Do places on Earth exist where annual records have been stored for tens of thousands of years and can be accessed today? Ice-cores and tree rings can preserve long records of yearly events but some of the best records come from layers of sediment underlying some lakes which, if formed under the right conditions, can be read like the annual rings of an oak tree. These alternating layers of sediments and sometimes organic material are called varves and by counting each varve sequentially a varve chronology can be constructed. Varve chronologies are a window to the past and have been used to study past climate conditions, the periodicity of volcanic eruptions and as an independent test of radiocarbon (C14) dating methods.
One place were varves have been studied for decades is below a deep lake in Japan: Lake Suigetsu. Here a varve chronology stretching back well over 50,000 years has been established.
An important summary of the significance of this varve chronology can be found in an open access article from Science here with a summary from Nature magazine here. For several decades, varve chronologies have been featured as clear evidence of an ancient Earth. The evidence from varves presents a formidable challenge to young-earth creationists (YECs) and their assertion that scientific evidence, properly interpreted, points to a young earth. Though a well-worn example, this recent work pushing the varve chronology to close to 60,000 year bears reviewing in light of how YECs have responded in the past to this challenging data.
Below I introduce you to the varve deposits in Japan and then review how young earth creationists have responded.
Why is Lake Suigetsu a good place to examine varves?
Lake Suigetsu is one of five lakes that were formed from volcanic eruptions. The reason this lake was targeted for study is because scientists are fully aware of the potential errors that may occur when assessing whether the varves they see truly represent annual layers. This lake has all the features that one could hope to find in a location to avoid those problems. Annual varves are the product of changes in the composition of sediments and organic material deposited in spring and summer vs the fall and winter.
To avoid the problem of false layers – non-annual rings – produced by floods or inconsistent seasonality, a location that is protected from large sediment influxes and exhibits a strong seasonal signal is ideal. Lake Suigetsu fits those requirements exceptionally well. For example, the Hasu River enters Lake Mikata where the sediments suspended in the river, even during a large flood, will fall out of the water column. The sediment-depleted water then flows through a narrow but shallow channel into Lake Suigetsu which is surrounded by high cliffs on all sides and has almost no input of water from the surrounding area. The result is that the waters of Lake Suigetsu have little suspended sediment and the surrounding walls limit the wind on its surface so the waters are not disrupted. Thus the center of the lake is extremely stable and unlikely to be disturbed by floods, large storms, etc…
New input of sediments to the lake floor is derived primarily from material falling into the lake from the air (leaves, pollen, volcanic ash, dust) or from differential growth of organisms (algae) over the year. What is amazing about most of the varves of Lake Suigetsu is that as one moves down the cores retrieved from below the center of this lake, the varves formed in the past several hundred years for which climatic and lake-conditions are known look similar to those formed 10s of thousands of years ago. This provides researchers with increased confidence that the varves represent annual years and that the climatic influences on this lake in the past have been very similar to those of the present.
How do varves form in this lake?
There is strong seasonality in the this portion of Japan. Greater precipitation in the winter along with very cold water and decaying plant material and algae results in deposition of a distinctive set of organic and inorganic material during the winter months. In the summer, pollen, algae (especially diatoms, see: Life in a Glass House: Diatoms Shatter Young=Earth Flood Geology) – fall to the lake bottom. The result are annually alternating bands of material. These layers are very thin because in the very middle of this lake, were the cores were obtained, the total amount of material that settles to the bottom of the lake amounts to less than 1mm per year. I want to stress here that climatologist and biogeochemists have spent a considerable amount of time documenting the layers from multiple cores drilled out of the bottom of this lake. They have counted these layers by multiple methods
including by eye and by computer assisted techniques and more recently by various scans of the cores using other methods of imaging which highlight differences in organic content which can accentuate the winter season layers making the reads more accurate. Careful, independent counts of the annual varves have been performed and more than 800 samples of leaves and other organic content (pollen grains etc..) have been selected from the cores for carbon 14 dating. In addition, 40Argon/39Argon dating has been performed on tephra (ash) layers found in the cores sections (see picture to the right for an example) and two other types of dating methods have been performed on the cores. See the Science article for details. In addition, papers about varves and chronology around the world can be found in this issue of Quaternary Science Reviews.
So many different tests of the annual nature of the varves have been conducted here because these varves play a critical role in calibrating the radiocarbon (C14) clock. The methods and results published in dozens of papers have been scrutinized by hundreds of other scientists and the varves counts continually remade to test their accuracy. As a result of this high level of scrutiny the scientific community is confident that the varve counts have a high degree of accuracy and they represent individual years.
