Editor’s Note: In the several years since we originally received this question, young-earth creationists have produced many new materials, and another web visitor requested we provide some of these. We have updated the answer with newer resources that will be of interest to those, like Tony, with questions about apologetics, intelligent design, and good resources to share with skeptics.
Dear Dr. Mortenson,
As an ID promoter, I read your critique of Dr. Dembski with great interest. I, like you and Paul Nielson, understand the importance of the doctrine of original sin, and believe that event happened less than 10,000 years ago.
I see ID as a very important pre-evangelism tool. Have you ever worked as a campus minister on a secular campus? Those resistant to the gospel don’t accept Scripture as apologetics, at least not at first. They are not ready for “meat.” Conversions take time. In such cases, you need to meet people where they are. I like the ID presentations because they are so persuasive. I focus on the origin of life question to wake people to the existence of God, and I proclaim the resurrection of Christ to bring them to him. But this takes time. You start with milk. Let’s be wise.
Many of the young-earth creationist materials show how the literal biblical interpretation is plausible, not that it is a sure thing. To bring intellectuals to Christ takes good apologetics, love, prayer, and patience (or of course, an encounter with God!) To bring them to young-earth creation is much more difficult.
I recently purchased “Thousands . . . Not Billions” hoping to be more convinced of young-earth creation. Yet it had the opposite effect, and I want to believe young-earth creation for theological reasons. Radiometric dating is a better method for dating than I thought. In the book I learned about isochrons, which seem to answer the question of the initial parent-daughter ratios. Also, the conclusions of the book seemed really “far out,” how the authors were grappling with the heat problem of the young-earth creation view. I could never share that book with a skeptic and hope to convince them of young-earth creation.
Tell me please, what are the most compelling scientific evidences of a young earth? Please provide quality, not quantity. I really want to have the best tools in my toolbox.
With Joy in Jesus,
I’m glad you found my critique of William Dembski’s article to be thought-provoking. Thanks for your comments and questions. I’ll do my best to answer them from a young-earth creationist perspective.
First of all, I think it is very important to distinguish between intelligent design arguments and the Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) led by the Discovery Institute, of which Dembski was a significant part until he dropped out of the IDM in 2016.1
For decades (and long before Phillip Johnson, Dembski, and others launched the IDM in the early 1990s), young-earth creationists have used intelligent design arguments for the existence of God and in defense of the truth of the Bible’s creation account. Using ID arguments in our conversations with unbelievers is perfectly consistent with Scripture. The Bible says that the creation clearly, indeed infallibly, reveals the Creator (e.g., Job 12:7–10; Psalm 19:1; Psalm 97:6; Acts 14:15–17; and Romans 1:18–20), so that unbelievers have no excuse for their unbelief. Intelligent design arguments can be useful in breaking down resistance to the gospel. And God has indeed used such arguments in the process of many people coming to faith in Christ.
Secondly, while we at Answers in Genesis appreciate many things that the IDM leaders are doing, we think the movement is seriously flawed. In my DVD lecture Intelligent Design vs the Intelligent Design Movement, I discuss four strengths and four weaknesses in the IDM.
The IDM’s strengths are that it
- refutes the scientific “evidences” for Neo-Darwinian evolution.
- increases the sophistication of design arguments.
- highlights the critical importance of genetic information to the origins question.
- exposes naturalism’s control of biological sciences.
But I note that the IDM’s serious weaknesses are these:
- The IDM leaders intentionally ignore the question of the age of the earth and naturalism’s control of geology and astronomy.
- They intentionally ignore Scripture (especially Genesis 1–11).
- Its leaders ignore or reject the curse on creation (Genesis 3:14–19) and its critical relevance to the question of the age of the earth.
- It doesn’t point to the God of the Bible but only to a vaguely defined “intelligent designer,” and therefore doesn’t point people to Jesus Christ and their need of salvation.
- Since many of the IDM books are published by evangelical publishers (especially IVPress), these weaknesses are leading many Christians away from the truth of Scripture.
The real issue is not whether there is an intelligent designer or not. Lots of people believe in a vaguely defined “god” but are lost in their sins. The real issue in America and around the world is the truth and authority of the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the teaching of millions of years even more than the teaching of evolution (which is built on the same antibiblical, naturalistic assumptions) is what keeps people from believing God’s Word. The non-Christian world is generally not impressed with Christians who reject biological evolution but accept millions of years (and thereby reject or ignore the Bible’s teaching on Noah’s Flood). Informed skeptics know that the Bible teaches young-earth creation and a global Flood and that the early chapters of Genesis are foundational to the gospel, and they rightly criticize those who pick and choose which parts of the Bible they want to believe.
