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Nature Identifies Events during the "Gap" in Creation

For 150 years Protestant churches, including Adventists, have debated the meaning of Genesis 1:1-3 as to whether, the entire planet was formed at Creation Week or whether Creation Week occurred on an "old" Earth formed eons ago "in the beginning."[1],[2] The debate continues today. Careful analysis of Scripture, as very recently discussed by Richard Davidson,[3] clearly supports the view of a two-stage Creation. Some scholars in ancient Hebrew (e.g. C. J. Collins[4]) also support this view, while the age of the Earth (4.5 billion years), now reliably determined by modern science,[5] is in accord.

Of old has thou laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thy hands. -Psalm 102:25

Davidson and most "old earth" creationists consider a "passive" gap period occurred between the two creations, presumably, meaning that no significant creation activity appeared to occur during the gap.[*] This appears to us to be a strange conclusion. We have difficulty in understanding why God would create a planet intended to support life and then abandon it for 4.5 billion years. In this study, we note immense geological changes were found to have occurred, particularly toward the end of the "gap" period. The control of these events is beyond human understanding and could well reveal a further feature of the Creator's power. (Rev. 14.7). However, the forces of Nature involved are still evident today and, indeed, are essential to maintaining planet earth as a viable habitat.

In this article we focus on the "gap" period and use the development of the geomorphology of New Zealand as an illustration of God's design in creating the physical world to prepare the planet for Creation Week. Although New Zealand is a small country, its geomorphology displays great diversity and has been studied intensively by local geologists, some of considerable distinction, and by numerous international groups including many U.S. scientists. Because New Zealand is young in a geological sense, development of a chronology for its formation has been facilitated.

In some respects, this article relates to previous contributions[6] (see ref. 2) concerning the age of the Earth and young earth creationism (YEC). Those earlier discussions were based on scientific data and graphs that are not easily determined, and less easily understood by many readers. Some readers even displayed an anti-science attitude, noting with some alarm such stories as "The Scientific Captivity of Creation and Beyond."[7] Consequently, we base our reasoning now on features of the New Zealand natural world that all can visit and see with their own eyes, and perhaps understand, while limiting scientific measurements here to a minimum.

Submersion and Uplift

In 1642, when the Dutch mariner Abel Tasman sited the snow-capped Alps of the South Island of New Zealand, he was probably the first European to see that country. The Dutch named it Nieuw Zeeland after a province of the Netherlands. They saw it as a new land surrounded by sea, but they did not realize that the numerous alpine peaks over 10,000 feet in height, and most of the entire country, had been uplifted from the sea floor. Today, this is clearly evidenced from geology.[8],[9]

Two factors contributed to the above uplift. First, the interface between the Indo-Australian and the Pacific tectonic plates runs nearly the full length of the South Island (the Alpine Fault, see Figure 1) and then continues off the coast of the North Island. Interaction between the plates produced uplift. Second, a submerged continent (termed Zealandia[†]) occurred over and around the seafloor area which was uplifted and contributed foundation material that became part of present-day New Zealand (see Figure 1). Before the submersion, Zealandia had split from Antarctica and the east coast of Australia, both of which were then part of the giant ancient continent of Gondwana.[10],[11]

Modern seafloor mapping has provided continental edge profiles that fit together to support the concept of Zealandia, Australia, and Antarctica being joined. Confirmation comes from comparative geological studies of Australian and New Zealand ancient rock formations formed before the separation of Australia and Zealandia. The similarities are often striking indicating the countries were joined. Further confirmation is given by leaf fossils in the above rocks. Both Australia and New Zealand have fossils of the same extinct flora implying physical union as components of Gondwana (see refs. 8, 9). The split of Zealandia was initiated about 85 million years (my) ago and was complete 65 my before present while eastward rifting placed Zealandia near its present location 10 my later.[12] Based on the age of New Zealand lime stone and fossil shells,[13] and other evidence, submergence occurred 24-35 my ago. Initially, Zealandia was generally considered to have been fully submerged, but more recent evidence indicates that a small proportion of primeval New Zealand remained above sea level.[14]

After the split, rifting eastward and submersion, tectonic uplift of 7% of Zealandia about 20 my ago produced the precursor of modern New Zealand. The submarine origin of land is substantiated by several types of evidence including the widespread occurrence of limestone of a uniform age that formed from shells of marine organisms, the predominance of marine fossils relative to terrestrial, and widespread areas of inland flat land due to levelling by the sea (marine planation) during gradual submergence.[15] (see refs. 8, 9).

