Dear Dr. Kennedy,
In general I applaud your ministry by standing up for Christian values in a post-modern society which is progressively becoming more degenerate. The obvious evils I can immediately think of are abortion, homosexuality and pornography, amongst many others. You project a most laudable image of authority in your various programs, such as “Truths that Transform”.
Like you I am a Christian, and like you I have various academic qualifications, though not as many nor as impressive as yours. Your qualifications appear to be mostly in the arts and divinity, whereas mine are in the sciences. I do not know what your Ph.D. is in, but presumably it is in divinity or a related subject. Mine is in astrophysics.
As a professional scientist, I feel that I am qualified to speak with some authority in the branch of astrophysics and related subjects I work in, and less authority on other fields of science. Not being a scholar in ancient Hebrew, Greek, biblical hermeneutics, or ancient Middle Eastern studies, I am not qualified to speak on these at all except at an amateur level, and although I have my own interpretations of the Scriptures, that may agree or disagree with other individuals, I cannot speak with any authority, and depend on and respect those who are qualified and have taken the trouble to undertake the necessary studies. Of course this does not mean that even when talking on a subject I am familiar with I am infallible, and like anyone I make mistakes.
Having said all that, it rather puzzles me how you can speak with any authority on science, such as, astronomy and geology, unless you have studied these subjects. I note that this is an unfortunate characteristic of several church leaders who think that because they are an authority on the Bible and are devout Christians, they are automatically an authority on some branch of science without studying it. I am referring to your two broadcasts in the “Truths that Transform” archives on your http://www.coralridge.org/BroadcastArchives.asp website for May 24 and 25, 2004, where you talk about the young earth. I can tell from a number of major errors in your broadcasts that you have moved far outside your area of knowledge in your apologetics.
Young earth creationism, namely a belief that the universe is less than about 10,000 years old, together with other dogma, in particular a global Noah’s flood about 1600 years after the creation, is in my mind a disease that has infected a large fraction of the evangelical community in the USA since World War II, and does not necessarily have much to do with the bogy word “evolution”. In fact many evangelical scholars in the late 19th century and early 20th century, such as Charles Hodge and Benjamin B. Warfield, accepted that the earth was probably very old, even if they had problems with evolution. The whole issue of a young earth creationism was revived by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb Jr. with their book “The Genesis Flood” in 1961, which was based on the writings of the Seventh Day Adventist George McCready Price before World War II.
It is true that evolution as we understand it requires long periods of time, but some astronomical processes also require long periods of time (and others short periods of time), quite independently of any assumptions about evolution. Astronomical timescales are determined from the empirical evidence, not on any assumptions about evolution. So called “evolutionists” do not need long periods of time, long periods of time are just determined by looking at the evidence. Not working in the field of evolutionary biology, I am not qualified to speak on it, and only want to deal with astronomy and geology. Also a broad discussion on the philosophy of science is beyond the scope of my comments here, as well as a lecture on astronomy.
Unlike some of the leaders in the creationist community, who I have every reason to believe are knowingly bearing false witness in some cases, as I can tell by what they say, I have every reason to believe that you are just misguided, and have bought into this whole business of young earth creationism simply because you have not thought through the whole issue properly, and acquainted yourself with the science. It appears that you have been persuaded by some of the leaders in the creationist community, and are propagating these errors to other Christians.
The impression you give in your two broadcasts is that there is a world wide conspiracy in astronomy and geology to cover up the evidence that the earth is no more than about 10,000 years old, and that somehow geologists with their dating methods are evil and deliberately manipulate dates because they do not want to be accountable to God. You stated several times that over 99% of all geochronology gives relatively young ages for the earth. Indeed many rocks can be young, but many can be old; however, the age of the earth, the moon, the other planets, the sun, and the Solar System as a whole, have been dated to be 4.5 billion years old. These are based on many independent assumptions, and if different and independent assumptions generally agree, there is every reason to accept this figure. There is no argument that the Solar System is about 4.5 billion years old, rather than about 10,000 years old, nor that the universe as a whole is about 14 billion years old. The empirical evidence is just too strong, and anybody who denies this is in effect denying that there is such a thing as objective truth.
