Apparent Age

Young-Earth Theories
proposing a Mature Creation
with a false Appearance of Old Age

are worthy of serious consideration, but they
raise important theological questions because
some observed features of the universe would
not be necessary for immediate functionality,
so why would God create these features?

by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

This page is an appendix
for Part 1 of Apparent Age
which you should read first.

      Summary-and-Analysis of Part 1

      Three Theories
      Theories of apparent age (AA) deserve careful consideration.  And instead of generalizing, we should recognize the important differences in three views;  all views affirm the need for essential-AA, but differ in the apparent history (is it total, partial, or minimal) resulting from nonessential-AA.  Part 2 describes these theories in more detail, using quotations from prominent advocates: Phillip Gosse (total), Henry Morris (partial), and Ken Ham (minimal).  Partly due to the influence of Morris and Ham, currently Partial-AA and Minimal-AA are much more common than Total-AA, although I think most "people in the pews" with young-earth views are nonscientists who haven't thought deeply about these questions.

      Theological Possibilities
      In a conventional theistic worldview, God could use his creating/sustaining power to instantly create a universe.  IF this "creation from nothing" produced a young universe a few thousand years ago, it would have to involve some essential apparent age to make a world that was immediately functional with mature humans in a suitable environment.  It might also include nonessential apparent age (that would not be necessary for immediate functionality) varying from zero to maximal, thus producing an apparent history that was minimal (with only essential-AA) or total (with accurate data, including nonessential-AA, about "everything that would have happened since the beginning") or anything in-between.
      God could also "create from nothing" an old universe a few billion years ago, and it would actually be the age it appears to be, with only actual history and no apparent history.

      Scientific Adequacy
      With "perfect antiquing" to produce a complete-and-accurate Total Apparent History (with Total Apparent Age) it would be impossible, using scientific observation and logic, to distinguish between a universe that actually is old and a recently created young universe that just appears to be old.  Total-AA is scientifically neutral, because its truth (or falsity) cannot be scientifically tested, and because it lets a young-universe creationist accept all old-universe conclusions of conventional science, or reject any of these conclusions if this seems scientifically justifiable.
      But most young-universe creationists propose Partial Apparent Age or Minimal Apparent Age, and they want to reject most old-universe conclusions of science.  Usually they propose flood geology to explain the earth's fossil record.  With any view of apparent history (total, partial, or minimal) we can scientifically test a combination of apparent history (with a false observed age for everything in the initial creation) and actual history (with a true observed age for everything happening after the initial creation).  When flood geology is tested, almost all scientists think it is not scientifically adequate because its predictions (based on its theories) don't match our observations;  most scientists think there is abundant evidence from a wide range of fields — including their studies of sedimentary rocks, coral reefs, the fossil record in geological context, biogeographical patterns, seafloor spreading and continental drift, magnetic reversals, genetic molecular clocks, radioactive dating, the development of stars, starlight from faraway galaxies, and more — strongly indicating that the earth and universe are billions of years old.  The low status of young-earth science seems unlikely to improve in the future.
      Especially with Total-AA, but also with Partial-AA, one possible reason for God to create the universe with nonessential-AA would be to provide accurate data about the characteristics of nature, so we can construct reliable scientific theories about nature, which can help us make rational decisions about our stewardship of nature.

      Theological Adequacy
      Interpretations of Genesis:  The usual motivation for proposing a young earth (and young universe) is a "recent creation in six days" interpretation of Genesis 1.   /   But simply reading the text carefully will show you the framework in Genesis 1 that is logical (in connecting days 1-2-3 and 4-5-6, plus 1-4, 2-5, and 3-6) and is the organizing framework for a topical history of creation.  This interpretation, which I think is the intended meaning, is compatible with a young universe or old universe.   { With Total-AA, a young-earth framework interpretation would allow a one-time instant creation instead of a progressive six-day creation;  although the end result could be the same, instantaneous creation is simpler, more elegant, and it wouldn't be necessary to ask "what would the apparent age seem to be, at various times during a 144-hour creation period?" }   I think a framework interpretation was intended and is preferable, not just possible.  Therefore, it doesn't seem wise to insist that the universe must be young — since this view requires inadequate science (with flood geology, white hole cosmology,...) and/or a theology proposing that "what we see didn't really happen" — based on a rigid interpretation of one chapter, when this isn't even the best interpretation of Genesis 1.
      Death before Sin:  Another motivation for proposing a young earth — and also flood geology, and apparent history that is minimal or partial — is to avoid an implication that animals died before humans sinned.  Many fossils are under the earth's surface, distributed in a way indicating a long history of life, and with Total-AA (combining old-earth apparent history with young-earth creation) there is an appearance of animal death before human sin, even though there would be no actual death in the apparent history preceding Eden.   /   But if our theology is based only on the Bible — without non-biblical appeals to our intuitive feelings about "the way things should be" based on our emotional response to death — I think animal death before human sin is theologically satisfactory, and there is no reason to reject the abundant scientific evidence indicating that animals died before humans sinned.
      The Genesis Flood:  A "global flood" interpretation of Genesis 6-9 is another reason to propose young-earth flood geology (instead of apparent history) as an explanation for fossils.  /  But other interpretations, involving a local flood, can be proposed in young-earth "Total AA" and by old-earth creationists.
      Divine Honesty:  Would nonessential-AA be "a reason to ask whether the ‘divine nature’ includes honesty, and whether God can be trusted?  Should we therefore assume that God would not use nonessential-AA in creation?  Or should we just say ‘so what?’ because an apparent history makes no difference in everyday life? ... The history of pre-creation doesn't matter much if God is faithful in his promises and avoids misleading us in ways that are truly important."

a personal observation:  I find it easy to imagine God instantly creating the universe by using his sustaining power.  But usually young-universe views are motivated by an interpretation of Genesis 1 in which there was a non-instantaneous progressive creation during a 144-hour period.  This would be more complicated and is less easy for me to imagine — and to ask "what would the apparent age seem to be, at various times during the 144-hour period of creation?" — but this progressive creation would be analogous to miracles after the creation period, and of course the power of God is not constrained by the limitations of our imaginations.

Appearance of Age:
Part 1 (an overview) 
Part 2 (three views) 
read other authors