A new primordial land had been formed by uplift from the sea. The subsequent modifications in geomorphology are recorded in God's Book of Nature and are partially outlined below further revealing God's power as Creator.

Figure 1


A map derived by bathymetric measurements of the main portion of the submerged continent Zealandia. A map of the North and South Islands of modern New Zealand (light green) has been superimposed with the Alpine Fault marked. The Lord Howe Rise and the Norfolk Ridge of Zealandia extend about 800 km further northward. The boundary of Zealandia adjacent to the red symbol marked LHI coincides with the volcanic Lord Howe Island, which is 600 km east of the Australian coast. The small insert indicates the position of New Zealand relative to Australia. The map was modified from the SVG file: Zealandia-Continent map (Wikimedia Commons).

Alps and Plains

About five my ago, the subtropical climate that occurred in primeval New Zealand became colder, and a change in the motion of the alpine fault caused rapid uplift along the interface between the Australian and Pacific plates in the South Island.[16],[17] Uplift has continued until today, producing the Southern Alps with 23 named peaks over 10,000 feet and many glaciers. The largest of these is the Tasman glacier (area 101 km2, length 27 km, depth 600 m) which flows past the base of Mt, Cook (over 12,000 ft), the highest peak in the Alps (Figure 2A).

Several types of evidence confirm that the Alps were uplifted from the seafloor, including (1) the presence of marine fossils in the alpine rock, (2) the basic composition of greywacke, a rock formed on the seafloor, and (3) the position of the Alps closely parallels the adjacent Alpine Fault.

Figure 2

Features of the South Island, NZ, landscape referred to in the text.


2A: A small section of the Southern Alps, the mountains uplifted from the sea that extend 500 km. Mt. Tasman (left), Mt. Cook (right) both about 12,000 ft, and Lake Matheson is in the foreground. Photo purchased from Alamy Ltd. UK.


2B: The Canterbury Plains that formed on gravel 1 km deep derived from the Alps. The view shows the Western side of the Plains looking toward Mt. Hutt and the foothills of the Alps. Purchased from Alamy Ltd. UK.


2C: Rock dust (loess) produced by glaciation being blown from the bed of the Rakaia River across the Canterbury Plains. Source: ref. 21, used by permission, NZ Society of Soil Science.


2D: Red Mountain (in Otago near Fiordland) once linked to Dun Mountain, now separated by 500 km due to displacement. Note how the ultramafic rock has prevented all plant growth. Used with permission from GNS Science pictorial library, NZ.


2E: In Milford Sound near the Entrance. Purchased from Alamy Ltd. UK.


2F: Mitre Peak (in Milford Sound), that rises 6,000 feet above the water, was sculptured by glaciation which probably involved multiple glacial flows. The huge cirque or corrie (centre) carved out by ice suggests the extent of glaciation. Purchased from Alamy Ltd. UK.

The formation of the Southern Alps had an important consequence—the development of the Canterbury Plains (Figure 2B) that extend from the Alps to the sea. The east-flowing rivers that originated in the Alps carried glacier-produced rock debris which, over time, and through flood plains and gravel fans, generated a giant gravel bed (over 1 km deep) on which fertile soil developed averaging about 100 cm in thickness.[18] Seafloor cores, with chronology confirmed by dated volcanic ash layers, record the nature of river effluent. These cores showed that the Alps were fully active for over three my in producing rock debris for plain formation.[19],[20] Now, the giant glaciers of the ice age are gone and so is the expansion of the Canterbury Plains, but today, as a reminder, rock dust (loess) from the river beds can still be seen, carried by the prevailing north-westerly wind, to fertilise the land.[21] (See Fig. 2C). We might think of God uplifting the Alps and then crushing the rocks to form the plains and maintain fertility. In other words, a more active rather than passive gap!