What have we learned from the Lake Suigetsu varves?
Initial studies in the early 1990s from the first cores below this lake found a tight correlation between varve count date (the number of varves) and radiocarbon derived dates of organics in the layers stretching all the way back to 40,000 varve years. As you would expect, there is also a strong correlation of age with depth of the column (see figure to the right). The most recent analysis reported in Science expands the varve counts back to more than 50,000 years. Over 800 samples of organic material have been C14 dated and each of those has been sent to at least two – and sometimes 3! – radiocarbon labs for independent verification of the C14 dates. The incredible rigor in selecting samples for C14 dates and blind testing at multiple labs has been undertaken because one of the primary goals of the Suigetsu varve counting group is to confirm the accuracy of and calibrate the C14 clock.
Volcanic activity recorded in the cores provides an additional independent test of the varve chronology
Consider also that there are more than 30 visible ash layers which form discrete almost pure glass crystal layers that lie between varve layers. These would have formed from airborne ash from volcanoes in the area. That ash would have fallen directly into the lake surface and settled quickly to the bottom. Had this ash been brought in by the river it would have been mixed with other sediments. These ash layers further attest to the fact that this lake had clear undisturbed waters during the whole period that these varves formed. In addition to the 30 visible layers there are at least 100 additional ash deposits that are so fine that they can only be identified by microscope. These represent ash from very distant or small volcanic explosions that brought a very small amount of ash fallout to the lake.
The advantage of having ash deposits in the varve cores is that it is possible to radiometrically date them (Smith et al. 2013) and those dates can be compared to the varve counts. If either radiometric dating or the varve counts were inaccurate measures of the time – ie. a bad chronometer – then the two dating methods should yield inconsistent results. Multiple ash layers in multiple cores have been dated by several radiomentric dating methods and those dates are consistent with the varve counts. For example, an ash layer found at varve count 9000 yields a radiometric date of around 9000 years. This correlation of varve counts with radiometric dates represents yet another independent verification that both the varve counts accurately reflect the passage of time as annual layers.
Over the years there have been multiple cores taken from the lake bottom which have had their varve layers counted multiple times by multiple methods by multiple investigators. C14 dating has been performed by independent groups over the same time. If we combine these data with data from varves from other locations and tree ring data, a very compelling and consistent chronology of Earth’s history can be observed extending back a minimum of 50,000 years. Below is a composite figure showing the relationship of tree rings, varves and C14 dates compiled from multiple studies from different locations in the world. What we see is an amazing correlation of these data points.
The young-earth response to the Lake Suigetsu varve chronology
Varve chronologies have been used to challenge the young earth creationist’s understanding of earth history for 30 years. It is remarkable that the creation science community has produced so little literature in response to what is a serious challenge to their young-earth thesis. A few experiments have been performed in an attempt to recreate something that look like varves (for example, Berthault, 1988). These were performed solely with sediments and thus lacked the organic material for which most of the important varve chronologies, like Suigetsu, are based. Dr. John Reed, who has a PhD in geology, provides the standard response to varve chronologies in a paper entitled, Toppling the Timescale Part III: Madness in the Methods in the Creation Research Quartarly in Summer of 2008. Despite significance of varve chronologies to climate studies and C14 dating methods there is only this one mention of varves in this paper:
“Like varves or ice layers, geologists simplistically assume that the target sediments were deposited slowly, uniformly, and in response to regular climatic variables. Remove those assumptions and the whole theory crumbles, as has been shown for both ice layers (Oard, 2005) and varves (Oard, in press).”
Dr. Reed simply asserts that rapid sedimentation can cause the appearance of varve like layers which could be mistaken as annual years when they really represent catastrophic deposition over a very short period of time. He also reports in several other articles examples of lakes and other fossil varve sites (ancient preserved lakes with varved rock such as the Green River Formation) where there is evidence of multiple varves produced in a single year. This defensive strategy employs redirection. By either implicitly or explicitly that because known exceptions of varves representing individual years can be identified, then all reports of annual varves should be discredited.
These responses are nothing more than accusations that the assumptions are incorrect and that scientists are unwilling to consider alternative means by which these tens of thousands of layers could have been formed. But, this is exactly why the Lake Suigetsu cores have been scrutinized by so many scientists. Scientists are well aware of that annual varves require specific condition to form. They picked this location because the conditions there do not violate any of those conditions. They have used multiple methods to test for annual periodicity. They have assumed nothing and only after passing all the tests have they stated that the varves under this lake represent annual varves.