Shortly before his death, the famous atheist, Anthony Flew, was won over by ID arguments to believe in a god of some sort. But as far as I know from reading, he never repented of his rebellion against the Creator and trusted in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. If he didn’t, then according to Scripture he will suffer eternal judgment in hell, which is very sad indeed. Belief in an “intelligent designer” won’t be worth anything on Judgment Day.
Regarding the impact of intelligent design arguments on intellectuals, this IDM strategy of using design arguments that are divorced from Scripture was tried once before, in the early 19th century. But it failed to convert people or to overcome the growing deistic and atheistic skepticism in the once-Christian cultures of Great Britain and North America. In fact, many of those who were arguing for design in this unscriptural way were also leading the church to reject Genesis 1–11 and accept the geological theory of millions of years—50 years before Darwin published his Origin of Species in 1859. See this lecture based on my PhD research: Millions of Years: Where Did the Idea Come From? For a more in-depth look at this idea and the church’s compromise with it, see the shortened version of my PhD thesis, The Great Turning Point: the Church’s Catastrophic Mistake on Genesis—Before Darwin.
Simply put, the IDM strategy of leaving God and his Word out of the discussion will not defeat naturalism’s control of science. It will not lead to most scientists operating in a theistic (rather than atheistic) worldview, like the Christian worldview in which modern science was born. Most people will not be convinced simply by scientific arguments. Ultimately, the origins debate is a spiritual battle. Both Darwinian evolution and the idea of millions of years were created in the minds of people in rebellion against their Creator. They were inventing an alternative story to the inspired, inerrant history in Genesis 1–11, so they would not feel the need to be morally accountable to the Creator. That is fundamentally the same reason that most people today believe these ideas and are unwilling to consider Genesis 1–11 and the powerful scientific evidence that confirms that truth.
In our evangelism we need to present design arguments along with the Scriptures. Don’t let Satan lead you into thinking that in your witness to skeptics who reject the Bible as God’s Word you cannot use the Scriptures at the same time as you use apologetics. Use Scripture and apologetics and never forget that whether people believe it or not, the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God and is sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17).
I agree with you that “to bring intellectuals to Christ takes good apologetics, love, prayer, and patience (or of course, an encounter with God!).” For 26 years on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, I worked mostly with university students or recent graduates in 17 countries (including communist Eastern Europe). In those years and the years since I joined AiG in 2001, I have lectured on and debated evolution many times in university contexts. I have found that when scientific evidence is combined with an explanation of what the Bible teaches (even quoting Scripture), students are interested and responsive, and it often opens opportunities for further spiritual discussions. We need to overcome our fear of using the Bible when we talk to skeptics. We must resist their insistence that we leave the Bible out of the discussion. It doesn’t matter if they don’t believe the Bible. God promises to honor his Word as we humbly and respectfully share it with others. We also need to expose and refute their faulty philosophical presuppositions (which most intellectual skeptics don’t even realize they have).
You say, “To bring them to young-earth creation is much more difficult.” Of course, it often is, because the world has been so thoroughly brainwashed not to believe Genesis. But we should attempt to bring them to Christ first. Still, if the idea of millions of years is a stumbling block to their acceptance of the truth of Scripture and therefore to trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior, then young-earth creationist literature and DVDs can be extremely powerful. In the AiG ministry we have heard or received countless testimonies from around the world showing that young-earth creationist biblical and scientific arguments are very effective in helping to bring people to Christ. Note, too, that many of the leading creation scientists today were once old-earthers, and some were even evolutionists.
If you want theological reasons for believing in a young earth, there are many:
Strong exegetical arguments for literal days in Genesis 1 (see the “Days of Creation” section of Get Answers: Genesis) are only ever rejected because “science has proven that the earth and universe are billions of years old.” I could give you many, many quotes by Bible scholars and other Christian leaders who hold to an old-earth view, showing that it is not exegesis of Scripture, but the claims of the naturalism-controlled scientific majority that are driving their interpretations.2 For example, this statement by Old Testament professor Dr. Gleason Archer is typical:
From a superficial reading of Genesis 1, the impression would seem to be that the entire creative process took place in six twenty-four-hour days. If this was the true intent of the Hebrew author . . . this seems to run counter to modern scientific research, which indicates that the planet Earth was created several billion years ago.3
But it is not just a superficial reading of Genesis 1 that gives this impression. As Dr. James Montgomery Boice, the late pastor and speaker on The Bible Study Hour admitted in his helpful commentary on Genesis, it is careful exegesis that leads to the same conclusion. But as one who accepted millions of years, he too ignored this biblical witness and instead sided with “science” (mistaking “data” for interpretations of the data). He wrote,
We have to admit here that the exegetical basis of the creationists is strong . . . . In spite of the careful biblical and scientific research that has accumulated in support of the creationists' view, there are problems that make the theory wrong to most (including many evangelical) scientists. . . . Data from various disciplines point to a very old earth and an even older universe.4
The Bible gives us time-specified genealogies from Adam to Noah and Noah to Abraham and plenty of chronological information to date Abraham quite accurately. There are strong arguments against supposing any gaps in the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies (i.e., those are all literal father-son relationships). But even if there are some missing names, there can be no missing time, because the age of each patriarch is given when the next man is born. So it doesn’t matter, for example, if Seth was the son, grandson or great-grandson of Adam. He was born when Adam was 130 years old. Combining the time covered in Genesis 5 and 11 with other chronological information in the Bible leads to the conclusion that those six literal days of creation were just a little more than 6,000 years ago.5
The local or tranquil flood views of Genesis 6–9 cannot stand up to careful exegetical scrutiny. The first half of The Genesis Flood (1961) clearly demonstrated that, and old-earth critics have never even attempted to refute the biblical arguments in that epic book. More recently, Dr. Andrew Snelling has presented a thorough biblical argument in the first 125 pages of his 2-volume, 1,100-page defense of Noah’s Flood and biblical earth history, Earth’s Catastrophic Past. For a shorter argument see my recent article, Noah’s Flood: a Unique, Historical, Yearlong, Global Catastrophe.
