Digging Deeper into the Movie “Is Genesis History?” (Part 3): Dating Methods You Can’t Trust, and Epochs that Aren’t in the Bible

In my first two installments of my analysis of the YEC movie, Is Genesis History?, I focused first on what I felt was intentional dishonesty on the part of those who made the movie, and then on what should have been the main focus of the movie—looking specifically at Genesis 1-11 and asking what its genre and purpose was. Strange as it may sound, for a movie entitled, Is Genesis History?, only one of the 13 major segments of the movie actually focused on specifically looking at the text of Genesis 1-11. Most of the movie was focused on scientific issues.

Why, you may ask? I think the answer should be obvious: the movie really wasn’t about debating whether or not Genesis 1-11 was historical. Its starting premise was that it was, in fact, historical. Given that was their presupposition, they were impelled to attack the discoveries of modern science that argue for an old earth. Therefore, a proper title for the movie would be, Since We Are Assuming Genesis 1-11 is Historical, We Are Also Asserting That the Universe is Only 6,000 Years Old, Therefore We Need to Discredit Modern Science.

In any case, in this post I am going to touch upon the middle segments of the movie. Again, as I said in my earlier posts, my specialty is not science, so some of my comments will be more questions to their claims, while in other places I will point out what I feel are problems in their logic and claims.

Andrew Snelling and Del Tackett

How Do You Measure Time? (With Andrew Snelling)
In the fourth major segment of the movie, Del Tackett interviewed AiG geologist Andrew Snelling at SP Crater and Sedona, Arizona. (I actually wrote a post about Andrew Snelling last year entitled, “Adventures in the Subterfuge of AiG”). The basic question posed to Snelling involved the legitimacy of the dating methods of rocks. Snelling’s answer was basically that no, you can’t trust the dating methods.

Before he got into why, though, he first pointed out that early geologists like Charles Lyell had an agenda, namely to replace the history recorded in Genesis with “naturalistic history” that involved millions of years. Snelling claimed that geologists like Lyell started with the idea of long ages, and then interpreted the rocks in light of their predetermined idea. In other words, Snelling seemed to be saying that geology really involves nothing more than geologists looking at a rock and saying, “That’s millions of years old,” or “That’s only 6,00 years old,” based on nothing more than their predetermined ideas regarding the earth’s age. Now, I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what real geologists do. But apparently, that seems to be how Snelling does his work.

In any case, Snelling focused on the decay rates involved in various dating methods. Yes, if you measure the rocks based on the present rates of decay, you’re going to get millions of years—but according to Snelling, you can’t use the present rates to know the past, because past catastrophic events could have altered the decay rates in the past. He then went on to say that decay rates are not constant, and that therefore we can’t trust them. He even said, “We have evidence that decay rates were faster in the past,” although he never referred to one single piece of that supposed evidence.

If I were to guess, I would have to think his evidence is his assertion that there was a global flood—i.e. because he knows there was a global flood a mere 4,000 years ago, he thus knows that he can’t trust the present decay rates. If that is the case, that is a really good example of circular reasoning.

In any case, Del Tackett was impressed, and so he asked Snelling why don’t more scientists listen to him? Snelling said that scientists are so locked into the “conventional paradigm” of millions of years, that they simply can’t see anything else. Plus, they realize that if they admitted Snelling was right, and that you can’t trust decay rates, and therefore the earth is only 6,000 years old, then they’d have to throw out evolution, because “you have to have old rocks for evolution to happen.” Simply put, Snelling’s answer is that it is all a giant conspiracy.

Kurt Wise and Del Tackett

A Brief History of the World (With Kurt Wise)
In the next segment, Del Tackett interviewed Kurt Wise, a paleontologist and young earth creationist who used to teach at Bryan College. The question Tackett posed to Wise was, “What was the history of the world according to Genesis?” And so, Wise, a paleontologist, talked about how he interprets the Bible.

