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Many Christians believe that creation was cursed because of Adam & Eve's fall into sin, and that death entered creation because of the fall but not before. In other words, the idea of pre-fall death is rejected. I personally believe that this is a very reasonable position to hold from a Scriptural standpoint and that compelling Scriptural arguments can be made in its favor. However, matters get complicated when secular scientific theories are brought into the picture. In particular, a mass extinction event known as the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (which is commonly believed to be the responsible for the mass extinction of dinosaurs about 66 million years ago) might become a non-trivial complication for the "no pre-fall death" view. Below a few quotes from the Wikipedia article:

The Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) extinction event[a] (also known as the Cretaceous–Tertiary (K–T) extinction)[b] was a sudden mass extinction of three-quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth, approximately 66 million years ago. With the exception of some ectothermic species such as the sea turtles and crocodilians, no tetrapods weighing more than 25 kilograms (55 pounds) survived. It marked the end of the Cretaceous period, and with it the end of the entire Mesozoic Era, opening the Cenozoic Era that continues today.

As originally proposed in 1980 by a team of scientists led by Luis Alvarez and his son Walter, it is now generally thought that the K–Pg extinction was caused by the impact of a massive comet or asteroid 10 to 15 km (6 to 9 mi) wide, 66 million years ago, which devastated the global environment, mainly through a lingering impact winter which halted photosynthesis in plants and plankton. The impact hypothesis, also known as the Alvarez hypothesis, was bolstered by the discovery of the 180 km (112 mi) Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula in the early 1990s, which provided conclusive evidence that the K–Pg boundary clay represented debris from an asteroid impact.The fact that the extinctions occurred simultaneously provides strong evidence that they were caused by the asteroid.

A wide range of species perished in the K–Pg extinction, the best-known being the non-avian dinosaurs. It also destroyed myriad other terrestrial organisms, including some mammals, birds, lizards, insects, plants, and all the pterosaurs.

If we assume that 1) those who reject pre-fall death are right and 2) the scientists advancing the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event are also right, then it would logically follow that Adam and Eve had to have existed millions of years ago prior to the extinction of dinosaurs -- an idea that I would find hard to reconcile with the genealogies connecting Adam to Jesus in the Bible.

Question: How do Christians who reject pre-fall death reconcile their views with the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event that is believed to have caused the mass extinction of dinosaurs and other species about 66 million years ago, according to scientific sources?

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To expand on GratefulDisciple's answer...

...the short version is that a lot of them don't.

There are, as I see it, three-and-a-half options. GratefulDisciple already explained the "young-Earth Creationist" approach, which is to "reconcile" the two views by rejecting the Uniformitarianist worldview outright. There are many excellent resources that can help you argue that belief in a "young"¹ earth is not "unscientific", as Uniformitarianism (which is itself a religion, albeit an atheistic one) would have you believe. Answers in Genesis, the Creation Research Society, the Institute for Creation Research and Creation Ministries International are some of the better known, and if you aren't already familiar with them, I commend you to spend some time looking around. (I also commend anyone that supports Uniformitarianism to get to know their "opponents", because, frankly, if you aren't familiar with the science that contradicts Uniformitarianism, you have absolutely no business dismissing it out of hand.)

(¹ Personally, I think 7,000 years is pretty old!)

Option two is to adopt a belief system that rejects the doctrine of Original Sin. Note that this may occur insidiously, by accepting belief in death prior to The Fall without considering the consequences. However, death is "the wages of sin", and the existence of death necessarily implies the existence of sin. (But note also this question.) Thus, any belief that death preceded The Fall (i.e. Adam's Original Sin) is to deny scripture which clearly tells us that God's original creation was "very good". (This other question also goes somewhat into the contradiction of believing in both Original Sin and Uniformitarianism/Evolutionism.)

Option three is... to simply choose to ignore the issue and not even attempt to reconcile the two beliefs.

Options two and three, which unfortunately cover all too many people that consider themselves Christian, are both, to some degree, a literal exercise in doublethink. Thankfully, it sounds like you have not yet fallen into that trap. Rejoice that God has called you to faith, and strive to surround yourself with those who would build up that faith rather than try to tear it down.

