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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Nichols

Apparent Age

Updated: Apr 18, 2020

Let's talk about where the Earth came from. Let's talk about evolution, creationism, and the flying spaghetti monster. Ok, we won't actually talk about that. And the reality is, I'm not a scientist or among the leading apologists for creationism, and this is a single blog post, and therefore won't be able to address completely what others have written entire books about. I just want to talk about one aspect: the age of the earth.

If you watch the BBC's Planet Earth or some other comparable documentary, you'll hear them talk about the earth being millions, or even billions, of years old. These estimates are primarily based on carbon dating techniques, wherein scientists measure the quantities of particular elements in rocks and then make inferences on their age based on known decay rates. It's sort of like, if you knew that water evaporated at 1 inch per hour and observed that the quantity of water in a glass was about 50%, you could extrapolate how long ago the glass was full. One obvious problem with this technique is the assumption that the glass was indeed, at one time, full. But it's not a completely unreasonable assumption for a non-religious scientist to make. You assume everything started at it's pristine, full state. But did it?

An alternative theory would be that the glass of water was never full to begin with. That idea applied as an earth origin theory is referred to as "apparent age," the idea that God created things to appear as though they were older. But why would God do that? If the earth appears to be millions and millions of years old, doesn't that make people more likely to believe in some other origin theory than creationism? Doesn't that make the history of the world seem less contingent on a creator over it all? Let's look at Genesis chapter 1 to understand why apparent age is not only consistent with the creationist viewpoint but also completely necessary and intrinsic to the creation story.

Day 3: Plants

"Then God said, 'Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:11-12)

Day 4: Sun, moon and stars

"Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth'; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good." (Gensis 1:14-18)

Day 5: Birds and fish

"Then God said, 'Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.' God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:20-21)

Day 6: Animals and man

"Then God said, 'Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind'; and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good. Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:24-27)

All of these things were created with apparent age. If all the plants had been created without apparent age, they would've been simple seeds in the ground, and yet we can see clearly in Genesis 2 that full grown plants existed. We read that "The Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;'" Furthermore, Adam and Eve ate only plants at the beginning and would've had no food were all plants created as infants, as it were. If the stars had been created without apparent age, many of them would still be invisible today because of how far away they are. The mere existence of stars at the time Adam and Eve walked the earth points to apparent age. Finally, and most important, if animals and man had been created without apparent age, they would all have been newborns and most would have been unable to survive, as many animals rely on the protection and nurturing of their parents. Certainly Adam and Eve would not have survived.

It's as if God created the world at a snapshot in time that was far enough along to sustain all the complex and delicate systems he had just designed. If so many components of God's original design show the presence, and in many cases the necessity, of apparent age, is it so preposterous to believe that the earth itself was created similarly? That it, to continue the original metaphor, never was a full glass of water? This isn't necessarily a proof of creation, but I think it certainly shows that the earth's supposed age does not preclude the possibility of creation.

And it also answer the age old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

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