High in the cold, dry air of the White Mountains of California, just north of the infamous and inhospitable Death Valley, lives possibly the world’s oldest living1 organism. It’s a Bristlecone Pine tree, given the Biblical name of ‘Old Methuselah’ due to its estimated age (from counting the number of its tree rings) of 4,723 years.2 Amazingly, this tree would have been over 2,000 years old when Jesus Christ walked the Earth.

Bible issues

This tree’s ‘ring’ age is close to the Biblical date for the globe-covering and life-destroying Flood of Noah (Genesis 6–8) of around 4,500 years ago. There should be no trees alive on Earth today which are older than the Flood. God’s judgment on sin was in the form of a global watery catastrophe which destroyed all air-breathing land vertebrates except for those whom God lovingly preserved on the Ark. A flood cataclysm of this magnitude would have laid down much of the massive thickness of sedimentary rock covering most of the Earth’s surface, and would have ensured that no trees alive at that time would have remained growing in place. So no tree growing today could have started growing from a seed in that spot more than about 4,500 years ago.

It is normally assumed that for each year of growth, one growth ring will be shown. This is generally true; however, it is a demonstrable fact that in years of good growth, i.e. moist, warm conditions, more than one growth ring can readily occur. Research has actually demonstrated this with Bristlecone Pine seedlings. By supplementing the ‘normal’ winter day length with a heat lamp, extra rings were able to be grown.3 In the presumed warm, moist and changing seasonal conditions in the first few centuries after Noah’s Flood, it is likely that there would have been quite a few such extra rings. This comfortably accounts for the few hundred years (less than 10%) difference between the oldest ‘real’ tree-ring results and the Biblical date of the Flood.

However, such an explanation would be strained if tree-rings on living trees gave dates of thousands of years more than this. Some scientists have now proposed a Bristlecone Pine chronology extending back more than 9,000 years from today.4 But this is by using a tree-ring dating method that links pieces of dead trees (even fossil fragments) with living ones. This ‘overlapping’ method seeks to cross-match the rings, using best-fit scenarios. These are fortified by statistical analysis to try to eliminate the subjectivity. But in the past, there has apparently been some difficulty obtaining access to the raw data to independently check these procedures. This has now been overcome, and further creationist research is underway.5 The bottom line is, however, that these apparent challenges do not arise from present-day, growing trees.

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