Last time, we looked into the history of Gap Creationism and its various competing creation myths. We saw that proponents of Gap Creationism have largely remained silent regarding the evolving scientific arguments, whereas the wider Creationist community has engaged them fully (if incompetently).
Various forms of Creationism have developed out of this clash between mythology and science. They run the gamut from an utter rejection of science and the adoption of pseudoscience instead (Young Earth Creationism) to a capitulation to science in a re-interpretation of scripture (theistic evolution, etc.). In between are various formulations of so-called Intelligent Design, which is the pseudo-biological counterpart to flood “geology”.
We briefly touched on this latter pseudo-science last time; but, as we shall see, although the Gap Creationism of Armstrongism largely avoids scientific arguments, its proponents cannot seem to help but parrot many of the canards of flood “geology” (Intelligent Design seems to be far too sophisticated for their stunted capabilities, and, again, that’s not saying much–prominent theistic evolutionists are quite capable of dispatching this garbled pseudoscience). But Gap Creationists are resistant to going into the details of these faux-geological claims too deeply (they don’t bother to mention the widely available counter-arguments, for example) and they certainly seem completely ignorant of the vast wealth of scientific evidence from other fields that contradicts Gap Creationism.
The proponents of Armstrongism have good reason to resist wading into such a controversy. For anyone honest enough to follow the evidence where it leads, a few facts of basic science are enough to put some fatal holes in the Armstrongist creation myth (and, in so doing, absolutely refute some of its most fundamental doctrines). To get a sense of the Armstrongist’s resistance to discussing the scientific flaws in their beliefs (those having to do with the Armstrongist creation myth in particular), I did something kind of fun.
Epic Fail of Geological Proportions!
PCG has been indulging in the creation of a short video program entitled “The Trumpet Daily”, which included an episode called “The Beginning of the Movie”. In the first part of this episode, Stephen promotes the gap theory interpretation of the Genesis account. I sent a comment under a pseudonym (Arin Mackstead) and, surprisingly, received a response from a Robert Morley. Here is the exchange in its entirety, beginning with my comment:
Hello. Great explanation of gap theory. I was wondering if you know of any geological evidence to support a time-frame for the re-creation that confirms the Biblical one of 6,000 years before present. How would one go about refuting the apparent fossil and archeological evidence of life on the surface of Earth from a period during which it was left “empty” from the Luciferian revolt? Thank you very much for your work of elucidating Bible truths that have been abandoned by the mainstream Christian culture. Please carry on.
The response from Robert:
The geologic column, as compiled by scientists actually shows a lot of evidence supporting the Biblical account of creation. Remember that the Bible does not indicate how long Lucifer and the angels ruled on the earth and what animals were present during that time. We do know that at some point Lucifer rebelled and the earth was destroyed. If you look at the geologic column, scientists know that there was a massive extinction as evidenced in the Cretaceous rocks. They also note that in immediately younger rocks there is a whole new cast of characters. For example, after the cretaceous extinction, mammals dominate the earth, along with fruiting trees and grasses (that did not exist at all in the Cretaceous and earlier times).
The fossil record also shows evidence of a second, later mass extinction in Pleistocene rocks. This was a mass extinction of modern type animals such as mammoths, saber tooth tigers and other kinds of animals that exist today. It seems probable that this mass extinction represents Noah’s flood.
And, finally, my smart-ass riposte:
How interesting. I never considered the possibility that the Pleistocene could be dated to less than 6,000 years before present. That certainly could bring it in line with flood geology. I wonder how you explain the resulting discrepancy with the various dating methods that show a much earlier time frame for Pleistocene strata. With regard to my original question, though, I’m afraid I wasn’t clear. I was asking if there is any good geological or cosmological evidence for a re-creation 6,000 years ago. I know of explosions of diversity, such as the one following on from the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event and the Cambrian explosion, but these periods of time are far more ancient than the Biblical re-creation of 6,000 years ago. Unless you are actually suggesting that the various dating methods used to establish these very old ages for life on earth are all wrong and that there exists some alternative method that shows a much more compact time-frame? That would be an exciting and amazing fact! It would definitively establish scientific support for a 6,000 year old re-creation, and it would lend credence to the Biblical evidence for a 6,000 year divine plan! If this is the contention of your astute organization, then please direct me to your sources so I may study further to the glory of the great Creator God! Thank you in advance!
