SCIENCE IS A TOOL. Sweeping statements by scientists concerning what has happened in the past should never be confused with facts because they are always based on limited knowledge. Conclusions often change as more knowledge, data, and mechanisms are discovered. Science is just the tool used to uncover the truth; it is not, nor should it be confused with, absolute truth. One area of science where this misunderstanding is especially prevalent is with scientific statements regarding the age of the earth. Over the last 200 years the “accepted” age of the earth has risen from 6000 to 5 billion years.
One classic argument for the great age of a geologic feature comes from Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone National Park. At this location there is an eroded hillside with petrified trees standing upright through exposed sediment. The classic interpretation is that these layers of trees represent 32 subsequent forests. As the lowest forest was destroyed and buried under the sediment, another forest would eventually grow on top of it. It is taught that this area represents an earth history in excess of 100,000 years. This interpretation is written in modern geology textbooks and placed on interpretive park signs. Creationists had no alternative explanation for many years. However, in 1980 Mt. St. Helen’s erupted, knocking down thousands of acres of trees. Over one million of these trees ended up floating in Spirit Lake. Dr. Steve Austin, a Ph.D. geologist for the Institute of Creation Research, realized that as these trees became water logged they were sinking to the bottom in an upright position. As tree bark and sediment dropped to the bottom of the lake these upright trees became buried at different levels. Sonar tracking of the lake bottom has revealed as many as 100,000 dead trees standing in upright positions on the lake bottom. If the area were now buried under a subsequent volcanic event, the area would have the appearance of many forests which had grown one on top of the other over thousands of years. Yet this sedimentary deposit was formed rapidly by a single flood-like event.
Returning our focus to the evidence from Specimen Ridge, it is interesting to note that the buried trees do not have the extensive roots which would be expected from trees which had grown in place. Rather, they have abruptly ending trunks or root bundles. This provides additional support that this extensive area was formed during a catastrophic flood of mind boggling proportions, not by multiple forests over thousands of years. Could the primary reason that this explanation for Specimen Ridge is not accepted is that a flood of worldwide proportions would have been required?
This is just one example of the evidence, which at first glance, seems to be ironclad in its implication that the earth is much older than the Bible indicates. However, additional knowledge always vindicates the clear statements of this remarkable book. Evolutionary geologists prefer to chose interpretations which indicate long time periods have been involved in geologic processes. To do otherwise would leave no explanation except supernatural creation for the formation of our planet. Creationists prefer to believe that a catastrophic event such as the worldwide flood account for areas such as Specimen Ridge. Creationists and evolutionists use science to support their position but ultimately neither position can be proven by science. It is only by examining all of the evidence in light of both interpretations that the truth can be found. Unfortunately, modern geological interpretation starts by excluding consideration of a worldwide flood. With this possibility eliminated at the start, how can the truth be found?