The Great Debate on Science and the Bible – Program 7

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Ken Ham, Dr. Jason Lisle, Dr. Hugh Ross, Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr.; ©2005
Is It Possible for Scientists to Believe in God?

Program 7: The Great Debate on Science and the Bible Is It Possible for Scientists to Believe in God?


Today on The John Ankerberg Show, The Great Debate on Science and the Bible. My guests are Ken Ham and astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle of Answers in Genesis, debating astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, and Dr. Walter Kaiser, distinguished professor of Old Testament and President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Today, has science proven through astronomy, modern physics, and geology, that the universe and the earth are billions of years old? If this is true, are Christians who teach that the universe is only 6,000 years old erecting a hindrance to those looking for a factual Christian faith? Or is the opposite true: that Christians who teach the days of Genesis are six long periods of time are really the one’s not interpreting the Bible literally?

These four men model how Christians who strongly disagree can discuss their different views with love and respect.

Join us for this important debate and hear both sides present their case.

Ankerberg: Welcome. We’re talking about the Bible and science. It’s a fascinating conversation. And I want to take us back to 1992. Something happened in the scientific community that brought scientists who were on record as saying that they were atheists, brought them across the line to saying they thought that it was possible to believe in God now. And let me just give you a couple of their quotes. This, again, happened after 1992. And Hugh, I want to start off by asking you, why did they make these statements all of a sudden? Stephen Hawking. He said, “It’s the discovery of the century, if not of all time.” George Smoot, University of California at Berkeley, an astronomer and project leader for the COBE satellite, declared, “What we have found is evidence for the birth of the universe.” He said, “It’s like looking at God.” Michael Turner, astrophysicist with the University of Chicago, said, “It’s unbelievably important. The significance of this cannot be overstated. They have found the Holy Grail of cosmology.” And one more, Geoffrey Burbidge, at the University of California, I think he’s one of your old professors.
Ross: Right.
Ankerberg: He’s complaining now that his fellow astronomers are rushing off to join “the First Church of Christ of the Big Bang.”
Ross: Right.
Ankerberg: Now, what was the evidence that moved these guys from their atheistic position to being open to saying that God created?
Ross: Well, before 1992, there was a window of hope on the part of some atheists that Big Bang cosmology might not prove to be correct. I mean, what they were observing before 1992 was that the cosmic background radiation, the radiation left over from the cosmic creation event, measured to be very smooth and uniform. But in order for there to be galaxies that would grow out of a Big Bang creation event, it would be necessary that there would tiny seeds, or departures from that perfect homogeneity and uniformity. And this is when NASA sent up this satellite to test whether or not those tiny departures from perfect uniformity existed or not. And that’s what was discovered in 1992. They not only found the departures, they found them at the very level that the Big Bang creation models were predicting. Now, keep in mind there are many different Big Bang creation models, but what they all have in common is this concept that there’s an actual beginning of space, time, matter and energy, a causal agent beyond space and time, a universe that continuously expands from that point of beginning, and it’s a universe that starts off infinitesimally small, and grows to the size that we observe today.
Ankerberg: Tell us about, I mean, I remember Ted Koppel coming on, and he was quoting Genesis. Tell us what else happened there.
Ross: Well, he interviewed three astrophysicists right after the discovery was announced. And he was looking at these quotes, and so he started off the interview by quoting Genesis 1:1. And then one physicists said, “Well, let’s quote Genesis 1:2, too,” and he did, and then 1:3, making the point that this has significance that goes beyond just the simple beginning of the universe. This is really demonstrating a creation history from the very beginning to the present moment, and it’s consistent with what the Bible is teaching.
Ankerberg: Jason, do you enjoy the fact that these astronomers that were atheists are, because of the evidence that they are observing, are being drawn across the line to say, “You know, I think that a transcendent causal agent, namely God, must have brought this into existence”?