A more recent example of the young-earth response to the Lake Suigetsu varves is found in the article “Long-age geology or Genesis” again by John Reed published on Creation Ministries International’s web site. Dr. Reed writes a short response to an article written by a group of eight Christian PhD geologists entitled “PCA Geologists on the Age of the Earth.” Those geologists explored multiple methods of determining the age of the earth and concluded that the evidence overwhelmingly points to an ancient earth. Dr. Reed provides a quick rebuttal to one of those methods which involved varve counts from Lake Suigetsu :
“The first example is the “varved” (finely layered) sediments of Lake Suigetsu in Japan. Apparently, the varves present a “record” of 100,000 years, reinforced by C14 dating and dendrochronology. And of course, once the lake sediments have blown away the creationist position, the authors can then point to the rock record beneath the lake as “proving” millions of years.
Like any other interpretation, this one is a combination of data and assumptions. There is no attempt to consider a serious Flood alternative; it is simply a matter of PhD condescension towards the ignorant peasants who give the elite accommodationists a bad name in the eyes of the world. If the sediments are annual varves … if C14 dating is accurate … if dendrochronology is accurate … etc. If, if, if. Unfortunately, none of these can be demonstrated, as shown by the links above. Another good resource is Rock Solid Answers, where Mike Oard has a good chapter on varves.”
This is a short response by Dr. Reed. However, he also produced a longer more technical-sounding line by line response to the same article. I don’t really need to review that response because it doesn’t provide any new responses. He simply throws out the same doubts about c14 dating and varves and claims that these scientists haven’t been willing to consider alternatives. But what alternatives does Dr. Reed provide? He asserts that links to other articles provide demonstrations that varves and c14 doesn’t work. But is this true?
His linked article that presumably demonstrates that varves are not valid is to a paper by Michael Oard. But that paper doesn’t have anything to do with the Suigetsu varves or the type of varves that are found there. I’ve read all of Oards’ refutations of varves and they have little to do with reality. Rather they include the same hand-wavy assertions that Reed uses: one lake has layers that aren’t annual years that this casts doubt on all other layers in other lakes around the world. Does he really think that scientists are so ignorant of these assumptions and are unaware of variables that can cause varves to be unreliable? Scientists have found many varve records to be unreliable chronological markers, precisely because they really do understand that there are conditions that must be met to reliably interpret varves as annual layers.
Dr. Reed wrote yet a further response to the same old-earth article (see references). In it he provides no further evidence that the Suigetsu varves are invalid than he does in his article from 2008. I find it very difficult to find much charitable to say about Dr. Reed’s responses and attitudes. Of course he is upset that his beliefs about a young earth are being challenged but he is supposed to be a PhD geologists capable of critically analyzing and demonstrating the faults in interpretations of old earth geology. What we get instead is nothing but name-calling rhetoric. He faults scientists including other Christians for not considering the alternatives and yet provides no other alternative himself other than a generic appeal to a global Flood without offering any mechanism that could explain the observed facts.
I have spent many hours reading the original literature about these varves. These article include extensive discussions by the authors about why they believe the varves represent annual layers and not just individual events layers as are seen in some other lakes in other parts of the world. What has Dr. Reed done to respond to the Christian geologists who have used the Lake Suigetsu varves as evidence of an old earth? Apparently he hasn’t done them the courtesy of reading the original literature himself. Rather he responded with generic arguments that apply to some varves but not the ones that are being held up as the specific challenge. Yet he confidently claims they must be wrong!
Does Dr. Reed or Michael Oard address how discreet bands of ash can be found between 10s of thousands of fine bands they believe must have formed in a matter of months or just a few years? I haven’t even seen Dr. Reed even acknowledge to his audience that such bands of ash exist in these varved layers! His strategy, like so many other creation scientists, seems to be to simply proclaim as loudly, as boldly and as confidently as he can that there is an alternative and to make fun of scientists for not being able to see the real truth that he sees. It’s all preaching to the choir. He has no interested in providing a reasonable alternative explanation for the data. Rather he only wishes to provide enough doubt in his audience’s mind that they will not explore the evidence any further. Young earth creationists have had 30 years to construct a plausible hypothesis to explain these and other annual varves. The fact that they are still just waving accusations and vague generalizations around is a clear sign that they know that there is no alternative. What we are seeing here is reminiscent of observations that I made in my post: Having Faith in Flood Geology: Dogmatic Assertions of Evidence.