For you are dealing with the
One who formed the mountains…
…and crushes down the mountains underneath His feet:
Jehovah, the Lord, the Lord
Almighty, is His name.
-Amos 4:13, Living Bible

In addition to causing uplift, the alpine fault induces horizontal displacement[22], and a clear example of this involves two mountains, Red mountain near Milford Sound and Dun Mountain with the associated Red Hills in Nelson. All have the same dull red colour and an unusual mineral composition that prevents plant growth. Research over many years has established that the two mountains were once linked by the Red Hills with the Alpine Fault running between them, but now they are separated by over 500 km due to displacement along the Fault.[23], [24] Red Mountain (see Fig. 2D) is on the Pacific plate while Dun Mountain is part of the Australia plate. Not only are the separated mountains very similar in composition, but associated rock formations, on opposite sides of the Fault, match.[25] (See also Ref. 22). Hence, the two mountains apparently were not created in situ but were displaced after formation. This displacement along the Fault continues today, and geology indicates that the current displacement rate (30 mm/year) has occurred over the past 4,000 years and probably for several million years.[26]

Questions for YEC: (1) How long did the established displacement of the two mountains require? and (2) How can this be rationalised with YEC 6,000 year doctrine?

In many ways, the geomorphology of New Zealand with its alpine regions and volcanism (the latter not discussed herein) is unique. But, so is its alpine flora with over 600 species, 94% of which are endemic to New Zealand. These include many unusual species designed to withstand the harsh climate. There were no mountains in Zealandia or in New Zealand after uplift from the sea and the nearest comparable mountains were in South America. The origin and diversity of these 600 species of alpine plants has presented a problem for botanists. Evolution from low-land plants, and from species dispersed from other land masses, has been proposed.[27] However, during the uplift of the Southern Alps and associated glaciation, "the biological effects of . . . [this] orogeny were restricted to extinction".[28] It certainly is difficult to see how plants could evolve under an ice sheet possibly 1 km thick moving over the alpine surface and grinding rock to gravel and dust. After the ice age ended, temperatures began to rise about 18,000 years ago, and the ice sheets were gone five to eight thousand years later. This would appear to have left insufficient time for active evolution to yield new genera but was in ample time for Creation Week.

Glaciation and Fiords

In a recent article in Spectrum, we discussed the last glaciation (ice age, glacial maximum about 23,000 years ago) and its effects on the Northern Hemisphere (see ref. 2). This glaciation and earlier glaciations also affected New Zealand markedly. The glaciated valleys in the Southern Alps produced the rock debris that became the foundations of the Canterbury Plains. Southwest New Zealand experienced several severe glacial periods with the mountains covered by ice sheets that gouged out wide-bottomed steep-sided valleys which reached the sea.[29],[30] Here immense amounts of rock debris were deposited but are now submerged. The sea level rose gradually after the last glaciation maximum (24,000 years ago), and the valleys were later flooded forming 15 large fiords (or fjords) 14 to 40 km in length, over 300 km of the coast. The deepest is Doubtful Sound (421 m), but Milford Sound (see Figures 2E, 2F) is best known as a great tourist attraction. The maximum depth below sea level is 291 m; while above water, the walls reach 2,000 m. Such fiords are, of course, not unique to New Zealand as similar fiords are even more abundant in Norway.

Some Geological Discussion

Thus far, we have considered a series of geological events, namely, the formation of the continent Zealandia and its movement eastward, its possible submersion below sea level, the subsequent uplift of 7% of its area to form ancient New Zealand, the further uplift of the Southern Alps and other mountains from the sea floor, the development of endemic alpine flora, the displacement of mountains by over 500 km, the formation of the Canterbury Plains and the glaciation that produced the numerous fiords. Hence, in the formation of New Zealand, we see a sequence of designed and coordinated events that may typify the continued activity of the Creator in the physical realm to prepare the planet for Creation Week and the creation of man in God's image. These events did not occur by chance. They are far too complex. Their final product is one of beauty, the signature of the Creator.

The million-year periods assigned by geologists to stages in the development of New Zealand have been noted above. However, periods similar to these can be reached in relation to the formation of the Southern Alps and Fiordland without reference to radiometric dating and similar complexities. Both formations require severe glaciation, and we have noted previously that the ice ages occurred over 20,000 years ago. However, moraines, glacial till, erratic rocks, and other sources of evidence indicate that a series of glacial advances and retreats occurred in South New Zealand. These extend much farther back in time probably to 140,000 years ago.[31] However, as already mentioned herein, the alpine-derived effluent of Canterbury rivers reveal a continuum of periodic glaciations extending at least two million years into the past. Hence, the Alps and fiords were glaciated over this period, and their formation commenced at an earlier time.

