by Jack Hoehn
It’s summer time. Kids out of school, mom and dad have a few weeks off — so we roll to the lake, drive to the farm, and take another look at this big beautiful world we credit to an Intelligent Designer and Powerful Sustainer, who created time, amongst the rest of the amazing living machines he gave us to play with.
I met my siblings in Aspen, Colorado. The Subaru I drove to the airport, the Canadair jet I rode to Denver, the gondola I took up a Rocky mountain, and the bike I peddled along an Aspen trail, were all clearly designed and purposefully assembled. Each machine I used needed someone’s idea, required specific materials which were processed, fitted, and then assembled over a period of time.
What about earth, and the living things in it? What about the rocks and mountains, what about the lichens and mosses, the Traveler’s Gentian, the Fireweed, the Penstemon? Who designed the gigantic root we call Aspen which is a huge colony of trees joined by a common underground network of life? What about the bulldogs, English or French with rolling shoulders and bat ears? What about that beautiful woman riding at my side?
No one’s idea? Naked chance for materials? Unprocessed by fully random mutations? Assembled strictly on survival advantage? Then why isn’t everything as utilitarian and ugly as a Soviet apartment building? Why is earth and life on it, in fact, so very beautiful, supportive, generous, colorful, interdependent, and just plain fun? Why are the simplest, most primitive bacteria so programmed and designed?
Stephen Hawking’s latest book denying the Designer, still titles itself, The Grand Design! And like all physicists stumbles upon the obvious, “Our universe and its laws appear to have a design that both is tailor-made to support us, and if we are to exist, leaves little room for alteration. That is not easily explained, and raises the natural question of why it is that way.”1 “The discovery relatively recently of the extreme fine-tuning of so many of the laws of nature could lead at least some of us some back to the old idea that this grand design is the work of some grand designer.” 2
And yes, some of us do find that the idea of a grand design having a Grand Designer does fit like a hand in a glove!3 We do believe that the Creator revealed in the Bible is the necessary and sufficient answer to the question, “Why is nature so intelligently designed?”
Our Creator also creates time. There is a “beginning.” And he calls the light, not “light,” but “day.” And he sets heavenly bodies for “seasons.” And he numbers the yom of creation.4
So as we look at his Aspen groves we also look at his time as recorded in the creation.
I am standing at about 9,000 feet elevation on July 6. 2012 on the ski mountain called Snowmass, part of the Aspen, Colorado resort in the Rocky Mountains. Down below me is a small 12 acre newly excavated but ancient lake, bulldozed out for a water reservoir for the resort and village of Snowmass in 2010. It is on a ridge between two river valleys, and is surrounded by massive peaks some over 14,000 feet high.
Figure 1 Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village, CO.
Construction of the reservoir was suddenly halted in November 2010 when the bulldozers uncovered a huge bone. “…a pair of giant ribs flicked over the top of the (dozer) blade. Jesse (Steele) stopped the machine and hopped out to take a look. The ground in front of his blade was littered with big brown bones. Instead of getting excited, Jesse got scared…they began to gather the bones. They found a partial jawbone with an 8 inch long tooth. They found a tusk. They found big vertebrae. It was clear that this was a big skeleton. Joe…came over to the find, took one look, turned…and said, “This is not a cow!”5
Kirk Johnson from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science sent a team and discovered that this little lake was a trap and preservative for hundreds of ancient animals. Working against a construction deadline and the winters when snow would take over the territory for the skiers, they organized a team that took out over 5,426 fossilized remnants of ancient animals no longer living, but obviously part of the design of life we can still see today.
Elephants of two different kinds, from two different climates and food sources were found. Deepest in the filled in lake ( a lake made of ancient glacial moraine at its sides from the retreating glacier that formed it) were American Mastodons (scientific estimate 120,000 years ago) along with gigantic prehistoric Bison latifrons with massive horns 6 feet across, and giant Jefferson Ground Sloths the size of bears. Their bones were covered by layers of mud flowing from the surrounding mountains, filling the lake and turning it into a marsh (scientific estimate about 70,000 years ago). Here new species of a larger elephant called the Columbian Mammoth now got caught in the muddy marshes, along with other species not found in the deeper lake, camels and mule deer.
