Early EarthJune 9, 2007
That is a hard question to answer because none of us were there. Most people today agree that the Earth has not always been the way it is today. Change is the only constant on Earth, and yet we still have a hard time imagining our planet being anything other than the globe that we are all shown in kindergarten.
Our world today has a certain number of species on it, a count that we know is steadily decreasing as more species go extinct. Our world has seven continents, two polar ice caps, and a huge diversity of climates. We have major deserts around 30 degrees lattitude because of our atmospheric circulation, great deserts like the Gobi desert, Death Valley, and the Sahara (which is expanding). The world that we live in has 100 lightning strikes per second, distributed over 2000 thunderstorms at any given time. The ground we are standing on today is piled up on top of layers of bones. Bones that tell a story of a very different planet.
Some people may be surprised to find out that Creation Scientists use the fossil record to find out more about what the Earth looked like in the past. Even though the fossil record is often used as the stronghold of evolutionary theory, like everything else, it depends upon philosophical assumptions in order to interpret the data. In a creationist model, most of the fossil record was laid down in the flood and the geologic column is more of an indicator of habitat and intelligence than age. But I don’t want to get sidetracked on that today. First, what did Earth look like in the past?
According to Andrew Revkin’s The North Pole was Here (not a creationist) at one point even the north pole had a very temperate climate. There is fossil evidence of giant Redwood-like trees rimming the arctic ocean, and the ocean itself was apparently coated in a mat of dark fern vegetation similar to that found in warm ponds today. The fossils would indicate that at one point early in Earth history the north pole was near 68 degrees Fahrenheit, room temperature.
In what is normally referred to as the Cambrian Period, there is immense amounts of evidence that the oceans used to be teeming with every form of life imaginable. Nearly all fossils are marine or plant fossils, with only .01% of fossils found being land dwelling animals. Yesterday I had the opportunity to buy a large slice of rock for a mere $140 that contained sea shells piled on top of each other, as close as they could get. We have literally tons of rock containing huge amounts of marine fossils. Most scientists believe that the ocean was saturated with life at some point in the past. I can only picture videos I have seen of people swimming through colonies of jellyfish.
On land we know that there were thousands of species that are now extinct. Dragonflies with 2 1/2 foot wingspans have been found along with beetles bigger than baseballs. The Redwood forests that are so rare today at one point covered huge tracks of land and the vegetation that fed the dinosaurs must have been far more abundant and fast-growing than anything today. Massive dinosaurs, massive trees, even massive bugs have occupied this planet before our time.
Putting it all together
In a creationist worldview, all these fossil evidences point to the same time period. The fossil record is the second age of mankind (Antediluvian Period) that existed after the Curse until it was wiped out and buried in the Flood. In many ways the pre-flood world was still very much like the garden of Eden. Most of the Earth’s land mass was held at near room temperature, the atmosphere was more favorable to abundant plant growth and large creatures. It is possible that there were no Cloud Condensation Nuclei (CCN) which would prevent extreme weather conditions like hurricanes and tornadoes (as well as rainbows). The atmosphere was probably denser than it is today and contained 35% oxygen and up to 5% carbon dioxide which would encourage both plant and animal growth. There was also a huge diversity of species with massive amounts of variation within each species.
All kinds of animals on the Earth existed together at one point in time. Humans would have lived alongside dinosaurs, as well as giant bugs, and every kind of fruit bearing plant that ever existed. It is difficult to fully grasp all the interactions that may have entailed. Many creatures probably had useful ecological functions that are not understood when we look at the creature in isolation. For example, I find it possible that trilobites served a role as bottom dwellers who could recycle excrement off the sea floor. (Whatever the interactions it is clear from the fossil record that we retain only a small fraction of the kinds of animals that once existed and that this depletion of our biosphere is still continuing today. We may speak of the theoretical rise of species over long periods of time, but the only thing that is observable today is the rapid loss of species.)
As for humanity, if we take the trends of Genetic Entropy and reverse them to look at the past, then our ancestors were genetically superior to us and probably enjoyed better immune systems, healthier and stronger joints and muscles, excellent nutrition on a wide variety of edible plant species, and many other factors that would contribute to life spans as long as 970 years. These long lived people were also very fertile and very intelligent so they had abundant time to found cities and see their generations of children prosper. It would be nice to believe that under these ideal conditions mankind could accomplish many wonderful things but according to the Bible this first, long lived generation of humanity turned totally evil and had to be wiped out in the Flood.
Current technological progress is starting to once-again offer the prospect of living indefinitely. I wonder if we could make better use of a second chance at near immortality. From an evolutionary perspective, humans living past 120 would be a first. From a creationist perspective, it has already happened before and the results were far worse than the atrocities that we live with today.
For the best discussion on the Early Earth I suggest checking out Genesis Park’s Early Earth Display. They have some incredible evidence that is a must see. Including the Hyperbaric Biosphere suggested in the rather sarcastic Things Creationists Hate “Live in Pre-Deluge Conditions“. That one surprised me.
Further Comments: This is probably my worst put together article. There’s a lot of emotional impressions in it. That comes with being human. Several people mistakenly assumed that I supported the Canopy Theory because I mentioned some stuff about CCNs and a different atmosphere. This is not the case, I think the Canopy Theory is rubbish and I actually spent time trying to get ICR to remove any mention of the Canopy Theory from their museum. That theory was originally proposed in the 17-1800’s. People make mistakes, they just have to admit them. No, I was talking about whoever you’re picturing I’m talking about you and I’m talking about me. So, just because there was no Vapor Canopy doesn’t mean the atmosphere was EXACTLY the way it is today. Have a little respect for granularity here. The atmosphere could have been cleaner with less dust, sulphur, etc. and have a higher oxygen and CO2 content. That’s all. The point is, we don’t know. We weren’t there.