Lisle: Well, you know, I think it’s important that we lead people to the right God, and the Big Bang God is not the God of the Bible. Because the Big Bang does not agree with the Bible in terms of not just the time scale, but also the order of events, the causal agent of the universe, and even the future. You know, the Big Bang is not just a story about the past, but also a story about the future. And it differs from what the Bible has to say about the future.
Ross: How does it differ, Jason?
Lisle: Well, according to the Big Bang, the universe will continue, well, in the most popular model, the flat universe, and so on, it will continue to expand forever and eventually die what they call a heat death, or basically run out of usable energy. And this happens vastly in the future, much more than Big Bangers believe about the time in the past; very far in the future. Whereas the Bible talks about a judgment and a restoration, and a restoration back to paradise. So it’s a very different future than what the Big Bang teaches.
Ross: Well…
Lisle: Also, the earth starts as a molten blob in the secular models of solar system formation; whereas in the Bible it starts as a ball of water. It’s very different. So we can’t just say, “Well, they both teach a beginning.” No, there’s lots of differences.
Ham: And I think…
Ankerberg: Well, let’s get an answer on that one first.
Ross: Okay. Well, in terms of the ball of water, it doesn’t actually say that. It says there is water on the surface of the earth. And so this would be consistent with standard Big Bang cosmology, that the earth starts off with a core, and a mantle, and a crust, with water beyond that. It takes…
Lisle: Well, there’s no water on the earth originally, according to the secular formation scenarios, as I’m sure you know.
Ross: That’s not true. I mean, standard geophysics says that the earth begins with water over the whole surface, and it’s plate tectonics that causes the continents to grow thereafter, and eventually produce, as we see in creation day three, a planet that has an ocean and the continents. If you want to see that laid out in detail, the book Rare Earth, written by an atheist and agnostic a couple of years ago, kind of lays out the history of the growth of the continental land masses, where it goes from zero to 3% in the first billion years, and then from 3% to 20% in the next 2½ and then it gets up the current 29%, all thanks to plate tectonics. And they tie it into the faint sun paradox, how the sun gets dimmer and then it gets brighter. And you know, from a creation perspective, this is a God that’s perfectly compensating for the changes in the plate tectonics, the changes in the light output from the sun, by creating just the right life forms at just the right time. And also removing life forms thereafter that no longer fit the changing conditions…
Ham: You know, there’s lots of assumptions behind that whole area of plate tectonics. That’s people’s interpretation. I mean, Dr. John Baumgartner who, using a super computer, has modeled plate tectonics in regard to it happening very quickly in regard to subduction and so on. And that particular model makes sense of the evidence. In other words, there’s a whole different model that looks at catastrophic plate tectonics.
Ross: Well,…
Ham: But, Hugh, what was the earth like before it was covered in water? What was it like?
Ross: Well, we have the earth condensing out of the gas. I mean, the universe starts off, according to Big Bang …
Ham: So, as it condensed, it didn’t have water, right?
Ross: No, the water is there shortly after the earth forms.
Ham: But at the very beginning, it didn’t?
Ross: At the very beginning, we did have water there, but not in a liquid form.
Ham: But the earth wasn’t covered with water originally? Right from the very beginning?
Ross: Well, it depends how you would understand it. I mean, if you’ve got water vapors…
Ham: But, you see, as it’s condensing out of… I mean, it’s not condensing… Just like the Bible describes, in the beginning you have the earth, and it was covered with water.
Ross: Okay. What we have the text saying is, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” [Gen. 1:1] which I see as a reference to the entire universe. Bruce Waltke kind of taught me that, that it’s referring to the whole of the universe.
Ham: It could be.
Ross: Right. Right. And then we have God taking us down to this newly formed earth, the earth that was formless and void. And at that point – now it doesn’t tell us exactly what stage in the formation we have in Genesis 1:2 and 1:3 – but at that point it tells us it’s empty of life, it’s unfit for life, it’s dark on the surface of the waters, and the waters cover the whole surface of the earth.
Ham: Exactly, which is, which is,… If you start with an earth just like that, that does not fit with the Big Bang model.
