Old or Young Earth —15 Billion Years in 6 Days
- Is the earth some six to ten thousand years old or is it four to five billions years old?
- Was the genesis of the universe completed in days or over eons of time?
- Is it possible to get some 15 billion years to fit within six days?
The issue addressed here is generally driven by a religious or otherwise academic interpretation of the biblical text of Genesis. We have already covered the issue of origins without entering this discussion. However, there are a couple of relevant scientific points to examine in this context and so we include a brief consideration for the age of the earth and universe.
An old earth might be thought to invalidate a biblical genesis, yet that is potentially a fiction and a rationalization. Conversely, we do not advocate ignoring dating techniques that science can use with a high degree of reliability. Elsewhere, interesting commentaries on both sides of the age issue point to the same biblical passages. Yet a bit of critical thinking appears to quickly excuse many of the young earth accounts. The assumption of a young earth, of some 6,000 to 10,000 years, comes results in an earth and universe appearing to be many billions of years old. This situation would create a reality based on an artifact—this too suffers by a fiction. But why assume any uncertain premise when there is a solution for a biblical six day account and a universe that is also many billions of years old. The short answer is ... there is in fact potential solution to the young/old earth dilemma! Einstein's relativity reveals how 15 billion years can fit within 6 days. This is detailed further in the following discussion.
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The label ''young earth creationist'' is used in media reports and by persons who do in fact make a literal interpretation of the initial passages of the Book of Genesis. Such an interpretation leaves us with a universe and earth literally made within six 24 hour days. From genealogies and human histories within the biblical text one is then left to consider the remaining time is equivalent to some 6 to 10 thousand years. At least that is one way of summarizing a young earth perspective.
The young earth position is routinely rejected by scientists who point to a number of evidences that speak to an old earth. The stigma attached to the young earth position goes further to the point of adding negative connotations to the word creation. What the public is not told—the media fail here—is that there is in fact a body of thinkers who read the same text but see an old earth position. They sometimes offer the word empiricist in place of creationist, because they also consider meaningful evidence for creation dovetails with science. How this 'fit' can be observed deserves attentive investigation. In fact, the Genesis text as written—being rather brief at that—requires a bit of detective work for both the theologian and scientist alike.
The meaning of the term creation deserves another look, as is reflected in the following:
Suppose you do not accept the Darwinian picture of natural history, that is, you do not believe that the vast panoply of life evolved through undirected naturalistic processes. Presumably, then, you are a creationist. But does this make you a young earth creationist? Ever since Darwin's Origin Of Species Darwinists have cast the debate in these terms: either you are with us, or you are a creationist, by which they mean a young earth creationist. But of course it does not follow, logically or otherwise, that by rejecting fully naturalistic evolution you automatically embrace a literal reading of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Rejecting fully naturalistic evolution does not entail excepting young earth creationism. The only thing one can say for certain is that to reject fully naturalistic evolution is to accept some form of creation broadly construed, that is, the belief that God or some intelligent designer is responsible for life. Young earth creation certainly falls under this broad construal of creation but is hardly coextensive with it. Dembski (MC) Page 24
A Jewish theologian, Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum (of Ariel Ministries), would tell you that the Hebrew words in Genesis combine the word day with an ordinal, a number—'the first day,' ' the second day,' etc. To his understanding the Hebrew itself must be read as there are six literal 24 hour days to creation of the Universe as revealed in the Genesis account. Is this logical as well as literal?
Dr. Hugh Ross, an astronomer (of Reasons to Believe) presents his analysis concerning Genesis and time in his writings (e.g., The Fingerprint of God and in The Genesis Question - Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis.; see Book List for references). He argues that the wording of the biblical text allows for the word 'day' to relate to epochs of time. Is this in violation of a sound interpretation of the Hebrew words?
But let's step back a minute from the words creationist and evolutionist to consider a point raised by a nuclear physicist, Dr. Gerald Schroeder, concerning time and relativity. Might there be a way to pull a 15 billion year old rabbit out of a 6 day old hat? Dr. Schroeder, with the help of Einstein's theory of general relativity, makes calculations to explain how the rabbit is in fact pulled out of the hat (also see link to related feature article by Dr. Schroeder at the bottom of this page). The implications here are for a reading of the Genesis account that is both literal and scientific, but with an intelligent twist. That is, you must be thinking from two perspectives—offered by Einstein's theory—that by relative points of view give both a days long and a billions of years time-frame(s). We raise this to your attention simply because we humans tend to get channeled in ruts of thought and are little prepared for surprises. If Dr. Schroeder is right, there is an answer to an age old riddle that satisfies a need for literal correctness and the need for time to fit with all the scientific operations that astronomy, physics, geology, chemistry, and biology require.