Okay... but I said "three and a half". What's the "half"? Well, that would be the (second) approach described in k_n_c's answer; believing in a cause-and-effect relationship but not a temporal relationship. Personally, I (and many other theologians) reject this view, and I would consider this a variant on the second option. While there is certainly an argument to be made that God must have known "in advance" that Man would Sin, arguing that Creation was imperfect before Sin seems tenuous, at least to me. A reading of the Bible (Genesis 3:16-19 in particular) which prefers to take a direct ("literal") interpretation would seem to imply that the cause (Original Sin) temporally preceded the effect (Death entering into creation). However, it may well be that many Christians believe this, and since you asked how Christians approach this dilemma, not which approach is correct, I have upvoted k_n_c's answer accordingly.

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    Two minor points: (1) The entirety of this answer would be more clear/accurate if it stated clearly that this framing is the position of Christians who believe Creation happened 6–10k years ago. If someone were to post an answer dismissing this one, they would need to indicate it described the view of Christians who read the Bible differently. (2): "A plain reading" really shows the cards of this answer. I don't know how meaningful or helpful it can be to discuss the way a minority of Christians approach this question without discussing the Biblical hermeneutic that leads them there.
    – user53478
    Apr 4 at 19:10
  • As to (1), I think most answers here are going to be biased. As to (2), I acknowledge my terminology may be leading, and TBH I'm not really happy with it either. What I mean is something like an "Occam's razor" reading; that is, assuming that the most obvious possible reading is the one that is intended. I'm not aware of a more neutral way to phrase that absent a long explanation, but suggestions are welcomed!
    – Matthew
    Apr 4 at 19:19
  • (2) The issue isn’t the terminology; it’s the hermeneutic and the silent role it’s playing in this discussion. (1) ”Biased” is fine/good if there’s a clear signpost of: this is a description of the view of a Christian who holds x view. (3) Your answer mischaracterizes mine: I didn’t endorse or privilege any Christian group/position in my answer; I simply described varying Christian positions as close as possible to their own self-understandings.
    – user53478
    Apr 4 at 19:27
  • obviously this is going to be sort of contentious, but please leave that stuff in chat. This answer appears to be sourced and cuts the mustard and appears to have answered the OP's question well enough to have it selected. So any extra stuff, you probably want to hash out in chat or just VTC the question as opinion based. It doesn't say YEC specifically, but I'd read that into it.
    – Peter Turner
    Apr 5 at 20:26
  • @PeterTurner, for the record, we did, here (chat was started from a different answer). Since chat isn't forever, I'll note for posterity that we in fact had a very civil, productive discussion which improved this answer, and I'm happy to say "thank you again" to k_n_c somewhere that won't disappear in a month.
    – Matthew
    Apr 6 at 1:27
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Those creationist Christians typically place the "extinction event" in Noah's day, thus long after the fall of the historic Adam.

An example is from the well-known Young Earth model defender, Institute for Creation Research, who published a rebuttal in their 2001 article Chicxulub and the Demise of the Dinosaurs written by one of their scholars: Donald B. DeYoung, PhD who is also the President of the Creation Research Society.

After summarizing Luis Alvarez's theory, he highlighted that scientific support is not unanimous, that there are 5 major extinctions in the evolution view, that there are still 3 basic remaining questions, and that the creationist explanation is still viable.

Excerpt from the article: (emphasis mine).

A Creationist Conclusion

In the evolution view there have been at least five major extinctions of life during earth history. We may expect continued zealous efforts in coming years to tie these alleged extinctions to crater-like blemishes across the earth. Creationists challenge the time scale which widely separates these extinction events. In one alternative view, there was just one single major earth catastrophe of judgment which caused the near extinction of life, the Genesis flood of Noah's day. Thus the separate extinctions actually are closely related episodes taking place during the year-long global flood.

The K-T clay layer is just one small portion of sediment accumulation during the flood. There was both volcanic and collision activity associated with the flood, perhaps including Chicxulub and other craters (Froede and DeYoung, 1996). However, the dinosaurs were not driven to extinction at this time. Instead, living dinosaur types were sheltered aboard the Ark. They then gradually disappeared in post-flood centuries due to climate changes and other possible causes.

