The following is a term paper written by Janelle Riess of Saskatchewan for her grade 12, Biology 30 class. CSSI and its President, Rudi Fast, were pleased to be able to supply some reference materials and suggestions to help with this project. We congratulate Janelle on a job well done and the excellent mark she received for the paper. We trust you will find it interesting as well.
The Age of the Earth
Imagine what it would be like if it were possible to determine an accurate answer to every difficult question. Wouldn't it be rewarding to achieve the proper verdict without any uncertainty? In a world full of controversy and dispute, the judgement regarding tough questions is becoming more and more demanding. When did the earth come into being? This commonly asked question is responsible for generating many heated debates between creationists and evolutionists all over the world. Did it happen as recently as a few thousand years ago, or did it take place millions and billions of years ago? The subject of the age of the earth is very controversial. Examining the evidence supporting both the creation and evolution models will assist in determining the age of the earth based on genuine facts.
The science of geochronology deals with the subject of determining the age of the earth. Presently there are more than eighty different methods used in the science of geochronology. It is fascinating that many people have determined their view on the age of the earth without investigating the evidence for themselves. The age of the earth is a critical factor in deciding which model - creation or evolution - is indeed the correct one.
THE EVIDENCE FOR A YOUNG EARTH
Creationism is the biblical concept of origins and is centered around the existence of an all-powerful, eternal Designer. He created all things thousands and not billions of years ago and had a definite plan and purpose for his creation.
The biblical account of creation indicates the earth is young. Many people are unaware that the majority of geochronological methods give a young age for the earth and not the billions of years as strongly upheld by evolutionists. The suggestion of such a young age for the earth to most people who have accepted the evolutionary model for the earth's history is preposterous. However, there is much evidence, some biological and some not, in support of a young earth.
The Hebrew Records
The ancient Hebrews were famous for keeping records (Genesis). According to their archives Adam was made on the sixth day of creation and lived to be 930 years of age. 1656 years after creation a global flood came upon the earth which wiped out the world's entire population save eight people. One of these people was Noah who was born in 1056 and lived until he was 950 years old, dying in the year 2006 after creation. Abraham was born in approximately 2000 BC. The earth was created in about 4006 BC (2006 + 2000). Therefore, the historical Hebrew record places the creation about 6000 years ago.
Cosmic Dust on the Moon
The use of satellite technology has allowed scientists to measure the amount of cosmic dust filtering into the earth's atmosphere each year. "Although the earth is a living planet with constant wind and water action to mix and erode surface materials, the moon is dead and sterile" (P. Ackerman, 1986). Evolutionary scientists are convinced that the earth and the moon are of similar age.
In the mid-1960s man was approaching the completion of an age-old dream, to make a space voyage to the moon. As the time drew closer, there was intense excitement (as well as uneasiness) about what might be found there. If in fact the speculations of scientists were true, and cosmic dust had fallen on the moon for over 4.5 billion years, then there should have been an "accumulation of more than fifty feet" (G.S. McLean, R. Oakland, L. McLean, 1989).
The factor of this accumulating dust caused a great deal of concern for the first exploration to the moon. As a result of the scientists' predictions, engineers in charge of design of the lunar landing modules built large pads so the space probes would not sink deep into the dust.
That day, Neil Armstrong stood on the moon and attempted to plant the American flag by hammering it down into the supposed billions of years of accumulated dust. Neil Armstrong hammered, but the flag refused to budge, because the expected layer of dust was just not there. The dust was there all right, but it was only "a few inches thick, indicating a period of accumulation of less than 10,000 years" (G.S. McLean, R. Oakland, L. McLean, 1989).
The cosmic-dust evidence revealed an intriguing possibility. Was this issue of how old things are not settled after all? Assuming that the present rate of accumulation is the same today as it was in the past, the amount of accumulated cosmic dust indicates the age of the moon, and therefore the earth, may not be as old as suggested.
The oldest living things on earth are trees. Each growing year, trees produce one ring in northern and southern climates. "Counting the tree rings of the oldest trees shows they have between 4000 and 5000 rings" (WB Encyclopedia, 1975). In places all over the world including Yellowstone Park, studies have been done of the petrified forests. The oldest trees (those with the greatest number of rings) show a count of about 1700 rings. If in fact these trees began to grow after their creation, but were all victims of the Flood, then their maximum number of ring should be 1656 since the Flood came 1656 years after Creation, according to the ancient Hebrew records. Therefore, 1700 + 4000 (5000) years = 5700 (6700) years. From this unbelievable evidence the earth is between 5700 and 6700 years old.
"A comet is a natural object in space which orbits the sun (other than planets, their moons, and meteors)" (P. Taylor, 1989). The presence of comets in our solar system reveals a much younger age for the earth than expected.
