Does Carbon Dating Prove the Book of Genesis Wrong?

A literal reading of the book of Genesis results in the conclusion that God created everything over the course of one week. Using the Biblical record of births and deaths the week of creation has been dated as occurring about 4,000 BC. While there may be some room in the Biblical record for some additional years, most conservative theologians conclude the Bible indicates the age of the universe is less than 10,000 years old.

Scientists have developed multiple methods for determining the age of fossils on earth which show the earth is millions, even billions, of years old. The most familiar of these methods is carbon dating. Carbon dating routinely returns ages for fossils several times older than the Biblical age of the earth. Doesn’t this prove the Bible, and especially the book of Genesis, is wrong about the ancient history of earth?

Carbon dating is the process of measuring the decay of carbon in organic material. All living organisms contain a carbon isotope known as Carbon-14. Carbon-14 is naturally unstable and at death it begins to decay down to Nitrogen-14. This process takes place at a known rate and is calculated in terms of half-life. The half life is the amount of time it takes for half the atoms to decay. The half-life remains constant no matter how many atoms are involved. The half life of Carbon-14 is 5,730 years. If an organism died with ten Carbon-14 atoms in 5,730 years half will remain and 5 Nitrogen-1 atoms will exist in their place. In another 5,730 years, 2 1/2 Carbon-14 atoms (yes, I know you can’t have half a C-14, this is just an illustration) will remain and there will now be 7 1/2 Nitrogen-14 atoms. Scientists measure the amount of C-14 remaining in an object and are able to develop an estimate for when the organism died.

Think of a large hour glass in which it is known exactly how many grains of sand fall from the top to the bottom each second. By counting the grains of sand remaining in the top the observer can tell how long ago the hourglass was turned over.

The process sounds simple enough, especially in a very simplified explanation like this one. Carbon dating, and all similar dating methods, have serious problems. Carbon dating has been repeatedly shown to produce inconsistent results. The same object tested multiple times has resulted in widely different dates. Also, tests of modern artifacts in which the date of the organisms death was known have produced results off tens of by thousands of years.

The biggest problem will all decay based dating methods is the assumptions made. Carbon dating assumes the amount of Carbon-14 present in the organism at death. The amount of Carbon-14 present at the death of a fossilized organism cannot be known for certain because no scientist was there to take an initial measurement. While the assumptions may be very plausible scientists do not know the amount of Carbon-14 present in an organism at its death.

If the imaginary hourglass had less sand in the top than was assumed then the measured time interval be greater because of the error in the initial assumption.

Carbon dating sounds like a very scientific and accurate way of determining when a fossil died. Christians are tempted to believe the organism lived many thousands of years ago because smart men have worked out an ingenious and complex method of measuring time.

Carbon dating does not measure time. Carbon dating is a very accurate way of measuring how much carbon and nitrogen isotopes are contained in a particular specimens at the time of testing. The time measurement is speculation based on certain assumptions whose validity cannot be tested or proven. Don’t let smart sounding words shake your confidence in God’s Word.

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What is the teological argument for the existence of God?

Two major philosophical arguments from nature are proposed as proofs for the existence of God, the cosmological argument and the teleological argument. The teleological argument is probably the easiest of the major philosophical arguments. It seeks to show that because the world has the appearance of being designed, there must be a designer.

Many observers see the appearance of design in the universe. The orderliness and complexity of the universe is analogous to the complex orderliness of man made objects. As a result the universe has the hallmarks of being designed. If the universe has been designed, then there must exist a Designer great enough and powerful enough to produce all that exists.

Probably the most familiar expression of this argument is the watchmaker analogy. If a person walking through an empty field were to suddenly find a watch laying upon the ground, he would conclude the watch was designed by a watchmaker. He would not assume the watch formed by natural, unguided processes. Because the universe is vastly more complicated than a watch it is logical to conclude the universe was designed by a Creator of vast intelligence.