Several dramatic movies have portrayed deadly asteroids or comets pummeling the earth and endangering humanity itself in the years to come. The creation view is far more optimistic about the future, realizing that there is a definite future plan for mankind. We are not the result of chance, nor do we, or the earth's animal and plant life, face imminent extermination from a random space collision.

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Most or all Christians (I have yet to encounter an exception) believe that death entered the world through sin. Only Christians who believe in a young-earth — who are a small minority among Christian groups — believe that there was a short period without death, then the arrival of human beings and a short period with human beings and without death, then the arrival of sin and the introduction of death into the remainder of human history. Other Christians (Catholics, Orthodox, and several major mainline Protestant sects, for example) admit the possibility of the theory and timeline of evolutionary biology, and therefore also the existence of death before human beings and before sin (“before sin” taken in the sense of linear time, not in the causal sense).

So essentially the question here asks why Christians who believe the world is <7,000 years old don’t accept the existence of evidence of an extinction event 65 million years ago. Well, they don’t accept the existence of any evidence of anything existing before 7,000 years ago. So the issue is rather further upstream than the focus of this question.

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    YECs don't accept the interpretation of certain evidence as "proving" evolutionism or an "old" Earth. Conversely, many "scientists" dogmatically reject any and all evidence that the Earth might not be billions of years old. Those that reject a young Earth, for which there is plenty of evidence, and plenty of viable alternate interpretations for what evidence is claimed to support a billions-of-years Earth, are no less guilty of dogma than YECs. Incidentally, this is an excellent question that illustrates the fundamental incompatibility between Uniformitarianism and Christianity.
    – Matthew
    Apr 4 at 16:56
  • @Matthew This sounds like a take on how a Christian who believes in a young Earth would describe the disagreement. I imagine Christians who reject the validity of the biblical herme
    – user53478
    Apr 4 at 18:00
  • neutic associated with belief in a <7k year old year would probably describe the disagreement differently (disagreement between various positions that assess biological/geological evidence).
    – user53478
    Apr 4 at 18:11
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    Indeed, and unfortunately there are many, many such people. I don't mean to knock your answer in general, I just disagree (emphatically) with your claim that YECs "don’t accept any evidence ..." (emphasis altered). It isn't that YECs "don't accept" evidence, but interpret it in a way that supports their position. Which is what Uniformitarianist also do (while also rejecting much evidence against their dogma).
    – Matthew
    Apr 4 at 18:11
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    Right that (what you just described) is more or less the language I would associate with Christian belief in a young earth — the view that it’s not a question of accepting evidence but of interpreting it, or of saying ”Uniformitarianists” (I’m not familiar with using that term in this way) have dogmas. I would not expect Christians who reject a literalist biblical hermeneutic — or whatever hermeneutic leads to these positions — on the most part to use this kind of language or accept these depictions. I say that because I’ve never seen a case of it.
    – user53478
    Apr 4 at 18:18
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Until Mary Schweitzer's discoveries of soft tissue it was scientific orthodoxy that soft tissue could not remain as soft tissues for more than a few thousand years: the oldest soft tissue until her finds were in Egyptian mummies. Once she found supposedly much older soft tissue, amongst the scientific community that stopped doubting her, there was a huge amount of scrambling around looking for scientific explanations for very old soft tissue in order to ensure that uniformitarian notions of the age of the earth and the dating of the era of the dinosaurs remained comfortably, though it must be said a little more precariously than hithertofore, intact. On the face of it it is absurd to me for anyone to believe that any soft tissue at all can remain intact in a dinosaur fossil eighty million years old.

We are constantly bombarded with very accurate assertions of the dating of various fossils and periods in the uniformitarian model: a couple were wandering around a museum and came across a fossil which had no notice indicating how old it was, and they really wanted to know. They could only find a man sitting at the entrance to the museum room, (who was keeping an eye on the visitors), so they asked him he knew anyone they could ask. “Actually I happen to know myself: it is 78 million years old and two days.” “That’s incredible! How can you possibly, possibly know it so accurately?” “Ah, well, you know”, he said, “a scientist was taking a guided tour around the museum and I overheard him say that that fossil was 78 million years old and that tour was the day before yesterday.”