As a side note, I first came across Kurt Wise about nine years ago, when I actually attended a Worldview conference at Bryan College. He was the speaking for the section on science. Most of his presentation was about how dinosaurs could fit on Noah’s ark. At that time, I had not yet even looked into the creation/evolution debate, but when he started talking about baby T-Rexes able to fit on Noah’s ark, I had this reaction:

I honestly could not believe what I was hearing. And yet here we are, nine years later, and there’s a giant ark in Kentucky with dinosaurs on it…and a significant segment of American Evangelicals think it is the foundation for the Gospel. But I digress…

In his interview, Kurt Wise first referenced the “scoffers” in II Peter 3:4, and related them to geologists who are “willingly ignorant” and claim that “all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation.” (Ironically, I discuss this very same claim in my post from last year about Andrew Snelling). I’m sorry, but let me just cut to the chase: II Peter is not talking about modern geology. I really shouldn’t even have to say that.

In any case, after echoing Snelling’s comments that you can’t use the present to understand the past, Wise proceeded to elaborate what he felt were the six different epochs of the earth’s history. The First Epoch was the creation week of Genesis 1; The Second Epoch was the time of Eden in Genesis 2-3; and The Third Epoch was the cursed creation (again in Genesis 3).

Allow me to mention two curious things he said about this third epoch. First, he said it was the epoch of the “cursed creation,” and that because of Adam’s sin, “the sun would no longer burn forever.” Go ahead and re-read Genesis 3. Two things are cursed: the serpent (which must crawl on its belly), and the ground (which will produce thorns and thistles). Nowhere is there any mention that the sun was “originally” designed to burn forever, but because of Adam’s sin it started to burn out. For that matter, nowhere does it say that hurricanes, tornados, and tsunamis came about because of Adam’s sin. So let’s just state the obvious: Kurt Wise is clearly adding things to the biblical text.

The Fourth Epoch was what Wise called the Ante-Deluvian period up to the time of the flood. He claimed that during this period (which according to YECists would be roughly 6,000-4,000 BC) there were different animals, a warmer earth, and the continents were in different places. I invite any scientist to comment on whether or not these things are true, but again, if we read Genesis 4-6, we can confidently say (again) that none of that is in the Bible. So let’s just state the obvious: Kurt Wise is clearly adding things to the biblical text.

The Fifth Epoch was the post-flood period, where the earth recovers from the catastrophic impact of the flood. According to Wise, there was a slow decrease in the intensity of earthquakes and volcanos, there was one ice age that was a result of the flood, and ever since the flood there has been global warming, because the earth is still recovering from the effects of the flood. I don’t remember reading about any of that in the Bible.

The Sixth and Final Epoch is the modern epoch. According to Wise, it is in this epoch were we finally get constant rates (as in decay rates) where we can accurately measure things…but only back to the flood about 4,000 years ago. Before the flood, the entire created order was so vastly different, that our modern constant natural laws simply cannot be used to accurately know anything about the universe beyond 4,000 years ago. And, once again, he referenced II Peter 3:4, and claimed that the “all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation,” is a reference to the problems of using modern dating systems to determine the past.

Again, I don’t believe I have to say this, but no, II Peter 3:4 is not about modern geology and dating methods.

Tackett, though, seemed to be quite impressed with scientists like Snelling and Wise. As this segment faded to a close, Tackett (obviously impressed) said, “These scientists were trying to interpret the rocks in light of biblical history.”

Again, the movie should not be titled, Is Genesis History? To the point, forget science for a moment, nothing that Kurt Wise said was biblically accurate. II Peter 3:4 is not about modern geology; the Bible doesn’t divide history in these “six epochs” that Wise claims. There is nothing in the Bible about the sun originally meant to last forever, or different animals before the flood, or the placement of the continents, or any of it.

You don’t even have to dip one toe into the waters of discussing the science surrounding “creation/evolution debate,” to realize that what Kurt Wise says in the movie is, quite literally, unbiblical nonsense. What he claims is not in the Bible.

