apparent age

Paul Arveson (
Wed, 29 Apr 1998 12:35:09 -0400

Bill Payne wrote:

>As I've told you before, I do not know how old the earth is. Supernova
>SN1987A strongly implies, using trigonometry and the speed of light,
>that the universe is at least 160,000 years old. So far, so good - it's
>old. BUT, the wine Jesus created at Cana (John 2:1-11) had the
>characteristics of age when it was only a few minutes old. THEREFORE,
>things which appear old are not necessarily in fact old. Consequently,
>I do not take a position on the age of the earth.


This argument has been used for decades to refute (or at least throw into
question) all arguments regarding the age of the earth/universe. There are
articles about it in ASA's journal, such as "Some Logical Problems with
the Appearance of Age" by T. H. Leith, I believe. I recommend that all
should read this and the other articles if available.

A few points may be mentioned regarding apparent age arguments:

1. All apparent age arguments assume that the past, or some of it at least,
is an illusion and is not real. This means that all efforts at historical
inference are rejected. Note how similar this is to the pre-Christian
and eastern religious views of the world as an illusion, unworthy of
serious consideration.

2. The boundary between 'real past' and 'illusory past' can be placed
anywhere that is convenient; it is the arbitrary choice of the believer,
because there can be no empirical evidence to demarcate the boundary.

3. We have positive evidence for the rapid creation of old wine in Cana.
Likewise we have positive evidence for the long age of the universe, as
Morton and others have cited. It is arbitrary to reject this positive
evidence in one case and not the other. The massive amount of evidence
demands a verdict.

4. The age of the earth/universe is a crucial issue that cannot be
minimized, as though it doesn't matter. The difference between a
10,000 year age and a 10,000,000,000 year age is the question -- a
factor of 1 million. This age scale difference will affect practically
everything else in natural history.

5. The only reason I can see that a scientifically-trained person would
not take a position on this issue is because it is too painful to bear
the cognitive dissonance with one's interpretation of Genesis.

6. There are orthodox, satisfactory interpretations of Genesis that
do not create this dissonance and the consequent irrationality of
apparent age. Again, these can be found in ASA's journal and in
many books, if one is willing to do the research.

Paul Arveson, Code 724, Research Physicist, Signatures Directorate
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division
9500 MacArthur Blvd., West Bethesda, MD 20817-5700
(301) 227-3831 (301) 227-4511 (FAX)