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The Appearance of Age
The Assumption of History
Age has been described as the assumption of history. For some things and people, that assumption is valid, but there are times when such an assumption is invalid. When we consider the act of creation as a miracle, we believe that the appearance of age is invalid; rather, what is seen is the appearance of function. When God created the sun, he made it a star in its midlife, had the sun been created as a newly formed star it would be too cold to support life on Earth. Had the sun been created as a much older star it would be expanding and cooling, making life on Earth untenable both from temperature and from gravity. The issue here is what theory is used to determine the age of the sun. It is the standard model and its explanation of nuclear fission that describes the sun as a midlife star.
The Earth itself is described as having the appearance of age because in the standard model, mountains rise by millimeters per year and are eroded just as slowly. Ice has built up slowly to form glaciers and ice sheets, and rivers erode valleys equally slowly. The theory, therefore, assuming the rates of the present were the same in the past, declares that the appearance of age exists because a long history exists.
It is my contention that the appearance of age exists as a matter of function, things look the way they do because that is what is required for them to function. Creation being a series of miracles, we should be able to find similarities in other miracles.
The first miracle that Jesus performed was the turning of water into wine (John 2). Now water is turned into wine in an observable process that requires a grape vine and the whole ecology associated with it. Water falls onto soil that contains organic constituents and mineral nutrients. These items are taken up by the vine, and with a chemistry powered by sunlight, recombined to form a liquid that is stored in the fruit of the vine, the grape. These grapes are collected by workers, placed in vats and crushed to release the juice. The juice is then stored in a container of some kind, in Jesus’ time these would have been clay jars. Bacteria trapped with the juice would then convert the sugars of the juice into alcohol, and after a suitable passage of time, the owners would open the jar and enjoy the wine. However, none of this happened in John 2. Jesus had the servants pour water into stone waterpots and then immediately draw out wine.
Anyone examining the wine would taste the appearance of age. Even were this simply grape juice, which it was not, there would still be an appearance of age. Normal experience would assume the process as written above. No such process occurred, water was poured into pots, and wine was taken out of the pots. The process of mingling organic and mineral constituents did not occur, they were miraculously created. The process of anaerobic respiration used by bacteria to turn sugar into alcohol did not occur. The process of aging the wine to make it a better wine did not occur. All of these processes were instantaneously wrought to create wine from water. Examining the wine microscopically would have produced the same appearance of age, and that appearance would have been wrong, existing only in the mind of the examiner. The wine had the appearance of good wine and by the assumptions of normal processes, the appearance of age, a function of being wine rather than a fiction.
Another miracle involving food is found in John 6 when Jesus feeds a crowd of over five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fishes. Were we to pick any basket of food which was given to the crowd, we would find in it pieces of baked barley loaves and baked fish. The loaves would have the appearance of having been made from barley flour and baked either in an oven or on a pan. The fish would also have the appearance of being mature fish that was cooked. Both food items would have an appearance of age because in looking at them or tasting them we would have an expectation that some process had occurred to them, the process of cooking. However, this was not true, these foods were created instantaneously ready to eat, and their appearance would be the result of the function of their being ready to eat. The appearance of age would not have been a fiction but a function.
One of the more remarkable miracles Jesus did was to give sight to a man that was born blind (John 9). Now sight is not a simple thing, it is a complex process that involves not only the eyes but the brain as well. Sight, like so much of human activity, is in fact learned. Dr. Paul Brand in his book In His Image, details what is involved in teaching adults who have had their eyes healed, to see. It takes months to learn depth perception and motion.
For those of us born sighted these are things we acquire simply by growing up. Babies stare at faces and hands and learn to recognize shapes and motion. Athletically minded people have great eye-hand co-ordination while I cannot dribble a basketball. Sight is in fact a process that ordinarily requires a history.
An eye specialist examining any of the men that Jesus gave sight to would see an appearance of age, a process requiring time. The man in John 9 was able to walk back to Jesus from the pool of Siloam. That sort of sight requires time, yet he was able to do it immediately after receiving his sight. The months that would normally be required to learn depth perception, the months of learning to co-ordinate movement with sight, all were acquired in a moment. This healing provided not only whatever physical and chemical healing was necessary to the man’s physiology, but also the experience necessary to make use of newly healed physiology. The appearance of age in healing is a function of physiology, not a fiction.