Summary: Varved sediments underneath lake Suigetsu provide powerful confirmation that this lake has existed for 10s of thousands of years in a state very similar to what we observe today. A recent global flood does not provide a viable interpretation of the same evidence.
Addendum 8/19/2016: The 60,000 from the title came from popular reporting from when this research was first reported. The reported varve counts, which are considered reliable annual varves, only go back to just over 53,000 years. But there are varves potentially reaching back to 150,000 years below this lake but the lower layers can’t be read with the same accuracy as the upper 50,0000.
Berthault, G., Experiments on lamination of sediments, CEN Technical Journal 3:25-29, 1988.
JK. Reed. A response to the Old-Earth advocacy of Campell et al., PCA geologists on the antiquity of the Earth. Published in Answer in Depth at the Answers in Genesis website.
Below are just a few of the more than 100 articles that have published which examine all aspects of these varves. For a list of other articles please visit: http://www.suigetsu.org/embed.php?File=publications.html
Nakagawa, Takeshi, Katsuya Gotanda, Tsuyoshi Haraguchi, Toru Danhara, Hitoshi Yonenobu, Achim Brauer, Yusuke Yokoyama et al. “SG06, a fully continuous and varved sediment core from Lake Suigetsu, Japan: stratigraphy and potential for improving the radiocarbon calibration model and understanding of late Quaternary climate changes.” Quaternary Science Reviews 36 (2012): 164-176.
Schlolaut, Gordon, Achim Brauer, Michael H. Marshall, Takeshi Nakagawa, Richard A. Staff, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Henry F. Lamb et al. “Event layers in the Japanese Lake Suigetsu ‘SG06’sediment core: Description, interpretation and climatic implications.” Quaternary Science Reviews 83 (2014): 157-170.
Smith, Victoria C., Richard A. Staff, Simon PE Blockley, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Takeshi Nakagawa, Darren F. Mark, Keiji Takemura, and Toru Danhara. “Identification and correlation of visible tephras in the Lake Suigetsu SG06 sedimentary archive, Japan: chronostratigraphic markers for synchronising of east Asian/west Pacific palaeoclimatic records across the last 150 ka.” Quaternary Science Reviews 67 (2013): 121-137.
Staff, Richard A., Takeshi Nakagawa, Gordon Schlolaut, Michael H. Marshall, Achim Brauer, Henry F. Lamb, Christopher Bronk Ramsey et al. “The multiple chronological techniques applied to the Lake Suigetsu SG06 sediment core, central Japan.” Boreas 42, no. 2 (2013): 259-266.
This is an updated and expanded version of a previous article posted in November of 2011.
Cover image: glacial varves in a Montana outcrop. Photo: Rod Benson http://formontana.net/glaciers.html
Wonder how long it will be until Young-earthers give up on using to geneologies to date the earth, and just stick to “6 calendar days” and “no death before the fall” to justify their model. If they could get about 50,000 years that would give them a lot more wiggle room.
If they throw out biblical inerrancy — the sole epistemology for young-earth creationists — they won’t be able to agree on anything any longer. Do they accept 10,000 years, 50,000 years, 500,000 years? How many ice ages? Which dating methods? There’s no rational way to reach consensus if they abandon both biblicism and the scientific method.
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I believe in biblical inerrancy without using geneologies to date the earth. Even many young-earth creationists are forced to accept that the geneologies have missing names. Otherwise some NT geneologies contradict some OT ones. They just argue that there were only a few omissions (hints the 6,000 – 10,000 year old earth thing),
Gaps in geneologies make sense in cultural context and do not require a rejection of inerrancy.
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I never got far when arguing with a creationist that Scripture should be looked at through an historical and cultural context, which can be different from a literal reading a modern Western person might default to. The response I have gotten is, “So, you believe the ancient people reading it were stupid!” It is odd but telling, such a response. In a way, people who follow YEC are trapped in a modern way of thinking although they would be the first to condemn “modernists.” I mean that they are trapped in a modern, reductionist type of thinking so that even ancient cosmology has to be made “modern” and fit into modern pseudo-science.
Young-earth creationism is incredibly young theology. As I’ve said numerous times, Martin Luther was the sole mainstream Christian proponent of theologically-necessary six-day creationism prior to the late 20th century.
Yes, YEC as it exists as a system is recent and is largely (especially concerning the Flood) the work of Seventh Day Adventists who wanted to prove the earth is young because that is what their prophet, Ellen White, believed. So now this has become a major doctrine in many Evangelical and most conservative Baptist and conservative Lutheran churches. Speculation that the earth is young based on genealogies in the Bible and counting the years is much older, but I don’t think that was often made into a major doctrine until YEC. Luther believed the earth was created around 4,000 B.C. but I don’t think he made a major doctrine out of it. I was raised Lutheran and there is quite a dividing line between those who believe in YEC and those who don’t.