One common proof offered for the argument from design is irreducible complexity. The evolutionary hypothesis explains the growth of life by a gradual, step by step process. The premise of irreducible complexity is some things found in nature cannot be explained by a step by step process of adding onepiece of information at a time. For example, a mousetrap is a device that cannot function if only one small part is removed. Some examples of irreducible complexity in the natural world are the eye, the bombadier beetle and the cell. These things cannot have arisen naturally by gradually adding information. Without all the parts present the organism would not function.

This argument has some Biblical foundation because the Bible uses the argument from design in at least two places, Psalm 19 and Romans 1. An argument similar to the teleological argument can also be found in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel to show God is Creator of all and consequently is greater than all idols. However, the Bible never uses the obvious reality of a Creator to prove the existence of God. The Old Testament argues from creation to show the greatness of God and the folly of worshiping other gods. In Romans 1 the teleological argument is used as an indictment against those who have rejected God. Instead of worshiping God as they ought, unbelieving men have rejected nature’s obvious declaration of God’s existence and power. Unbelieving men replace God with gods of their devising and are under the judgment of God. God is the only creator of all. He has made His power and Deity evident through the handiwork of His creation. He must be worshiped.

What would happen to Christianity if alien life is discovered?

Assume for a moment that life is discovered somewhere else in the universe. How does extraterrestrial life fit into a Biblical framework? If alien life is found, would it completely undermine the reliability of the Bible? A proper answer to that question would depend in part on the kind of life discovered. Before beginning to answer the question it is important to remember this is all hypothetical. No life of any kind, no matter how tiny, has ever been found anywhere else in our solar system. Some claims of evidences of life or the existence of materials necessary for life have been made, but those claims are notoriously difficult to test and verify. At this point no evidence exists that could reasonably lead one ot conclude there is life out there.

Popular science fiction focuses on alien life that intelligent or semi-intelligent. Of course, a movie about alien bacteria floating around in alien pond scum growing, dividing and floating around some more is about as entertaining as an elementary school biology film about the habits of earth bacteria. Science fiction entertainment requires alien life that is intelligent enough to produce conflict and drama. Intelligent life is not the only kind of life on earth. Consequently, to answer questions about alien life and the Bible one must consider the many different kinds of life.

From a Biblical perspective, alien life is not necessary. The purpose of God in creation is the revelation of His own glory. Life on other planets or in distant galaxies is not strictly necessary for the accomplishment of God’s eternal purpose. Of course, one could argue that life in the bottom of caves, under the Arctic ice and in the darkest depths of the ocean is not strictly necessary for the revelation of God’s glory. Regardless, from a Biblical perspective alien life is not neccessary to understand what God has revealed or for the accomplishment of what God has promised.

If life were to be discovered in the universe, it seems to me that microbial life is the most probable. The tiny bacteria that breakdown and recycle the elements of this earth might be found somewhere else fulfilling the same basic role they fulfill on the earth. Such a discovery would offer no proof of evolution, would not contradict any teachings of the Bible nor would it undermine any Biblical principles. The discovery of microbial life outside of earth would have no real impact on the Bible, creation or a Biblical worldview.

The discovery of a slightly higher order of life, like plants and animals, does not seem to be that likely, but granting the possibility for the sake of discussion what impact would such a discovery have on the Bible and Christians? Imagine in some future generation scientists develop a space ship capable of making the journey between the stars. During one an exploratory trip astronauts find a jungle planet, teeming with animal life. What impact would such a discovery have on Bible believers? As with microbial life, the presence of lower orders of alien life does nothing to undermine or destroy the teachings of the Bible. Life on another planet offers no more conclusive proof for evolution than does life on this planet. All such a discovery would mean is that God created other planets teeming with life that show off His power, majesty and eternal Deity.

Unfortunately, space has run out for this answer, so we’ll have to take up the matter one more time in the next article and consider a Biblical theology of intelligent alien life.

Where did the different races come from?

The one year anniversary of the shooting in Ferguson has just passed. In the twelve months since Michael Brown was shot, there have been numerous racially themed conflicts. Racial issues have been a regular theme of major news outlets. As a result, race is a topic on a lot of minds right now. The answers to racial tensions are not simple, but the Bible gives the sound foundation on which to develop a comprehensive response to racial conflicts. Whether it be an exchange of insults on a street corner or an exchange of gunfire in a crowded building the Bible gives the framework by which we can make sense of these difficult issues. One of the crucial Biblical teachings for a proper understanding of the races is what the Bible says about the origins of the races.

