|This is the fifth post in a multi-part review of a young-Earth creationist (YEC) presentation given by Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson of the Institute for Creation Research in Billings, Montana in November 2012.
Part 1— The Relevance of Genesis (I was in complete agreement with Dr. Jeanson). The YEC version of the scientific method.
Part 2 — Hyper-rapid post-flood diversification of species. Five fossil facts that YECs think point to Noah’s flood.
Part 3 — Distortion of “uniformitarianism.” Mount St. Helens.
Part 4 — Seawater. Mud sedimentation rates. Radiometric dating.
Part 5 — This page. Dinosaurs in the land of bunnies and daisies. My question in the Q&A.
I am an old-Earth Christian and strongly disagree with much of what Dr. Jeanson presented. I believe that young-Earth creationism is neither Biblically necessary nor scientifically feasible. Dr. Jeanson is my brother in Christ, and nothing I am writing in this series should be taken as an attack on him or any other YEC believer.
There are two additional posts related to this conference. In I do have an advocate before the Father, I discuss a conversation I had with a fellow attendee at the conference. In There is more than one way to be really wrong about the environment, I critique a video that was shown promoting a radical anti-environmental documentary.
Dinosaurs in the land of bunnies and daisies
Dr. Jeanson concluded his two-day seminar on young-Earth creationism with a segment on dinosaurs. It was the standard YEC presentation on the topic:
- Dinosaurs lived with humans as recently as 4300 years ago.
- Tyrannosaurus ate plants and mosquitoes sucked plant juice.
- Dinosaurs are mentioned in the Bible, and proof that they existed until quite recently can be found in places like Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
- Part of the reason they went extinct could be the ice age, which occurred between 2300 and 2000 B.C. (“The flood is the best, or only, explanation for the ice age.”)
- Or maybe they are not extinct; they might still be alive today in the dark jungles of Africa.
I’ll make just a few comments, and will make no attempt to address everything said:
- Dinosaurs are not mentioned in the Bible. I’ve addressed this in my post The ESV Study Bible on creation — Dinosaurs in Job? Do the YECs really want us to believe that a sauropod could hide under the lotus plants along the Jordan River?
- The carving at the Ta Prohm complex at Angkor Wat, Cambodia, is not a Stegosaurus. I wrote Stegosaurus in Cambodian temple? in response to this common YEC claim. The “plates” on the back of the critter in the carving are part of a leaf motif that occurs throughout the site, and the tail has no spikes.
- The Bible does not say that there was no animal death before the fall of Adam, as I demonstrated in my post Death before the fall — an old-Earth Biblical perspective. YECs are reading something into the text, and then taking that as proof that dinosaurs couldn’t have died before Adam sinned.
- The dinosaurs did not go extinct during the ice age only 4000 years ago. Pleistocene terrestrial fossils (in what YECs would call post-flood deposits) include mastodons and sabertooth cats, but not dinosaurs. The whole “ice age occurred only 4000 years ago and lasted only a couple hundred years” scenario is almost harder to accept than “flood geology.”
- The Mokele-Mbembe argument (there really are large dinosaurs in the jungles of Africa) should be on Answers in Genesis’s Arguments we don’t use page. Until someone actually provides evidence that there are sauropods roaming the jungles, this is just Sasquatch science.
Many of these problems stem from the YEC “bunnies and daisies” interpretive framework for Genesis 1. In the Bible, Adam and Eve are placed in a garden, a safe place that is distinct from the rest of the Earth. Adam is given the command to go out and rule over the Earth; to subdue it and have dominion over it. This implies that Earth was somewhat wild and in need of being subdued. In the YEC framework, on the other hand, the entire Earth is a gentle place, filled with kind animals and soft flowers out of a cartoon created for four-year-olds.
My question in the Q&A time
I made a brief statement and asked a question in the Saturday question and answer time. It went something like this:
I have a Master’s degree in geology and was once a member of the Creation Research Society, but abandoned young-Earth creationism when I figured out it wasn’t Biblically necessary. By God’s grace, my faith stayed intact throughout my transition from young-Earth creationism to acceptance of an old Earth, but this hasn’t been the case for many geology students when they figure out that much of YEC science simply does not work. For example, I have heard that some former students in the Institute for Creation Research’s Master’s degree program in geology went on to have their own crises of faith. This is anecdotal evidence; I have no statistics, but few if any have gone on to be involved in creation research or ministries. Why do you think it is that almost no geologists have been convinced by evidence presented by young-Earth creationists?
First of all, Dr. Jeanson was able to name an ICR geology M.S. student who is still active in YEC teaching and research, and that is Dr. John Whitmore of Cedarville University. I knew that, but it had slipped my mind when I asked the question. I would be very interested, however, to see statistics of what has happened to ICR geology students over the years.
