Regardless of the view of creation taken, there were no humans present at the time when the Earth was formed. People did not come until later; for some, however, God created people days after He created the Earth. For others, people are the product of billions of years of evolution—a process that chooses the fittest and strongest from each generation to pass on desirable traits (Young & Stearley, 2008). Depending upon belief and school of thought, two individuals could each have a very different understanding of the same geological and historical events (Young & Stearley, 2008). The question of human origins has become so divisive that it has become a question of some weight whether or not creationism—the young Earth view of the world—can be taught in public classrooms in some places (McCalla, 2006). The purpose of this discussion is to delve into the debate and understand what both sides propose as the truth, and what each side claims that the other side is wrong about in some way. Because the young Earth view is so tied to religion, this is a debate that is often tinged with different religious beliefs and doctrines (McCalla, 2006).
Old Earth View
There is an old Earth creationist view on the formation of the world, but that particular theory is more of a bridge between the secular view of the formation of the world and the young Earth view of the creation of the world. The focus for this particular discussion will be the secular old Earth view on the creation of the world, which is sometimes called the Big Bang Theory (Lewis, 2000). Although it sounds exciting, the Big Bang Theory is a theory that postulates what the earliest known moments of the universe were like (Lewis, 2000). This is entirely speculative in terms of physics and astronomy, because obviously no one was around to observe it—however, the existence of cosmic background radiation is one major clue that the Big Bang Theory is, in part, correct (McCalla, 2006). Today, scientists can use a number of different tools and strategies to date the material on Earth—scientists currently estimate the age of the Earth at approximately 4.44 billion years old (Young & Stearley, 2008).
Young Earth View
According to young Earth creationists, the world is approximately 6,000 years old (McClure, 2009). The various calculations for the age of the Earth vary based on the individual’s reading of the Bible, but for the most part, individuals who subscribe to young Earth creationism generally believe that the Earth’s age is in the thousands of years, not the millions or billions. The young Earth creationists believe that the Bible is the literal word of God and the literal truth, so the number of years since the formation of the Earth can be calculated based on family information available in the early genealogical trees given in the books of the Bible itself (McClure, 2009). The young Earth view gives the Bible credence as the absolute, unabridged truth, and therefore does not accept common scientific knowledge on the topic (McClure, 2009).
Comparison of Viewpoints
The current scientific knowledge available based on the best research done states that the Earth is approximately 4.44 billion years old, given a standard margin of error (Lewis, 2000). This is significantly older than the age that the young Earth creationists postulate for the age of their Earth—however, scientists have used numerous dating techniques, including radiocarbon dating, to determine that the world is much older than creationists claim that it is (Young & Stearley, 2008). Science utilizes advanced tools to determine how old the Earth is, while young Earth creationists determine their suspected age for the Earth based on faith alone (McCalla, 2006). However, both theories suggest that the animals were created before the people, and that the Earth itself was created before life was placed on it (McCalla, 2006). There are certainly more differences between these two theories than there are similarities; their similarities are very few, and include only the most vague statements.
There are many differences between young Earth creationism and old Earth creation theory. The secular, scientific viewpoint of the old Earth creationists is directly at odds with the religious viewpoint of the young Earth creationists, and it is something that these two groups are commonly at loggerheads about—whether or not creationism can be taught in school science classes is a very important debate in the United States today. It seems unlikely that the two sides would ever be able to rectify their differences, because they are so completely opposite in philosophical basis. Determining some common ground between the two views may make it easier for the two sides to co-exist, which is why competing theories to young Earth creationism have ben introduced into modern Christian culture; some still hold fast to the theory of a young Earth, however.
Lewis, C. (2000). The dating game. New York: Cambridge University Press.
McCalla, A. (2006). The creationist debate. London: T & T Clark International.
McClure, K. (2009). Resurrecting the Narrative Paradigm: Identification and the Case of Young Earth Creationism. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 39(2), 189-211. doi:10.1080/02773940902766771
Young, D., & Stearley, R. (2008). The Bible, rocks, and time. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic.