Genesis and the Limits of Science

The Limitations of Stratigraphy in Discovering the Age of the earth

Session 2

By Ron Jones, D.D. ©Titus Institute

Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), ©2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."

Introduction:

Last week we began a 4 week series entitled Genesis and the Limits of Science. In Genesis 1 and 2, God tells us through his prophet Moses exactly how he created the universe and all of its parts and living creatures. Today, we want to add the world-wide flood in Genesis 6 where God judges the earth for mankind's sin and wipes everyone out except Noah and his family.

Up until the 19th century, the view of the church of Jesus Christ and the majority of people, including scientists, was that the earth and universe was created by God in six 24 hour days and was around 6000 years old based on Genesis 1. They also accepted the account of Genesis 6-8, that there was a world-wide flood and the physical structure of the earth was dramatically affected by that flood.

That was eventually overturned through the efforts of James Hutton, Charles Lyell, and Charles Darwin. Today the picture is much different. Scientists have redefined science to exclude any supernatural reality including God. To them there is no Creator God, no literal six days, and no world-wide flood. The majority of Old Testament scholars in seminaries and Bible colleges have re-interpreted the six days of creation as figurative, a literary framework with which Moses tells the story of creation. They have re-interpreted the flood of Noah to be a regional flood that did not encompass the whole earth and they have accepted the view of scientists that the earth is billions of years old. The influence of science has had a powerful effect on Christians and their interpretation of Genesis 1 and 6-8.

MY GOAL IN THIS SERIES: My goal is to demonstrate that science cannot prove that God did not create the universe and that science cannot prove that the earth and universe are billions of years old because of its limits. The supernatural cannot be disproven by scientific inquiry and the age of the earth, either young or old cannot be proven by scientific inquiry. Whether you are old earth or young earth, do not base your interpretation of Genesis 1 and Genesis 6-8 on the theories of natural science, but on careful interpretation of the Scriptures and then embrace them by faith.

I have divided this series into four sessions.,

Four Sessions:

Session 1 - The Limitations of Scientific Inquiry in Discovering the Age of the Earth

Session 2 - The Limitations of Stratigraphy in Discovering the Age of the Earth

Session 3 - The Limitations of Radiometric Dating in Discovering the Age of the Earth

Session 4 - The Limitations of Discovering the Origins of the Universe and Organic Life

Today we are in Session 2

Session 2 - The Limitations of Relative Dating in Discovering the Age of the earth

REVIEW:

Last time we looked at two points:

1. Science is limited by its foundation upon inferences (theories) not just observation which cannot be proved.

2. Science is limited because of its refusal to consider any supernatural explanation for the natural phenomena that is observed.

Last time, we saw that Science is a combination of observations (facts) and inferences (explanations or interpretations) of those facts. Observations are descriptions of what we see, hear, taste, smell, or touch with our senses. Inferences are possible explanations of how nature operates drawn from observation of natural phenomena. Inferences are not always true.

There may be another equally valid inference (theory) that the evidence supports as well.

For example, you come out of a restaurant and your car battery is dead. There are several possible inferences (theories) that could be made as to the cause of the dead batter. Three of them are:

Inference 1 = left lights on Inference 2 = battery is old Inference 3 = faulty alternator

All three are equally valid inferences that explain a dead battery. We need to seek more evidence to eliminate or support possible inferences.

I gave this quote last week and repeat it because it is significant to our discussion. Scientists officially recognize that scientific inquiry cannot produce proof of inferences. In an article entitled, "What Is Science?" on the website of Indiana University, it says, "One constant theme is that there is no certainty in science, only degrees of probability (likelihood), of observing, and with different interpretations...It's not a process that produces certainties, or absolute facts. Science is a process that can only produce 'possible' to 'highly probable' explanations for natural phenomena. These are never absolute certainties, but many are fully acceptable for all practical purposes; they work. With new information, tools, or approaches, earlier findings (theories, or even facts) can be replaced by more accurate findings." (http://www.indiana.edu/~ensiweb/lessons/unt.s.is.html)

Why is this important to understand?

We all have the same observations of the present universe. Those who are naturalistic scientists infer (scientific/natural inference) that they are a result of the Big Bang Theory & the Theory of Evolution. Those who are creationist scientists infer (supernatural inference) that God created the universe and everything in it as Genesis 1 states and God brought a world-wide flood upon the earth as Genesis 6-8 states. Both inferences/theories explain the observations/evidence of the current universe. Thus, both are valid.