The Next Few Segments
The next few segments in the movie are ones that I am going to offer only a few passing comments. The segments are:

  • The Origin of Fossils (with Marcus Ross)
  • When Dinosaurs Walked the Earth (with Arthur Chadwick)
  • Soft Tissue on Dinosaur Bones (with Kevin Anderson)
  • The Genius of Design (with Robert Carter)

All four of these men continue to re-iterate the “two paradigms” fallacy that the movie puts forth, that the only two choices are (a) YECism or (b) godless evolution. Ross claimed that all the dinosaur fossils you find in ancient history museums are of animals who lived 4,000 years ago, right before the flood. He also claimed that the worldwide catastrophic flood was able to bury the various ecosystems of the pre-flood world in a very neat, orderly vertical way. Of course, when I heard that I thought, “Isn’t a chaotic, catastrophic, neat and orderly flood somewhat of an oxymoron?”

Chadwick talked about how rapid burial is needed for fossilization, then claimed there were no transitional fossils of any sort, and called evolution “a leap in the dark.”

Anderson argued that the discovery of soft tissue found on dinosaur bone discounts the entire evolutionary paradigm, and proves that dinosaurs cannot be millions of years old. The discovery was made by Mary Schweitzer. It turns out that in an interview with BioLogos, Schweitzer herself had this to say about how YECists were using her discovery: “One thing that does bother me, though, is that young earth creationists take my research and use it for their own message, and I think they are misleading people about it.”

Finally, Carter essentially made an Intelligent Design argument: that systems are so complex that they couldn’t evolve. His comments were actually interesting, for one of the things he talked about was how the genome could actually change shape over time and created new things. But then he quickly re-asserted that such incredible change could only within certain parameters, that there couldn’t be a common ancestor, and how could anyone think any of it could be a result of blind chance?

I basically had two thoughts. First, if you admit such things are so incredible, that the genome could change shape over time, how can you so quickly dismiss the notion that God couldn’t be behind something even more incredible than that? And second, evolution doesn’t claim things happen by “blind chance.” It just claims certain things happen—“blind chance” is a philosophical claim that you are conflating with the actual theory of evolution.

Comments
As you will no doubt be able to tell, up to this point in the movie, most of the arguments are just standard YECist arguments that rely mere assertion for evidence, mischaracterizing the actual evidence, and (most sadly, in my opinion) reading a whole bunch of stuff into Genesis 1-11 that simply isn’t there.

And that is one of the things I find most ironic. YECists often accuse Christians who are convinced of evolution of “trying to fit millions of years into the Bible.” I suppose that some OECists or “day-age” proponents are trying to do that in a way, but what is ironic is that YECists are guilty off trying to fit a whole host of wild assertions into Genesis 1-11 that simply are not in the Bible.

In my next post, I should be able to cover the last few segments of the actual movie.

7 Comments

  1. The idea that nuclear decay rates could have been much faster in the past is, quite frankly, science fiction.

    It’s an idea that came out of an eight-year research project called RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth.) They proposed that nuclear decay rates must have been a billion times higher during the Creation Week and during the Flood. They came up with four studies that they claimed provided evidence for this, such as zircon crystals in granites having more helium than they thought it should have, but it isn’t at all clear even to experts how their claims provide evidence for this particular hypothesis.

    The farcical thing is that they themselves admitted that if nuclear decay rates ever had been that high, they would have released enough heat to raise the temperature of the earth to a whopping 22,000˚C. Not only would there have been no Flood left, there would have been nothing left to be flooded!

    They claimed that there must have been some esoteric cooling mechanism at work, but they also pointed out that it would have to have cooled rocks faster than water, otherwise the oceans would have frozen over.

    It’s quite upsetting to see absurdities this extreme being spouted by people supposedly trying to defend the Bible. It doesn’t do anything of the sort — on the contrary, it makes a mockery of it.

    Wikipedia has a page on the RATE project: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RATE_project

  2. I always love your Creationism posts. You hit them where it hurts: Scriptural interpretation! It’s amazing to see how many unsupported claims the YECs make, even setting aside science and looking only at their Biblical claims.

  3. Dr. Snelling has also written an article at AiG on gold (and gold deposits) that is full of cherry-picked data and misleading information. It almost completely ignores the body of evidence.

      1. And it’s so easy to do because the average layman has no idea of the various deposit models that are recognized around the earth.

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