Tree rings for skeptics of science

dead treeWhenever there is talk about the age of mankind, or the solar system, or the universe, a friend of mine delights in adding, “IN THEORY.” If the calculations denote an earthly past beyond the scale of a Creationist’s 7,000 year model, my friend considers it theoretical.

Someone might be addressing dinosaurs or geology or the Big Bang, speaking in terms of MILLIONS OF YEARS AGO, and my friend will chime “in theory!”

She’ll turn to me and justify her footnote by asking “how do they know?”

In truth, I don’t know. I don’t understand carbon dating or astronomy or quantum physics. I don’t disbelieve, I just can’t explain. I give her argument the credit of the electron-vs.-electron-microscope paradox. How can we know what an electron looks like if we can only see it with an electron microscope, which we invented with the anticipation of knowing how to look at an electron? Something like that. Yes, scientists tend to get the results they anticipate.

We attended Al Gore’s AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH the other day, about Global Warming, and researchers were charting climate changes by analyzing core samples taken from polar ice. We are able to sample ice which dates back 800,000 years apparently.

“In theory” my companion added.

“Apparently” I concurred, having no idea how ice was dated/carbon-dated.

Later in the program a scientist likened the layers of ice to the rings of a tree trunk. You can see the seasons of passing years in the grain of the wood. You can see when there might have been a forest fire, or years when the weather might have been different.

Individual layers of ice in the core samples represented similar changes in the environment. The composition of the ice trapped whatever mixture of gases comprised each year’s atmosphere. You can see each year’s climate as layers of ice formed over the last.

Then I remembered visiting Muir Woods in California and marveling at a cross-section of a tree trunk upon which scholars had marked various milestones in history. Columbus, the Battle of Hastings, the year 0 A.D., et al. Some living Grand Sequoias are as old as 3,000 years.

I can understand tree rings, and I can understand ice layers. It’s science we can see with our own eyes. Now I know where I can see 800,000 years of it. If my Christian friend wants to presuppose that God created the polar ice caps with 793,000 years of climate history already embedded in the ice, fair enough. But allow scientists the latitude to seek the lessons the Earth might have to teach us from its most distant “past.” Certainly God intended us to perceive it that way.

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The crux of this issue is of course the denial of global warming. There’s a strange correlation between those who refute man’s influence on the climate, and religion, excuse me, anti-science. If they’re end-timer Christians who are really just rooting for the end of the world, let them admit it and step out of the way. If they’re average Christians with a sane sense of responsibility to their fellow beings, they are being misled by preachers who teach them to doubt scientific research.

living treeScience begat technology begat industry (begat pollution and population) which begat this mess. Human knowledge may be a Pandora’s Box, but we are inside the box ourselves, not at its lid. We have to use scientific tools to deliver us from global catastrophe. No one is saying worship it, just listen to it.

Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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