This is the first in what will be a series of posts on the “apparent age” or “appearance of age” theory as an explanation for some of the features of the earth and cosmos.
There is a long tradition of those that have espoused various forms of apparent age including probably the most famous proponent from the 1800s Phillip Gosse. Even today there is an element of apparent age involved in all creation positions but apparent age is rarely defined. Among creation scientists it is used a sort of “get of our jail free” card which is played when the most difficult questions arise (ancient light etc.). There is a more sophisticated version today that equates apparent age with the concept of common design. Common design if often evoked by some modern creationists to explain the similarities between organisms (the most obvious being between primates and humans). The common design is related to apparent age in the sense of “apparent history” even though there is no “real” history. More often apparent age is evoked for stellar evolution and the geological history of the earth. In fact apparent age was by far the most common view of man up through the 19th century.
An example of modern apparent age, in the last couple of days the Opportunity Rover which has been slowing driving around Mars for 6 years now finally arrived at the rim of a 14 kilometer wide crater. On the edge of that crater there is very clearly an embedded younger crater http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/opportunity/20110810b/PIA14509_2681pancam_br2.jpg.
This large crater (the mountains in the distance are the opposite wall of the crater in the picture in this link) is just one of many craters that the rover has visited that obviously look like they formed at different points in history (Here are two others that seem to be of very different ages: http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/opportunity/20060927b/site_B76_264_navcam_CYL_L-B952R1_br2.jpg .
(BTW, if you were wondering this very small and very “young” looking crater compared to the others I would guess would probably be estimated to be more than 100,000 years old). The large crater it is visiting now has a crater inside the crater that has a crater inside of that crater attesting to a series of separate events separated by what is likely a significant amount of time since the erosion patterns are very different for each crater. Had these details been visible to those in the past, an apparent age argument was the most obvious argument in the past to explain these features. In fact, it is quite common today for he lay Christian when asked to say that God simply made Mars to look like this. Thus the ability to “read” the craters as representing a historical series of events is just a byproduct of creation with apparent age just as a fully formed human would appear to have come from a baby or the Grand Canyon formed from the action of river erosion. However, some modern creationists have resorted to suggesting a Biblical Flood occurred on Mars or that there was some period of fantastic cosmic bombardment in the last 10,000 years but I think most Christians would find it beyond reason to posit all these features to post-creation events. These craters are either very old (real age) or they were created with apparent age. What makes this particular example pertinent to thinking about the age of the earth is that the same argumentation for features on the earth being young when they look old won’t work for Mars and the moon.
I have pointed out many times in the past that modern creation is not the same as historical creationism. In the past, the Nile River valley or Mt Ararat were almost universally viewed as parts of God’s original creation and thus any apparent history they might contain (river erosion or volcanic material in these cases) was the result of apparent age. I think everyone can agree that it isn’t possible to create a mountain without it appearing to have been formed by some past series of events (uplift, volcanic activity etc…). Today, modern creationists would have us believe that these features really do have real histories and some have even gone as far as trying to make the craters on the moon and Mars the result of real events in time and space after the creation week If this is the case and God created something in the space of 6 days, where then is the dividing line between apparent age and real age? This is a critical part of the creation debate that is rarely acknowledged or talked about but is very important in understanding the differences between some of the views even among modern creationists. When John Ray came to the realization that shells were remnants of formerly living things but he could not find any valid reason to support a global flood as accounting for the fossils he was seeing he was left with this same exact question of real and apparent age. Finding no relief from it he was left to eventually begin to doubt his own significant realization that fossils represented past real organisms.