The Apostle Peter also performed a miracle. In Acts 3 we find Peter going into the temple with John. There he encounters a man who has been lame from birth. Peter heals this man, who then leaps up. This man then accompanies them into the temple “walking, and leaping”.
If you watch a child learning to walk, you will see that not only do they need to learn to balance, they need to learn to co-ordinate their movements with their perceptions. Astronauts returning from long space missions need to learn to walk again. Their muscles have not simply atrophied but the muscle memory has been lost in low/zero gravity. Walking is complex process that involves not only the strength of the muscles and bones, but also the neurological development of the muscles along with the co-ordination of senses in the brain.
The man Peter heals, leaps up and continues to walk and leap. Not only were his bones healed, so also were his muscles, which were given not only strength but muscle memory. His brain also received the necessary information to co-ordinate his balance with his movement enabling him to leap. A modern medical practitioner examining this man would have seen the appearance of age in his healing. He would see the time needed to learn the skills of walking and leaping, skills that were given to the healed man instantaneously. The appearance of age was in fact an appearance of function.
There is a notable instance of appearance of age being a fiction, and that is in forgeries. Forgers of art and currency go to great lengths to give the appearance of age to their work, and they do so because it fools their victims into accepting the forgery as genuine, or at least valuable. What the forgers understand is that the appearance of age is just that, an appearance. They understand that the appearance is in fact a function of process, use the right process and you will get an appropriate appearance. Was God trying to get an appropriate appearance, or was God more interested in the proper function? God, who cannot lie, gave things their proper function, the appearance of age is an assumption on our part. The appearance is in fact in the eye of the beholder.
In 1963 a volcano breached the surface of the Atlantic Ocean near Iceland and was named Surtsey. In standard geology it takes 50,000 years for gravel to form. On the island of Surtsey there is gravel already, and it has been there for a few years. Someone not knowing the history of Surtsey but knowing the standard theory on gravel formation, might assume that Surtsey is older than 50,000 years; after all, it has the appearance of age. On the other hand, perhaps we can be humbler and admit that we do not fully understand the process of gravel formation and that what we see is the appearance of function, in this case, weathering.
In 1980 Mt. St. Helens, a volcano in Washington State erupted. Pyroclastic flows deposited large amounts of ash in the area. Later these deposits were eroded to reveal a layered structure. One geologist would admit that if he didn’t know when these layers were deposited, he would have assumed them to be at least ten thousand years old. The appearance of age was an assumption based on an incorrect understanding of how pyroclastic deposits were made. The erosion of channels through many of the ash deposits around Mt. St. Helens also have an appearance of age that belies the actual history. Canyons are supposed to take millennia to form, those around Mt. St. Helens formed in days. The appearance of age around Mt. St. Helens is just that, an appearance. Knowing the true history of the Mount it is understood that the appearances are based on the function of processes in the eruption, not functions of time.
In 1980 another event occurred that went mostly unnoticed around the world. A group of aviation aficionados decided to locate and recover aircraft from the Lost Squadron. The Lost Squadron was made up of six P-38 fighters and two B-17 bombers that had crash-landed on the Greenland ice cap. The plan was simple, the aircraft would only be a few feet under snow and easily recoverable. In fact, it took eight years and the aircraft were discovered under 250 feet of ice. It would take another four years to recover the aircraft from under the ice.
In the standard model there should only have been a few metres of snow over the aircraft. The amount of ice found over the aircraft should represent over a hundred years accumulation. The amount of snow expected was determined by meteorological data. That it was ice rather snow and that it was tens of meters were both unexpected. There is an appearance of age in the amount of ice found here, but it is not a fiction, it is a function of the process of weather, a process that is definitely not understood.
When we look at the world around us what do we see? Are we seeing the appearance of age or are we seeing the processes functioning? We can look at a tree and guess its age because we assume it grew by normal process. God created trees fully mature, with fruit and flowers and leaves, a one-day-old tree in Creation Week would have looked like a seven-year-old tree (or thirty, depending on the tree). Animals were created mature, as was Adam, and without a belly button (it had no function). The appearance of age is the result of the assumptions we make and those assumptions can be wrong. God has made no attempt to deceive us with the age of the earth or cosmos. He created a fully functioning cosmos and what we see is the appearance of function rather than the appearance of age.
- The earth: how old does it look?
A detailed examination of the appearance of age.
While not a Biblical creationist, Dr. Brand and Phillip Yancey have written an interesting book about the human body.