Time, Truth and Wisdom
CHAPTER 2 Creation--The Scientific Version
Do you believe that this earth is only 6000 years old? Many people do but it seems to be primarily a belief of misguided religious fundamentalists. Is science completely wrong? Can all of these learned men and women of the science community, who are archaeologists, paleontologists and geologists, be completely off base?
Is it the goal of every scientist to prove that the Bible is nothing more than the writings of men and women who were not led of the Holy Spirit in the things of which they wrote or is it the goal of religious fundamentalists to prove that science is nothing more than conjecture and hypothesis? Certainly, there has to be some common ground between the two. And there is, for those that are educated enough to think for themselves and use common sense.
Carbon-14 dating is a way of determining the age of certain archeological artifacts of a biological origin up to about 50,000 years old. It is used in dating things such as bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers that were created in the relatively recent past by human activities.
Cosmic rays enter the earth’s atmosphere in large numbers every day. For example, every person is hit by about half a million cosmic rays every hour. It is not uncommon for a cosmic ray to collide with an atom in the atmosphere, creating a secondary cosmic ray in the form of an energetic neutron, and for these energetic neutrons to collide with nitrogen atoms.
When the neutron collides, a nitrogen-14 (seven protons, seven neutrons) atom turns into a carbon-14 atom (six protons, eight neutrons) and a hydrogen atom (one proton, zero neutrons). Carbon-14 is radioactive, with a half-life of about 5,700 years.
The carbon-14 atoms that cosmic rays create combine with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, which plants absorb naturally and incorporate into plant fibers by photosynthesis. Animals and people eat plants and take in carbon-14 as well. The ratio of normal carbon (carbon-12) to carbon-14 in the air and in all living things at any given time is nearly constant.
Maybe one in a trillion carbon atoms is carbon-14. The carbon-14 atoms are always decaying but they are being replaced by new carbon-14 atoms at a constant rate. At this moment, your body has a certain percentage of carbon-14 atoms in it, and all living plants and animals have the same percentage.
As soon as a living organism dies, it stops taking in new carbon. The ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 at the moment of death is the same as every other living thing, but the carbon-14 decays and is not replaced. The carbon-14 decays with its half-life of 5,700 years, while the amount of carbon-12 remains constant in the sample. By looking at the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in the sample and comparing it to the ratio in a living organism, it is possible to determine the age of a formerly living thing fairly precisely.
Because the half-life of carbon-14 is 5,700 years, it is only reliable for dating objects up to about 60,000 years old. However, the principal of carbon-14 dating applies to other isotopes as well. Potassium-40 is another radioactive element naturally found in your body and has a half-life of 1.3 billion years. Other useful radioisotopes for radioactive dating include:
Uranium-235 (half-life = 704 million years)
Uranium-238 (half-life = 4.5 billion years)
Thorium-232 (half-life = 14 billion years)
Rubidium-87 (half-life = 49 billion years)
The use of various radioisotopes allows the dating of biological and geological samples with a high degree of accuracy. However, radioisotope dating may not work so well in the future. Anything that dies after the 1940s, when nuclear bombs, nuclear reactors, and open-air nuclear tests started changing things, will be harder to date precisely.
Religious fundamentalists that believe that this earth is only 6000 years old have to debunk or discredit the methods used by scientists, specifically carbon-14 dating, to be able to prove their assertion that the geological layering of the substrate was accomplished by the flood of Genesis 6000 years ago and not millions of years ago. Not surprisingly, to add credibility to their argument, “creation scientists” bend scientific findings to make it align with the flood of Genesis to support the “6000-year-old earth” theory.
Religious fundamentalists can no more prove the age of this earth through the Bible than scientists can prove the age of this earth through scientific means, even though there is a huge amount of evidence on the scientific side as compared to the Biblical. Huge time periods, millennia, just don’t fit within the Bible, according to them, because of the way that they interpret Mark 10:6, which states:
Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
They go on to say: “This only makes sense with a timeline beginning with the creation week thousands of years ago. It makes no sense at all if man appeared at the end of billions of years.”
With this statement, they expose their lack of knowledge of the Scriptures. It absolutely does make sense for mankind to appear in the records at the end of billions of years if you are aware of the fact that there was another heaven/earth age before the one in which we are currently living. The earth was indeed billions of years old when the katabole’, the overthrow in heaven, occurred.
What is the subject being discussed by Jesus in Mark 10:2-12? Divorce. And the words of Christ, “from the beginning of creation”, doesn’t refer to the creation of the cosmos or the erets but of the human race when He created them male and female. They are called the “sixth-day creation”. There indeed were millions of years of earth before the creation of humankind.
It would serve little purpose to go into all of the rationales that are used in their efforts to separate science from the Bible but a few points are worth mentioning. First of all, they all sing the same song with the same words. From one web site to the next, from one book to the next, one is a duplicate of the other. It’s as though a list of talking points was distributed to everyone that wanted to take up the banner of creationism vs. evolution. And indeed, this is probably the case.
They like to point out that carbon-14 dating is only accurate to date fossils up to 50,000 years old. After that length of time, the accuracy of the dating becomes invalid. They fail to mention, or better still, they just simply don’t know, that scientists can use isotopes other than carbon. For example, as I mentioned above, the radioactive isotope potassium-40 decays to argon-40 with a half-life of 1.3 billion years. Is that a sufficient length of time for the religious fundamentalists? Does it really matter if a fossil has been dated to 500,000 years BC and the actual existence may be 400,000 BC?
