My family and I are studying some history in school. We are confused how the scientific things like carbon dating, dinosaurs, age of mountain ranges, cavemen, etc. fit into scripture stuff like the creation and Adam and Eve. How old is the Earth according to scripture? Only a few thousand years old? Then how can there be dinosaurs and cavemen who lived millions of years ago? Please help! We’re confused. Thanks,
A very similar question was asked last week. I think the answer to that question will also answer the questions that you have. Below is the answer from last week’s question. I will add, however, a comment on carbon dating, which may be used for only rather recent geological time estimates. There is a radioactive isotope of carbon, called carbon 14, (14C). It has a half-life of 5100 years. That means that for any given amount of 14C, half of it will have dissipated in 5100 years. 14C is produced by neutron bombardment of the isotope of nitrogen, 14N, in the atmosphere, and unites with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, (CO2). Only an extremely small amount of the carbon in the atmosphere consists of the isotope 14. CO2 from the atmosphere is absorbed into the structure of plants through their leaves. Scientists can determine the ratio of the radioactive isotope to the stable isotope, 12C, and from the known rate of decay of 14C, they can estimate how long ago the plant material was living and absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.
The question is, how accurate are the estimates? In the first place, the cosmic ray flux into the earth’s atmosphere is known to vary. Over the last few thousand years it has fluxuated a number of times by at least ten percent. Secondly, the scientists assume that the relative concentrations of the atmospheric constituents have been constant over the geological time periods of interest. A number of factors can occur that would alter the atmospheric composition, which would in turn affect the accuracy of 14C dating. So, beyond 5000 years or so, I would not give much confidence to the time estimates based on carbon dating.
—Here is the response to the earlier question that I mentioned above.
No time scale for events prior to the Garden of Eden experience are given in the scriptures. There are some things, however, that we can put together concerning this period. One, when the earth was created, it was created as a terrestrial sphere, and did not become a telestial world until Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit. No timeline is given either for the interval between their partaking of the fruit and their expulsion from the Garden. Indications are that they were expelled from the Garden near the beginning of the first thousand years of the the earth’s temporal existence, i.e. ~4000 B.C.
Prehistoric time measurement is to be held in question. One of the reasons for this is that all scientific conclusions are based on certain assumptions that are not called into question. These are the “givens” and form the foundation for the structure of the logic upon which the conclusions are based. They are called a priori assumptions.
Let’s examine a few of them upon which scientific timelines are based. The principle assumtion is that the earth has had a benign history. That is, that the processes that effect the earth’s topology that are prominent in today’s scientific thinking, i.e., wind, rain, freezing and thawing, imperceptively slow drift of the tectonic plates and continental uplift, have always been the major influences changing the earth, and have always occurred at the same rate that they do today. This theory is called “uniformitarianism.”
An opposing theory suggests that the earth has had a cataclysmic history, i.e., that the suface of the earth as been abruptly changed by great cataclysmic events, such as major volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, and impacts by space debris.
Up until the time of Sir Isaac Newton the cataclysmic theory held sway, and Newton was one of its proponents. However, in an epic debate on the subject, the uniformitarianism theory won the day, and has been accepted by the scientific world ever since. However, there is some scriptural information, and writings by the Brethren, in addition to a preponderance of rather recently discovered information about the history of the earth that strongly supports the cataclysmic theory.
From the scriptures: the universal flood occurred in 2348 B.C. according to the English Bible (various sources date the flood anywhere from 2288 to 3246 B.C.); and the division of the earth in the days of Peleg, who was born in 2247 B.C. and lived for 239 years.
From the writings of the prophets, Brigham Young made this very interesting statement about the history of the earh in 1874,
This earth is our home, it was framed expressly for the habitation of those who are faithful to God, and who prove themselves worthy to inherit the earth when the Lord shall have sanctified, purified and glorified it and brought it back into his presence, from which it fell far into space. . . . When the earth was framed and brought into existence and man was placed upon it, it was near the throne of our Father in heaven. And when man fell . . . the earth fell into space, and took up its abode in this planetary system, and the sun became our light. When the Lord said-”Let there be light,” there was light, for the earth was brought near the sun that it might reflect upon it so as to give us light by day, and the moon to give us light by night. This is the glory the earth came from, and when it is glorified it will return again unto the presence of the Father, and it will dwell there, and these intelligent beings that I am looking at, if they live worthy of it, will dwell upon this earth (Journal of Discourses, Vol.17, p.144).
We understand from Brigham Young that before the fall of man the earth was located near the celestial throne of God, and that it is a relative newcomer to the our solar system. Since the scientific community cannot interface with such a condition, as no physical evidence for it exists, it cannot be a part of their rationale. However, the prophets have spoken, and we know that their words are the words of God. So, since the scientific community does not have any information on the physical conditions of the earth prior to the fall, all of their time estimates for conditions prior to sometime before 4000 B.C. must be held in question. We will have no definite information on the history of the earth and the life that was placed upon it prior to the advent of mortal man until it is revealed to us by the Lord.