It will come as no surprise that this was the end of our short-lived correspondence. It is likely that Morley took this passive challenge to his immediate superiors–who probably recognized it for what it was, i.e., insincere and, more to the point, unanswerable.
What this exchange reveals to me is that the higher-ups in PCG (who I contend are variously duplicitous) do not care to engage in activities that would elucidate truth on the subject of the age of life on earth, but would rather cynically pretend as though their most central teachings are compatible with the scientific evidence when in fact they are not. It is hoped, though, that the go-between, Morley, may have been exposed to theoretical problems he would not otherwise have encountered.
Bridging the Gap
So, what then is the actual evidence against Gap Creationism? First, let us review what the claims entail and then ask what the evidence should (and should not) show us if the claims are true. Finally, we will consult the evidence itself and compare it with our expectations.
According to the Armstrongist view of creation, the earth was scoured of all life at the time of Lucifer’s rebellion, a global cataclysm that supposedly resulted not only in the extinction of the dinosaurs, but in every form of life–to the extent that Yahweh was required to “renew the face of the earth,” and in so doing, create life anew. And, although we are not told how long the earth remained in a state of “tohu and bohu” (without form and void, literally, “waste” and “empty”), the apocryphal re-creation was supposed to have happened a mere 6,000 years ago. Notice what this 1964 Plain Truth article had to say (WARNING: swallow anything you might happen to be eating or drinking first):
Geologists can never understand the facts of geology. They refuse to acknowledge that during the rebellion of Satan and his demons against God, the pre-Adamic earth was destroyed! This knowledge makes clear why the strange world of dinosaurs, flying reptiles, and all the other strange plants and animals of that age were first suddenly buried in sedimentary rocks and in the older coal seams…
Once we know what the Bible reveals — that a pre-Adamic creation was destroyed by a world-wide catastrophe because of the sin of Satan and his angelic followers — we can understand the geologic history of the earth.
Now, aren’t you glad I warned you? I’ll give you some time to quell your laughing fit.
The idiocy continues:
Because the Bible doesn’t tell us, we do not know how long the earth remained a paradise — or how long the water-covered ruin lasted. The world is certainly old, but God would not have allowed the desolation to long remain. But the Bible does reveal that almost 6,000 years ago God RE-CREATED and REFASHIONED the earth in a literal week of 7 days. He placed Adam and Eve and the plants and animals of today on this earth and commanded them to “be fruitful, and multiply, and REPLENISH the earth” (Gen. 1:28).
So, we see that the Armstrongist version of the history of life on earth includes a gap, one that necessitates a restarting of life. And it places this restart at approximately 6,000 years before present (for theologically crucial reasons we will discuss later). This means we should find in the evidential record of life a corresponding gap that ended 6,000 years ago. What we should not detect is evidence of life stretching back continuously past that point in time. That is, we should not observe any evidence bridging the gap of Gap Creationism. If we find even one line of evidence to form even the slimmest of bridges across this proposed 6,000 year-old gap, then the hypothesis utterly fails–and we will be compelled to follow the evidence where it leads us.
Now for the evidence.
Nature, when probed by the tools of science, presents us with a dazzling array of clocks with which to gauge the age of things. Many of these clocks are useful for determining the age of life on earth specifically–and it is to these clocks of life that we now turn in our search for evidence bearing on the question of Gap Creationism.
(1) The Fossil Clock
Robert Morley’s assurances notwithstanding, there is no evidence in the fossil record of an explosion of life from nothing 6,000 years ago. Instead, we see a continuity of flora and fauna that includes several major extinction events–all of which are far more ancient than 6,000 years before present and none of which reduced the number of surviving species to anything near zero.
According to the evidence in the fossil record, at no time was all life eradicated from the surface of the planet, even during the devastating Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event so beloved of gap theory fans (and often the only one of the “Big Five” they know about–that is, if it even makes sense to speak in terms of separate extinction events in the first place). Among Armstrongists especially, this relatively rapid holocaust that “killed” the Dinosaurs is assumed to be the earthly result of the apocryphal Luciferian revolt that left earth devoid of life.