In the next two weeks we want look at the limitations of science as it has attempted to date the age of the earth and the universe. Today, we will look at the relative dating of rocks.

1. Relative dating of rocks is limited because it is based upon the original inference of Charles Lyell that the sedimentary layers of rock were formed by erosion over millions of years.

First, what is relative dating?

There are two kinds of dating methods. One is relative dating of rocks. This determines how old a rock is compared to surrounding rocks through certain geological principles. Another is absolute dating of rocks. This determines the number of years since the rock formed through radiometric dating methods. This week we are looking at relative dating. Next week we will look at absolute dating using radiometric dating methods.

Two Key Principles/Inferences of Relative Dating

Principle/Inference #1 - Superposition of Rock Layers Layers of rock that are deeper in the ground are older than the layers of rock above it.

Principle/Inference #2 - Superposition of Fossils Fossils found in older layers belong to older organisms. This means that species whose fossils are deeper in the earth must have lived earlier.

Relative dating is based on inductive inferences. Scientists study rocks and fossils and where they are positioned in regards to strata and make inferences about them.

The Geologic Column is based on both relative dating and absolute dating principles and methods.

So, let's look at the relative dating principles.

The principle of superposition tells us about the rocks in the layers in relation to each other, but it doesn't say anything about time. These principles do not say how long it took for those layers to form. Those fossils and layers could be minutes apart, years apart, or millions of years apart. The issue of time, that there are millions of years between layers, is based on another inference called uniformitarianism.

Uniformitarianism is the inference/assumption that the same processes that operate on the earth now have always operated on the earth in the past. James Hutton (1726-1797) who is considered the "father of modern geology" based his views on this assumption and Charles Lyell (1797-1875) made this assumption famous in his book "Principles of Geology." Charles Darwin (1809-1882) based his theory of evolution on this assumption.

Uniformitarianism teaches that geologic processes we see today (wind and water erosion, sedimentation, flooding, volcanic eruptions) are constant now and have been in the past. These processes take place over a long long time. Therefore, the earth is really old.

An article on the foundation of Geology states, "Although these processes are constant, they occur at extremely slow rates. As a farmer, Hutton realized that the rates of erosion were so slow that it would take an inconceivable amount of time to observe drastic changes in Earth's landscape." (https://publish.illinois.edu/foundationofmoderngeology/uniformitarianism/)

This is the foundation of the "Old Earth View." If the incredible slow processes are the same in the past as today (i.e. no world-wide flood), then it had to have taken millions of years to carve out a Grand Canyon. Once uniformitarianism is accepted, the millions and billions of years logically follow.

This is the uniformitarian inference.

Professor Samuel A. Bowring, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "I think very important in Lyell's development of thought was a trip to see the volcanoes of Italy, Vesuvius I believe in particular where he actually saw that the mountain was built up of successive [lava] flows. He had a good idea when some of these were erupted because they were historic and he was able to use that to extrapolate that the volcano itself must be hundreds of thousands of years old. At the time, speaking of the earth as hundreds of thousands of years old was revolutionary." (Charles Lyell and Geologic Time, 100 Greatest Discoveries, Geologic Change, Discovery Channel, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_wmulBtWlk)

The word "extrapolate" is another word for "infer." Lyell gave an inference/explanation of how these rock's lava rocks formed based on his observation.

How important is uniformitariansim to modern geology?

Britannica tells us as it states, "Uniformitarianism, in geology, the doctrine suggesting that Earth's geologic processes acted in the same manner and with essentially the same intensity in the past as they do in the present and that such uniformity is sufficient to account for all geologic change. This principle is fundamental to geologic thinking and underlies the whole development of the science of geology." (Britannica https://www.britannica.com/science/uniformitarianism)

Uniformitarianism and its resultant millions and billions of years has now become universally accepted among scientists. It is assumed to be true.

So, that means that 1800 years of believing that the earth was young and the rock formations were a result of the Noahic Flood which is an inference based on Biblical Revelation was overturned by a doctor/farmer, James Hutton, and a Lawyer turned amateur geologist, Charles Lyell, who spent a great deal of time observing rock formations and came up with a competing inference that the rock formations were a result not of a worldwide flood, but slow gradual processes as seen in their day taking millions of years called uniformitarianism.,

So, one inference which we claim has evidence but must be accepted by faith was replaced by another inference which has evidence but must also be accepted by faith.

This is so important to understand. Neither inference can be proved.