I’m loath to trust AiG on anything, but their quotations of Luther seem pretty undeniable. One pertinent excerpt:
Of course that might be quote-mined. Here’s a more obvious one:
Clearly seemed to make it an issue of “biblical authority”. Of course he made all his pet worries into issues of biblical authority. Like transubstantiation and geocentrism.
I was raised in a Lutheran denomination that at the time was kind of moderate and Luther’s ideas of six days of creation held as much weight as geocentrism – I just have a memory that such things were not a big issue and people could have various beliefs – but that was years ago. Transubstantiation was another matter, lol!
The bit about “let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day” is interesting. There were a few (I think in Luther’s time and earlier) who believed that a doctrine of six literal days of creation denied that God was all-powerful. They taught that God must have created everything in an instant because an all-powerful God would not “need” six days. That could be what Luther is addressing.
Anyway, it is also true that YEC became important in the conservative Lutheran denominations and I have noticed that they have doubled-down on supporting YEC and there really isn’t room for discussion. They see it as a matter of biblical authority, like you mentioned. A few years ago I tried going to conservative Lutheran churches but one of the reasons I could not join was YEC and I eventually moved on to another denomination.
Indeed, Augustine and others suggested that the six days of creation were either a single moment or a shorter period. Clearly, this deeply offended Luther. His penchant for being insistent about the necessary doctrinal importance of inconsequential things was…pervasive.
You’ve said this before, but haven’t answered my objections.
When Genesis 11 says:
blockquote> When Arpachshad had lived thirty-five years, he became the father of Shelah; … When Shelah had lived thirty years, he became the father of Eber …
And so on, are you claiming that Arpachshad did not have a son named Shelah when he was 35 years old? That’s the only way to fit new people into the genealogy. Depending on how far back you want to push the flood, you might need to insert hundreds or thousands of generations between each biblical patriarch.
I don’t see how you can contradict the biblical genealogy that way and claim to be an inerrantist.
What makes more sense in cultural context is that the biblical genealogies were inventions, just like the genealogies of other ancient cultures and even some modern oral cultures.
The contradictions between the two NT genealogies (with each other and the OT genealogies) is not a matter of missing names. They are simply different, giving different fathers for the same individuals in some individuals and displaying no overlap where there is no common OT source. This is not compatible with literalist/inerrantist claims.
I’m pretty sure I did explain it. In hebrew:
Father = Male Ancestor
Mother = Female Ancestor
Son = Male Descendant
Daughter = Female Descendant
“When Arpachshad had lived thirty-five years, he became the father of Shelah”
Becoming the *ancestor” of Shelah need not mean Shelah is born at this time. It could be taken to mean that Arpachshad’s DIRECT descendant who would eventually give rise to Shelah was born. I realize this seems strange and contrived in our modern culture and language, but it would make since to the ancient Israelites.
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In addition to being very strained, that doesn’t work because of the part I left out:
“…and Arpachshad lived after the birth of Shelah four hundred three years”
In other words, Arpachshad’s age was 35 years before Shelah’s birth + 403 years after Shelah’s birth. Where in that gap do you insert the “missing” generations?
But that’s now how any ancient Jewish interpreter that we know of understood it. In fact, the rabbis believed that Shem was still alive in the days of Abraham because of this genealogy.
The ESV more accurately reflects the hebrew “And Arpachshad lived after he fathered Shelah 403 years”, so he lived 403 years after he gave rise to the familial line that would eventually result in Shelah. Hints allows for gaps in time. Many scholars recognize gaps in the geneologies. Many ancient geneologies are like this, they cut it down to a specific number of individuals because the total number would be absurd.
Furthermore, you said earlier “you might need to insert hundreds or thousands of generations between each biblical patriarch”, This is actually absurd. Just one hundred between each patriarch would mean you get a date of 400,000 years for the flood. A thousand would mean 4,000,000. Why on earth would you want to push it back that far? I estimate a date for the flood at around 70,000 – 55,000 years ago (Manot cave in Israel shows true modern humans living there by at least 52,500 years ago, so I wouldn’t go for a flood-date younger than this) . Meaning a little over 10 gaps per individual (on average).