Accepting millions of years of the geological ages (as the evolutionists interpret the fossil record) destroys the Bible’s teaching on death, which clearly indicates that there was no animal death or human death before the fall. In addition, there could not have been thorns and thistles and cancer (e.g., in dinosaur bones) in God’s “very good” creation. So the rock layers that contain these things can’t be millions of years old but must have been deposited after Adam sinned (primarily during Noah’s Flood). Tony, you say that you “understand the importance of the doctrine of original sin and believe that event happened less than 10,000 years ago.” If that is so, then you should be a young-earth creationist. See also “Two Histories of Death” and my more in-depth discussion of this vital point in “The Fall and the Problem of Millions of Years of Natural Evil.”
Closely related to this is the character of God. The God revealed in the Bible could not possibly have created the universe over millions of years involving death and disease and five mass-extinction events (when 70–90% of the creatures at the time were destroyed), as the evolutionists and old-earth creationists believe. Why not? Because the God of Scripture reveals that in the post-Fall world he cares for his creation (Psalm 104:27–28; Matthew 6:26–30) even though it is groaning and suffering under his curse [Genesis 3:14–19; Romans 8:19–23]). He also commands the Israelites to care for their animals with compassion (e.g., they are to receive a Sabbath rest—Exodus 20:10), and Proverbs 12:10 says, “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.” Righteous sinners would be more righteous than God Almighty if God really created and destroyed billions of animals for no moral reason over millions of years before Adam, and called it all “very good,” as old-earth creationists imagine. The God of the Bible is not the god of an old earth (see “The “god” of an Old Earth” and the section on this subject in my article on the Fall in the previous point above).
Destroying the Bible’s teaching on death and undermining the character of God results in undermining the doctrine of redemption. Christ’s work will ultimately restore all things (Acts 3:21), redeem all things (Colossians 1:15–20), and liberate all things (Romans 8:19–23) by bringing an end to the curse (Revelation 21:3–5 and 22:3). As his righteousness finally fills the new earth, carnivores and animals dangerous to man will be changed to harmless vegetarians (Isaiah 11:6–9). Those of us going to heaven do not have to look forward to millions of years (really an eternity) of death, disease, and catastrophes. Therefore, belief in millions of years is a subtle attack on the gospel.
Jesus and the New Testament writers clearly show that they all took Genesis 1–11 as literal history. In particular, Jesus’ statement in Mark 10:6 reveals that he believed that Adam and Eve were created at the beginning of creation, not billions of years after the beginning (see “But from the Beginning of . . . the Institution of Marriage?” and a more in-depth discussion of Jesus’ view in “Jesus, Evangelical Scholars, and the Age of the Earth”).
Since the Bible clearly teaches young-earth creation, you should need no more evidence. God’s Word teaches it and that settles it for me. I love science, and because of biblical teaching (e.g., Psalm 19:1; Job 12:7–10; Romans 1:18–20), I know that when the creation is carefully observed and properly interpreted (using the eyewitness testimony of the Creator to guide our interpretation rather than using antibiblical, naturalistic presuppositions to interpret), we will see abundant evidence that God’s Word is indeed true.
Scientific arguments for a young earth are numerous.
The old-earth idea was developed historically, not from “letting the physical facts speak for themselves” but by imposing anti-biblical philosophical assumptions onto the geological observations. See “Philosophical Naturalism and the Age of the Earth: Are They Related?” and the Millions of Years DVD. The rock record is screaming “Noah’s Flood” and “young earth.” Secular geologists can’t hear or see the message because of their academic indoctrination in those naturalistic, uniformitarian assumptions. For the same reason, most Christian geologists can’t see or hear the message, in addition to the fact that they have believed the scientific establishment more than the Bible, even though they claim it is the inspired Word of God.