Except that it didn’t.
Only about 75% of species were wiped out–leaving plenty of diversity to survive past the K-T boundary and carry on the story of life on earth. In fact, all of the species that exist today can be traced back to common ancestors among those who survived this extinction event.Birds, for example, are the only surviving Dinosaurian clade, and crocodiles have their antecedents in pre-K-T boundary fossils. (But birds and reptiles weren’t the only game in town, as we apes should well appreciate.)
And this brings us to the so-called “explosions” of diversity Gap Creationists love to tout as evidence of a re-creation 6,000 years ago. One problem is that they don’t tell us which “explosion” is The Explosion that is supposed to mark the beginning of Creation Week. There are several to choose from (although “explosion” is a bit misleading–the technically correct term is adaptive radiation–more on this in a moment). However, none of these radiations occurred anywhere near the period specified by Gap Creationism (and the question of whether some of them–the Cambrian “explosion” in particular–were all that significant to begin with is debated in the literature). There is no “Holocene explosion” spoken of in scientific journals, for example, as there would have to be if life had been re-created from nothing 6,000 years ago.
This implies the other problem with using adaptive radiations as evidence of Gap Creationism: adaptive radiations are just that. Adaptive. Radiations. They don’t appear out of thin air, but are continuous with the fossils that precede them in the record. They show diversity evolving under environmental pressure, typically over great periods of time. It is pure idiocy to speak of adaptive radiations as evidence of a week-long orgy of biological engineering out of tohu and bohu. They are the exact opposite of that. As a matter of fact, such “explosions”, as evidenced in the fossil record, take considerably more time to unfold than the literal week of Gap Creation myth. The Cambrian explosion, for example, is thought to have spanned a period of over 100 million years. Geologic time doesn’t recognize days! When the fossil clock ticks, thousands of millennia have passed.
So, anyone with a functioning brain can recognize that the gap of Gap Creationism is undeniably bridged by the fossil record. And there you have it. We have ruined this theory, bridged the gap with the requirement of one line of evidence. But, we aren’t finished. For there is more than one line of evidence that refutes Gap Creationism. As is our wont around here, we will continue the smackdown and demonstrate that the evidence against the gap is not just conclusive…it is diverse and overwhelming. And interesting!
(2) The Coral Clock
Corals are tiny carnivorous critters who rely on a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic algae to provide them the oxygen they need. In return for their services, the algae receive protection (usually within the bodies of the corals themselves). The algae secrete lime as a byproduct, which cements the bodies of the corals together into colonies. As individual corals propagate and die, these colonial “skeletons” grow into the vast carbonate structures we call coral reefs…thereby leaving us a record of continuous coral and algal life through the ages.
What do I mean, “ages”? As you might imagine, the answer is not conducive to a 6,000 year-old gap in the history of life on earth. Here is how Perry G. Phillips describes the scientific dating process for coral reefs (from the archives of the Christian American Scientific Affiliation):
We will here concentrate on one atoll – Eniwetok – as an example of how we can determine the age of a reef. This reef was thoroughly investigated by deep core drillings in preparation for its use as a test-site for a hydrogen bomb explosion. This atoll is roughly circular with all the standard characteristics of a growing reef. It rests upon an extinct volcano, as expected, and the volcano rises about two miles above the ocean floor. The reef itself is 4,610 feet tall. Examination of the material from the bore holes reveals that this is a normal reef that formed from the cementing together of corals and lime-secreting algae. (This algae is different from the kind that lives within the corals.) In addition, three unconformities (discontinuities in the growth of the reef) were located at depths of 300, 1000, and 2780 feet. These unconformities contain pollen from seed-bearing shrubs and trees, which indicates there were periods when the reef surface was above sea level (and so no coral growth at the surface) which lasted long enough for land plants to colonize the surface.
With this information we are ready to calculate the age of the Eniwetok reef. All we need to do is divide the height of the reef by the rate at which it grew. This calculation is rather like finding how long it would take to travel a certain distance. The time is calculated by dividing the distance to be traveled by the speed or rate of travel. For example, if one is to travel 150 miles and one’s average rate of speed is 50 miles per hour, then the trip will take 150/50 = 3 hours to make the trip, not allowing for stops along the way. Just think of the height of the coral as the distance travelled and the rate of coral growth as the speed.
