“Is Genesis History?” is a two-hour documentary examining the origins of the Earth. I was present at the one-day showing on February 23 and was intrigued to see how this particular film would handle the difficult nuances of creation history. Here are my brief thoughts.
The documentary supports a “young Earth” view of the Earth’s origin, meaning that instead of the 4.6 billion-year-old age of the Earth that is standard in textbooks and museums, the young Earth view estimates its age to be closer to 10,000 years old. In order to support their position, the filmmakers travel to a host of visually stunning locations and interview creationist experts in the fields of microbiology, astronomy, geology, archeology, marine biology, paleontology, philosophy, and so forth. I found the film to be engaging, informative, challenging, and worthwhile. Here are a few things I liked about the documentary, followed by a few weaknesses.
Describing the Problem
The strongest aspect of the film was the early establishment of the overall problem when studying the Earth. Del Tacket, our host, and all the accompanying experts used the same language to describe the conflict between two competing paradigms and this ran consistently throughout the movie. In other words, we knew the framework from the beginning of the documentary and they never waivered from their starting point.
The conflict was labeled as the “conventional paradigm” vs the “historical Genesis paradigm.” The former employs the use of “deep time” to understand the origins of the Earth, while the latter begins with the historical credibility of Scripture to provide the framework for scientific inquiry. I appreciated how in every segment of the film, these conflicting paradigms were revisited to demonstrate how the current topic would be viewed differently depending on the model. Dr. Robert Carter, a marine biologist and contributor to the film, has said in a separate teaching series that, “facts are not independent. Facts are always interpreted according to the framework that a person has.”
Using the Present to Date the Past
One effective segment described the problematic use of present day geological “decay” times as a standard for dating the history of the earth. These processes, which were largely over my head, were described as lacking uniformity throughout the ages, thus creating an unreliable dating mechanism. Geologist Andrew Snelling says, “What we see in the present is really only minuscule by comparison with what was seen in the past. … We can’t use present-day rates of these processes to understand how quickly and how majestically in terms of scale the geological record accumulated.”
The film attempted to demonstrate how the evolutionary position is heavily dependent on long amounts of time. The 19th-century geologist Charles Lyell proposed the possibility of the Earth being billions of years old, and it was on this Lyell framework that Charles Darwin crafted his famous scientific contribution we know as evolution. Thus, scientists operating in the conventional paradigm are required to use the scientific measurements from today to create the billion years necessary for the paradigm to work.
To challenge this, microbiologist Kevin Anderson presented a four-foot long horn of a Triceratops. Woven into the bone was soft, flexible tissue that still had cells and proteins, creating an obvious problem for the conventional paradigm. When asked how the larger scientific community responded to this finding, Anderson responded by saying they “said the findings were wrong.”
Four-Dimensional Human Genome
Probably the segment that had me giving the biggest fist pump was Robert Carter’s discussion on the four-dimensional human genome. Carter says, “”Life is so complex that small changes can’t explain it, just like you can’t take a computer operating system and look at it, and say, ‘Oh yeah, this was built up one digit at a time over any length of time.’ No, it took an intelligent person to sit down and put it together. … The number of changes [required for evolution], and the types of changes [we see in nature] are not something that you can do one change at a time.’’ He compared this to a four-dimension computer program, explaining how the fourth dimension must be in place for the first demension to work properly; they are all inter-related. Thus, adding changes one at a time over a period of time cannot explain the complexity of life.
As you would expect, the personalities of these brilliant scientists were all over the map. Some were dry, some were funny. Most were easy going, but a couple were hardcore. One of my favorite was Steve Boyd, a Hebraist. His straight forward approach was incredibly fresh, and he essentially says, “listen, if you read a million years into the Hebrew word for “day”, you’re just wrong.” I was laughing during his segment.
A Few Weaknesses…
Of the thirteen (13) experts interviewed for the film, not a single person was female or a minority. For a documentary that is going to be destroyed by the secular community (and faith community for that matter), why give even more fuel to their fire?
Too Much Material
I felt that the film bit off more than it could chew. We moved from one segment to the next fairly quickly and the content was so overwhelming that we were left scratching our heads quite often. In addition, the film could have eased us into the material instead of throwing us into the deep end by immediately discussing the various geological layers of the Grand Canyon.
Gap Theory & More
One of the more telling aspects of the film was its unwillingness to consider creation science that still holds to an old earth. I felt this was the biggest weakness because it tended to undermine their main point. Let me explain…
The primary thesis of the movie is that God is a better teller of history than science. But the film seems to dismiss the possibility that the historical reliability of Genesis 1 and 2 does not require a young earth scientific conclusion. The film rightly demonstrates how the conventional paradigm is dependent on the Earth being billions of years old, thus all data must be forced into that presupposition. But once we insist that the historical reliability of Genesis demands a young earth view, then we are also forcing our present day conclusions.
Now, I think the film would respond by saying, “science cannot do history. We have a reliable historical document that provides a framework more dependable than the conventional paradigm, thus our conclusions are not coerced in the same way.” Nevertheless, I would like to have seen this fleshed out a bit more. At the end of the movie there was a 17 minute follow up discussion with Del Tacket and three of the experts. They briefly, in two or three sentences, address the possibility of holding to Genesis as history but denying a young earth.
Paul Nelson, a Christian philosopher who is an outspoken young earth creationist, was featured in the film. After viewing the final cut, he has written an article describing his uneasiness with what he is calling a “false dichotomy.” Although not identical, his concerns echo my own.
Overall, I am glad I took the time to watch “Is Genesis History?” and it was well worth the money. I doubt any conventional paradigm folks will be convinced, but it is a strong contribution in the ongoing discussion of the Earth’s origins.