One matter that really puzzles me is that several times you say that evolution is impossible even in trillions of years, yet you make an issue out of a mere 4.5 billion years. All of the specific errors concern the second half of your broadcast on May 25, 2004 as follows:
(1) Meteorites: You stated that they are made up mostly of nickel, and stated that this element is rare on the earth, and none are found, except obviously for freshly fallen meteorites. This is completely wrong, as far as I know no meteorites containing mostly nickel are known. Nickel is found alloyed with iron in iron meteorites, is always significantly less abundant than iron, and iron meteorites make up about 5% of meteorite falls. Moreover, when exposed to water and oxygen, the iron and nickel will weather with time, and be difficult to distinguish from terrestrial rocks.
You also stated that no micrometeorites have been found in sediments, but for the same reason as stated above, reactive elements like iron and nickel will readily react with water and oxygen over time, and be difficult to identify as having come from meteorites. Of course the elements themselves in a combined state can be identified, and in the case of the rare element iridium, can be identified as being of extraterrestrial origin.
Finally, you stated that you had performed some boring in the ocean and found nothing. Fine, OK, but could you say where and when you did this boring, what equipment you used, and your results.
2) Cosmic dust: You stated that the Voyager space probe(s) found three huge rings of dust between Mars and Jupiter, but the Poynting-Robertson effect, which you described with a bit of detail, would cause this dust to fall into the Sun in a relatively short period of time. That is certainly correct, but what you did not say is this dust can be shed by comets and produced by collisions. For the former we can see this process happening today. A particularly good example was Comet Hale/Bopp in 1997 where you could look up in the sky and see a large dust tail. For the latter, all the asteroids we have looked at are pock marked with many craters, so obviously impacts have happened, and dust will be thrown out into orbit around the Sun in such collisions.
3) Jupiter’s moon Io: You stated that scientists were surprised to discover from Voyage that Jupiter’s moon Io was bubbling over with volcanic activity. That is correct. However, you also stated that if the Solar System were billions of years old, it should have long ago cooled down and all activity should have stopped, thus violating all physical laws. Even if the source of heating was unknown, this does not argue for a young Solar System given that our own moon has cooled down, as well as the other moons of Jupiter. In fact Io is in a tidal tug-of-war between Jupiter and the next moon out, Europa, and heating caused by the tides match the heat dissipated by volcanic action.
4) Red Sirius: You stated that the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, was reported to be red by the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks, that is correct. You also said that it is a white dwarf, that is technically not correct. Sirius is a binary star consisting of a bright white star known since antiquity, and a very faint white dwarf, which was only found in the 1800s. Exactly why the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks claimed it was red is not very clear, the most plausible theory is related to its helical rising at the time the Nile flooded, and when low down in the sky will appear red, as do the sun and moon. Being so bright the effect of atmospheric absorption will be more noticeable than any other star. Another theory is that the ancient writings have been mistranslated or misinterpreted.
You implied that our knowledge of stellar evolution is so bad that the white dwarf companion of Sirius was a red giant less than 2000 years ago. If that had been the case, the red giant would have been nearly as bright as the moon, there would have been a spectacular display of the ejected gas when the white dwarf threw off its outer layers, which would still be visible today. None of this has been observed, and the white dwarf, though hot by our standards, is much too cool to have been produced only about 2000 years ago, unless you assume that all the laws of physics are wrong, but then concerning Io above, you used the laws of physics as part of your apologetics.
Why the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks claimed Sirius was red is a bit of a mystery that may never be fully resolved. A very unlikely astrophysical explanation is that a cloud of dust passed between Sirius and us, causing Sirius to be reddened, and has since cleared away. The ancient Chinese recorded Sirius to be white, and they are considered to have made reliable records that can be backed up in the case of planets, comets and supernova explosions, which can be checked independently.
