A Question of Time

Speaker: Categories: Aug 08, 2000


[1hr, 19min, 16sec / 46min, 40sec]


One might be tempted to sub-title this month's San Diego Adventist Forum presentation:The Dating Game!Certainly, during recent years, the discussion of earth's age has often reappeared in SDA publications and presentations. It might be significant that the third quarter, 2000, Sabbath School Quarterly allowed for an earth history ofless than 10,000 yearsrather than theabout 6000 yearsso positively cited in previous years. Is our entrenched view wavering?

Dr. Erv Taylor notes that the Association of Adventist Forums has just publishedCreation Reconsidered: Scientific, Biblical, and Theological Perspectives. This lengthy volume (which will be available for examination and ordering at the August meeting) is a collection of papers based on presentations made at the Conference on Geology and the Biblical Record sponsored by AAF in August, 1985. For a variety of reasons it has taken fifteen years for the volume to appear. James Hayward, a biologist at Andrews University, notes in the preface to the book that in that fifteen years many things have changed including"the political realities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church."Hayward traces some of the problems and conflicts involving various church scientists and church administrators to profound differences about interpretations of theGenesisaccount as well as the validity of the standard scientific understanding of the geological record. Hayward also briefly reviews the process by which the Geoscience Research Institute (GRI) was taken over by the SDA right-wing and the conversion of that organization to becoming a center of apologetics for a fundamentalist understanding ofGenesisand earth history for the SDA Church.

One of the key points of contention is the age of life including human life on this planet. The GRI continues to support a view that life is less than 10,000 years old on this planet and that a recent worldwide flood is responsible for much of the geological record. This is in the face of a massive amount of scientific evidence that the age of this planet and life upon it are to be measured in units of hundreds of millions of years and that there has not been a recent world-wide flood. At the same time, as several chapters in theCreation Reconsideredvolume note, a mature approach to the Biblical text raises serious questions about the conventional SDA interpretation of what, for example, Genesis means when it states that the Flood was aworldwideevent.

This presentation will consider the nature of the scientific evidence for long-ages for the earth and life including that of human kind. It will raise the quest ion of what is the most appropriate response of the church and its members to a vivid contrast between what the SDA Church officially teaches on this point and what the scientific evidence indicates. This question is posed with the knowledge that a survey of SDA college/university science faculty, taken five years ago, revealed that less than half accepted the conventional SDA teaching on the age of the earth and life upon it.


P. Edgar Hare is a graduate of Pacific Union College who earned an M. S. in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in geochemistry at the California Institute of Technology. After serving as an instructor in chemistry at PUC, he spent five years on the staff of the Geoscience Research Institute. In 1963 he took the position of a staff scientist at the Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington, a post he held until his retirement in 1998. He is now Adjunct Professor of Anthropology and Earth Sciences at the University of California, Riverside. He is internationally recognized for his development of the amino acid racemization techniques for the age dating of fossils, particularly bone, marine shells and eggshells.

Ervin Taylor is also a graduate of Pacific Union College who received his Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His doctoral studies were completed in the Isotope Laboratory of the late Willard F. Libby, the 1960 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, who discovered the radiocarbon dating method. Taylor is best known for his work on the radiocarbon and amino acid racemization dating of bone, particularly human bone samples associated with questions involving the timing of the arrival of the earliest human populations in the New World. He currently is professor of anthropology in the Department of Anthropology, research anthropologist in the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, and Director, Radiocarbon Laboratory, at the University of California, Riverside. He serves on the board of the Adventist Today Foundation.

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