Race as we describe it is not something addressed often in the Bible. Most often Scriptures refers to nations, languages, tribes and cultures. In fact, the term races is a misnomer. Humanity is a single race with members possessing a wide variety of variations, most easily seen in skin coloring and distinctive faical features. These variations are relatively minor and do not divide the peoples of the world into distinct races. The Biblical terminology is “kindred (tribe or family group), tongue (language group), people (community group) and nation (ethnic group)”. These groups, though each possesses clearly defined features, are all comprised of descendants from Adam and Eve. Whether black, brown, white or yellow, all nations and peoples are members of the same family who descended from the same parents.

If all humanity is one race that originated with Adam and Eve, where did the different ethnicities come from? The Bible offers a very clear answer to the origins of the nations which are the source of the major races of the world today. That answer is found in Genesis 10 and 11. Genesis 10 lists the sons and grandsons of Shem, Ham and Japheth. This chapter has been described as the table of nations because many of the people mentioned are the founders of the major nations of the world. Genesis 11 is the account of the Tower of Babel. At the Tower of Babel God punished mankind for its continued rebellion against Him. That punishment included the confusion of languages. Before Babel everyone spoke the same language. At Babel God miraculously caused different groups to speak different languages. The punishment at Babel also included the scattering of the people across the world. The individual language groups traveled from Babel to the settle in lands all across the Middle East and eventually the entire world. The family leaders mentioned in chapter 10 seem to mark the language groups created by God at Babel. As groups spread out, married and reproduced, the distinctive characteristics of the parents became more pronounced. The unique languages and hardships faced produced people groups who developed their own culture and nations. The combinations of these events caused the formation of the ethnicities we see today.

Does the fossil record disprove Biblical creation?

The fossil record is one of the most common objections raised against the belief in Biblical creation. The existence of countless creatures mineralized in the rock beneath our feet raises many questions. Those who believe the earth is billions of years old believe the fossils are evidence of a long progression of creatures dying out one at a time over epochs of earths’ history. A very small percentage of those animals were buried in mud and eventually became fossils.

The fossil record is used to raise two major objections against Biblical creation. The first objection is the existence of fossils in such great volume. If God created everything in six days less than ten thousand years ago, where did all the dead animals come from to form all the fossils being found today. Today the chance of something becoming a fossil is very, very small. The conditions required for fossilization don’t happen every time an animal dies. Many assume that because the conditions to form fossils are rare today, they have always been rare. Thus a very small number of the animals that have died have become fossils. The conclusion reached then is for there to be so many fossils in the earth, many animals had to die over a period of millions of years.

The second objection is the arrangement of fossils in the layers of rock. Though the classic geologic column taught in science classes can not be found as a single unit anywhere in the world, certain kinds of fossils are usually found in similar positions throughout the rock layers. Small sea creatures tend to at the bottom of the fossil layer, with fish and amphibians above them. Farther up are reptiles and mammals. At the very top are birds and hominids.

Rock layers are often believed to have bee formed over very long periods of time as the upper layer of ground is slowly covered over and compressed downward. The formation of a new upper layer of ground is thought to happen by catastrophic dust storms, volcanic eruptions or the long process of plants and animals dying and decaying. Because the process often takes a very long time, those fossils in the lower layers are believed to be much older than those in the upper layers. This general arrangement within the strata (rock layers) leads many to conclude that the deepest fossils are the most primitive because they had less time to evolve. The increase of complex creatures as the rock layers climb upward is seen as proof of animals advancing in complexity.

Once again space does not allow for a full answer on these issues, but the Bible gives sufficient evidence to offer legitimate and reasonable alternatives to the speculations of evolutionary science. Popular conception believes God because created one man and one woman and He also only created one male and female pair of every kind of animal. The Bible does not teach God only created two of each kind of animal. Genesis 1 indicates that God filled the earth with plants and animals. He filled the earth with vast numbers of animals.