Dr. Jeanson’s reason for why so few geologists have been convinced had to do with worldviews. Geologists have been indoctrinated by an anti-God, “uniformitarian” way of thinking, and simply cannot see the evidence that is before their eyes. But this does not explain why so few Christian geologists have been convinced by YEC arguments. As a Christian with geological training, my problem with YEC science is not that I have a wrong worldview (my worldview is probably very close to that of Dr. Jeanson), but that most of what YECs teach simply does not work in the real world of rocks, seas, streams, glaciers, volcanoes, and fossils.
The tragedy for geologists, and many other scientists, is that all this bad evidence—promoted as true to the Bible—closes the door for the gospel. They cannot believe because they have been convinced by both skeptics and YECs that to do so would require them to accept YEC science, which is neither necessary Biblically nor workable scientifically.
Grace and Peace
8 thoughts on “Nathaniel Jeanson of the Institute for Creation Research in Montana, part 5”
I appreciate your steadfast approach to using evidence supported, logically based science in understanding the creation account. I myself am an amateur geneticist and have done considerable research on the subject. Personally, my standpoint is as a theistic evolutionist, however I do accept some of the points made regarding geological history in old-earth creationism. A question which i feel you may be able to provide insight upon is that of the flood, and population segregation. First off, one has to consider if the flood was a global, or localized event. Here is where i would enjoy to hear your geologic side of things, as I am far from a geologist. If the flood was a global event, then it would have wiped out every land-based organism on the entire planet, not to mention messing with the ice at the poles(another thing I don’t get). Furthermore, if the time between Noah and modern day is in the range of 10,000 years(i’m just guessing), it is impossible to have the diversity in species which we see across the planet. As well, the population sizes, and ecological systems we see, are an impossibility within a 10,000 year time frame. Thanks for any input you might have on the subject.
Actually, according to the YEC timeline, the universe (including Earth), was created in 4004 BC. Noah’s Flood would have been about 1656 years after the creation, in 2348 BC. At the moment, it is 2012 AD, so taking a year off for not having a year zero, the Flood is supposed to have happened 4359 years ago.
So, instead of having 10,000 years between Noah’s Flood and today for all the diversity of species to have developed, there is actually less than half that time – only 4359 years.
But it gets worse. YEC’s fully agree that there were horses and lions and all the animals we have today by, at most, 2000 to 1800 BC.
That means that the progenitor animals (a very few thousand animal “kinds” by their estimates) from Noah’s Ark had to develop out into all the hundreds of thousands of species we see today within 300 to 500 years. Instead of having 10,000 years to develop the genetic diversity we see today, the YECs claim it all developed within 300 to 500 years. Not only that, but they also had to form all the hundreds of thousands of creatures that are extinct today, but for which there are fossils in the layers they say have been laid down since the Flood.
That’s two or three thousand animals diversifying in the millions of different species we have today and see in the fossil records that are supposed to be since the Flood – all in 300 to 500 years.
WebMonk — you worded your comment very nicely.
I would add that all this hyper-rapid diversification and migration had to occur while a tremendous amount of post-flood “residual catastrophism” was going on, such as the ice age, multiple supervolcanoes (ash from the final Yellowstone supervolcano is on top of glacial deposits), and deposition (according to some YECs) of thousands of feet of sediments in places.
Matthewlloyd29 — I personally don’t see any part of YEC flood geology that works. It cannot explain the vertical distribution of fossils, cannot incorporate most igneous and metamorphic rocks, cannot explain why radiometric dating works most of the time (without melting the Earth), cannot explain the existence of sedimentary environments in rocks (reefs, lakes, evaporites, streams, shorelines), cannot explain the existence of paleosols (ancient soils) and so forth.
YECs claim that there was no ice at the poles until after the flood, so they wouldn’t have the “ice caps would have floated away” problem.
I don’t believe the Bible requires a global flood. I’ve laid out the case for this briefly here.
So, I reject YEC flood geology because the Bible does not require it, and it doesn’t work.
A couple of further thoughts on YEC post-flood speciation:
—My new word is “hyperevolution.” It isn’t microevolution (too small) nor macroevolution (not fast enough), but hyperevolution — the super-rapid radiation of one species into hundreds or thousands of species in the space of a few hundred years, which is only a handful of generations for some organisms.
—The concept of hyperevolution will only add fuel to the general lack of concern of YECs regarding environmental issues, especially biodiversity. Why work to protect black-footed ferrets when they are just an easily-replaced part of a larger “baramin,” have only existed as a species for a couple thousand years, and will be destroyed along with the rest of creation any day now.
How about this, Kevin? http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/science/earth/study-sees-older-grand-canyon-stirring-controversy.html?hp
Richard — I haven’t followed the “young” vs. “old” Grand Canyon debate really closely. Is it only about five million years old, or 60 million years old? It is generally easier in geology to determine the absolute age of the formation of something (lava flow, intrusion, deposition of a layer) than to date the removal of something, such as the formation of a canyon.
Thank you for this really excellent series. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of “uniformitarianism” in YEC thinking.