Dating the Earth by the Scientific Method???
by Dudley Ross Spears
August 1, 2000
By the scientific method, the issue over the age of the earth can never be settled. For one reason, the issue is not a scientific process. We must rely on a historical record in order to find a sensible answer to how old our planet is. Most believers admit the Bible is the only accurate record of history that remotely reaches back to the beginning. It becomes an issue of "choose ye this day whom ye will serve, whether the gods" of scientific fluctuation and guesswork, or the infallible historical account of creation given in Genesis.
The creation days of Genesis 1 consisted of an "evening" and "morning," "light" for day, and "dark" for night (Gen. 1:5ff). If taken literally, those days were the exact equivalent as our calendar days right now. However, if one accepts the scientific method of dating, the days of Genesis could not have been only 24 hours long. Many geologists and paleontologists surmise that the earth gives geological evidence of being extremely old. Some who claim to believe the Bible is God's word attempt to harmonize Genesis 1 with scientific data. They are then forced to conclude that the creation days are measured in millions or billions of years and not 24 hours.
Is the scientific method a reliable means of setting up a standard by which to interpret biblical data? Is the scientific community correct in their dating methods? Is there a consensus among scientists? What exactly is the "scientific method?" Science says it is central to all scientific inquiry. The scientific community employs the scientific method as a systematic approach to a common sense way of looking at the world. It works like this:
Facts relating to the problem are gathered.
A solution to the problem is proposed producing a hypothesis.
The hypothesis is tested.
Testing the data used to produce the hypothesis determines whether the solution becomes a theory or remains a hypothesis (a guess). The facts relative to the problem are gathered by first hand observation, measurement, counts and a review of records of past observations. Evaluation of the reliability of the data sometimes depends on the skill and knowledge of the scientist. Once the data has been evaluated it is tested. Testing is done by experiments that attempt to reproduce the problem and its solution.
This is where science "evolves" into philosophy. Science cannot prove anything regarding the age of the earth by the one method "central to all scientific inquiry." There is no first hand observation of the materials and conditions involved in the creation of this planet. No scientific experiment can reproduce creation. No previous experiments can be recalled to be observed and applied. The issue of creation cannot be resolved by the scientific method. As Stephen Hawking observed, "Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the results will not contradict the theory." (A Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Tenth Anniversary Edition, page 10).
The scientific world is not as reliable as so many assume. It certainly is incapable of producing an infallible standard by which to interpret Genesis 1. Scientists admit to the use of incomplete data. They make a number of unfounded assumptions. Better said, the scientific method of determining the age of this earth is filled with guesswork. I've been reading a book titled, "A Short History of Planet Earth," by J.D. MacDougall. It is used in some colleges and universities as a text book on physical science. MacDougall posits the standard 4.5 billion year age of the earth, but provides us with some interesting points that should make one scratch his head a bit. Here's one example:
"Although we know when the earth was formed, the next chapter of earth history is essentially blank. For almost 600 million years after our planet's creation the record of the rocks fails us. The oldest rock samples yet identified on earth come from the Northwest Territories in Canada. Based on analysis of their lead isotopes, they have an age slightly greater than 3.98 billion years. These rocks have undergone strong metamorphism, and it is difficult to tell much about their origin." (pages 17-18).
One could almost say, "I rest my case." The standard measurement of the age of metamorphic rock is only possible with rocks in which there are radio-active isotopes. Geologists clearly admit they have no data from which to make any sort of calculation for the first 600 million years of this planet's existence. When they analyze the oldest rock samples available, they come up with 3.9 billion years of age, but admit it is difficult to tell much about the origin of their sample! It must be difficult to tell the old ones from the young ones.
"However, they are not terribly different from many other typical continental rocks that are much younger." (Ibid.).
Geologists take rock samples they judge to be 3.9 billion years old. From this they begin calculations as to age of the entire planet. Up front they say it is difficult to "tell much about their origin." From these very rock samples about which scientists say they know practically nothing they arbitrarily declare them older than "continental rocks," which they judge to be "much younger." Almost as if waving the magic wand they "prove" by rock samples (whose origins are difficult to know) that the earth is 4.5 billion (give or take 600 million) years old. They have two sets of samples; one they declare to be very old, the other they judge much younger. We are told by these scientists there is very little difference in the samples and they cannot "tell much about their origin." Do I hear someone saying belief of God's word is a leap of blind faith?
The Archean Eon
Have you heard of "The Archean Eon?" It is the first major division of geologic time. Scientists allege that it is very long. They claim it lasted from the time of the earth's original formation until about 2.5 billion years ago. In other words it was a space of about 2 billion years. MacDougall, and others, will admit,
"Of course, the geologic timescale is just a construct of scientists and many things must have occurred during the Archean that, if we only knew about them, might provide a basis for further subdivisions." (Ibid. page 21).
Those "if we only knew," and "might provide," and such like may be acceptable to some intellects, but I confess it is weak and foolish. Here are intelligent men and women who know nothing about the first 600 million years of this planet's assumed age. They make confusing statements about the only data they have to examine - rocks. Now they tell us of this 2 billion years in which nothing by way of scientific data can be examined. Yet they come up with an age of the earth that is neither accurate nor scientific.
Rocks and Fossils
For those of you who flirt with the faulty concept that creation was not instantaneous and miraculous, please consider this. If you accept the "scientific" measurements of the age of this planet, based on the geological data of rocks and fossils, you may have a problem with the origin of life. Please be consistent.
MacDougall, still writing about the Archaen Eon, tells us:
"The oldest Archaen rocks that are recognizably sediments are about 3.8 billion years old. These occur in western Greenland, and they confirm that continents and oceans existed by that time. And that erosion and sedimentation were proceeding in ways not radically different from today. But even 800 million years after its birth, the earth was still a barren place, and the atmosphere still without oxygen. In spite of this, and although the evidence is only indirect in rocks of this age, life in the form of microbes or one-celled organisms was probably already present." (Ibid., pages 23-24).
If one accepts the age of this planet as "proved" by the scientific method of dating rocks, one is equally obligated to accept that science is also right when they tell us life, even in one cell, originated in some primeval ooze billions of years ago. They "prove" this by offering samples of sedimentary rock in which they claim to have found a primitive form of life. How can you, accept the proof from geology of an "old earth," and then turn around and reject their suppositions on the origin and age of life on this planet? These two concepts share a mutually dependent relationship: They stand or fall together.
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