Research indicates that maximum rates of reef growth are about 8 millimeters per year, determined by examining the present growth rates of numerous reefs in the vicinity of Eniwetok. Admittedly, one may question whether the growth rate wasn’t perhaps faster for this particular reef, but there are limits to how fast corals can grow. Growing biological systems obey strict physical and chemical laws relating to metabolism, reproduction, and intake of nutrients. This last item is particularly important because the rate of growth of coral depends on the amount of dissolved calcium carbonate it can extract from the seawater. Calcium carbonate, though, is rather insoluble, so there is not a large concentration of it in ocean water. Thereby reef growth is limited to a fraction of an inch per year.
Thus 8 millimeters per year cannot be far from the actual growth rate of the Eniwetok corals. Using this value, the age of the reef is calculated by dividing 4,610 feet by 8 millimeters (about .3 inch) per year, which is about 175,000 years. But this is a minimum age since we have not taken into account the time periods (represented by the unconformities mentioned above) when the reef was not growing. Nor have we taken into account the time necessary to form the volcanic base on which the reef grew.
Recently, further calculations for the rate of reef growth have been based on the concentration of dissolved calcium carbonate in seawater and upon the rate at which corals can absorb it and manufacture their shells. This rate turns out to be only about 5 millimeters per year, which means that the Eniwetok reef is more like 280,000 years old, not counting pauses in growth. A similar analysis for the much larger Grand Bahama Reef reveals an age of 790,000 years. And again, this is a minimum age, since that reef also contains numerous unconformities.
If there were a gap in the history of life, we should expect to see it reflected in the record left by the coral clock. What we see instead are numerous examples of coral colonies thriving heedlessly through any supposed gap in their existence, a continuity that stretches back to the tune of multiple hundreds of thousands of years.
And if we want to get really picky with this one example from the Eniwetok atoll, we can look at those spots where no growth was taking place (as this could be touted as a “gap” in the life of the corals there). The first problem for the gap theory here is that evidence for surface life is found at these depths–so the gap theorist has nowhere to run, sandwiched as he is between evidence of surface life where there is no continuous coral reef growth and continuous coral reef growth where there is no evidence of surface life. He might wish to rationalize that we don’t know the age of those remnants of surface life (a debatable point), but then he would run smack into the other critical problem, which is that these gaps in coral reef accretion (that are almost certainly not representative of gaps in the existence of life anyway) are not in the right place! All three of the discontinuities mentioned are far older than the 6,000 years required, with the youngest at approximately 10,000 years ago (do the math and prove it for yourself–hint: there are 304.8 millimeters in a foot).
In other words, at the stage during which the gap theorist insists earth was “waste and empty”, the evidence unequivocally demonstrates that Eniwetok corals were busy making a living (which, by the way, implies an entire ecosystem’s worth of various species besides the corals and their algal companions). And this is just one sample–but one sample is all we need to bridge the gap and thereby falsify the hypothesis (that’s the beauty of such boldly irresponsible claims). Compound the Eniwetok evidence with that from other reefs and see how many 6,000 year-old gaps you don’t find. And the fun continues…
(3) The Dendrochronological Clock
Dendrochronology is the study of annual tree growth, i.e., tree rings, mainly for the purpose of dating them. The oldest-lived trees have lifespans of about 5,000 years (which can be confirmed, as every grade-school kid knows, by counting a specimen’s rings). Five-thousand years… Convenient for the Gap Creationists, you think? Not so fast!
Due to climate variations from year to year, tree rings are laid down in patterns of relative thickness–thicker for good years, thinner for bad years. Those clever dendrochronologists figured out that they could match long sequences of thick and thin rings from one tree to another in the same area (a technique called “crossdating”), thereby establishing a continuity of collective tree growth that stretches back much further than any individual tree would allow. Furthermore, since each ring is the result of annual growth, the dating of these chronologies is necessarily accurate down to the year–leaving far less wiggle room than any other dating method (so accurate are dendrochronological data, in fact, that they are used to calibrate the radiocarbon dating scale–more on this later).