Ross: It does.
Ham: No, it doesn’t.
Ross: Big Bang cosmology would tell us that you would have the solar system forming in such a way that we would have the earth starting off…
Ham: See, that’s the whole point. That’s not what the Bible says. The Bible has the sun, moon, and stars made on Day 4.
Ross: I don’t think it says that. When it talks about the sun, moon and stars on Day 4…
Ham: My Bible does.
Ross: Ken. Verse 14, it talks about “let there be the sun, moon, and stars…”
Ham: Yes.
Ross: … Verse 15, “so that they may serve to mark seasons…” We’ve been talking about this, “to mark days and years.” And verse 16 says, “So God made the sun, moon and stars.” Notice it doesn’t specify when He made the sun, moon and stars. It could have been any time previous to the fourth day.
Ham: He made them on Day 4. That’s what it says.
Ross: And then we talk about Job 38. Job 38:8-9 says, “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness.” In other words, it was dark upon the face of the deep, not because there was a lack of light from the sun, moon and stars, but it was because there was this atmosphere that wrapped it in darkness. And what happened on…
Ham: Well, let me ask you a question. How do you know that’s a reference to the creation account? How do you know that couldn’t be a reference, for instance, to the flood?
Ross: I don’t think so, because what we see Job 38 and 39, just like in Psalm 104, addresses the content of all six creation days.
Ham: Hey, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Did you know Psalm 104 talks about ships, talks about Lebanon, talks about bread, talks about wine; that’s not a creation account.
Ross: Read the rest of it.
Ham: It’s referring back to creation, but it’s talking about present things. That’s not a creation account like Genesis.
Ross: I think it is. I mean, it covers every one of the…
Ham: Hugh, there weren’t …
Ross: … six creation days.
Ham: … ships in Genesis. There wasn’t Lebanon. There wasn’t bread.
Ross: Look, I’m not denying that it doesn’t cover other things, but certainly it addresses the six creation days.
Ham: This is not a historical narrative.
Ross: It’s actually giving you more scientific detail on what God did in the six creation days than you get in Genesis 1.
Ham: If there was a global flood, if there was a global flood, and there was, because the Scripture makes that very clear, there was a global flood. Even Augustine believed in a global flood, so if you’re going to quote Augustine about days, you’ve got to quote him about the flood, too. But, when it says, “they may not return to cover the earth,” [Psa. 104:9] they did return. They did cover the earth …
Ross: Well, …
Ham: …at the flood. That’s a reference to the flood.
Ross: But see, when I read the flood account, I see a flood that’s universal but not global. It wiped out all of humanity, it wiped out of the nephesh creatures associated with humans,…
Ham: So the waters stood 15 cubits above the mountain, and stood there for months and didn’t go anywhere?
Ross: Well, we have water flowing off the higher mountains that keeps it at that level for that period of time.
Ham: You mean there’s flood…
Ankerberg: Alright, what does the word “cover” mean in Hebrew, and that’s important to the discussion about Noah. And, Hugh, you said there was some simple science that would help my mother out in listening to this conversation. I am all up for this, what is the simple science that will help us here?
Ross: Well, these aren’t the best arguments, but I’ll argue they’re something anybody can understand. And that would be to say, just to take the core samples. You go to Greenland, you go to Antarctica, and they drill through the ice, and they see these layers. And it’s just like tree rings. You get a layer every year. And we know these layers represent years, because you can see the volcanic ash from, say Krakatau, you can see the volcanic ash from the eruption of Vesuvius that wiped out Pompeii, and we’ve got good historical records about how many years separated those events. And so we can look at the layers and we can see that it adds up to those years. And this is a core that reveals 740,000 layers so far. They’re trying to get the other layers below that. But they’ve gone down 740,000. And in those layers, they can see a record of the variation of the earth’s eccentricity. If we just use straight Newton’s Laws of Motion, we have this 100,000-year cycle for the variation of the eccentricity. And these ice layers show seven of those cycles, so you can see the sinusoid through the ice layers, going down through those 740,000 years. There’s a sediment drill off of New Zealand that takes it back 4 million years, not with the same resolution, but again you can see these patterns in there.
