases such as these, biblical descriptions can be interpreted metaphorically.