However, using precise methods, each geological change involved in the Creation of New Zealand can be shown to have occurred over millions of years. For example, several types of evidence established that the marked uplift to yield the Southern Alps began five my ago. Active glaciation was occurring two my later, and the habitat for alpine plants was formed after a further two my. Thus, four my of uplift produced mountains similar to those of today.

But, some (thinking of "young earthers") may still claim the above geological changes occurred at Creation Week by fiat creation (the instant creation in response to God's spoken command). However, if the Alps were formed thus, they would not have marine fossils, and the seafloor cores, which reflect alpine climate, would not reveal the recorded recurring glaciations. Also, huge deposits of off-shore rock debris are present under the sea at the entrance to each fiord. In fiat creation, there would be none, and there would be no striations on the walls of fiords caused by passage of rock embedded in glacial ice.

Modification over time is clearly involved in the formation of New Zealand. Since the latter stages are dependent on glaciation and Creation Week followed the ice ages,[32] all this terrestrial change occurred during the "gap" period. How long did the transformation of Zealandia into modern New Zealand require? Geologists (modern science) say 80 million years, and based on the magnitude of the diverse changes involved and chronology presented, that seems perfectly reasonable. The development of the geomorphology of New Zealand over time as described herein strongly confirms the concept of a two-stage creation and a long gap period involving an "old" earth on which Creation Week occurred subsequently.

Some Discussion Involving Scripture

The antiquity of the Earth was revealed to the Hebrews in Scripture they could understand (e.g. Genesis 1:1, Psalm 102:25, Hebrews 1:10). Today, we can consult God's Second Book (Nature and modern science) and find an exact age for the Earth in terms we also can understand—the answer 4.5 billion years.

YEC adherents ignore this age and the Scriptural basis for a two-stage Creation [ref. 3], and incorrectly interpret Genesis 1:1-3 to mean the planet and universe were created at Creation Week (i.e. about 6,000 years ago). Because of the false claim that this age has clear Scriptural basis, many science-literate people, and particularly the young people, are likely to reject the Bible completely!

Since there is no valid modern science to support YEC views, they have resorted to misquotations, quoting out of context, and selective quotation of science literature (see ref. 2, 6). However, a recent Spectrum article[33] indicates YEC doctrine is accepted by Adventist leaders and is now being actively promoted by YEC adherents at the theological level, and this was also evident in the book by Brian Bull and Fritz Guy who claim that "in Genesis 1 there is no indication whatever of two separate Creation processes."[34] Such claim is often made by YEC and is very relevant to the conclusions of the present article. While Davidson [ref. 3] has presented 10 reasons based solely on Scripture that support a two-stage Creation with a gap period, the claim of Bull and Guy appears to be dismissed by simple logic (see also note in ref. 34).

Genesis 1:2 states water and "the earth" were present before Creation Week. The latter could exist normally only as a planet-like sphere and "evening and morning" in Genesis 1:5 suggests one rotation every 24 hours. For stability, the sphere/planet would need to be in orbit. Realistically, that can only mean the orbiting of the sun. Hence, before Creation Week (Genesis 1:3-31), the solar system was present, at least in part. However, since the planets are probably all the same age (note the recent age determined directly for Mars),[35] the entire solar system appears to have been functional before Creation Week. Furthermore, the water referred to in Genesis 1:2 requires solar radiation to maintain the liquid state; otherwise, the Earth would have been a sphere coated in ice. The above observations are in accord with the 10 lines of evidence given (see ref. 3). This Scriptural evidence combined with the age of the planet and chronology of gap period events detailed herein establish the occurrence of the two-stage creation of our planet. Simply expressed this is creation of the solar system with a special planet Earth that was modified during the gap period, followed by Creation Week.

Belief in a 6,000 year old Earth formed in a single creation process (i.e. no "gap") defies all logic, can incite ridicule, and has no basis in Scripture or modern science. Instead, we have the truth of an ancient world created eons ago by a Creator who transcends time. Then during the ages of the gap period, final preparation was made for a recent Creation Week. The two-stage Creation, which we can confidently promote to the World, is in accord with Scripture and also modern science in accepting the age of the Earth as about 4.5 billion years old. The geological wonders of the gap period reveal a further aspect of God's design and control of our planet.