Here’s how crossdating works. Say one tree (we’ll call him “Bregalad”) is a spry 3,000 years old and on his last legs–er, roots. A core sample is taken from Bregalad’s trunk and analyzed by dendrochronologists, who find a tree ring pattern from his younger days that overlaps with one from the later years of a much older fossilized tree (“Fimbrethil”) who was almost 3,000 years old when she died–when Bregalad was just a sapling, as it turns out. Next, a much younger segment of Fimbrethil’s sample is matched with the same pattern from the waning days of yet another fossilized tree (“Fangorn”). Analysis of Fangorn’s tree rings shows him to have been almost 4,000 years old when Fembrithil sprouted. So, the then ancient Fangorn was growing through the same time period (recognizable from the identical pattern of rings) as the slightly less ancient Fimbrethil, who, in turn, was growing through the same time period as the then sapling Bregalad, who is now himself 3,000 years old. The forest of Fangorn, then, has been around for a long time. Consider: Fimbrethil was almost 3,000 years old 3,000 years ago, which means that Fangorn was almost 4,000 years old some 6,000 years ago, which, of course, means that these three trees together represent about 10,000 years of continuous tree growth.
In actual fact, the dendrochronological clock presently extends backward in time by over 12,000 years (from chronologies of southern German river oaks). Since it proves the existence of whole forests (and the necessary attendant biodiversity that implies) thriving within the proposed period of lifelessness on earth, this evidence from continuous tree growth decisively closes the gap of Gap Creationism.
(4) The Clonal Clock
Some plants reproduce by vegetative propagation, resulting in expanding colonies of genetically identical individuals: i.e., clones. Some of these clonal colonies are, as you might expect, impressively ancient. Consider a few examples:
- Old Tjikko is an individual Norway Spruce, resulting from a cloning operation that has been churning out genetically identical trees for over 9,000 years.
- King Clone, at an estimated 11,700 years old, is considered to be the oldest of the clonal colonies known as Creosote bush rings.
- King’s Lomatia is a species of plant represented by only a single surviving clonal colony that has been determined to be at least 43,600 years old.
- Pando (last but far from least) is a clonal colony of Quaking Aspen in Utah. It may look like a forest of individual trees, but it is actually a single plant, consisting of about 47,000 stems connected by an extensive root system that has been estimated to be about 80,000 years old.
According to Gap Creationism, humans were specially created (in the form of Adam and Eve–yet another scientifically impossible fairy tale) around 6,000 years ago. Furthermore, it is absolutely imperative to this Creation story that there be no humans on earth before this time, and certainly no traces of human culture. If we were to find such evidence, it would indicate that humans were not created 6,000 years ago at the end of a period of Earth’s being “without form and void”. Remember, also, that Gap Creationism posits a pre-Adamic world of Dinosaurs and non-fossilizing angelic beings–and one that implicitly precludes the presence of humans or their artifacts.
Finding such remains should be counted as evidence against Gap Creationism.
So, do such remains exist? Yes. Of course!
It’s called the fucking Stone Age! And there is so much evidence for human activity in the Stone Age (a span of time that stretched over 3 million years and ended as late as 4,000 years ago) that I can’t even think of where to begin. In fact, the name “Stone Age” itself refers to the fact that, throughout these 3,000 millenniums, humans (duh!–existed and) were using stone tools! In fact, no, I won’t even dignify this question with a presentation of evidence for the fucking Stone Age. Just Google “Stone Age” if you’ve never heard of it.
But it gets worse. Not only did humans exist before 6,000 years ago, we can prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that they “survived” through any apocryphal gap that might have been inflicted on the earth and its inhabitants. And we know this because “they” were “us”–genetically.
(6) The Molecular Clock
Genetic mutations accumulate in a genome over time. Much research has been devoted to determining the overall rate at which mutations have been added to the human genetic code, particularly (for reasons we won’t go into here) with respect to hominid mitochondrial DNA. This rate of accumulation of mutations provides researchers with a “clock” that allows them to investigate questions of origin and divergence. Different rates are ascertained depending on how one decides to calibrate the clock (for example, by comparing genetically derived estimates with the archeological record or by comparing mtDNA sequences from parents and their offspring). The calibration debate yet rages in the literature (and Creationist hacks duplicitously pretend as though such esoteric scientific controversies lend credence to their pseudoscientific claims–another subject altogether).