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The structure of Hebrew also makes it possible that the number of years in some places could actually be counting months on a lunar calendar. Obviously this doesn’t hold clear for all instances (Enoch could hardly father Methusaleh at age 5) but it could explain the inflation in certain cases. Contemporary genealogies often attributed tens of thousands of years to the reign of each ancestral king, so scribes may have multiplied numbers by 12 for numerological purposes.
Yeah, a few different ways of converting the ages to something sensible have been proposed, but there’s really no reason to think the author means anything other than years.
Numerology is definitely involved. If you add up the ages of the patriarchs from Adam to Moses in the MT (note that this includes overlapping lifespans), you come up with exactly 12,600 years — a number equal to 3.5 luni-solar years of 360 days. This is not a coincidence, but a specific numerological formula we also find applied to Daniel (where 3.5 is also a significant number). Obviously, real history does not work out this way; the ages of the patriarchs are inventions meant to tell a theological truth.
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Proving a narrative teaches a theological or moral truth does not invalidate the narrative as historical. Jesus life and death tells many theological truths, but Jesus is clearly a historical figure. There is no reason to think that Adam, Noah, etc. are not real people who existed in real history. There is no reason to think it is impossible that ancient people could have actually lived that long.
Of course there is: the principle of analogy.
We know ancients made up stories about long-lived kings and patriarchs all the time. We do not have any evidence that people can really live that long.
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“We know ancients made up stories about long-lived kings and patriarchs all the time.”
We “know” nothing of the sort. Their are stories of long-lived kings outside of the bible, but we don’t know they are made up. We know that different accounts bear contradictions, but that simply means that some (not necessarily all) accounts are somewhat inaccurate. It does not follow that they are entirely fabricated. If there really was a time in the ancient past (prior to the scattering of humanity around the world) when people lived an order of magnitude longer than they do today, it would stand to reason that there WOULD be many accounts of long-lived individuals from different cultures.
And even if they were fabrications, we must remember that divine inspiration is not the same as “automatic writing”, the text doesn’t just drop out of heaven fully-formed. God can use many sources and many hands (including editors) to create an error-free text as the end result. So even if Genesis simply copied with modifications some other text (or texts), it does not follow that the text is a false history of the world.
“We do not have any evidence that people can really live that long.”
That statement is debatable. Certainly nobody today lives that long, but there is no evidence that rules out that people could live that long under the right conditions. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
That being said, many have argued that humans (among other lifeforms) are “programmed” to die. Our genes intentionally limit our lifespans. I heard of a book that argued that a few simple genetic tweaks could potentially extend human lifespans beyond 1000 years. God could have created us without these limitations, but later due to natural, random mutations we lost the ability to live that long.
“We do not have any evidence that people can really live that long.”
That statement follows from observational science. Of course, you can always say ‘it’s impossible now, but perhaps it was possible a long time ago’, but you need a bit more than that to be convincing. Yes, cells are programmed to die, but there is a lot more to ageing than just that. The Bible gives every indication that man was not created immortal (he needed the Tree of Life), so both biology and theology argue against you, in my opinion.
Furthermore, even the long life spans won’t give you the sort of time frame scientist have discovered. There were humans way before 60.000 years ago, the earth is much, much older than that.
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“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.
This sophism is an epitome of creationist reasoning, a perfect example of the reasoning employed and VERY frequent. It allows the creationist to disregard everything – as if there is evidence contrary to point A, it implies evidence in favour of A is absent Moreover, it allows the creationist to disregard all evidence of absence.
Run away screaming is anyone uses it!
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The numerous mechanisms proposed to explain extremely long lifespans — increased preflood oxygen levels, protection from radiation by magical floating canopy, etc. — fall spectacularly flat when you realize that we have done experiments under precisely those conditions with no significant increase in longevity. Longevity is genetic. Moreover, human lifespan is well within the range of lifespans for mammals of our size and genetic heritage; if we had started out with the capacity for 900+ years of life, it would be very unlikely that a couple of mutations would just happen to make our lifespans converge on this.
“Their are stories of long-lived kings outside of the bible, but we don’t know they are made up.”
Contemporary myth had kings with reigns lasting 20,000 or 50,000 years. That is…definitely made up. Now, we can argue that these individuals DID have very great ages AND that the ages were further inflated, but this seems to be a needless multiplication of entities.
I’d also predict that in contemporary myth, it is the kings alone who have lifespans in the tens of millennia; commoners likely do not. This would be further evidence that the myths are using great lifespans to symbolize power/success and not in memory of actual extreme longevity.
