My first experience teaching Earth Science was at a small Classical Christian school in Missouri for the 2001-2002 school year. The headmaster was a young-Earth creationist. She knew that I was an old-Earth Christian, but perhaps being desperate for a science teacher she went ahead and hired me as a part-time teacher for a year, teaching middle school Earth Science and high school Chemistry. I had (if I remember correctly) eight seventh-grade students, almost no laboratory materials, and a pile of Bob Jones University Press Space and Earth Science textbooks. The students were great, I could make do with the limited resources, but the young-Earth textbook? That was hard to work with. I taught the students that there was a range of beliefs among Bible-believing Christians in regards to the age of the Earth and the formation of the rock and fossil records.
My second experience teaching Earth Science was at an International Christian School in Bucharest, Romania, where I taught Earth Science at the high school level (along with all of the other sciences in grades 7-12) from 2003 to 2008. The students, from a number of different countries, were once again wonderful. The supplies were once again limited, though I had brought a number of minerals, rocks and maps with me. One big improvement was that I was able to choose my own textbook. I would have loved to have had a Christian Earth Science textbook, but the only Christian titles on the market were from young-Earth publishers. I had learned by this point that it would be better to take a secular textbook and add Christian content than to take a young-Earth textbook and try to undo both the questionable Biblical interpretation and bad science that these books inevitably contain. At my recommendation, the school purchased Earth Science textbooks published by Glencoe, and I went ahead and produced supplementary materials on the relationship between Earth Science and Christianity.
At some point I got the idea that perhaps I should be the one to write a Christian Earth Science textbook. I even wrote a few complete chapters, and used some of them with my students. I shared the textbook idea with several friends, who all encouraged me to move forward. But the dream sat on the shelf for the most part from 2008 until 2014. I still had the idea in the back of my mind, but had no idea how to move forward with the project in terms of the business side of things, such as publishing, printing, and marketing. I knew that even if I were to write the best Christian Earth Science textbook in the world, it would be a failure if I didn’t get the business aspects right.
On Novare’s web site, they listed that they would be producing an Earth Science textbook in the future. I figured that someone else had beaten me to it, which was acceptable to me. I went ahead and sent an email to the publisher, John Mays, explained who I was, and offered my services to review the book and help in any other way I could. My desire was to do what I could to make their upcoming book the best it could be, as I saw this as a critical need in the Christian educational system. John wrote back and said he didn’t actually have an author lined up. I sent him a chapter I had written several years previously, and before long, John asked me if I would be willing to write the book.
I agreed, we worked out an agreement and timetable, and I started working on the book. I began writing in September of 2014, and we initially set an aggressive schedule to complete the book by the summer of 2015. We soon realized that this timetable was unrealistic, but by that point, a handful of schools were committed to using the book for the 2015-2016 school year. We managed to put together a preprint of the first half of the book to get the students started, provided a second preprint with a handful of additional chapters a few months later, and I finished the writing in February of 2016, which was seventeen months after starting.
Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home is now complete, printed, and in the hands of students. I am thankful to God for what has been accomplished, and pray that this book would be used to help students love and worship their Creator, love and serve their neighbors, and better know and care for the creation, which is God’s world and our home.
It is common in book prefaces for authors to give their thanks to those who sacrificed alongside the author as the book was being produced. I and my family now know from experience what this is all about, and I would like to thank my beautiful wife, Shirley, and wonderful adult children for their sacrifice of time while I worked on the book, a project that took over twelve hundred hours while I was working full time at my natural resources job. When I was done with my book, my wife commented how good it was to have me “back.”
I would also like to thank John Mays and the Novare team for their leadership and patience as the book slowly came together. I know there times when John wondered when in the world the next chapter was going to show up. Novare has been a delight to work with, and many of the things that make this book good—the educational philosophy, page layout, and even the title of the book—are thanks to John.
Novare had an excellent team of reviewers for the textbook: Steven Mittwede, Ronald DeHaas, and Chris Mack. They caught a number of errors in my writing and made numerous other suggestions that greatly improved the textbook. There were a few of their suggestions that I chose not to implement, and hopefully I made the right choice in those rare circumstances. I am sure there are some things in the book that are not exactly the way they should be, and any errors that exist are certainly my responsibility.
The best endorsements as far as I am concerned have been from my wife, who proofread each chapter and let me know it was interesting, and from a group of middle school students somewhere out there who read portions of a chapter and liked it.
I am most of all thankful to my Creator and Redeemer. As we stand in awe of his many works—thunderstorms, mountains, forests, waterfalls, and much more—may we be moved to worship him for all that he has done and is doing.
Grace and Peace
Note: Order the textbook directly from Novare Science and Math. If you order from Amazon, you will get one of the paperback preprints rather than the hard cover final version.
A common young-Earth creationist (YEC) argument for an Earth that is only 6000 or so years old is the “salty seawater” argument. The salty seawater argument, in its simplest form, states that one should be able to determine a maximum age for the oceans by measuring the rate at which various salts—such as the sodium in sodium chloride; and other metal ions—are entering the oceans and the rate at which they are being removed from the oceans, such as through sea spray, and calculating backwards to a time when there would have been no salt in the ocean.
I have pointed out some of the serious flaws with YEC reasoning on this one in my post Aluminum and the 100-year old oceans. Another Christian blog, Naturalis Historia, recently concluded a four-part series on the topic:
- Part I — Confirmation Bias — We tend to hear what we want to hear.
