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Are there scientists who have converted from the old-earth view? Dr. Tommy Mitchell shows us one who has.
I was asked by an old earth proponent if “there are no old-earth (OE) scientists (PhD level at non-creationist colleges) who have changed their views to young-earth (YE) based on the scientific evidence.”
Thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis on this matter. I happen to be one of those scientists who has changed his views on the age of the earth. I have a doctorate in medicine from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and three years of post-doctoral training, and I practiced medicine for 20 years before joining Answers in Genesis full time in 2006. My years of study included the classic scientific disciplines: biology, chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, physics, anatomy and physiology, ecology, and others.
I accepted Christ as a teenager, but unfortunately I was in a church that did not preach and teach the Bible as authoritative. By that, I mean the church accepted evolution as fact and held that the earth was millions of years old. My response at that time was “No problem!” I did not understand the importance that my worldview had on my understanding of so-called scientific evidence, so I gladly accepted the concept of using man’s fallible ideas to “help” reinterpret the Bible.
I’m a Christian on whom God has had mercy. I feel so glad that I have found answers for so many of the questions I’ve always had. I feel blessed because I have finally taken the challenge to believe the Bible is true from the beginning to the end, and that every word is truthful. I understand now what I couldn’t years ago about the Bible and about so many topics . . . .
Latin America is in great need of answers. Usually the news or fashions come to Latin America later [than] the U.S. So I’m afraid [many old earth and evolutionary ideas] will eventually contaminate my precious continent. But God is opening our understanding.
May God bless you, your life, all you are, and all you do. May you be like prophets who bring light in a world that walks in darkness.
The message of the gospel you bring to us is truly a blessing. Thank you so much for your hard work and effort in exegeting life for the people of our day. On behalf of my children and their children, I thank you.
Let us know what you think.
During my undergraduate years and through medical school, evolution was presented as fact (as was the idea that the earth was ancient (more than 6000 years). I was busy trying to get into medical school; I never thought to examine what I was being taught. As I look back on those years, I realize that I had more interest in pleasing my professors than in discovering the truth, so I never questioned what they were teaching.
Through my years of study, I gave little thought to this idea of millions of years. Frankly, the age of the earth (and the entire concept of evolution) had no impact on the real world scientific issues facing me daily, either in undergraduate chemistry classes or in my years of medical training. If the topic came up in a lecture or on a test, I dutifully spouted back the expected answer and went my merry way.
Only after medical school (when my formal evolutionary indoctrination ceased) did questions begin to arise in my mind about the age of the earth. As I took time to study the Scriptures more closely, it was apparent that the Bible was clearly communicating that the earth was created only a few thousand years ago, rather than millions of years ago. I wondered how this could be.
The God who loved me enough to send His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins would surely love me enough to tell me the truth. But then again, how could I reject the science that I had been taught for all those years? Was this really a battle between faith and fact? How could the Bible and science both be true? My world was tied up in those degrees I had earned. Would I have to turn my back on all I had learned and reject true science to take God at His word? As it turns out, the scientific evidence supports the Bible.
Whether you take the position that the earth is young or that the earth is old, the physical evidence is the same! We all have the same universe to examine. We have the same fossils, the same rock layers, the same stars and galaxies to examine; yet we come to different conclusions on this issue. Why? The answer is simple: the issue is not the physical evidence; the issue is the interpretation of the evidence.
Let’s take rock layers as an example. This is physical evidence that might be considered by a scientist when formulating his views on the age of the earth. The rocks can be photographed, sampled, and examined chemically and microscopically. This physical evidence is the same for all scientists. The testing that is done on the rocks is done in the present: the results can be examined and the tests repeated by any scientist. This is operational science at work.
However, the question of how the rock layers got there is another problem entirely. The answer to this question involves making assumptions about things that happened in the past—things that cannot be directly tested. Here, preconceived ideas influence the scientist’s conclusion.
For example, my undergraduate professors stated that the rock layers were obviously millions of years old. However, the only thing that is obvious is that the rock layers are there! These scientists believed that the rock layers were generally laid down over millions of years by slow processes, such as sedimentation. Can this be proven by any scientific method? No. They draw this conclusion because they have assumed beforehand that the earth is ancient.
In contrast, I (along with many, many other scientists) would say that these same rock layers were the result of quick, recent, massive sedimentation due mainly to the event known as Noah’s Flood. This cataclysmic event would cause remodeling of the earth’s surface in a manner not seen before or since. Is this scientific proof? No, it is not. Even though there are many physical evidences—polystrate fossils, folding of rock layers, etc.—that suggest a catastrophic event occurred rather than slow, steady sedimentation, ultimately the scientist’s belief about events in the past is based on preconceived ideas, i.e. his worldview.
Why do I stand boldly for a young earth? It is because I stand firmly on the Word of God.
So, why do I stand boldly for a young earth? It is because I stand firmly on the Word of God. The history and the chronology given in the Bible clearly indicate a recent creation. I have the word of the One who created everything, who has always been there, and who gave us His truth in Scripture. The plain reading of the Bible clearly teaches a young earth. Old-earth interpretations of the Bible are invariably inconsistent with other parts of the Bible and damaging to the very theology of sin and salvation.
Here is the theological issue: if these rock layers are indeed the record of millions of years of slow, steady processes, then the fossils they contain must represent death occurring over millions of years. The fossil record contains evidence of death, disease, and suffering, so a worldview that accepts a very old earth would have death existing long before man appeared.
However, the Bible tells us that God called his creation very good (Genesis 1:31). How could God call something “very good” if there had been millions of years of death and suffering? Also, Scripture clearly says that death was a consequence of man’s sin (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12). How, then, could there be millions of year of death before man appeared? These theological points are not trivial, but are vital to a proper understanding of the reason for Christ’s suffering on the cross—the reason we needed a Savior from sin, death, and separation from our Creator.
Many other evidences, examined in this same light, such as the fossil record, radiometric dating, natural selection, and so-called ape-men to name but a few, lead to the same conclusion. They indicate that this is not a battle of evidence but is actually a matter of interpretation of that same evidence.
My life’s experience has been dealing mainly with medical doctors and scientists involved in medical research. I can name many who, after examining this issue closely, came to accept a young-earth position. Beyond that, my association with Answers in Genesis has given me the opportunity to meet scientists from numerous other disciplines who have also come to accept the biblical chronology as reliable. You can find a list of many of these scientists here.
I pray that this gives some insight,
Tommy Mitchell, MD
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.