“even if Genesis simply copied with modifications some other text (or texts), it does not follow that the text is a false history of the world.”
Of course Genesis is not a false history of the world, because it is not a history of the world at all.
Making it out to be a history would make it a false history.
Yes, the earth is older than 60,000 years. I disagree however, that humans can be said to predate this. The genus “Homo” predates this. But in my view non-homo sapiens sapiens are mere animals separately created by God. Neanderthals, Homo Erectus, etc. are simply wild animals. Big Carnivorous Primates that happen to walk on two legs like humans.
Yes, SOMETIMES absence of evidence IS evidence of absence. But not in this case, among many others. The fossil record does not always leave reliable indicators of how old an individual human was at the time they died, The question is necessary “If the biblical account is true, what evidence do you expect?”. I don’t expect there to be evidence of long-life spans beyond what we have.
I disagree that Genesis is not a history of the world. Genesis shows continuity between Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. Certainly Moses is meant to be taken as a historical figure. The text simply does not read as mere theological poetry. The text describes real geography, people names, events, etc. It seems to be you (among others) just don’t want the text to be describing real history because that would involve a lot of work to harmonize the bible and science. As for your individual points:
“The numerous mechanisms proposed to explain extremely long lifespans — increased preflood oxygen levels, protection from radiation by magical floating canopy, etc. — fall spectacularly flat when you realize that we have done experiments under precisely those conditions with no significant increase in longevity. Longevity is genetic.”
You are citing mechanisms proposed by YEC’s in their strange model. I am refering to real biological mechanisms. Not a change in earthly conditions. I believe the conditions on earth at the time of Adam – Noah – Babel were pretty much like they were today, albeit the average temperature would be lower along with sea levels (I estimate the flood at 65,000 – 55,000 BP, within the last ice age). The mechanisms I refer to are those put forward by secular scientists, and expanded upon by OEC individuals. Reasons.org has good information on lifespans. They do not propose outlandish mechanisms such as canopies, lower radiation levels, etc. Simply that the genetics of humans allowed for longer lifespans. Although not IMMORTAL lifespans. Hints the tree of life as you suggested.
“Contemporary myth had kings with reigns lasting 20,000 or 50,000 years. That is…definitely made up. Now, we can argue that these individuals DID have very great ages AND that the ages were further inflated, but this seems to be a needless multiplication of entities.”
No, this simply indicates that there were people who lived very long in the past, but tens of thousands of years of oral tradition distorted the accounts severely. This is not needless multiplication of entities. This is exactly what you would expect if the biblical account is true, but occurred a few tens of thousands of years ago.
Their global deluge demands a young earth even if gaps in the genealogies would otherwise expand its age.
How so? Certainly a global deluge (assuming the bible actually describes one, I do not think it does) would destroy (or at least severely damage) sediments lain prior to the event, but accepting an indefinite number of gaps in the geneologies would allow YEC proponents to have tens of thousands of years between the flood and today, giving them a larger time window to explain things like:
-Evidence of multiple ice ages
-The diversification of the Noahic “kinds” prior to “normal” OT times
-Evidence of stone age artifacts and cultures
-The implied “deep history” of Babel, the Creation, and the Flood
Eh, giving them twice or ten or twenty times as much time would do almost nothing to help them. The sole benefit would be that they could fit Egyptian and prehistoric cultures into a timeline more easily. But the diversification of kinds into species would not have enough time, and neither would multiple ice ages.
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Many but not all YEC followers have an additional thing that forces them to believe the earth is very young – dispensationalism. Dispensationalists are heavy into numerlology and believe that the earth must come to an end at the 7,000 year mark and that we are on the verge of a 1,000-year earthly reign of Christ. For many fundamentalists and evangelicals, this dispensationalist system with its timelines pretty much defines Christianity – it is a central doctrine of their churches. For this reason alone many will keep to YEC. There are a few churches that support YEC that do not teach dispensationalism but any church that teaches dispensationalism will almost certainly teach YEC. I would argue that this is more than a coincidence. I don’t think the Adventists teach dispensationalism exactly like the fundamentalists understand it, but they have a system of “prophecy” that goes along with belief in a young earth.
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That’s a great point I didn’t think of, Jacob. I wonder if it will become less relevant the further past 2,000 we get.
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It will be interesting if it loses relevance. Somehow I think they will find a workaround. I studied the issue a bit as an outsider and I was shocked about how dispensationalism is a framework in which everything – past and future – is supposed to fit and it informs how every verse in the Bible is read. This is relevant because these churches have a framework of understanding history and the Bible – a worldview – that naturally accommodates YEC.