Dating, such as that of the K-Pg extinction event at exactly 66 million years ago mentioned in the OP's question (how is it known it wasn't 65 million years ago... or 67... or 60 or 70 million?) is laughably absurd, and probably only designed to pull the wool over the eyes of the unscientific masses. But, more, it must come as a bit of a shocker to discover it is impossible to arrive at any dates at all without making rather sweeping assumptions.

Isotopic Dating

The only direct way you may be able to date a long-dead creature or fossil is to use radiocarbon dating and compare the quantity of the different isotopes.

Radiocarbon dating

A continual process occurs with cosmic rays bombarding the upper atmosphere producing fast moving neutrons; when these neutrons collide with nitrogen atoms they produce radioactive carbon 14. This gets used the same as "normal" carbon in plant tissue which gets eaten by animals. When the animal dies it has a ratio of c14 and c12 comparable to the ratio in the atmosphere. From the point of death the ratio of c14 to c12 begins to alter as the c14 decays. If we assume that the ratio of c14 to c12 has not changed in the atmosphere throughout the earth's history then it is possible to arrive at an age for long-dead organic material, both animal and vegetable. But radiocarbon dating can only possibly give meaningful measurements up to about 40,000 years old because the half-life length of decay is only 5700 years: every 5700 years there is half as much c14 at the end as there was at the beginning. So, because of the relative shortness of the half-life, even if the assumption that the ratio of c14 to c12 in the earth's atmosphere has remained constant is a correct assumption, it is not possible to date fossils supposedly millions of years old using this method.

Other isotopic dating methods

Uranium has a half-life of 4.5 billion years and decays by a series of steps down to lead. But uranium is not absorbed by animals and, apart from c14, no other radioactive isotopes are absorbed by animals either (so no other r-active methods can be used to date fossils directly). So the only way to date fossils is to try to date the rock layers in which a fossil is found. In the case of uranium and lead, three different ratios have been tried in the past 238U verses 206Pb, 235U verses 206Pb, and 207Pb verses 206Pb, These three methods have typically been tried on the same rock strata. If the three different methods come up with the same age for a rock then that gives some confidence for the age of the rock. Unfortunately this three pronged method almost never comes up with any useful date. And there are assumptions with this method: first it is assumed either there is no leakage or we know the extent of any leakage either into or out of the rock of both the uranium and the lead. In fact “uranium is often in a form that is readily soluble in weak acid” (Dr Sylvia Baker, “Bone of Contention”, 2002, page 23). Secondly, we must assume that the rate of decay has remained constant. And thirdly, and most important of all, we must make assumptions about the amount of the uranium and lead isotopes that the rock started with in the first place. (These three assumptions have to be made irrespective of what radioactive method you use, whether it is uranium/lead or potassium/argon or whatever.) And it is this third assumption which is the most decisive of all in dating a rock layer.

In point of fact because of this third assumption, and because radioactive dating methods almost invariably vary so wildly by hundreds of millions of years, it is currently impossible to date rock layers and thus it is impossible to date the fossils found in the rock strata. So, for instance, the K-Pg extinction dated at 66 million years ago: we do not currently have any scientific method which can tell us whether it was sixty six or sixty five or sixty seven or twenty five or twenty seven or five or seven million years ago or even less than one million years ago: scientific methods have come up with no reliable date.

In view of the failure to date rock strata by isotopic methods geologists have fallen back on another method: they have based the age of a strata on the supposed age of the fossils found in the strata. Oblivious of the palaeontologist’s reliance on geologists in dating the age of the rock by geological/isotopic dating methods, the geologists have perhaps inadvertently resorted to gigantic circular reasoning for dating the rocks: the palaeontologist looks to the geologist, and the geologist looks to the palaeontologist, and it must be such and such an age because everybody says it is.