Dr. Schroeder describes how the days of time—each 24 hours from our earthly perspective, starting with the Big Bang—can be expansive periods of time when one accounts for all this from a cosmic perspective. For example, the biblical text is written from the perspective of one standing on the Earth. But the understanding of creation time periods should also be viewed from another vantage point—that being a view on time from elsewhere in the Universe. This explanation may or may not be correct, but the presentation makes logical sense. This uses relativity described by Einstein and further shows that an old Universe of 15 billion years actually fits within the six days of creation as described in the biblical text.
We suggest entertaining Dr. Schroeder's thinking for a moment because this opens a way to seeing science and Scripture work together. His book, 'The Science of God' (see Book List for reference), gives a more full account of how the days of creation allow for the literal interpretation that Dr. Fruchtenbaum sees and the position advanced by Dr. Ross. And perhaps we are faced with a win-win situation all around!
The key to Dr. Schroeder's explanation is the shift from the expansive time frames of the first six days down to the human perspective of a 24 hour day which comes with the mention of the seventh day of creation. The time periods from the first to sixth day collapse into shorter time frames (on the order of billions of years or fraction thereof) and finally lock into the diurnal framework we experience in 24 hour periods.
Dr. Ross draws on a number of other perspectives to attain an appreciation for the age of the universe in both a biblical and scientific context:
In Creation And Time I showed how a reexamination of the biblical text, especially the Hebrew manuscripts and the writings of early church scholars, more clearly and consistently supports the big bang model—namely, an old-universe, old-earth interpretation of the text—than they do any recent-creation scenario (i.e., one in which the universe is only a few thousand years old). Ross (MC) Page 364
A young earth and young universe scenario would turn science fact into artifact. That the universe continually delivers ancient light to earth's doorstep would by some reasoning end up the product of a recent creation that looks like a well aged universe. That would be a created deception. And yet the science is eloquent and describes an unfolding of time, making of atomic elements, and a beginning:
... research into the relative abundances of various elements throughout the cosmos. Since stars can synthesize only some of these elements, an independent nuclear furnace must have generated the remainder. The only plausible candidate for this quantity and quality of nuclear fusion is the big bang itself, and only when the cosmos was between three and four minutes old. The combined effects of the big bang and 15 billion years of stellar burning results in exactly the abundance of the elements we find in the universe. No other model comes close. Ross (MC) Page 366
Meanwhile, research dating the oldest stars, which are contained in globular clusters, has advanced significantly. ... The mean age of the team derived from such stars was 14.6 ± 1.3 billion years. Ross (MC) Page 367
Note this discussion is not a vain attempt to fit odd pieces together to make an ancient text work in some roughshod fashion. A typical stumbling block for creation scientists (i.e., young earth creationists) is the time issue. To fit the creation of the Universe and all the physical features of the Earth into the creation text never seemed to work. And this has always led to a debate that goes no where. But we are not here to tell you the Earth is 6,000 or 10,000 years old, but to say that what science tells us about an old Earth can indeed fit with Genesis. We just need to look beyond some of the classical presentations.
Quotations from "The Creation Hypothesis" (CH) edited by J. P. Moreland and "Mere Creation" (MC) edited by William A. Dembski are used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be used without permission from InterVarsity Press.
Excerpts and links to Feature Articles:
''One of the most obvious perceived contradictions between Torah and science is the age of the universe. Is it billions of years old, like scientific data, or is it thousands of years, like Biblical data? When we add up the generations of the Bible, we come to 5758 years. Whereas, data from the Hub bell telescope or from the land based telescopes in Hawaii, indicate the number at 15 billion years.''
''In trying to resolve
this apparent conflict, it's interesting to look historically at trends
in knowledge, because absolute proofs are not forthcoming. But what is available
is to look at how science has changed its picture of the world ...'' MORE on this, read:
Dr. Gerald Schroeder on the Age of Universe
Also, for a TimeLine Comparison Follow This Link To:
A Science and Biblical Creation Day Comparison
We don't suppose this consideration of relative time frames means everyone will accept a biblical account of creation. But with support stemming from the descriptions in feature articles that follow, we can use the word creation in a less biased context. We can also look for the possible evidence for an intelligence behind existence before making any assessment of who or what the Designer might be. References to God or religion can be kept apart of the majority of what we will look at here. Yet, considering the source of intelligence at work in the backdrop of space and time may come to the surface as you look through the window. For now, read on with the expectation of discovery. Be skeptical if you must, but gather what you see to build a holistic view within the window's larger frame. And once these many perspectives form a picture, then take look at the mosaic formed by all that you see.
Writer / Editor: Dr. T. Peterson, Director, WindowView.org
The WindowView drops many of the typical presumptions to take another look. What does scientific data tell us if we start without assumptions? And ... how contiguous is science information if examined along with scriptural perspectives provided by the Bible? The Bible is the only religious or holy book we know of that is in fact consistent with science. While not a textbook, the Scriptures are either contradictory or complementary to scientific perspectives. Have you looked at these perspectives? To see 'Science and Scripture in Harmony' is to reveal life, reality, and your future.