What really matters is that we use our God-given ability of sound reasoning and common sense and put aside our personal desire that something should be that never was. You can’t close your eyes and stick your head in the sand and just ignore the fact that you can look around and see evidence of the longevity of this planet beyond 6000 years. Just because they say it ain’t so, don’t make it so.
How many of these religious fundamentalists are actually educated to the point that they can successfully argue that carbon dating doesn’t fit the measure of accuracy required to determine the actual birth date of a fossil? Probably less than ½ of 1%. The striking reality of religious fundamentalists is that they are followers.
Their religious leaders, who have their own ax to grind, tell them that only the Bible holds the truth of creation and these dumb masses fall in line and lock-step with whatever opinion these leaders want them to profess. And why should they act any differently? They’ve been pew-potatoes in their churches for many years, they don’t study the Bible on their own and if they do they form little coffee-gossip-groups with their own little leaders and it ends up with the blind leading the blind.
No one learns anything because within the pecking order of these little study groups the alpha-male (or alpha-female) stands out as the lead dog and everyone else looks at a view that never changes. And they go home feeling soooo self-righteous.
Whether you want to believe it or not, carbon dating is one of the best ways of determining the age of a fossil. It’s accurate to within 1% of being true. If a fossil has been dated at 500,000BC and it’s off by 1%, which is 5000 years, then so what? This is really not the point that these religious zealots are trying to make anyway.
The point that they are trying to make is to try to convince the rest of us that they are much holier and more educated than we are. And therein lies the problem. As the old saying goes; you can educate the ignorant but you can’t teach stupid.
The Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang Model is a broadly accepted theory for the origin and evolution of our universe. It postulates that 12 to 14 billion years ago, the portion of the universe we can see today was only a few millimeters across. It has since expanded from this hot dense state into the vast and much cooler cosmos we currently inhabit. We can see remnants of this hot dense matter as the now very cold cosmic microwave background radiation, which still pervades the universe and is visible to microwave detectors as a uniform glow across the entire sky.
Let’s cover some of the history and the current developments within the scientific community concerning the creation of the cosmos or the universe without the hand of God being involved. Science calls this the “Big Bang Theory”.
The Big Bang theory developed from observations of the structure of the universe and from theoretical considerations. In 1912 Vesto Slipher measured the first Doppler shift of the “spiral nebula” and soon discovered that almost all such nebulae were receding from Earth.
He did not grasp the cosmological implications of this fact, and indeed at the time, it was highly controversial as to whether or not these nebulae were “island universes” outside our Milky Way. Ten years later Alexander Friedmann, a Russian cosmologist, and mathematician derived the Friedmann equations from Albert Einstein’s equations of general relativity, showing that the universe might be expanding in contrast to the static universe model advocated by Einstein.
In 1924, Edwin Hubble’s measurement of the great distance to the nearest spiral nebulae showed that these systems were indeed other galaxies. Independently deriving Friedmann’s equations in 1927, Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, predicted that the recession of the nebulae was due to the expansion of the universe.
In 1931 Lemaitre went further and suggested that the universe began as a simple “primeval atom”, perhaps echoing previous speculations about the cosmic egg origin of the universe.
Starting in 1924, Hubble painstakingly developed a series of distance indicators, the forerunner of the cosmic distance ladder, using the 100-inch Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory. This allowed him to estimate distances to galaxies whose redshifts had already been measured, mostly by Slipher. In 1929, Hubble discovered a correlation between distance and recession velocity, now known as Hubble’s Law. Lemaitre had already shown that this was expected, given the cosmological principle.
During the 1930s other ideas were proposed as non-standard cosmologies to explain Hubble’s observations, including the Milne model, the oscillatory universe and Fritz Zwicky’s tired light hypothesis. After World War II, two distinct possibilities emerged. One was Fred Hoyle’s steady-state model, whereby new matter would be created as the universe seemed to expand. In this model, the universe is roughly the same at any point in time.
The other was Lemaitre’s Big Bang theory, advocated and developed by George Gamow, who introduced big bang nucleosynthesis and whose associates, Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman, predicted the cosmic microwave background. It is an irony that it was Hoyle who coined the name that would come to be applied to Lemaitre’s theory, referring to it as “this big bang idea” during a 1950 BBC radio broadcast.
For a while, support was split between these two theories. Eventually, the observational evidence, most notably from radio source counts, began to favor the latter. The discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation in 1964 secured the Big Bang theory as the best theory of the origin and evolution of the cosmos.
Much of the current work in cosmology includes understanding how galaxies form in the context of the Big Bang, understanding the physics of the universe at earlier and earlier times, and reconciling observations with the basic theory.
Huge strides in Big Bang cosmology have been made since the late 1990s as a result of major advances in telescope technology as well as the analysis of copious data from satellites such as COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer), the Hubble Space Telescope and WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe). Cosmologists now have a fairly precise measurement of many of the parameters of the Big Bang model and have made the unexpected discovery that the expansion of the universe appears to be accelerating.
A thumbnail sketch, if you will, of the scientific version of the creation of the universe.
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__21 June 2009__