Summary of Point 1:

So, rocks are dated in relation to each other using geological inferences/principles. Sedimentary layers could have been placed through other means besides erosion over billions of years. They could have been placed by a worldwide catastrophic flood.

This brings us to our second point.

2. Relative Dating is limited because of its refusal to consider any supernatural explanation for the geologic layers of strata that are observed.

This is similar to the point last week about creation. Science says they can't include any possible supernatural phenomenon which is fine. That's their choice. However, what if there actually was a worldwide flood as the Bible says? They could not come to the truth about it because they don't allow that possibility.

Also, some scientists look down upon Christians because we do believe in the supernatural. That is what this class is all about. If a natural inference is made based on the evidence and a supernatural inference is made based on the evidence, then both should be considered legitimate as long as there is evidence to support it.

I am not saying "scientifically legitimate," but legitimate based upon another way of knowing about reality, faith in Biblical revelation.

Is there a supernatural explanation for the sedimentary layers and fossils and other physical phenomena that we see that explains the evidence that is not uniformitarian? Yes. The Genesis Flood of Noah.

The Noahic Flood

Genesis 6-8

Was the Noahic flood a universal flood? Was it over the whole earth killing all living creatures on the earth? Let's look at the Scriptures. Go to Genesis 7:17-24.

Genesis 7:17-20 17The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. 20The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.

Cassuto shows a Progression not repetition:

According to Cassuto, there is a progression here. Waters increased and the ark lifted up. Waters prevailed and the ark floated. Waters prevailed mightily and all high mountains were covered. Water was 15 cubits above mountains and all flesh died.

(Cassuto, U. (1997). A Commentary on the Book of Genesis: Part II, From Noah to Abraham. (I. Abrahams, Trans.) (p. 97). Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University) (described in detail)

Moses indicates that it was a universal flood and then gives the results of that flood.

Genesis 7:21-24 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.

Here are two quotes by OT Commentators about these verses and the universality of the flood.

Ken Mathews, Professor of Old Testament & Hebrew, Beeson Divinity School, writes in his OT Commentary, "The inclusive language 'all'/'every' occurs eight times (in Hebrew) in vv. 19-23, leaving no doubt about the all-encompassing nature of the destructive floods and the death left behind. There can be no dispute that the narrative depicts the flood in the language of a UNIVERSAL deluge ('entire heavens'), even the 'high mountains' are 'covered' (2x; vv. 19-20)."

(Mathews, K. A. (1996). Genesis 1-11:26 (Vol. 1A, p. 380). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers)

Umberto Cassuto, a Jewish Commentator writes, "So the paragraph closes, with an awe-inspiring picture of the mighty waters covering the entire earth. We see water everywhere, as though the world had reverted to its primeval state at the dawn of Creation, when the waters of the deep submerged everything (see Part I, pp. 23 ff.). Nothing remained of the teeming life that had burst forth upon the earth. Only a tiny point appears on the face of the terrible waters: the ark that preserves between its planks the seeds of life for the future." (Cassuto, U. (1997). A Commentary on the Book of Genesis: Part II, From Noah to Abraham. (I. Abrahams, Trans.) (p. 97). Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University.

The Noahic Flood was worldwide catastrophic event that involved not only flooding, but volcanic activity, earthquakes, and plate tectonic upheavals.

Henry Morris, founder of Institute of Christian Research, writes, "The Scriptures clearly and emphatically teach that there was such a global and cataclysmic flood. This can only mean that the Flood and its after-effects must explain most of the stratigraphic and fossil evidences that are commonly found in the eart's crust." Morris, Henry, "Global Flood, Global Impact: The Legacy of The Genesis Flood"

http://www.icr.org/article/5869

Let's watch a video that briefly depicts the global flood as an explanation for the sedimentary layers of evidence.

VIDEO: "Little Grand Canyon" by Institute of Creation Research

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeuDAN5M4N0

This video shows how Creationists explain the evidence of sedimentary rocks.

How does science explain it?

With their own inference - uniformitarianism.

Let's look at another geological evidence that can be explained by the world-wide flood. It is marine fossils on the top of mountains.

Let's look at the creationist explanation of this phenomenon in another video.

VIDEO: Marine Fossils on Mount Everest

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dxotQINycE

Genesis 7:20 says "The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. So, the mountains were under the water of the flood. When Noah's flood receded into the ocean, it created the mountains and valleys that we see today. That would mean that the marine fossils we see on mountains all over the world are a result of the flood. The Noahic Flood is a supernatural explanation for the sedimentary layers of rock and fossils deposited rapidly over months not over billions of years."

