Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 8, 1961
NUMBER 6, PAGE 10-11

The Bible And Science (II.)

Gordon Wilson, Sacramento, California

We have previously shown that there is no real contradiction between the teaching of the Bible and the teachings of human sciences. When a clash occurs it may be due to a blind acceptance on the part of some of an unproved theory, or to a misapprehension of what the word of God actually says. When men are ignorant of the Bible text they are apt to misrepresent its teaching. When men become enamored with theories they are apt to mistake them for true science. Thus the Bible is charged with saying what it does not say, and science is the name given to something which is not scientific at all by the rules laid down in the previous article. This is how the supposed warfare between science and scripture begins. Let us now discuss an example of this very thing, involving the relation of the Bible to the sciences of geology and anthropology. Geology deals with the earth; anthropology deals with man as an inhabitant of the earth.

The area of conflict here involves four fronts: (1) It is claimed that the Bible dates the age of the earth. (2) It is said that the geologist knows the earth is older than the Bible says it is. (3) The Bible is charged with, telling how long man has been on the earth. (4) We are told that anthropologists know man has been here longer than the Bible with allow. I believe an examination of the facts will indicate that all four points involve the twin fallacies of misunderstanding what the Bible teaches, and accepting unproved theories as science.

Does the Bible date the age of the earth? Contrary to what some would-be friends of the Book think about matter, the Bible does not give any information whatsoever concerning how old the earth is, though it does indicate a great antiquity. Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Surely it is not unscientific to say that the earth had a beginning? Some philosophers have believed in the eternity of matter, but that is not a question for the scientist. So, according to Genesis 1:1 the earth had a beginning. But it does not say when the beginning was. So far as this verse is concerned the earth could have been created at any time in the remote regions of the past. Its age is left an open question. Verse 2 describes the condition of the earth subsequent to its creation, but how subsequent cannot be determined by the passage. There is nothing said about the earth having been created in this chaotic condition, but a word is chosen which suggests that the earth became void and without form. It is then recorded, beginning in verse 3, how God prepared the earth as an habitation for man. Between verses 1 and 2 there is an unstated period of time, and an unstated condition of the earth. How long the time was, and what the condition of the earth was during that time, the Bible does not say, for the Genesis account is concerned with the history of mankind. But the point is, if the Bible does not say anything about the age or previous condition of the earth, how could it contradict geology on these things? So the first front of conflict is based on ignorance of the statements and meaning of the Bible.

But, in reference to the second point, it may fairly be said that the geologist does not know how old the earth is anyway. The theories on this differ from one writer on the subject to another. Since some of the changes which it is imagined took millions or even billions of years to occur, could have occurred in a much shorter time due to unknown factors, such as cataclysm and seismics, it is obviously impossible to date the earth precisely. As it is, the geologist cannot prove by the condition of the earth itself that it is at least a certain age, and if he could, he could not know that the earth is not still older than he imagines. So, this point involves the fallacy of substituting theories about the age of the earth for scientific fact. The only thing the geologist can say with any degree of certainty is that the earth is older than the oldest fossil to be found in the earths strata. Then we are confronted with the problem of accurately dating the fossil findings. Fortunately, late discoveries and methods give the scientist some comfort here. We shall discuss some of these methods further along.

We come now to consider whether or not the Bible tells us how old man is. The first chapter of Genesis records the creation of man. This of course was the first man. We must recognize that the Bible does not go so far as to say that man was created in such and such a year, but it does give us some clues as to when man was created. The only difficulty is in arranging an accurate Biblical chronology. The chronology printed in the margin of the King James version of the Bible, and followed by most Of the older dictionaries and Old Testament histories, is that of Archbishop Ussher, published in 1654. This system puts the creation of man in 4004 B. C. However, this chronology was arranged by carefully following the tables of genealogy given in the book of Genesis. Actually, the genealogies do not represent strict father-to-son-to-grandson records. Some of the generations were probably left out, for one reason or another, by the inspired writers of the Bible. Others may have been deleted by copyists and editors to some degree. So instead of man being only about 6,000 years old as indicated by the Ussher system, he has no doubt been on the earth a good while longer than that. It is doubtful, however, that the age of man can be pushed back much beyond eight or nine thousand years.

The fourth front of conflict has to do with what the anthropologist supposedly knows about the antiquity of the human race. Actually, this question has lately been taken away from the anthropologist and turned over to the geologist. The old anthropological theories are falling into disrepute in the light of recent methods of fossil dating. The latest important dating system is the Radiocarbon test developed by Dr. Willard F. Libby and his collaborators of the American Anthropological Association, and the Geological Society of America. Simply stated the principles of the method are as follows: Cosmic radiation received from the sun has been proved to have permanent effects upon the surface of the earth, producing radioactive atoms of carbon in all organic matter. These minute quantities of radioactive carbon atoms are known as Carbon-14 atoms. With the passing of time the Carbon-14 atoms disintegrate at an allegedly known and constant rate. As long as a plant or an animal is alive it is constantly assimilating the radioactivity while at the same time the radioactive atoms are disintegrating. During its lifetime, the processes of assimilation and disintegration occur in balanced proportions, but when death takes place the assimilation process stops, while the disintegration continues. Now, briefly, this rate of disintegration can be measured. Thus the age of any organic matter found in the earths strata can be determined fairly reliably, with some slight margin of error allowable.

The important thing, so far as our subject is concerned, is that although tests made by the Carbon-14 dating method can be reasonably accurate back to 20,000 years, yet these tests seem to bear out that man is no older than 10,000 years!

"Carbon-14 is shortening the time distance that separates the men of today from their ancestors who lived in caves and chipped stone arrowheads. It is reducing the gap between them to a fleeting ten thousand years." (Man, Time & Fossils, by Moore, p. 378)

In view of the various evolutionary theories which require millions of years for man to have progressed from the caveman days, this latest scientific method is startling confirmation of the Bible believer's viewpoint on the age of man. And if ten thousand years still seems too long, then here is another fact which points up an allowable margin of error in the Carbon-14 dating method: In the recent book, "The Mysterious Earth" by Lester del key, the author points out that the earth's magnetism has fluctuated in times past, and that with any decrease in the magnetic field, the amount of radiation would proportionately increase.

"We know, for instance, that the magnetic field of earth serves to deflect the cosmic rays away from most of the planet. Any decrease in such a field would mean an increase in the radiation reaching us from space....

"If the level of Carbon-14 was less in the past, due to a greater magnetic shielding from cosmic rays, then our estimate of the time that has elapsed since the life of the organism will be too long."

The Carbon-14 method depends for its accuracy on the cosmic radiation having remained at its present intensity over the past 20,000 or 30,000 years. (See, "Radiocarbon Dating",by W. F. Libby, p. 8) Since the exact fluctuation of the earth's magnetism is unknown, it follows that a certain amount of error must be allowed in dating; thus the age of man is brought down to ten thousand years by the dating method, then the allowable error indicates that his age may be even less, and science on the age of man is seen to be in accord with the Bible on the age of man. Clearly the Carbon-14 method is a marvelous asset to the believer in the Bible, and is a veritable death blow to the theory of evolution. In line with this, the evolutionist is having to revise his theory; but a discussion of that will have to wait for another article.

In, the meantime it is seen that the four-fold conflict between the Bible and the sciences of geology and anthropology is non-existent when all of the facts are in.