Summary

New Zealand, a microcosm of geological change, is only a small country, about the area of Colorado or the British Isles. It is young in a geological sense, and this has facilitated elucidation of a diverse geological past. Where else in such a small area does one find remnants of a submerged continent, snow-capped alps uplifted from the ocean floor but now endowed with a unique alpine flora, large glacial lakes, deep glaciers up to 27 km in length, high water falls, a great plain built of alpine sediment 1 km deep, mountains that moved over 500 km, very deep fiords, intense volcanism (not discussed herein) that built high mountains and numerous young volcanic cones and ash from many former major eruptions.

Creation is evident in the unique alpine flora with 600 species and nearly all occur exclusively in New Zealand. However, in the modifications of the early Earth revealed by New Zealand geology we see something very significant: the integration of continent formation, volcanism, sea-floor uplift, glaciation, mountain and plain building, and lateral fault displacement. All this occurred over long periods of time. It constituted time-dependent abiotic change prior to Creation Week and involved coordinated events that are clear evidence of a designer, a Creator. All the events mentioned above can be fitted into a chronology and occurred during the gap period before Creation Week. The events confirm the two-stage creation of the Earth, a long gap period, and the fallacy of YEC, while an overlooked aspect of Creation is revealed.

Geological change in New Zealand, a small country, has been discussed, but what would have occurred globally during the gap period, and how were the events coordinated to enable creation of a perfect Earth?

To God be the Glory (Rev. 14:7).

 

References and Notes:


[*]The "Gap", as we understand it, and as used herein, is a time gap, between the Creation "In the Beginning...", that is, eons ago, and Creation Week, which appears to be a very recent event, and which we address separately in a following story titled "Nature Confirms a Recent Creation Week."

[†]Near the end of the 20th century, one does not expect to learn of a new continent, but one was found. It was named Zealandia in 1995 by the U.S. geologist, Dr. B. P. Luyendyk. Surveys of the seafloor around New Zealand had revealed a submerged continent half the area of Australia.  Geologically, it has attracted great international interest.


[1]G. Pfandl (2003), J. Adventist Theological Society, 14:176-194.

[2]D.S. Letham and C.J. Gibson (2016), Spectrum, February 10. Ice ages research demolishes Young Earth Creationism.

[3]R.M. Davidson (2017), Perspective Digest, 22: no. 1.

[4]C.J. Collins (2006), Genesis 1-4, Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing Company.

[5]U.S. Geological Survey(2016). How do we know the Age of the Earth? G.B. Dalrymple (2006), The TalkOrigins Archive. How Old is the Earth?

[6]D.S. Letham and C.J. Gibson (2016), Spectrum, March 4. Ice age research: Reader Feedback and Authors' Response; D.S. Letham and C.J. Gibson (2016), Spectrum, March 23. Ice age research: Reader Feedback and Authors' Response.

[7]D. Larson (2016), Spectrum, 44, issue 4. "Cosmology and morality: The Scientific Captivity of Creation and Beyond." pp. 13-17.

[8]I.J. Graham (2011) (Ed). A Continent on the Move: New Zealand Geoscience into the 21st Century. Geological Society of New Zealand and GNS Science, Wellington, NZ. 377 pp.

[9]H. Campbell and G. Hutching (2011). In Search of Ancient New Zealand. GNS Science/Penguin Group, NZ, 239 pp.

[10]N. Mortimer and 10 coworkers (2017). GSA Today (Geological Society America) 27: Issue 3.

[11]S. McLoughlin (2001). Australian J. Botany 49: 271-300.

[12]S. Cande, J.M. Stock (2004), in The Cenozoic Southern Ocean: Tectonics Sedimentation and Climate Change between Australia and Antarctica. Geophysical Monograph Series 5, American Geophysical Union.

[13]C.S. Nelson and 5 coworkers (2004). New Zealand J. Geology and Geophysics, 47: 719-730.

[14]M. Heads (2017). Biogeography and Evolution in New Zealand, Boca Raton, Fl.: CRC Press. pp. 250-261.

