Spokane Chapter, Reasons To Believe

November, 2004 Newsletter

Table of Contents:

Chapter Meeting: Sunday, November 21, 3-5 P.M.

We invite you to attend our monthly meeting. A presentation is offered to the group, followed by discussion and questions, and we conclude with snacks and a little club business. We always try to start and end our meetings right on time. If you need directions, don’t be afraid to call the phone number below.

  • Date: Sunday, November 21
  • Time: 3-5 P.M.
  • Hosts: Dan and Cathy Bakken
  • Location: 13003 N. Miami Ct, Mead
  • Phone: 466-2693 (for directions, etc.)

Evidence for an Old Earth: Tree Rings and Lake Varves

Part 1 - By Damien Spillane, RTB – Australia

One of the unique and defining characteristics of the Christian faith is its indubitable tie with history and the real world around us. The central event of Christian theology is the historical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our faith stands or falls on this event, if it is proved false then we have no reason for prayer, studying the scriptures, fellowship at church or anything of the like. If the body of Jesus was discovered in the tomb then there would be no Christian faith, we may as well pack up our Bibles, sell our churches and go home.

But we are all confident in that great first century event that defines our existence as Christians and for very good reason. In support of the resurrection we have the empty tomb, multiple independent witnesses (friends as well as skeptics like James) to Jesus’ post mortem appearances, the transference of strict Jewish practices such as Sabbath observance to Sunday worship and the early emergence of the church in spite of...

enormous persecution. We must therefore realize that as Christians we have a duty to recognize strong evidence and accept it no matter where it comes from. Our faith is built on it. If the gospel rests on such strong empirical attestations to truths from the real world than we of all people should be very receptive to where it leads us on other matters.

We understand that God created the world and so there should be real correlation between the truth of scripture and the truth that we can perceive from the world around us. So, just as there is no contradiction between history and the gospel there should likewise be no contradiction between the record of nature that is revealed by science and the words of scripture (Genesis to be specific). Having underlined these points I will move now to an element of church doctrine that seems to have been accepted rather uncritically (at least in some circles of Christendom) over the last 100 years or so; the belief that the universe was created no more than 10,000 years ago.

The main organization that Christians are most familiar with would be Answers In Genesis: Now an internationally recognized creation science organization. This organization is so heavily in support of a young Earth that they have announced one of their main objectives for 2004 as Operation: Refuting Compromise where any Christian holding to a belief in Billions of years for the age of the Earth are accused of ‘compromising’ the Bible. Of course if the evidence were truly testifying to a young universe then I would commend AIG’s efforts. The real issue at stake however is where that evidence is leading us.

Like any good investigator I will call a multitude of witnesses to the stand to testify on this issue. My hope is that we may apprehend the unbiased testimony of many independent geologic/organic processes that will not leave this issue unresolved. We will call God’s revelation from nature (Psalm 19 and Rom 1) to the witness stand to testify.

Witness 1 – Tree Rings

Dendochronologists can gain an idea of the

climate over the last 10,000 years or so by analyzing tree rings that are accumulated on a yearly basis. The basic process (though there are some complicating factors) is a matter of counting annual layers revealing the approximate time period that each layer existed. Wet seasons are characterized by wide layers whereas dry seasons typically produce narrower layers. The Shulman Grove area in California are known to possess living trees exceeding 4,500 years old in addition to dead trees preserved by the cold climate that push the chronology back further than 8,000 years. The layers on these specimens were also cross calibrated with carbon 14 dating. The significance is that we have an independent tool to check the accuracy of radiometric dating. This is significant as many Christians have been told that radiometric dating methods are for a multitude of reasons completely unreliable and entirely untestable. If these criticisms were actually correct, than it is surely an astounding coincidence to say the least that the tree ring chronology correlates with the carbon 14 dating results. We also have additional data derived from European Oak where the chronology can be extended back to 11,000 years.

It is also important to note that climatic information from tree rings of differing species and different locations are giving similar accounts of the Earth’s climate over the past

10,000 years. Well known historical events such as massive volcanic eruptions can also be calibrated with the tree ring data. This is because these enormous volcanic eruptions ejected so much material into the atmosphere, a

mini  “nuclear-winter” existed for a number of years resulting in extremely poor plant growth – including crop failure and mass starvation. The recorded years of these events correspond to extremely thin tree rings for these years.

Ref: Pinus Longaeva D.K. Bailey 1970 http://www.biologie.uni-hamburg.de/b-online/earle/pi/pin/longaeva.htm and Useful Tree Species for Tree-Ring Dating


Witness 2 – Lake Suigetsu Varves

A varve is a pair of thin layers of sediment that

forms in freshwater lakes that tend to freeze over in winter. Typically, one band of the varve is light and composed of sand and organic material (e.g. pollen) while the second layer is dark and composed of very fine clay particles. Varves are formed by seasonal variations in sedimentary deposition. The lighter band is laid down during the summer when a greater flow of water from inflowing streams brings coarse, sandy material into the lake. The larger particles settle rather quickly but the tiny clay particles remain in suspension due to the agitation of the water caused by inflowing streams and wind.

In winter, the lake freezes over and so the effect of the wind is not felt and inflow from streams ceases. Because the water is no longer agitated, the fine clay particles can slowly settle to the bottom of the lake, right on top of the coarse sand layer. Next summer, when the lake thaws, the cycle begins over. Each varve couplet, therefore, typically represents a single year.

