Sunday, May 09, 2010

PCA Geologists on the Antiquity of the Earth

Here's a couple excerpts from a very interesting article in Modern Reformation from this month's issue. Here's the link, if you want to read the whole article:

"How old is the earth? Does an honest reading of the opening chapters of Genesis confine creation to six days a few thousand years ago, or does it allow for an origin of much greater antiquity? These questions are hardly new. Scientific assertions suggesting an alternate interpretation of the length of creation began more than 200 years ago, well before the days of Charles Darwin. With a debate more than two centuries in the making, one might reasonably expect that Reformed scholars long ago resolved the issue. In fact, the much-sought resolution has proven elusive. In 1998, the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) commissioned a Creation Study Committee (CSC), made up of both Bible scholars and natural scientists, to consider the relevant Scriptures in light of the various existing interpretations and scientific evidence. The report, submitted after two years of investigation, did not recommend a definitive answer, but did at least conclude that it is possible to believe both in an ancient earth and the inerrancy of Scripture. The statement below is extracted from the concluding pages of the 2000 Report of the Creation Study Committee

Clearly there are committed, Reformed believers who are scientists that are on either side of the issue regarding the age of the cosmos. Just as in the days following the Reformation, when the church could not decide between the geocentric and heliocentric views of the solar system, so today there is not unanimity regarding the age question. Ultimately, the heliocentric view won out over the geocentric view because of a vast preponderance of facts favoring it based on increasingly sophisticated observations through ever improving telescopes used by thousands of astronomers over hundreds of years. Likewise, in the present controversy, a large number of observations over a long period of time will likely be the telling factor.
The geocentric/heliocentric debate refers to a controversy starting some 500 years ago between two conflicting views of nature. The geocentric position held that the sun, stars, and planets revolved around the earth. In contrast, the heliocentric position held that the earth and planets revolved around the sun. Several passages of Scripture appeared to support the geocentric view, and heliocentrism was considered by many to be a direct challenge to the authority of God's Word. Others recognized more than one possible interpretation of the Scrip-tures in question, and scientific evidence eventually persuaded them that the sun was indeed the center of our solar system.

In this context, it is important to recognize that science did not prevail over Scripture. Scripture was and remains true. Scientific evidence only served as a God-given aid in selecting the more accurate of two plausible, Bible-honoring interpretations. The CSC report suggests we are at a similar crossroads concerning the age of the earth, but without sufficient evidence to tip the scales one way or the other. .........

The Atlantic Ocean: Plate Velocity Confirms Measured Ages of Rocks

The details of how radioactive dates are determined are irrelevant for this example. It will be sufficient to make a general observation about their application and proceed with an example of how the dates can be independently verified.

The utility, if not the absolute accuracy, of radioactive dating methods is evident from the sheer number of analyses performed every year, with the vast majority yielding ages consistent with independent observations of layering, cross-cutting, or presence of unique fossils. Since the discovery of radioactivity, literally hundreds of thousands of samples have been analyzed from all over the world. If the various radioactive methods yield random or inconsistent dates as often claimed, few researchers (including some of us) would waste valuable resources on these measurements.

A simple method for checking the accuracy of radioactive dating methods makes use of our knowledge of plate tectonics: the movement of plates making up the earth's crust. If we consult a map of the Atlantic Ocean floor, a ridge--aptly named the Mid-Atlantic Ridge--is readily visible exactly dividing North and South America from Europe and Africa. Lava observed welling up along the ridge attests to modern day separation of the continents and expansion of the ocean floor. Seafloor ages determined using radioactive methods are consistent with this observation; the farther one moves away from the ridge, the older the seafloor. Maximum ages of about 180 million years are obtained at the edge of the continents. Intermediate ages determined for seafloor samples between the ridge and continents suggest that the rate of spreading has been relatively constant at about 2.5 cm per year since the continents first started splitting 180 million years ago.

Now for the test. Satellite stations on different continents allow precise distances to be measured down to the centimeter scale. Long-term measurements of the relative position of North America and North Africa document a steady current spreading rate of 2.5 cm per year--the same value calculated using positions and radioactively determined ages of ocean crust.

From these examples, there are only two possible conclusions: either the earth is very old or God intentionally made the earth to appear old." -Davis A. Young (Ph.D.) is professor emeritus of geology at Calvin College and attends Catalina Foothills Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona.

Here's the link to Modern Reformation:

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