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Most YEC I have spoken too don’t see it this way. It’s mostly “no death before the fall” that drives their position. The idea of prophecy setting a limit on human history is an old view that was common in the early church, but not so much today.
“His strategy, like so many other creation scientists, seems to be to simply proclaim as loudly, as boldly and as confidently as he can that there is an alternative and to make fun of scientists for not being able to see the real truth that he sees. It’s all preaching to the choir. He has no interested in providing a reasonable alternative explanation for the data. Rather he only wishes to provide enough doubt in his audience’s mind that they will not explore the evidence any further.”
This should be framed.
Applies to every creationist rhetorical spew ever.
The first thing Reed should do, is explain why the C14 content of the layers halves at roughly every 5730 counts. In his opinion, they are not annual layers. So why the great correlation with the half-life of C14?
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They simply don’t get it. In their minds, they see “radiocarbon” or “dendrochonology” and immediately jump to the conclusion that the varve ages are established by radiocarbon dating.
I don’t think they realize that the varve ages are INDEPENDENTLY established and are being used to VERIFY radiocarbon dating.
It seems that the YEC approach to lake varves is generally the same as their approach to radiometric dating.
They take a complex topic, over-simplify it, attack the over-simplification, and dismiss the complexities as “rescuing devices.”
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And the YEC approach after throwing together a lot of pseudo-science to explain something is to point at legitimate scientists and say they are just guessing.
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I am trying to think how the 60,000 Lake Suigetsu varves would work in the YEC scenario.
I think they would have to consider the lake and its varves to be “post-flood.” Perhaps most of the varves formed in the ice age, which lasted anywhere from 250 to 700 years, depending on which YEC you ask (I give my thoughts about YEC ice ages here: https://geochristian.com/2013/04/09/the-pleistocene-is-not-in-the-bible/). I’ll give the YECs 10,000 varves in the past 4,300 years (though this ignores evidence that the varves are indeed annual). If the super-short ice age lasted 500 years, then the initial 50,000 varves would have had to have formed at a rate of 100 per year during the ice age. I suppose YECs would say that each of these represented a single storm, which hit the area every three or four days, each of which deposited a varve that just happens to look exactly like the annual varves that get deposited today.
As for the tephra layers? Well, YECs will say that these are further proof of YEC flood geology, which includes many thousands of volcanic eruptions during and shortly after the flood.
As for the nice correlation of radiocarbon dates to the varve years? The fact that geologists use the varves to calibrate radiocarbon dates is proof that radiocarbon dating is deeply flawed and should never be trusted. This is blatant circular reasoning, the YECs will say. And what further proof could we need of accelerated nuclear decay? And of the slowdown of Earth processes as residual post-flood catastrophism slows down. This is all easy for creation, impossible for evolution.
I think I have been reading too many YEC articles.
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“The numerous mechanisms proposed to explain extremely long lifespans — increased preflood oxygen levels, protection from radiation by magical floating canopy, etc. — fall spectacularly flat when you realize that we have done experiments under precisely those conditions with no significant increase in longevity. Longevity is genetic. Moreover, human lifespan is well within the range of lifespans for mammals of our size and genetic heritage; if we had started out with the capacity for 900+ years of life, it would be very unlikely that a couple of mutations would just happen to make our lifespans converge on this.”
Testing in a laborotary is nothing compared to the real life conditions of the time. Plus don’t forget that cancer cells are actually immortal. immortality IS a possibility for our genetic makeup. Also the atmosphere, the purity of the earth, the potency of the – then plant foods, the stressless life of back then, the gravitic pull they had, the electromagnetic conditions, cannot be emulated now. And you think of it as a secular. For someone who believes in God’s power, we know that it is within God’s potential to “miraculously” command our lifespan to shorten or lengthen whenever He wishes. Also it makes sense that as long as humans are chronically departed from their almost perfect prototype, both genetic errors and damage accumulate. but for us christians also makes sense that distancing our selves from the initial grace, is obviously degenerating humans. We are not like other mammals, and the bible reassures we are unique as a species. And having a spiitual component in us, soul and the blow of life by the Holy Spirit, we are at the treshold between the spiritual and material realms.
Could you comment on this detailed, scientific rebuttal? https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/do-varves-tree-rings-radiocarbon-measurements-prove-old-earth/
I’m going punt on writing my own comments because this AIG article has been responded to by Davidson and Wolgumuth directly and I really can’t add much more to what they have already said. https://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2018/PSCF6-18Davidson.pdf