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How does young earth creationism handle the evidence for millions of years in the fossil record?

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Question: "How does young earth creationism handle the evidence for millions of years in the fossil record?"

The “fossil record” is what paleontologists call the total number of fossils discovered; it also refers to the information derived from those fossils. The trick with interpreting the fossil record is that most paleontologists also subscribe to an atheistic version of evolution. They interpret the fossil record in terms of that particular worldview, inspect the interpretation, and note that it confirms the theory, which is more than a little circular. The question, then, is how do creationists interpret the fossil record?

We need to begin with the premise that it is impossible for the Bible to contradict true science, as God is the author of all truth and knowledge. That is to say, the Bible may be misinterpreted by men, but it will never be wrong. When one fallible human scientist’s interpretation of observations does not correspond with another fallible human theologian’s interpretation of the biblical texts, we should never point blame at the Bible. The scientific observations may be wrong, the biblical interpretations may be wrong, but the Scriptures never are.

God’s written Word is the final authority in all matters that it addresses. Yet the Bible is not always specific on all points. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in modern science to compare atheistic interpretations of science to a single interpretation of the Bible and then declare that science has “proved” the Bible incorrect. This, of course, is illogical. At the most, all that might be disproved is that particular interpretation of Scripture.

All that being said, we as Young Earth Creationists feel there are reasons to doubt the prevailing view of the fossil record. The fields of paleontology and fossilology are highly prone to error. In the last century, we have witnessed countless examples of “groundbreaking” discoveries that have ultimately been proved misleading.

One famous example is the coelacanth. Declared to have been extinct for about 70 million years, this fish was thought by scientists to have been the fish that first walked out of the ocean on its way to becoming the ascendant of modern man. One can only imagine the disappointment in the scientific community when a fisherman caught a coelacanth off the island of Madagascar in 1938. No lungs, no legs. Interestingly, many evolutionists believed the reason this fish disappeared from the fossil record is that it had evolved into land-dwelling tetrapods. And here they are, still swimming in and around the Indian Ocean. No lungs, no legs.

The reason this is important is that many fossils have been dated to be roughly 70 million years old simply because their remains were found in the same stratum as the remains of the coelacanth. And yet there are coelacanths alive today that look exactly like those fossils—so using coelacanth fossils to date other fossils doesn’t really work.

Next, consider the “Nebraska Man” debacle. In the early 1920s a scientist found one single tooth from which he felt he could draw a picture of what this entire “ape-man” looked like. Only one tooth for evidence, but an entire skeleton of conclusions. The scientific community was ecstatic. In fact, this tooth was used in the 1925 Scopes trial as proof for human evolution. Two years later, however, other parts of this very same “Nebraska Man” skeleton were found. It was determined that “Nebraska Man” was actually an extinct wild pig!

The problem is that most fossil discoveries are being interpreted through a worldview that excludes God, the author, creator, and sustainer of life. Any scientific conclusions, at least those relative to God’s creation, made outside the purview of a Christian worldview are suspect from the onset. As it relates to fossils, the principal methods for dating the fossils and rocks begin with a paradigm that embraces atheism and rejects creationism.

We contend that our vast fossil record is and always has been compatible with the global flood, which God used to send judgment on the earth. The flood was a violent geologic upheaval with enormous destructive power that not only destroyed all land-dwelling, air-breathing life (Genesis 7:21–23) but also changed the landscape of the entire planet.

Fossils represent death, and the fossil record is a catalog of death. Theologically, we know that sin and then death came about as a result of Adam’s disobedience, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin” (Romans 5:12). Now, there is some discussion as to whether the “death” mentioned in Romans 5 includes plant and animal death or is limited to human death. Also, many scholars note that fossil discoveries have revealed violence and sickness and disease and even cancer. This raises an important question: why would God have declared a world filled with sickness, grief, and “frustration” (see Romans 8:20) to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31)?

In our view, the genealogical lines given to us in Genesis 5 and 11 reveal the earth to be roughly 6,000 years old. Accordingly, we interpret the evidence to mean that the vast and abundant fossil record we have today was laid down within the last 6,000 years. Indeed, every fossil ever found, then, must have begun the fossilization process after Adam’s sin introduced death and decay into our world. Now, of course, many scientists will deny this. Keep in mind, however, the different assumptions being made at the start of the process.

Recommended Resource: The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism by Philip Johnson

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How does young earth creationism handle the evidence for millions of years in the fossil record?

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