Let me begin this by saying that I believe that God created the universe and He still presides over it. I disagree with my fellow Christians who argue that the earth (and universe) is only 6,000 years old. The scientific evidence is that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old and exists in a universe that has seen at least 14.5 billion years.
I have no doubt that God could have created all we see in the blink of an eye, in fact, from His perspective, that is how it happened, as he exists outside of time. The Big Bang Theory is the result of mathematical calculations well beyond the ability of 99.9% of us to understand. But it is a theory, not a fact.
What is fact is millions of bits of information about the earth’s geology and life forms. We can rest assured that millions of plant and animal species have lived and been exterminated over the past 500 million years. That does not include the 2.5 billion years when the earth was covered in slime mold. It does not count the 1.5 billion years before that when the planet suffered millions of asteroid strikes and volcanoes were so numerous that life could not possibly exist.
Peter Brannen begins his story a mere half a billion years ago when life beyond single cells began to appear. Did God give the earth that spark of life? I believe so but can’t prove it. The record shows that it did happen. The record also shows that over the next millions of years new species appeared and some old ones died out. Looking at those creatures, it is hard to recognize them as having any connection with life as we know it.
Then, a mere 65 million years later, life on earth became tougher. Scientists have pieced together many factors that contributed to what we now call the End-Ordovician Mass Extinction. It was not sudden. It moved in fits and starts over hundreds of thousands of years, but in the end, most species were gone forever.
Altogether, there have been five mass extinctions with the most recent being 66 million years ago. (The dinosaurs disappeared just over 200 million years ago, and not in a flash. The meteor impact killed many, but at the same time, there was a volcanic eruption covering what is now India in as much as 200 feet of lava. That led to a series of other nasty stuff that finished off most of life.)
In fact, mass extinctions are slow-moving events taking as long as 2 million years to complete.
Many argue that humans are in the process of creating the sixth extinction, but Brannen gives us some hope that it will not happen in this century. Beyond that, we could cause millions of plant and animal species to die off (including several hundred thousand already gone). In every mass extinction, heat has been deadly (150 degrees for weeks on end), all ice has melted, and the seas have risen some 400 feet. If we do nothing to change our ways in the next hundred years, we may have reached the point of no return.
The five mass extinctions are real and their causes are at least partially known. There is yet much to be learned before we can say for sure that we know enough details to understand our history, but it is important that we learn.
I recommend this book. It is a tough read for anyone lacking is scientific training, but Brannen has written it for laymen.