Q&A: The Age of Rubio's Earth

In 2012 I  published an article in the Wall Street Journal about Marc Rubio’s comments to GQ Magazine about the age of the Earth. You can read it here. I decided to make this page to include a few parts of this article to include a few key parts that had to be cut from the article to meet space requirements and to answer questions from readers as they come up.

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If God made a tree with 100 created rings, wouldn’t that be lying, i.e. pointless omphalism?


Keep in mind this was written in 2012. More to share soon about this.

Regarding the 100 year tree, this series is a good starting point: 100 Year-Old Tree Archives - Peaceful Science .

The starting point links to several articles, none of which answers my question or even attempts an answer, so far as I can see. There’s a simple answer that one of the writers at least implied: that’s not something God would do. Works for me.

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This one of the places I was offering an olive branch to theologians, a starting point for conversation,

I have not found a good answer for denying common descent. It seems that this is an important discussion, because thinking through “appearance of age” more carefully is what made the case for de novo creation in the GAE.

I don’t think you even have a good answer for the 100-year-old tree. This isn’t about God choosing not to leave evidence. It’s about him choosing to leave false evidence. And those are considerably different questions.

Perhaps you are right in this case. I’m not sure if that particular question about a hypothetical tree makes much difference. It is just an illustration. :slight_smile:

No, the tree scenario is analogous to the common descent vs. separate creation scenario. Answer one, you answer the other. The tree is perhaps just easier to think about. Still think "God wouldn’t plant fake evidence"is the best answer.

Or maybe he specially created the tree by copying another tree? In that case it isn’t a false history, just an out-of-place history?

Why would God copy trees? And yes, it’s still a false history. It’s still omphalism. It’s still gratuitous appearance of age.

Regarding the Age of the Tree:

  • It is not clear from the story whether God communicated to only the theologian or both the theologian and the scientist that He created it one week ago. If He only communicated it to the theologian, we know God does things for a reason. We don’t always know the reason, but that’d be important to consider. But it also doesn’t make the story seem very realistic since God wants His message universally proclaimed.

  • If the scientist knew that the tree was only created a week ago, it does not make sense that the scientist would say that the tree is 100 years old when He knows God communicated to him it is only a week old. Instead, to me it would make the most sense for the scientist to explain why time isn’t working like typically expect.

  • Related to the above, maybe there is another reason for tree rings other than age. Maybe something strange is going on with this particular tree.

Maybe God is lying about the age of the tree. Maybe it really is 100 years old. Why? Well, he must have his reasons, even if we can’t understand them.

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If God creates a 100 year old tree, would He really care that we believe the tree to be 100 years old?

Are some rings narrow, other’s wide? Do the isotopic ratios vary from pith to bark? Is there heart wood, sapwood. Are there burrows from larvae? Scorch marks from fire? Fungal stain? Compression under the limbs or the lean of the tree?

Henry Gosse is much derided within and without the church, but in rejecting his conclusion it is often forgotten that his premise is actually very reasonable, it is arbitrary to conceive of maturity apart from history. For the 100 year old tree, if there is no change in weather, there is no ring. If we find rings, do we find the rest of history? If we analyze the wood via AMS, do we find varying isotopic ratios?

If there is no logical level of detail which separates maturity from history, is there any test at all in the arsenal of science which would differentiate a newly created from a “genuinely old” tree? If there isn’t, then why would God care if we think the tree, or the entire earth, to be old?

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Yes, or He would not have told us it is only a week old.

Sorry, I’m not familiar with any if the science you’re referring to. Plus, this is a hypothetical. In this story, there may be hypothetical science we don’t know about. If God told us the tree was a week old, one obvious reason could be so that we would uncover this hypothetical science. Otherwise we would never learn what really happened and always assume the tree was 100 years old.

This gets into philosophy, which we’ve already discussed.

Aside from isotopic ratio, all the history I referred to could be read by a skilled craftsman building a cabinet from that tree. History is part of being a tree, a piece of wood.

The question is, what level of detail do you think would reveal the “true” age of something created mature. What if every available analysis arrives at the same conclusion - the tree is 100 years old? Do you believe God would have left some residual clue that the tree is actually recently created?

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Somewhat off topic, but the latest 100-year-old tree is a 220,000 year long seismic record.

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Creating with the appearance of age is an old idea. Phillip Henry Gosse tried to use this approach in his 1857 book “Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geologic Knot”. Omphalos is the Greek word for bellybutton, and it refers to the question of whether Adam had a bellybutton since he never had an umbilical cord. Even in Gosse’s time, his ideas didn’t go over well with many theologians.

Again, it’s a hypothetical. “Every available analysis” are the ones we have today. Science advances so we may have different ones tomorrow. There wouldn’t necessarily be a residual clue, just maybe we weren’t considering something before. This hypothetical in general is very simplified compared to the actual age of the earth question because we can observe trees growing today. The question is how accurately can we extrapolate backwards over how much time.

Thanks for the story - but that’s not what I intended to convey at all. I used to think that the earth was created with age, before I looked at the science a little more and realized that doesn’t even really make sense - though I still couldn’t tell you exactly how it’s calculated. :sweat_smile: Something to learn more about…

Philosophy (actually theology) is all this thread is about. If you want to avoid answering a question, better just not to reply.

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The “created with age” YEC argument is full of problems. I have heard YEC’s claim that rocks date old because they were created with age. The problem is that there are fossils below these rocks, and by simple logic the fossils would have to be there before the rocks above them. This means “created with age” requires God to create the Earth with fossils already in the ground.

Modern geologists date rocks using radiometric dating, but I’m sure you are probably aware of this. Asteroids consistently date to 4.55 billion years old, and the oldest rocks on Earth are just a bit younger than that. The asteroids were created when the solar system finally cooled to the point where rocks could solidify so they are a good marker for the beginning of planet formation. Asteroids are also a good topic to bring up with YEC’s who claim that rocks are dated by fossils since asteroids don’t have fossils.