One can determine the age of a varve formation by simply counting the number of couplets, just as one can determine the age of a tree by counting its rings. Varve deposits display great age. The Salido, Castile, and Bell Canyon formations of west Texas contain 260,000 couplets. Hence, this formation is most naturally

considered to be 260,000 years old. The famous Green River Shales which span three US states contain about 7.5 million paper-thin couplets. Dr. Kitagawa and his team have established a chronology of varve layers containing diatoms (unicellular algae) in Japan that calibrate the Carbon 14 dating technique back to 45,000 years ago. The spring season layers were recognized by dark colored clay with white layers due to an increase in diatom growth.

Carbon 14 dating (Accelerator Mass  Spectrometry was the exact method used) of organic material in the layers has confirmed the accuracy of this dating method to beyond that predicted by most young earth models. It is also important to note that this study revealed similar climate details to European marine sediments of coral dated with Uranium and Thorium methods as well as carbon 14. Their results also were in agreement with the tree ring C- 14 results.

Tree-ring data presents a serious problem for young earth/global flood proponents. (Most believe that most if not all of the earth’s geological record was deposited during Noah’s flood no more than 5,000 yrs ago.) How can a global flood that is catastrophic and haphazard carefully deposit thousands and in some places even millions of very thin and fragile but perfectly alternating and chemically distinct sedimentary layers in an organized fashion that just coincidently happens to correlate with annual seasonal changes? How did the flood insert fluctuating amounts of diatoms into each layer which amazing just happen to correlate with what we would expect from changes in season? But much more amazingly, how did this global flood manage to sort these trillions of diatoms in the correct layers according to the proportion of carbon-14 within their bodies so that modern scientists would be deceived into thinking the varves represented thousands of years of seasonal freshwater lake.  END OF PART 1

Ref: Kitagawa and van der Plicht Atmospheric Radiocarbon Calibration to 45,000 yr B.P.: Late Glacial Fluctuations and Cosmogenic Isotope Production 1997 http://www.acad.carleton.edu/ curricular/BIOL/classes/bio375/pdfs/c14%20calibration.pdf

Prominent Christians Endorse an Old Earth

A number of well known Christian leaders have expressed their support for an old-earth interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, and/or for the work of Reasons To Believe. Here are a few of them.

Chuck Colson, columnist, author, speaker and commentator. One of his most recent books is How Now Shall We Live.  In an article, Mr. Colson said, “Today, advocates of the Big Bang think that their theory is a substitute for God. But it's just the opposite. Hoyle rejected the Big Bang in spite of the evidence because he knew that the...      Big Bang pointed irresistibly to the existence of God.”

Dr. Norman Geisler, theologian, philosopher and apologist. Dr. Geisler has said, “There are many Creationists who argue for an old earth. Biblically, this position that the word for day is used for more than twenty-four hours even in Genesis 2:4, the events of the sixth day surely took more than twenty-four hours, and Hebrews 4:4?5 implies that God is still in His seventh-day rest. If the seventh day can be long, then the others could too. Scientifically, this view does not require any novel theories to explain the evidence.”

Dr. William Lane Craig, theologian, apologist and author. - He is widely considered to be a leading figure in the philosophy of religion and the premier evangelical Christian apologist. Dr. Craig has said, “The history of the Big Bang model for well over three-quarters of a century has been one of radical predictions repeatedly confirmed and the repeated failure of every attempt, some of them extremely speculative, to avoid the absolute origin of the universe posited in the standard model.”

Hank Haanegraff, apologist and author, known as “The Bible Answer Man”. President of Christian Research Institute, which states, “The question of whether the earth is 4.5 billion years old (as modern geology affirms) or roughly 10,000 years old (as some evangelical scientists and theologians are now maintaining) hinges largely on whether the "days" of Genesis chapter one are to be taken as indicating literal 24-hour days or as poetic references to indefinite periods of time. An analysis of the biblical material reveals that the answer to this is not eminently clear, and that some justification can be found for both positions.”
If you’re interested in more, visit RTB’s web site called “Christian Leaders open to an Old Earth Interpretation”, available at:

http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/ notable_leaders/index.shtml.

Who We Are and What We Do: Your Local Reasons To Believe Chapter

  • We’re here to answer your questions and help local Christians and churches get more answers about science and the bible issues. 
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  • We help Christians overcome their fear of science and equip them to use it as an effective tool in spreading the Gospel.
  • We reach out to skeptics and non-believers with gentleness and respect, encouraging them to evaluate their worldviews.

Contact Information

For more information about the Reasons To Believe Spokane Chapter, contact:

  • Phone: Ray Luse (509) 465-8562
  • Email:
  • Web Page: www.reasons.org/chapters/spokane
  • Newsletter Questions? Cathy Bakken, editor, cgbakken@yahoo.com

Resources To Know About:

Reasons To Believe Website: www.reasons.org. Many useful documents are available, as well as their daily new “reason to believe” from the latest scientific research.

Reasons’ Web Store. Buy the books you read about here! http://store.reasons.org/

Reasons Institute. RTB’s online distance learning program. Take college-level apologetics courses. Contact RTB for information at 626-335-1480. www.reasonsinstitute.com.

Reasons To Believe television show. Thursday mornings, 3:00 A.M. Pacific time on TBN. An archive of recent shows is at www.reasons.org.

Creation Update Web Radio Show. http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/creation_update/Archives.asp.