5) Comets and the Oort cloud: This is one of the favorite arguments used in creationist apologetics, and unfortunately you are no exception. You stated that the Oort Cloud is merely a belief in the spirit of Hebrews 11:1, which you quoted, namely that scientists need it to explain where comets come from in order to explain why we see them if the Solar System is billions of years old, instead of a few thousand. Even though the Oort Cloud has not been seen directly (yet), scientists do not believe in the way of Hebrews 11:1 that it exists, but it is inferred from the orbits of long period comets, which have orbital periods from 200 years (which is an arbitrary figure), up to about a million years. Those comets with orbital periods of about a million years spend most of their time out at great distances from the sun at what is assumed to be the Oort Cloud. As a very small proportion of the comets have been discovered, it is likely that there is a very large number of bodies out at the Oort Cloud.
You stated that we “know” in two million years all the comets, long and short period, would have disintegrated if the Solar System were that old. In fact as many comets can survive several passages of the sun, but some cannot, comets with orbital periods of about a million years would still be around, and this makes no assumptions about comets on orbits that do not take them into the inner Solar System, but are later perturbed by passing stars.
Another problem with your apologetics for the non-existence of the Oort Cloud is that it may be directly observed at some point in the future as our instruments improve. If this happens, some Christians will get egg on their faces who use this argument. This has already happened twice in the last few years. For many years creationists maintained that the Kuiper Belt, which is a region of icy asteroids at about and beyond the distance of Pluto, did not exist, because it had not been seen. Well, in the early 1990s objects were found it in, and a figure approaching 1000 objects are now known. In fact Pluto itself is probably a large member of this group. The same happened with planets orbiting other stars. Before any were discovered, creationists maintained on some strange theological grounds that they did not exist, but the first was discovered in 1995, and over 130 are now known. In both cases, for a number of years after the discoveries creationists lived in denial claiming that Kuiper Belt objects and planets orbiting other stars did not exist, just as some member of the Roman Catholic Church denied that Galileo had seen moons in orbit around Jupiter. In the end, with the weight of evidence so strong, creationists quietly back-peddled, but probably not before damage was done to the image of Christianity.
Incidentally, in 2003 an asteroid called Sedna taking over 10,000 years to orbit the sun, was discovered. It is in an orbit between the Kuiper Belt and the presumed Oort Cloud.
6) Salt in the ocean: This is another classic creationist apologetic, where a false uniformitarian assumption is made about the accumulation of salt, sodium chloride, in the oceans. In fact there are processes that remove as well as add salt into the oceans, which have to be taken into account. Some compounds of aluminum stay in the oceans for a very short time, so by you making the same assumption for them, you can state that the oceans are only about 100 years old. In fact because different substances have different accumulation and removal times, based on these alone you can “date” the oceans to any age you like between 100 years and billions of years, just pick a figure.
7) Helium in the atmosphere: You started by mentioning hydrogen in the atmosphere, which presumably was a slip of the tongue, because you then went on to talk about helium, which is the product of most forms of radioactive decay in the earth. You stated that if the earth were 4.5 billion years old there would be massive amounts of helium in the atmosphere which cannot escape, so by there being only a very small amount of helium present implies that the earth is young. As any first year chemistry student would tell you, helium is a very light and chemically inert gas, and is used in balloons. Being light and inert it will readily escape from the earth, so your statement that it cannot escape is patently false.
Hydrogen is even lighter than helium, but of course nearly all of it on and above the earth’s surface is combined with oxygen to form water.
8) Radiometric dating: You stated that rocks were dated from a Hawaiian volcano that erupted in 1800, and huge variations in ages were found using the potassium-argon method. Potassium-40 has a half life of just over a billion years, and cannot be used for rocks younger than about 100,000 years old simply because not enough potassium-40 has decayed to give meaningful results. It is a bit like using the counter in your car to measure the length of your garage, it is a far too coarse a measuring tool for the purpose. Also, it is well known that if rocks embedded in lava have not been completely melted, their “clocks” may have not properly have been reset.
9) Skull 1470: I am not familiar with this and the anthropologist Richard Leaky, but again you stated that dating methods are completely unreliable. In particular you stated that the dating methods used to determine the age of the earth are so unreliable as to be useless, implying again that the earth is young.