The flood of Noah provides a powerful explanation for the many things found in the fossil record today. Because the flood began with the catastrophic opening of the fountains of the great deep, it is reasonable to assume those animals living in deep waters would be affected first. As the flood waters rose, those animals least able to escape would be affected next and then the more mobile until the most mobile and able were destroyed last. The sudden deluge of water that covered the earth would have created massive landslides, mud flows and currents filled with sediment and debris. The massive movement of dirt in the flood would have provided optimal conditions for the rapid formation of many layers of rock and many thousands of fossils.

The fossil record does not disprove creation. All the fossil record reveals is many thousands of dead things are buried in the layers of rock across the world. How one interprets the fossils depends on what one believes. God’s Word gives us sufficient information to explain the fossils without the need for millions of years, an increase of animal complexity or Darwin’s speculations.

If the Bible is right about creation, why doesn’t it say anything about dinosaurs?

Dinosaurs are a topic of great fascination. Whether it be through incredible CGI in popular movies, massive skeletal displays in museums or colorful pictures in children’s books, dinosaurs have captured the imagination of many people. For some dinosaurs are seen as a trump card disproving creation. Some ask if God created the dinosaurs then why aren’t there any still alive today. Some ask if God created dinosaurs why doesn’t it say anything about dinosaurs in the Bible. Some think that because dinosaurs are so different from anything alive today they must have lived eons ago and thus the Bible’s description of creation is wrong.

All of these assumptions and conclusions can easily be answered with a little consideration of what the Bible teaches. The Bible does talk about dinosaurs, directly and indirectly, though it doesn’t use the word dinosaur. The reason the Bible does not use the word dinosaur is very simple. The first major English translation of the Bible still being used today is the King James Version. The King James was translated in 1611. The word dinosaur was not coined until the early 1840’s by a scientist named Richard Owen. Any reference to dinosaur’s before that date would have used a different word or words. In the Biblical passages that describe great beasts reminiscent of dinosaurs the newer Bible translations often use the same words used in the King James translation. Simply put, the word dinosaur is not found in the Bible because of it’s relatively recent invention.

Though the word dinosaur is not found in the Bible, what is found are descriptions of beasts that appear to be dinosaurs. Two such descriptions stand out from the boo of Job. A creature called Behemoth is described in Job 40, and Job 41 describes a beast known as Leviathan. Neither of these are fictitious animals and they are creatures that would have lived in the region around Job at the time he was alive. About 4,000 years ago God instructed a man to remember a pair of massive animals that he would have seen and been familiar with. The description of Behemoth in Job 40:15-24 pictures a massive creature that eats grass like cattle, has bones of great strength, has colossal strength, lives in swampy regions and around streams, is confident against all foes because of it’s great strength and has a tail like a cedar tree. Some are tempted to suggest the Behemoth was just a large elephant or rhinoceros, yet no creature other than a dinosaur fits the descriptions of massive size and strength coupled with a tree-like tail. Though the Bible does not use the word dinosaur, it certainly describes dinosaur like creatures.

God created all animals on the fifth and sixth days of creation. This includes the lumbering dinosaurs like the Apatosaurus, the fast moving dinosaurs like Velociraptors, the soaring dinosaurs like Pterodactyls (yes, I know they are not technically dinosaurs) and the swimming dinosaurs like Plesiosaurs. After creation man sinned against God and brought the curse of sin on the whole world. This curse includes suffering and death. As a result of man’s sin, many species of animals have gone extinct in the past and are going extinct today. Though some of the dinosaurs were unique and awe-inspiring, their size and strength does not mean they were not created by God. Though all the dinosaurs are extinct today, their disappearance from the Earth does not mean they were not created by God. God created all animals, including the dinosaurs. Man’s sin is responsible for their extinction, not evolutionary epochs.

Tune in this Sunday at noon on WRUP 92.7 FM to hear the first half of a special roundtable discussion about creation and evolution.

Is Evolution like Mathematics?

On the last two Sundays of March the Everlasting Truths team will be airing a two part special broadcast on the debate between creation and evolution. In the weeks leading up to that broadcast, I will be answering several common questions related to origins, science and the Bible.