The rate that has been given the most press has this particular molecular clock ticking once every 3,500 years or so. And from this estimate was derived the temporal placement of the famous (or infamous, depending on your persuasion) Mitochondrial Eve, the mother of us all, who lived some 200,000 years ago.
In other words, due to the number of mutations hanging out in the modern human genome (and given a rate of mutation equal or similar to the one mentioned above), we can be relatively sure of one thing: we humans who are alive today share an exceedingly ancient pedigree. There is simply no room in the data for a 6,000 year-old recreation of humans in the Garden of Eden. Why? Because Mitochondrial Eve is our great (repeat this about 10,000 times) grandmother, and she lived much more than 6,000 years ago.
We’ve seen that the two ends of Gap Creationism’s proposed gap are overlaid with fossil-bearing strata, cemented together by coral reefs, grown over with living forests and populated by our genetic forebears.
Before going further, it would be prudent to say a brief word about the invented controversy over radiometric dating (a method, or suite of methods actually, that feature prominently in the calibration of many of the clocks we have discussed–radiometric data are used as clocks themselves, in fact). Although these dating methods and the science behind them are endlessly fascinating, a useful look at them is beyond the scope of this particular article–as is the apocryphal controversy. The latter is nothing more than a Creationist pseudoscientific boondoggle, which is not worth our time (I may refute it in a separate article–if anyone decides foolishly to champion it in the comments, for example). If you are persuaded by such things, you may have your hopes dashed here.
Now, What You’ve All Been Waiting For…The Plan of God–Debunked!
Let’s start by playing a little game of Name That Plan! (Cue calliope music.) The plan in question has the following characteristics–see if you can identify it!
- Requires a time span of 6,000 years, during which time humans are given free reign to govern themselves and before which time humans did not exist (we’re not counting the few years it took Adam to commit his epic fuck up in the Garden of Eden, which apparently inspired this plan).
- Is 6,000 years long because it is symbolized by the six days of the week leading into the seventh-day Sabbath, which itself symbolizes a glorious “Millennium” of rule by the Godly Saints in the Kingdom. In fact, this symbolism is the most important reason given for Sabbath-keeping.
- Was instituted ultimately as a result of Lucifer’s fall, who ruled over Earth and its doomed inhabitants before the great cataclysm that ended all life, rendering the planet tohu and bohu–and thereby requiring a re-creation 6,000 years ago.
- Places homo sapiens at the center, giving it godlike traits and promising it a truly transcendent goal and purpose: to be “born again” into the divine Godhead!
So, what’s that plan?
If you said “The Armstrongist Plan of God”, you are correct! (Other acceptable answers are “Plan B” and “God’s Plan for Mankind”.) Congratulations! You win less than nothing!
As anyone can see, this imaginary plan is totally out of step with reality, and is therefore defunct. It isn’t in the works. It isn’t happening. Never was. It’s not even a plan. It’s a pile of bullshit sold to you and me by a fraudulent, out-of-work ad man with a great imagination and a penchant for spending time in the kooky section of his local library instead of looking for respectable work.
No, humans were not created out of dust and a spare rib 6,000 years ago, the capstone of a busy Creator’s literal-week-long magical bio-engineering work party. No, all life on Earth was not destroyed in a cataclysm when the rebelling Lucifer cast a third of the stars at it in an unholy tantrum. No, humans are not specially created with a purpose. No, we are not made in God’s image for the purpose of taking on His likeness. No, these are not more than fairy tales.
The scientifically verified truth is fatally corrosive to this proposed Plan of God. It is that life has been thriving continuously on Earth’s surface for literally billions of years, slowly evolving over geologic time into “endless forms most beautiful”. Not the least of these forms to appear out of this primordial pedigree has been the equally tragic and noble homo sapiens, an ape. An ape that has evolved an incredibly complex brain and highly developed social apparatus. An ape just smart enough to fool itself…and, if we can help it, just wise enough to figure out what it has done.
Oh, and, by the way? This also handily disproves the global flood myth.