As a Christian I am free to examine the evidence for and against evolutionary theory to a much greater extent than the agnostic and the atheist. For them it is really the only intellectual fig leaf behind which they can hide. But the Christian does have differing options and I fully expect there is a multiplicity of views held by Christians in this site. I used to believe in evolutionary theory and even loved it. After becoming a Christian I became a theistic evolutionist. Finally I am now a six day creationist. To me now, evolution is:- a) impossible because the first living self-replicating creature could never have come into existence naturally. It is impossible because the simplest living thing we know of has DNA and RNA and several hundred different kinds of proteins. These proteins are produced by the DNA and RNA and yet the DNA and RNA need proteins in order to work – an impossible catch twenty two chicken and egg situation. And

b) Unnecessary. God tells us how he made the world, there is no reason to disbelieve him. (But I do not believe that Genesis 11 gives a father to son genealogy, and so am ambivalently ready to believe the world might be anything up to maybe 50,000 years old. Studies on Mitochondrial Eve and y-chromosomal Adam (it should really be called Noah) one day might usefully provide a clue for the date of creation and of the flood. And evidence from Egyptian archaeology fits beautifully with the Bible account of Joseph and means the flood must have happened long before 2500 bc.)

A few years ago some creationists sent several dinosaur fossil samples to a reputable radiocarbon dating institute to be dated. The institute did not know they were dinosaur fossils nor did they know that they were being sent by creationists. If I remember rightly the institute continually returned ages of the fossils of around 22,000 to 40,000 years. When the institute realized what was happening they refused to date any more samples. Long live free scientific enquiry: “The truth no matter where it leads!”

For further reading

On evolutionary theory

“Bone of Contention” by Sylvia Baker – short and sweet, and very clear

“Darwin on Trial” by Paul Johnson

“Signature of the Cell” by Stephen Meyer

“Evolution” by Colin Patterson (an evolutionist, but the book does not dodge the problems with evolution getting started)

Not just evolutionary theory

“Show me God” by Fred Heeren

“Just Six Numbers” by the Royal Astronomer, Martin Rees

And one of my favourite youtube videos!

“Atheist physicists prove God: Anthropic Principle fails” by Helasmoh Channel (13 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4E_bT4ecgk&t=29s

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  • While there is a ton of good information here, it took me a while to find something that resembles an actual answer to the question. Maybe you could add a brief summary to the top? Good point about Christians are "free to examine the evidence [...] to a much greater extent than the agnostic and the atheist". Naturalists are seriously blinkered by their dogma ("there is no God") and Evolutionism/Uniformitarianism are results of the Holmesian fallacy.
    – Matthew
    Aug 7 at 13:08
  • FYI, mitochondrial DNA does suggest that the Flood was ~4,500 years ago, at least as interpreted by some. See icr.org/article/… and answersresearchjournal.org/… (probably other articles exist).
    – Matthew
    Aug 7 at 13:15
  • @Matthew - a ton of good info - Thanks. Throughout I sought to discredit the validity of the dating of 66 million years old, to show it can only be based on assumptions... that is the reality. You simply must assume the proportion of isotopes in the rock strata before decay began/in the original. Re the date of the flood, IMO Egyptian recorded history together with the Biblical account of Joseph in Genesis, which can be convincingly synchronised with Senusret II, Senusret III & Amenemhat III in the 12th Dynasty, entirely puts an end to the Flood around 2500 bc. The 1st Dynasty began Aug 8 at 16:24
  • began about 3100 bc with kings Narmer and then Aha. Radiocarbon dating showed its usefulness by confirming the 1st Dynasty began around this time with tests on many artifacts from the 1st dynasty ("An absolute chronology for early Egypt using radiocarbon dating and Bayesian statistical modelling" Michael Dee, David Wengrow, et al, 2003). In short 3100 to 1900 is continuous recorded history and there is no room for either the Flood or the Tower of Babel during this time frame.. they were earlier. Aug 8 at 16:28
  • @Matthew - The genealogy in Genesis 11 is telescoped (& prob in 5 also). Telescoped genealogies seem to be the rule in scripture rather than the exception. See the answers to christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/67634/… and christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/46323/… Aug 8 at 17:06

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