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The last 11,600 years: a Holocene perspective on Young-Earth Creationism
Young-Earth Creationism (YEC) applies a rigorous biblical literalism to derive a maximum age of the Earth between 6–10,000 years, nearly one million times less than the conventional age (4.56 Ga) obtained from geochronology. Creation scientists overcome this vast disparity by subverting geological methods, so as to present the data in support of their own paradigm. These efforts continue to be successful among the community of faith, in particular because evidences of ‘deep time’ are difficult to comprehend thoroughly. The last 11,600 years of Earth history, know as the Holocene epoch, may therefore provide a more accessible context in which non-geologists can appraise critically the merits of YEC. This period is considered universally by creation scientists to represent the post-Flood world following a great ice age (~4,000 years ago until present), but if the most recent sliver of Earth history actually spans more than 10,000 years, then YEC loses credibility entirely. Our ability to reconstruct the Holocene has vastly improved in recent decades, with the development of multiple high-precision chronometers that provide independent corroboration of the conventional timeline. These methods underly geological proxies used to constrain climate, sea level, tectonics, volcanism, and even faunal and human cultural changes. The resulting, coherent portrait of the Holocene epoch thus precludes any young-Earth interpretation of the geologic column and demonstrates unequivocally that the Earth is not less than 10,000 years old.
What mean these stones?: Adventures in blogging about Young-Earth Creationism
According to recent polls, approximately one third of the U.S. population accepts Young- Earth Creationism (YEC) in some form, and nearly one half rejects biological evolution. Despite rapid advances in the Earth and life sciences, however, these percentages have not declined appreciably in at least two decades. Efforts to curb the growth and influence of YEC, particularly in American politics and education, have typically focused on better educating the public about evolutionary theory and common descent—the primary polemical targets of creation ministries. These counter-movements have had little impact on the creationist community, because the modern ‘creation science’ movement was facilitated largely by the work of Morris and Whitcomb (1961), whose foremost goal was to reinvent the framework in which geological evidences were interpreted. If the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, then biological evolution and common descent cannot possibly account for the diversity of life on Earth, especially human beings. Even today, the success of Answers in Genesis owes much to staff geologists like Steven Austin, Andrew Snelling, and Michael Oard. Holding doctoral degrees in geology, these authors have built an article database that has been all but canonized by YECs across the world, including many churches. Despite that they operate within a discipline unrecognizable to 99% of the world’s geologists, so-called “Flood geologists” boast an unrivaled authority among YECs and thus are free to publish their research without subjecting it to peer-review or criticism. In response, various groups and individual bloggers have committed themselves to the critical task of holding Answers in Genesis responsible for their scientific claims, but it is unclear to what extent these minor voices are effective in a debate long settled within academia. In addition to correcting the misinformation spread by creation ministries, however, such critiques have elucidated the cunning means by which the young-Earth movement continues to grow today.