Let's look at the uniformitarian view.

VIDEO: Marine Fossils

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gj5Bg1l5brI

This geologist says that the mountains were under the sea 170 million years ago. This is his inference and explanation of the evidence.

So, we have an observation. There are marine fossils on the tops of mountains. The Scientific/Evolutionary explanation: Those mountains were under the sea millions of years ago or other natural explanations. The Creationist explanation: Bible teaches there was a world-wide flood (Genesis 6-8). Both explanations are inferences from observation. Both are valid if they explain the observations.

Now, let's make this more general.

We have observations of geologic phenomena on the earth. The Scientific/Evolutionary explanation: Geologic phenomena support an evolutionary uniformitarian view of an old earth. The Creationist explanation: Geologic phenomena support a world-wide flood and creationist view of a young earth. Both explanations are inferences from observation. Both are valid if they explain the observations.

These videos point out that there is geologic evidence on the earth for the worldwide flood of Noah's time. This evidence is the same evidence as the secular geologists have but Creation Scientists draw a different inference from the data than secular scientists. That explanation cannot be proven any more than the explanation of the secular scientists who do not consider any kind of supernatural explanation.

However, scientists consider the claim of a supernatural worldwide flood invalid.

According to the National Center of Education, no "thinking" person could believe in a supernatural explanation of the physical phenomena. It states, "As we shall see, the story of the great flood and the voyage of the ark, as expounded by modern creationists, contains so many incredible violations of the laws of nature that it cannot possibly be accepted by any thinking person. Despite ingenious efforts to lend a degree of plausibility to the tale, nothing can be salvaged without the direct and constant intervention of the deity."

(Quoted from "The Impossible Voyage of Noah's Ark," Creation/Evolution Journal Issue 11 (Winter 1983), National Center for Science Education

https://ncse.com/cej/4/1/impossible-voyage-noahs-ark

What the NCSE Statement means is that if it violates the laws of nature, it is supernatural cause and no thinking person can accept a supernatural cause because it could not possibly be true.

Is a supernatural explanation valid? Yes, because it could have happened and in fact, there is historical evidence that it did happen.

What is our answer to that statement? The Keil and Delistch Commentary Series in the Old Testament published in 1888 is one of the most respected conservative OT commentary series. In commenting on these verses, it says, "We cannot therefore pronounce the flood merely partial in its extent, but must regard it as universal, as extending over every part of the world...A flood which rose 15 cubits above the top of Ararat could not remain partial, if it only continued a few days, to say nothing of the fact that the water was rising for 40 days, and remained at the highest elevation for 150 days. To speak of such a flood as partial is absurd, even if it broke out at only one spot, it would spread over the earth from one end to the other, and reach everywhere to the same elevation. However impossible, therefore, scientific men may declare it to be for them to conceive of a universal flood of such a height and duration in accordance with the known laws of nature, this inability on their part does not justify any one in questioning the possibility of such an event being produced by the omnipotence of God." (Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 1, pp. 92-93). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson)

Science is not the only source of knowledge. Noah's flood is a supernatural act by God and Genesis does not give all the details of how and what God did to accomplish the flood. It cannot be understood without believing in the supernatural.

Let me say one more thing about all this by asking a question. What happened to the dinosaurs?

Scientists have put forth the theory that dinosaurs went extinct due to an asteroid that struck the earth. Let's watch this video.

VIDEO: PBS How Dinosaurs Went Extinct (Discovery - Dino Extinction)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8Ij9xboreA

It's amazing to me that scientists would rather believe that an asteroid hit the earth that was so gigantic that it created world-wide catastrophic event that wiped out all plant life on earth and most dinosaurs. Whatever dinosaurs were left died of starvation. We say there was a supernatural world-wide flood that wiped out all life including dinosaurs except two or a few Noah took on the ark and we are people who can't think.

Conclusion:

There is a scientific (natural) theory based on inferences that sedimentary layers were deposited through erosion over billions of years.

There is a supernatural theory based on inferences and the Bible that sedimentary layers were deposited through a worldwide flood over months.

Scientists cannot prove the age of the earth based on their relative dating inferences centered in uniformitarianism.

Scientists cannot disprove the supernatural explanation of a world-wide flood for the sedimentary layers and other natural phenomena on the earth.