And then you can look at things like coral reefs. And the interesting thing about a coral reef is you not only get a yearly band, like with a tree ring, you get a daily band. And so this records how many days there are in a year. And what’s significant about this is that you’ve got the gravity of the moon and the gravity of the sun working on the earth to slow down the rotation rate. And again, just applying Newton’s Laws of Motion, it would tell us, say, that 400 million years ago, the earth would have a rotation rate a little faster than 21 hours a day. And then we have records of coral reefs that take us back those 400 million years, and what we see is daily bands that would record more than 400 days in a solar year.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’ve got two on the board, Jason. We’ve got the ice rings and we’ve got these coral reefs. Talk to me.
Lisle: Did you catch the hidden assumptions there? The first one would be the constancy of rates, because we see layers being laid down today, one per year, that that’s always been the case. But, in fact, you could lay down more than one per year. In fact, there’s a similar thing in geology, where you have these laminations that are formed, these horizontal laminations that they find in the Tapeats Sandstone in the Grand Canyon, and other places. And they used to say those were laid down one year after the next, one after the next. You add them up, millions of years. So you can’t trust the, you know, the straightforward reading of Genesis. But you know what they’ve found?
Ross: But you can put that to the test, Jason.
Lisle: They’ve found that, when the Mount St. Helens eruption happened, it laid down many of those layers simultaneously. So you can get many, many layers all at the same time. What about the coral reefs, then? What about those?
Ross: Well, hold it. There’s a test here. We have Vesuvius, and we have Krakatau, where we’ve got a historical calibration that these are actual annual layers. We also have the calibration due to the variation of the earth’s eccentricity, eccentricity of its orbit. So we’ve got two independent calibrations that these really are annual layers, and it’s a continuous record.
Lisle: I have no doubt that some of them can be annual layers. But the point is we don’t know for a fact that all of them are. And let me …
Ross: Yes, we do.
Lisle: Let me hit the coral reefs, then, and talk about that a little bit, because what about these coral reefs then, that supposedly reflect the different length of the day. Did you know that some of them have actually fewer than 365 days in a year? So if we were to follow the same logic, those corals would have to be from the future. So, I mean, see, it’s inconsistent, isn’t it? I mean you can’t just always assume that you get, you know, so many days per year. It’s much more complicated than that. Constancy of rates is one of the assumptions that I was talking about, one of those things that are assumed, that critics of a straightforward reading of the Bible often use.
Ham: And if I can jump in here…
Ankerberg: Wait, let’s get a response on coral reefs here before we go on.
Ross: Well, I mean, there are coral reefs that don’t lay down annual layers. There are those that do. And when there are those that do, we see that there’s more layers than we could get in a year, and we also have independent ways of dating that those coral reefs are really 400 million years old. And notice, it’s consistent with our best solar systems models for what we would predict for the slowing down of the rotation rate of the earth. And incidentally, the slowing down of the rotation rate of the earth is one of the most phenomenal design evidences for supernatural design we see in the solar system; how the moon is at the very edge in terms of its mass of turning the rotation tilt of the earth into an unstable condition. And the big enigma of astronomers is, how come the moon is so big, given that it’s on the verge of sending things unstable? Well, unless the moon is that big, it’s not going to slow down the rotation rate fast enough in order to have human beings on the terrestrial scene, at the time at which they can survive and develop civilization. But it’s that same mass of the moon that allows us to determine the time scale over which the rotation rate would change.