Unfortunately, your witness for Christ can be seriously undermined by your incorrect science, and thus your apologetics on other matters such as abortion can loose credibility in the eyes of those who have some scientific knowledge. What happens to a student who is a devout Christian, and has bought into young earth creationism, then goes to college and studies geology or astronomy, what happens to his faith? What if his professor is a Christian? No wonder many Christian parents complain that their children drift away from Christianity when they attend college. Young earth creationism is just as false as flat-earthism or geocentricism, and claiming that it is true, undermines the whole meaning of truth, particularly in a post-modern society where truth is considered as relative. This is the legacy of young earth creationism: The non-Christian is handed what appears to be a valid reason to reject the good news of Jesus Christ. And when the fallacies of young earth creationism are finally discovered, disillusioned Christians may relinquish their faith*. Another legacy is that Christianity is perceived as residing in the ghetto of anti-knowledge and anti-science, thus undermining its influence in society.
With the brains God has given us, and such a fabulous universe to study, I think that young earth creationism sells God very short. As Christians we should celebrate that we can study God’s creation using modern science, far more than the ancient Hebrews could have imagined, rather than skulk in the darkness of deliberate ignorance with the fear that science will undermine our faith.
The real irony of young earth creationism is that its proponents, more than many other Christians, keep claiming that they have the truth, yet when confronted with the irrefutable evidence that the universe is ancient, such as seeing light from distant stars, are unable to bring up any plausible arguments or evidence, and often resort to arguing for some form of a deceptive creation with the appearance of age. This not only contradicts objective truth, it of course also contradicts Romans 1:20.
This is a free country, not Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan under the Taliban, and you and I are free to express our views. However, my advice is to distance yourself from creationism and stick to the branches of apologetics you are familiar with and have studied. Your association with the young earth creationist movement is most unhealthy. By making the age of the earth an issue, all you are doing is ghettoizing Christianity, and making it ineffective. Moreover, because of a number of serious and well known scientific errors in these and other broadcasts (the shrinking sun is another example), skeptics who hear your broadcasts can use your erroneous arguments against Christians.
I have no official ministry, and I am not associated with the progressive creationist Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, with whom I agree with on many matters, but also disagree with on others. I await any response you or your colleagues at Coral Ridge Ministries may wish to send me.
Yours in Christ and sincerely,
Christopher M. Sharp
Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
NB. Please note that my views here are my private views, and have nothing to do with the University of Arizona, or any of its departments.
(*) From http://www.gpa.shubh-corp.com/downloads/articles/YEC%20Article.pdf
On July 11, 2005, I received the following e-mail from a member of Coral Ridge Ministries. The name of the person replying, his/her e-mail address, and his/her role in the organization are not disclosed to protect privacy. Likewise the part of the ministry the employee works for is not disclosed. The letter is otherwise an exact copy, including typing errors.
Date: Mon, 11 Jul 2005 20:14:49 -0400 From: "XXXX" <XXXX@CRMinistries.org> To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Open letter April 16, 2005 Dear Mr. Christopher M. Sharp, Concerning the letter that you wrote (http://www.csharp.com/kennedy.html), dated April 16, 2005. It is my opinion that you are correct on each and every point raised. As you know not every believer concurs with the 6,000 to 10,000 year old "young earth" theory. We here at CRM have interesting internal discussions on these topics; unfortunately free speech is a questionable one. These "Internal discussions" relate to such topics as the speed of light, the size of the Milky way and the distance to Andromeda and the math just does not support the 10,000 years old creation scenarios. To support the young earth theory as "truth" the young creationist community has formulate a "work-around" which is that God was (self) forced to create within the entire light spectrum the events that we see (i.e. starts that go supernovae, etc). All of these events were embedded into this contiguous light stream that we see today. This results in the universe to be young and yet look old. I do not concur that an eternal God had to create this contiguous stream of light with all of the images imbedded in it so that we humans would come to the conclusion that the universe is very young and made to look very old, I just don't concur. The earth being 4.5 billion years old comparing it to a 13+ billion year old universe, the earth is young on this scale. XXXX An Employee During office hours I believe that the earth is 6004 year old, on nights and weekend (including all Christian holidays) the earth is 4.5 billions years old, give or take 10,000 years. NB. Please note that my views here are my private views, and have nothing to do with Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc. XXXX Operation is a part of CRM's XXXX. In addition to our mission statement, we are a ministry within a democracy and not necessarily here to practice it, unfortunately free speech is a questionable one.