Dr. John Morris’s book The Young Earth gives a good layman’s summary (with documentation and plenty of pictures) of some of the strongest evidences for a young earth and global Flood. For more in-depth geological arguments, see Dr. Andrew Snelling’s Earth’s Catastrophic Past. Excellent DVDs illustrating some of these points are on Mount St. Helens and Grand Canyon. Because creationist scientists (or any scientists, for that matter) don’t have answers to every question, they are continuing to do research. Following is some of the evidence brought out in these resources:
There is an almost complete absence of evidence of erosion or soil layers or the activity of living things (e.g., plant roots and burrow marks) at the upper surfaces of the various strata (showing that each stratum did not lie there for thousands or millions of years before the next layer was deposited).
Polystrate fossils (usually trees, without roots or branches) cut vertically through more than one layer of different kinds of sedimentary rock (such as sandstone, limestone, or coal). The trees would have rotted and left no fossil evidence if they were slowly buried over thousands or millions of years. These fossils are strong evidence that the sediments that entomb them were deposited rapidly (in minutes, hours, days, or weeks).
We observe bent or folded sedimentary layers (often more than one layer and kind of rock). In some instances, evolutionists claim that tens or hundreds of millions of years separate the two or more layers that are all bent the same way. There are several prominent examples in Grand Canyon, but this kind of evidence is found in other places around the world. Hard rock can be bent without cracking under great heat and pressure, but the process metamorphoses (changes the minerals and structure of) the rock. The bent or folded sedimentary layers often show no evidence of metamorphosis and therefore strongly indicate that they were soft and wet when the earth movements that deformed them occurred.
Fossils speak of very rapid burial and fossilization. For example, soft parts (jellyfish, animal feces, and scales and fins of fish) or large, fully articulated skeletons (e.g., whales or large dinosaurs such as T. rex) are preserved. We also find many creatures’ bodies contorted and some creatures fossilized in the stomachs of other creatures. All this evidence shows that these creatures were buried rapidly (in many cases even buried alive) and fossilized before scavengers, microbial decay, and erosional processes could erase the evidence. These are found all over the world and all through the various strata.
The radiometric dating methods are based on those same naturalistic, uniformitarian, antibiblical assumptions used for interpreting all the other geological evidence, and there is plenty of published evidence proving that they do not give valid dates. Also consider the arguments in Radiometric Dating. You cannot expect this icon of evolution to be overthrown in a few short paragraphs. May I also encourage you to reread Thousands . . . Not Billions. You appear to have mistakenly taken as conclusions the “Challenges for the Future” section, which details six unanswered questions requiring further scientific research. This section reflects the scientific honesty and modesty of the RATE researchers. The previous section of that concluding chapter (entitled “RATE findings”), however, summarizes the solid conclusions of their research, including that the isochron dates are totally untrustworthy (contrary to your faith in them). Furthermore, additional work has been done since the RATE research concluded. Consider Circular Reasoning in Dating Methods and Radioactive and Radiocarbon Dating, both DVD lectures are by geologist Dr. Andrew Snelling, one of the RATE researchers. Also consider the challenges that young-earth creationists like Dr. Snelling face because of evolutionist censorship and obstructions to research. This is reflected in the lawsuit that Dr. Snelling had to file in federal court against the Grand Canyon National Park and US Department of the Interior because of the park’s refusal to grant him a research permit to conduct some strategic research that potentially can strike a severe blow against old-earth thinking. (He was eventually granted that permit and is now in the process of laboratory analyses of the rock samples he collected in August 2017. He will publish the results of that geological research in the future.)
Creationists still have many challenges regarding the scientific evidence for a young universe, but distant starlight is no more of a problem for young-earth creationists than it is for big bang proponents, as explained in The Heavens Declare DVD by five leading creation scientists. And as the DVD Our Created Universe shows, the big bang theory has serious problems.
Both God’s Word and his creation are saying the same thing. And over the past 50 years, true science has been increasingly confirming Scripture. As evolutionists and creationists do more research in the years ahead, we can fully expect that many young-earth creationists’ questions will be answered and will further confirm that God created the whole universe a few thousand years ago. He then cursed his whole creation a short time later because of Adam’s sin and destroyed it with a global, catastrophic, yearlong flood at the time of Noah, just as the Bible clearly teaches.
I hope that you will consider these resources, study Genesis 1–11 more carefully, and then believe and submit to God’s inerrant and authoritative Word in all things.
Dr. Terry Mortenson