Lisle: Well, of course, God could have started the earth with any rotation that He wants to. He’s God. He can do what He wants. And that’s something we need to keep in mind. But secondly, the slowing down of earth’s rotation by the moon – and that does happen a little bit, it hasn’t happened much since 6,000 years, but it has happened a little bit – but that actually causes the moon to move away from the earth. And this turns out to be a problem for the 4.5 billion years, because if you run the equation backwards, and I’ve done this myself, so I know it’s accurate, if you run the equation backwards, the earth and the moon touch at 1.4 billion years in the past. So this turns out to be a problem. And there’s lot’s of examples like that, where I can actually use the secular assumptions of constancy of rates, and initial conditions and show that it leads to a problem.
Ankerberg: Alright. Let’s hit that one right….
Ham: John, can I…
Ankerberg: Well, let’s hit that one right there in terms of going all the way back.
Ross: There is no problem with the recession rate of the moon relative to the earth in terms of a 4.5662 billion year date for the earth. By the way, it’s now known to five places of the decimal. And I think this is significant. Here we’re talking a difference of a factor of a millionth. You know, they’re saying thousands, we’re saying billions. But geophysicists are now measuring the age of the earth to literally five places of the decimal, which means that there’s a factor of 100 million between our differences and the error bar. But in terms of the model of the moon, I’ve read the papers in terms of modeling the recession of the moon. It’s completely consistent with the age of the earth at 4.5662 billion, and it’s perfectly consistent with the moon being formed 30-40 million years thereafter.
Lisle: Well, actually, it’s not, and I know this because I’ve done the calculation myself. And I’ve run the equation backwards, and so it goes out as one over, just for your information, not for your mother’s, but it goes as a one over r to the sixth power, and you can just, you can plug it into the formula and you will find it touching at 1.4 billion years. And this is, see this is a maximum age, obviously. I don’t believe the moon is 1.4 billion years old. I believe it’s a few thousand years old. But the problem is, you can’t have less distance than no distance…
Ross: Jason, …
Lisle: … and so that’s an upper limit.
Ross: …would you be willing to defend that in front of an audience of astronomers?
Lisle: Yes.
Ross: Okay, I’ll set up the audience. We can do that.
Ham: Hugh, I want to just make a point on the reef thing, I think it’s something really important, here. There’s a big difference between observational science and then interpreting the past when you weren’t there to see the events occur. Because, for instance, in Australia off the coast, the eastern coast of Australia, the Burdekin River, as a result of its floods, they were able to look at the Pandora’s reef and they were able to look at the florescent bands that appear in the reef, and they’ve actually calculated the rate at which the reef grows. And on the basis of even those sorts of growth rates,… and I’ve seen massive growth rates on the reef myself, when the crown-of-thorns starfish came through and destroyed parts, and it grew back very quickly. But the deepest part of the Barrier Reef, the deepest part – and it’s the major reef in the world today – the deepest part can be accounted for within 3,700 years, on the basis of those growth rates. So there’s observational science.
And you see, another example would be up in Greenland, when, in 1942 there was bombers and fighter planes that would land because they ran out of fuel, and when they came back to look for them about 40 years later, they couldn’t find them. And found them about 2 miles from their original location, 250 feet deep in the ice. The ice had accumulated on top of them. There’s observational science: we see rapid accumulation. See, when you get ice cores or other cores, you’re interpreting them on the basis of uniformitarian… or of processes that you believe have gone on and on over time. And we see that…
Ankerberg: Just one comment and we’re out of this program.
Ross: Okay. That example in Greenland is a place where a lot of snow falls. It’s in southern Greenland, where it gets warm, where the ice melts and refreezes during the course of the season. Notice that the Greenland cores that are used to date things are taken in the north central plateau area…
Ham: Ah! Assumption! You’re assuming the climate today is the same as what it’s been in the past. Things have changed rapidly over the years because of the flood.
Ross: What are you going to do with astronomy where we directly observe the past? I mean, we look at the distant universe, we see the galaxies are jammed tightly together…
Ham: Tell me directly, do you observe the past…
Lisle: You can’t observe the past.
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s hold on to that. We’re going to do one more program, and we’re also going to bring in Noah here. And one other thing is, how should Christians talk about these things inside the church, okay. It’s going to be a fascinating last program, so please join us then.

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