[15]C.A. Landis and 5 coworkers (2008). Geological Mag. 145: 173-197.

[16]G.E. Batt and 4 coworkers (1999), In: U. Ring et al (eds.) Exhumation Processes: Normal Fauling, Ductile Flow and Erosion. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 154: 261-282.

[17]G.E. Batt and 3 coworkers (1999). Geological Society of America Bulletin, 112: 250-266; G.E. Batt and J. Braun (1999). Geophysical J. International, 136: 403-420.

[18]D.D. Wilson (1985), J. of Hydrology, 24: 32-44.

[19]R.M. Carter and P. Gammon (2004). Science, 304: 1659-1662.

[20]C.S. Nelson and 3 coworkers (1985). Nature, 318: 361-363.

[21]L. Molloy (1998). Soils in the New Zealand Landscape - the Living Mantle, (2nd Ed.). New Zealand Society of Soil Science, Dept of Soil Science, Lincoln University, Canterbury, NZ, pp. 179-187.

[22]R. Galbreath (1999). "Harold Wellman and the Fault", New Zealand Geographic, Issue 41, Jan-March 1999; S. Nathan (2011). "Harold Wellman and the Alpine Fault of New Zealand". Episodes, 34: 51-56.

[23]S. Lamb and 3 coworkers (2016). Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 17: 1197-1213. See comment by T. Cook, EOS 97: 22 July 2016.

[24]W.J. Sivell and M.T. McCulloch (2000). New Zealand J. Geology and Geophysics, 43: 133-146.

[25]C.A. Landis (1980). New Zealand J. Geology and Geophysics, 23: 551-567.

[26]A.F. Cooper and R.J. Norris (1995), New Zealand J. Geology and Geophysics, 38: 509-514.

[27]R.C. Winkworth and 3 coworkers (2005), Organisms Diversity and Evolution, 5:237-247.

[28]See Reference, 14, p. 304.

[29]D.L. Shuster and 3 coworkers (2011), Science, 332: 84-88.

[30]B.R. Stanton (1986), New Zealand J. Marine and Freshwater Research, 20: 299-314.

[31]H. Rother and 5 coworkers (2014), Proceedings Natl. Acad. Science, U.S., 111: 11630-11635.

[32]See reference 2, and discussion in a forthcoming paper expected to be submitted to Spectrum in the next few weeks: Title: Nature Confirms a Recent Creation Week.

[33]R. Hannon (2017), Spectrum, March 16, "The Creation/Evolution False Dilemma."

[34]B. Bull and F. Guy (2011), God, Sky and Land, Roseville, CA: Adventist Forum, p. 137. Note this claim is repeated on p. 36. On pp. 137-138, texts proposed to support YEC are given including a misquotation of Ex. 20:11. All these texts and conclusions are assessed by Davidson (ref. 3).

[35]K.A. Farley and 33 coworkers (2013), Science Express, 9 December, pp. 1-9.

 

D. Stuart Letham was awarded a PhD (Birmingham, UK) in organic chemistry in 1955. His subsequent research work included the purification, determination of structure and synthesis of the first naturally occurring cytokinin, compounds that induce cell division in plants. They occur in plants at the level of 1 part per billion (see Letham, Annual Review of Plant Physiology 1967, 1983). He is the author of over 190 refereed papers in biochemistry and plant physiology journals. He retired from the Australian National University in 1992 as Professor Emeritus.

Col J. Gibson worked in accounting in industry for a decade before taking an academic position as a senior lecturer in accounting at universities in Australia, New Zealand, and the University of South Pacific (Suva, Fiji). As a natural naturalist from an early age he has been active, as a hobby interest, in helping many professional scientists in fieldwork, and now in retirement still acts as a citizen scientist, which includes field observations and bird photography.

Both authors have discussed the Science/Creation subject for the past few years and thought it was time to put some of their thoughts on this interface into the public arena for others to consider and comment.

See also: 
"Perspective: Clarifying 'Understanding Ice Core Science," 
"Ice Core Editorial Authors Reply to Respondents," 
"Perspective: Ice Ages Research Demolishes Young Earth Creationism,"
"Ice Age Research Demolishes Young Earth Creationism: Reader Feedback & Authors' Response" and
"Ice Age Research Demolishes Young Earth Creationism: Authors; Second Response"

 

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