- Part II — A Young Earth Salt Chronometer? — The history and current YEC use of the salty seawater argument.
- Part III — Are the Oceans Getting Saltier Over Time? — A good question that YECs have not addressed.
- Part IV — Dr. Wile’s Use of the Salt Chronometer — A look at a popular YEC author and speaker’s presentation of the salty seawater argument as one of his top five reasons for believing in a young Earth.
The third article in the series brought up an important point that has not been sufficiently highlighted by either advocates nor opponents of the YEC position, and that is the fact that there is absolutely no empirical evidence that seawater is indeed becoming saltier over time. There are seasonal and longer-term changes in ocean salinity from place to place, but these include both increases and decreases in salinity. In fact, given the current sparsity of salinity data and the three-dimensional and temporal variability of ionic concentrations in the oceans, we do not even precisely know how much of these ions, such as sodium ions, are in the oceans, nor can we tell whether their concentrations are increasing or decreasing.
If we did know the total quantities of various ions in seawater, I suspect we would discover that these values do vary over time. Some would be increasing, and some would be decreasing. For those that are increasing in concentration, it would be unwise to attempt to use them as geochronometers. The present rate of increase in the values would reflect only the current situation, which involves the present layout of the continents, climate, and human influences. There would be little reason to assume that the trends would have been identical a few hundred, a few thousand, or a few million years ago.
If the concentrations of some elements in seawater are found to be decreasing over time, it would be unwise to use these as geochronometers either. Using the same reasoning that YECs have used regarding ocean salinity, these would demonstrate that the ocean was created sometime in the future.
Over time, a number of faulty YEC arguments have drifted onto Answers in Genesis’s Arguments we don’t use page. Usually this has been the result not of careful YEC research, but of outside pressure that has forced them to admit that things like the “moon dust” and “vapor canopy” arguments do not work. The salty seawater argument does not work either, and should be added to this list.
Grace and Peace
Last year I published a blog post regarding young-Earth creationists’ use of seawater composition to “prove” that Earth is nowhere near 4.5 billion years old (Aluminum and the 100-year old oceans). This argument is one that needs to be added to their growing “Arguments creationists should not use” page, but it continues to make the rounds. This month’s Acts & Facts publication from the Institute for Creation Research has a rather inconsistent article called “The Ocean’s Salt Clock Shows a Young World,” written by ICR Senior Science Lecturer Frank Sherwin.
On the one hand, Sherwin argues that sodium inputs into the ocean far outweigh sodium outputs, proving that the age of Earth’s oceans cannot be anywhere near the billions of years as advocated by geologists. The most significant sodium input into seawater is ions dissolved in river water. Outputs—those processes that remove sodium from seawater—include sea spray and exchange of sodium ions with other ions in clay minerals on the sea floor. According to Sherwin, the maximum age for the oceans based on sodium concentration is 40-60 million years, and the oceans must be much younger than this because it would be best to assume that the oceans were created with a composition not all that different than what it is today.
On the other hand, Sherwin brushes off the criticism that similar reasoning using aluminum would show that the ocean is only 100 years old. He states that aluminum concentrations in the oceans are at equilibrium but sodium concentrations are not. Perhaps this is a case of “sodium concentrations support our position, and aluminum values do not, so the sodium values are valid and the aluminum ones are not.”
In reality, concentrations of all elements in seawater are somewhere near equilibrium, but none of them are perfectly at equilibrium at any one time. In other words, the amount of sodium in seawater—or of any other element—can increase or decrease over time as global conditions change. This has certainly been true in the Quaternary Period, with rapid and significant climate and sea level changes, and has likely been true throughout geologic history.
Sherwin concludes his article with:
“Accumulating salt in the ocean does not “prove” anything, but it does deal a death blow to evolutionary ideas. Holding to the well-attested biblical text gives us the true age of the world’s oceans–measured in just thousands of years.”
It is not clear what he means by “not proving anything,” because he clearly thinks he has proven something. But he hasn’t proven anything, as one can see by diving a little deeper into the literature. On a side note, many conservative Biblical scholars would contest the idea that the Bible requires an Earth that is only a few thousand years old.
A technical treatment of the issue from a young-Earth creationist perspective is The Sea’s Missing Salt: A Dilemma for Evolutionists, by Austin and Humphreys. They examine sodium inputs and outputs, and claim that 3.56 x1011 kg of sodium enters the ocean per year, while only 2.06 x1011 kg is removed. If this is true, sodium concentrations in the ocean are increasing over time rather than being near equilibrium.
Christian geophysicist Glenn Morton (formerly a young-Earth creationist) wrote a response to Austin and Humphreys’ article, closely examining their values for sodium inputs and outputs. Morton identified additional mechanisms for removal of sodium from seawater, and calculates that 3.81×1011 of sodium is removed from the ocean per year, which is greater than the amount of sodium that enters. There is a degree of uncertainty about the magnitude of some values, as many seafloor geochemical processes are only incompletely understood, but Morton’s values are likely to be at least approximately correct.
Conclusion: Ion concentrations—whether of sodium, aluminum, or any other element—cannot be used to determine the age of the oceans.
Or perhaps we should conclude from these numbers that the oceans have not been created yet!
Grace and Peace