Many who are of a scientific bent lament the folly of those who believe in creation and accuse creationists of rejecting science. They scoff at creationists and say things like, “rejecting evolution is like rejecting modern medicine” or ask in disbelief, “do you refuse to believe 2+2=4, as well?”. The assertion, at times implied but most often stated is that evolution is proven science. Evolution is just like bacterial and viral models of medicine or like the certainty of basic mathematical equations. Is this a valid claim?

Without arguing about evidence or presuppositions, the legitimacy of this allegation can be considered through a right understanding of the different methods by which scientific conclusions are reached. The first, and primary means, is through what is often referred to as the scientific method. The scientific method is the process by which a problem is considered, a hypothetical solution is suggested, predictions are made, tests are performed, results are analyzed, the hypothesis is refined, more tests are run and after a long series of proving and disproving possible hypotheses, a model is developed which provides a generally accepted answer to the original problem.

The second means of reaching scientific conclusions is used in those cases where direct testing is not possible. In this method a problem is considered, a hypothetical solution is suggested, predictions are made, available evidence is analyzed, and the hypotheses and predictions are refined to agree with the available evidence. As new evidence becomes available the hypothesized model is then refined further and further.

Medical sciences are for the most part observational sciences. An explanation for the source of a disease can by suggested, tested, observed, refined and repeated until the genuine source can be shown with a high degree of certainty. Most mathematics fall into the same category. Much of science takes place in the realms of observational science. However, a number of scientific endeavors take place in the other realm, the realm of conjectural sciences. These kinds of sciences include some portions of quantum physics, consideration of the ultimate structure of the universe (or multiverse if you subscribe to that hypothesis), questions regarding the growth of the universe and beliefs about the development of mankind. The fact that a branch of science is not entirely observational does not make it illegitimate. However, one must recognize the answers provided by conjectural sciences are not of the same quality or reliability as those provided by observational sciences.

Evolution is a valid scientific model. It offers a possible explanation by which to explain the origins of all things. As a scientific model it is constantly being refined as additional data is discovered. However, comparing the evolutionary model to a well-proven scientific theory, like gravitational theory, is nonsense. Evolution is not testable by repeatable experiments. It can only be compared to observations made by scientists in the world and adjusted to match the current observations. Despite its wide acceptance among scientists, evolution is not like math and medicine.

Have they found Noah’s ark?

Nope. Thanks for asking and reading.

Well, I guess that wasn’t quite long enough of an answer, so let me elaborate. Noah’s ark is the large ship built by Noah according to the commands of God given in Genesis 6. This massive vessel was at least 450 feet long, 150 feet wide and fifty feet tall. Noah, his family and the animals with them floated across the waters throughout the year long flood. (The Bible does not teach a 40 day flood, but 40 days of catastrophic rain. From the time Noah got on the ark to the time he got off was over one year.) As the flood waters began to go down, the ark landed in the mountains of Ararat. Not Mt. Ararat, but the mountains plural. Somewhere in the range then identified as the Ararat mountains was the arks resting place. Presumably the ark rested in the Zagros mountain chain that runs north to south along the eastern Iran border into western Turkey. The ark has never been found.

The absence of the ark or archeological evidence of an ark does not disprove the validity of the flood account. The mountains where the ark might have landed are very rugged and snowcapped. A thorough archaeological search throughout that region is impossible at this time. Even if an expedition could be mounted, the possibility of finding the ark is very low. Being a large wooden vessel, there is no reason to assume that the wood did not rot and waste away. How many wooden houses can be found today that have been abandoned for 100 years? It is very unlikely that a wooden boat would survive nearly 4,500 years. Besides this, When Noah and his family left the ark, it would not be unreasonable for them to scavenge wood from the ark to build homes. As the families grew and expanded, the ark would have provided a ready supply of wood for construction, cooking and heat. It is not unreasonable to assume the ark was dismantled and put to other uses as Noah’s family began to rebuild after the destruction of the flood. The ark has not been found and there is no reason to expect it will be.