The Fossil Record
Archbishop Ussher once famously calculated that the world was created on October 3, 4004 B.C. Most modern geologists believe that multicellular life appeared on earth some 550 million years ago. Obviously, both cannot be right. At least one is seriously in error. But which one is it?
For the Christian, the implications of the question can be profoundly disturbing. If science is right, then Scripture might be in error. We would be left with a book written by fallible human beings, sincere, perhaps, but limited by their culture and environment. Our faith would have little left on which to stand.
When faced with an apparent contradiction between science and Scripture, we must reexamine our understanding of each. Are we interpreting Scripture correctly? Have we interpreted the scientific evidence correctly? God is infallible, but we are not. When a problem like this arises, the fault most likely lies with us, not with God. We need the humility to acknowledge our own limitations.
So, then, does the Bible really teach that the world was created in 4004 B.C.? Can science really prove that life on earth is hundreds of millions of years old?
Scientists like to think that their conclusions are beyond question, at least as far as the theory of evolution is concerned. And yet so much of Darwinism is based on circumstantial evidence and circular reasoning that no Christian should automatically think that everything that a scientist says is necessarily true. The dating of the fossil record, in particular, is very much open to question. The 550 million years old figure was arrived at by calculating the rate of sedimentation and then deducing from that the length of time it must have taken for the various strata of sedimentary rock to have been laid down. But this calculation is based on an assumption, and the assumption is almost certainly false. The assumption is that sedimentation has always occurred at a uniform rate. Ironically, the problem with that assumption is the fossils themselves. In order for fossils to have been formed, the organisms had to have been buried quickly, in water, as in a massive flood. The very existence of the fossils points to a geological catastrophe, and the earth, in fact, is full of evidence of violent upheaval. In order to create fossils, each layer of sedimentary rock had to have been laid down in days and weeks, not hundreds of millions of years. In light of the evidence, traditional dating of the fossil record collapses.
But what about the age of the earth itself? We shall come to that in our next blog post.