Monday, 10 June 2013

Examples of poor Christadelphian anti-evolution arguments - 4

A Christadelphian advances the 'creation with the appearance of age' argument.

While our community has only recently started moving towards accepting an evolutionary origin of life, up intil the mid-20th century it accepted the overwhelming evidence of ancient Earth, progressive appearance of life on Earth and a geographically local flood. Evidence for this position positively abounds in our early literature. Robert Roberts, the first editor of the flagship magazine The Christadelphian stated that: 
‘It is a demonstrable fact that the earth has existed for ages. To adopt a view that appears to make it begin only 6,000 years ago would create a difficulty. There is no need for adopting such a view. The Genesis account itself admits of these antecedent times and states which science has proved. It begins by recognising the earth’s actual existence in a chaotic state before the work of the six days began. Why should we refuse this manifest concession to everything that can be discovered as to the age of the earth?’ [1] 
Roberts' successor C.C. Walker likewise continued Roberts' policy of critical engagement with contemporary scholarship: 
‘We can only legitimately glean from the very brief allusion of Moses that at some time anterior to the creation he is about to describe, the world was in existence, but in a waste and void condition by comparison with what it afterwards became under the creative energy of the Almighty. The conclusions of geology, and the undoubted existence of fossil remains of incalculable antiquity are quite in harmony with this view, whereas the view that the earth itself was created some 6,000 years ago is hopelessly irreconcilable with facts.’ [2] 
A bro. Simons (first name not recorded), writing in 1884 freely accepted that the geological record showed evidence of progressive creation over time, with life moving from simple to complex: 
Geology teaches us much; it speaks of a time and creation on this earth when animal life, if not totally, was nearly unknown, and only the lower order of vegetable life covering its face, and this must have existed many thousands of years; and during the whole of that long period, the earth was undergoing wonderful and necessary changes to fit it for a creation of a higher order, and evidently with the creature man in view.  [3] 
Furthermore, early Christadelphians recognised that a literal interpretation of Genesis was not the most productive way to read it. In response to a correspondent, who argued, based on a literal reading of the Bible that the Earth was flat, he stated that:  
Moses’ testimony is not so “plain” that it cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood.
Moses’ testimony was given to Israel in what might be called the infancy of the world, when men did not know the extent of the earth, let alone that of the sun, moon, and stars. And, as we believe, it was given (by God through Moses), not so much to instruct Israel in cosmogony in detail, as to impress upon them the idea that The Most High God is the Possessor of Heaven and Earth (Gen. 14:22). And this against the claims of the gods of the nations, as was abundantly proved in Israel’s history. [4] 
From the middle of the 20th century, our community became adversely affected by the extremist views of young earth creationists organisations via the Whitcomb and Morris book "The Genesis Flood". One of the most prominent advocates of YEC  in our community is the US-based physicist John Pople, who actively advocates the 'appearance of age' approach to reconciling the overwhelming evidence for an ancient Earth with a fundamentalist reading of the creation narratives. 

How does Pople try to explain away the avalanche of evidence for an ancient earth? In a Bible class on evolution, Pople invoked the idea that God created the universe with the 'appearance of age' argument: 
How are we to understand the fact that the Earth appears to be dated at very much older than we might suppose it actually to be? Well, we read about it in Genesis I would suggest. God created adult forms. God created mature forms. He created an ecosystem that was already in operation. And so things of  every state of development were already there.
He created a mayfly. And if you have an adult  mayfly, you immediately have the implication of something that has a few hours worth of life that it doesn't really have. It's brand new, it's a few milliseconds old, but it looks...four hours old...He created an adult flower, and that of course is something that lasts about a year, or couple of years.  So obviously, the existence of the adult blooming flower is an implication of a tenth, up to a year of life that it hasn't had. He created Adam in...mature form, so immediately there is an implication of a few decades of life that weren't actually there. He created trees in adult form, so there's an implication of possibly even up to a few centuries that weren't actually there. 
And he created rocks in adult form - has any meaning to the world of a rock, which means necessarily there is - I'm not suggesting the scientists are all useless and don't know how to run dating mechanisms -the point is that they extrapolate back linearly. And if you actually create this...suddenly in time, it necessarily has tens of thousands, up to billions of years of apparent age, which isn't real. This is how our God has worked, and perhaps this is the best conclusion we can take. (Transcript from 24:23) [5]  
Pople claims that creation with appearance of age was necessary if life was specially created with an adult form. However, this makes no sense when applied to inanimate objects such as rocks, a point he recognised when admitting that the term 'adult' may not had any meaning to a rock. It doesn't, and the attempt to even extend this argument of 'creation with the appearance of age' breaks down at this point.

We can date rocks by the ratio of radioactive atoms to their decay products. The basic scientific principles behind radiometric dating [6] are uncontroversial, and relatively easy to understand. However, if God created the world 6000 years ago in real time, there is no reason (other than special pleading on the part of the YEC) for God to deliberately create the rocks with exactly the right ratio of radioactive decay products to simulate tens, hundreds or thousands of millions of years of age. If the rocks were created 6000 years ago, we would expect to see 6000 years of radioactive decay in them, not millions or billions of years.

To this one can add the fact that most of the stars - and all of the galaxies - are much further away than 6,000 light years. If they were created 6000 years ago, then the light from them wouild not have reached us by now! Arguments that they were created with the appearance of age (ie: with light already in transit) are simply ad-hoc.

Furthermore,  the problem gets worse when we try to reconcile the 'appearance of age' argument with supernovae such as the one in the Large Magellanic Cloud (SN1987a) which is 168,000 light years away. That means that it was creatde with 6000 years of light showing a pre-supernova star, and 26 years of light showing a supernova event. So, which light show corresponds to the real star? Did the supernova then really occur? Is there even a real SN1987a, or is it a cosmic light show?

The 'appearance of age' argument slides into further problems when we see a fossil record of life stretching back 3800 million years into the past, which shows a progressive diversification of life from single-cell to multicellular to invertebrate to vertebrate and onwards. [7] If the Earth really is 6000 years ago, why create it with evidence of large-scale evolutionary change that never occurred?

Some YECs argue that Satan created the fossils in order to test the faith of the believers. Christadelphians rightly reject the idea of a supernatural malevolent Satan as having no substantive Biblical support. This means that we are forced to conclude that if if the Earth really is 6000 years old, God has created it with fossils of animals that never lived, which showed large-scale evolutionary change that never occurred. [8]  This is deception, and impossible to reconcile with a God who does not lie. (Titus 1:2; Numbers 23:19)


1. Roberts R, ‘In the Beginning’, The Christadelphian (1885) 32:14

2. Walker, ‘Genesis’, The Christadelphian (1910) 47:223

3. Simons The Christadelphian, (1884) 21:177-178

4.  Walker CC “Is it wrong to believe that the earth is a sphere?” The Christadelphian (1913) 50:346


6. Wiens, R "Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective"

7. Prothero D "Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters" (2007, Columbia University Press)

8. As Robert Roberts pointed out in The Visible Hand of God, the biogeographic distribition of species rules out a global flood, so we cannot resort to the arguments of flood geology touted by YECs. For an accessible overview of the reasons why flood geology is wrong from two professional geologists who are also Christians, see