You can view this exciting recent discovery on the internet.
https://video.pbs.org/video/2183288240 — a preview
https://video.pbs.org/video/2192201845 — PBS news about the Snowmastedon,
https://video.pbs.org/video/2191520252 — full NOVA “Ice Age Deathtrap”
Now calculate time. The lake is made of glacial moraine. So it comes after the last ice age. Nothing here can be the result of a Noah-flood. We are at 9,000 feet. The lake was made by the glaciers that carved a post Noah-flood world. The lake contains generations of 2 different kinds of elephants that are not found together. Elephants with two different kinds of teeth–the deeper, older Mastodon has hard ridges for chewing branches and bark. The later Mammoth is bigger but has flatter grinding teeth for chewing grass.
Mastodon were not hunted because they lived before humans came to this area. Mastodons are older. Mammoths are relatively recent. Mammoths are found with arrows in them. The Mammoth bones in Snowmass found in upper layers of the later shallow lake had stones over them, suggesting they may have been submerged intentionally by humans to preserve the meat? An early form of refrigeration?
So calculate the time. Present, minus how much?
Subtract – When humans first appeared in North America and coexisted with Mammoths and Camels?
Subtract—When Mastodons and Ground Sloths pre-existed humans and Mammoths?
Subtract—When Glaciers covered Colorado, ground out the valleys in the Rockies, retreated and created Snowmass’s Ziegler Lake?
Now Subtract—the Rockies themselves. Clearly as you drive through the Rockies you see the layers of sediment laid down that are now thrust up and tilted into the sky. So if the layers of sediment you think were Noah-flood, then you need time for the hundreds of layers of sediment to turn into rock. For the rock to be uplifted from a sea-bed filled with fossils of sea creatures and sharks, into 14,000 + foot Rockies. Then for the ice age to fill them with glaciers capable of carving them as we see them today and making Snowmass’s Lake as they retreated…..
I know our brains are now swimming! I’m not trying to establish any particular date, but the bottom line for me is, you just can’t have the designing, creating the materials of the Rockies with their many animal fossils, tilting them up, carving them with an ice age, creating this little dangerous lake that captures and preserve different eras of animal life—in only 4,000 years.
You can do the parts starting with the ice age in the 120,000 years most scientists calculate. Or who knows perhaps if I tried really hard I might argue what I see just might have happened in 13,000 years, (although I’d have to go against a very lot of independently confirming evidence for the larger number).
But neither you nor I can honestly fit all this into just 4,000 years.
Therefore neither you nor I should force faithful, honest, godly, exploring, observing, thinking, praying, creationist Adventists to accept a 4,000 year post flood chronology as necessary for their salvation.
Once Adventists go on vacation, see the lake ourselves, view the actual bones in the Denver museum6, we say what is true is true. We will adjust our theology to truth, to reality, not clinging to idealized schemes of how we used to think, or wished we could think how it should have happened.
It’s vacation time! Leave your watches and your previous chronology at home. Just enjoy this wonderful intelligently designed world. Give time back to God who created it. He can have as much of it as he wishes to accomplish the intelligent planning, preparing, processing, assembly and sustaining of life on earth. Time is an issue for us, but it is not an issue for God.
Let science show us the Grand Design and let us show scientists (as we thank them for their many practical services to us all) our ideas about the Grand Designer.
Please stop forcing chronological impossibilities on our fellow church members, so scientists can again listen to us introduce them to the Ancient of Days7 who has all the time in this world and even more in the world to come.
1Stephen Hawking, 2010, The Grand Design, p. 162.
2 Stephen Hawking, 2010, The Grand Design, p. 164. [My copy of the book says “…some of us some back…” I’m not sure if this is a typo for “…some of us to come back…”? ]
3 For a kind but robust exposure of Stephen Hawking’s missteps in his denial of a Designer, see John C. Lennox, 2011, God and Stephen Hawking.
4 yom is Hebrew for the light portion of time as opposed to the night portion of time; or one rotation about earth’s axis; or some specific but indefinite time, such as “The Day of the Lord” an age or era, such as we might say, “back in the day of the dinosaur”. (I am told there is no Hebrew word for age or era, other than yom?)
5 Kirk Johnson and Ian Miller, 2012, Digging Snowmastodon, Discovering an Ice Age World in the Colorado Rockies, page 8.
6 As you read this volunteers under scientific direction are working on these fossilized animal bones in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It’s well worth a visit to watch them work on this treasure trove of ancient animals.
7 Daniel 7.