Since age is an inference based on assumptions, there is no deception involved when people make the wrong assumptions about the starting conditions. Indeed, how could God be deceiving when He has told us plainly when He created? Rather, those who deny His word are deceiving themselves.
One striking feature of the record of God’s creative acts in Genesis 1 is that the created things are fully ready to perform their appointed tasks. On Day 3, God created the plants mature, already bearing seeds. Later on, on Days 5 and 6, He created animals as adults ready to multiply, and finally Adam and Eve, likewise as adults, able to speak and multiply. For inanimate objects, on Day 4, God created the sun and stars already shining. All this is creation with functional maturity.
In contrast, there is an errant concept of “creation with apparent age.” One obvious flaw is that age has no appearance! Rather, we infer an age from appearance, after making certain assumptions about processes changing over time, and about the starting conditions.2
I will try to explain further, presenting some case studies from Scripture and from various Christians, including the errant but often-misunderstood ideas of Philip Gosse.
What would be observed?
A hypothetical modern observer who travelled back in time to see Adam and Eve at the end of Day 6 might infer that they were 20-year-old adults, but in reality they were less than a day old. However, they were mature adults. Also, when created, the blood in their arteries was already oxygenated so it could power the cells in the body. Nowadays, the oxygen comes from the air through the lungs into the blood.
But one striking feature, distinguishing them from all their descendants, would be the absence of navels, since the navel (umbilicus or belly button) is the scar where the umbilical cord attached us to our mothers via the placenta. There is also a thinning of the abdominal muscles, which is a potential vulnerability to hernias. Adam and Eve were direct creations of God, so had no navel. A navel in either of them would seem to have no function apart from looking like a history that never happened.
Some have fallaciously claimed that Adam and Eve had navels, because they would have had genes for them to pass on to their offspring. However, it’s not just a matter of having genes for a navel. Genes are also switched on and off in precise sequence during embryonic development. Any genes controlling the navel are expressed during embryo development as tissues accommodate the umbilical cord. So today, our tissues are arranged in this way because of developmental sequence more than genetic coding per se. So since Adam and Eve had no mothers, there would have been no development of the navel.
Such arguments also overlook that Adam and Eve also had genes for embryonic and fetal hemoglobin, deciduous teeth, growth hormone, and controlling the changes in puberty, since these were also passed on to their descendants. But in this founding couple created as fully grown adults, these genes were never expressed either.
Similarly, the trees on Day 3 would be mature trees, and a time-travelling observer might infer that they were hundreds of years old. But if he chopped a tree down, he might be dumbfounded by the lack of growth rings. Growth rings today are a record of mostly seasonal changes in the rate of wood growth, although not always annual. E.g. in dry climates, such as those in which the long-lived bristlecone pines grow, each heavy rainfall can produce a new ring. Also, even trees growing next to each other don’t always have the same growth patterns, so correlations are problematic.3
Similarly, God probably created the sun with a fair amount of helium. A good amount of helium seems like a design feature so that the sun is hot enough. The reason is as follows. A helium nucleus (alpha particle) takes up less room than four hydrogen nuclei (protons). This makes the core contract, and the higher temperature and pressure increases the rate of nuclear fusion, hence energy output. It may also be responsible for the sun’s exceptional stability.4
Extracted and adapted from the author’s landmark 2015 book The Genesis Account: A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1–11.1