Scientists have assumed the solar system and the comets associated with it are approximately the same age.
It is well known that each time a comet orbits the sun, it disintegrates due to the sun's powerful gravity, the solar "winds", and internal explosions. If comets have been circulating in the solar system for billions of years, then they should have completely disappeared by now.
According to various astronomers, "the maximum lifetime of a comet is calculated to be about ten thousand years" (P. Taylor, 1989). This presents a huge problem for Evolutionists because most astronomers believe these comets came into existence during the same time as the solar system itself.
The Mayan Record
In 1582, Pope Gregory requested an improved calendar that measured the accuracy of the solar year to be 365.2425 days. "The Mayan people, using the base 20 number system and marking their days on stones, calculated the solar year to be 365.2420 days, even closer to the 365.2422 days presently accepted" (S. Morely, 1956). Their year zero (the year of the beginning on their calendar), is within 56 years of the creation date on the Hebrew calendar. That indicates the Mayans believed everything began in about 3950 BC or about 5950 years ago.
Erosion of Continents
The erosional processes of wind and water supply a prominent factor indicating a young age for the Earth. "Given the present rate of erosion, the continents could be completely eroded to sea level within 14 million years" (G. S. McLean, R. Oakland, L. McLean, 1989). Although fourteen million is a much greater age for the Earth than proposed by the creation model, "it is less than one-half of one percent of the age proposed by the evolution model" (G.S. McLean, R. Oakland, L. McLean, 1989).
The Population Growth
The swift growth of human population on the Earth is an important topic of concern. Valuable research has produced information which has been interpreted as evidence of Earth's young age.
If, as evolutionists claim, people have been living on Earth for a million years or more, some creationists have contemplated: "Why has there been no global overpopulation problem long before now?" (P. Taylor, 1989).
Some experts claim the average world population growth over the centuries has been approximately 2% per year, or a doubling every 35 years. Being generous to evolutionists, assume that the growth rate was actually much smaller, perhaps 1/2% per year, or a doubling about every 140 years.
Even at that speed, "it would take only 4,000 years to produce today's population beginning from a single original couple" (P. Taylor, 1989). This agrees with creation, since creationists believe Earth's entire population (except eight people) was destroyed about 4,000 years ago because of a world-wide flood.
If the earth is as old as evolutionists declare, and if man has been here for more than one million years, it would seem logical to think the Earth could have been overpopulated in the past. "If the population increased at only 1/2% per year, in one million years there could be trillions of trillions of people today (to be more exact, 10 EXP 2100)" (P. Taylor, 1989).
Even if the population was believed to have increased at such a drastically slower rate that it would take a million years to attain the present level, "there would have been at least 3,000 billion (3,000,000,000,000) people that have lived on this planet, it is said" (P. Taylor, 1989). However, where is the fossil or cultural evidence for such gigantic numbers? Creationists are certain that man has occupied this planet for only several thousand years.
THE EVIDENCE FOR AN OLD EARTH
Evolution is "the process by which all living things have developed from primitive organisms through changes occurring over billions of years, a progression that includes the most advanced plants and animals" (E. Volpe, 1996). The theory of evolution is widely accepted by the majority of scientists. They believe "the Earth began not less than 4.6 billion years ago" (G. Minelli, 1986) and that evolution is the only logical explanation for the origin and history of life and the history of the earth.
There are a number of methods used in the science of geochronology that seems to indicate an extreme age for the earth. This of course harmonizes with the evolutionary model. These methods are referred to as the radiometric dating methods. Although radiometric dating is not biological, it is the only method which attempts to prove an ancient earth. Many scientists are convinced these dating procedures are accurate and reliable. Radiometric dating methods have become a primary basis for the claim that the earth is billions of years old.
The most common methods that are used are:
- 1. Uranium-lead method
2. Rubidium-strontium method
3. Potassium-argon method
"In each of these systems the parent element, or the element which is undergoing decay (uranium, rubidium, potassium), is gradually changed into the daughter component (lead, strontium, argon) of the system" (G. S. McLean, R. Oakland, L. McLean, 1989). An instrument called a mass spectrometer makes it possible to measure the ratio of the parent and daughter elements involved. The radiometric decay rate of the system is then used to establish how long the process of decay has been in effect.
The radiometric dating techniques are founded on three assumptions:
- 1. The system must have been initially made up of all parent elements and no daughter elements.
- 2. The system must operate as a closed system. Nothing from the system can be taken away; nothing from outside the system can be added.
- 3. The rate of decay must have been constant from the moment the process was started." (G.S. McLean, R. Oakland, L. McLean, 1989)
If one examines these basic assumptions then the extremely speculative nature of the radiometric dating methods becomes obvious. "None of these assumptions are testable or provable" (G.S. McLean, R. Oakland, L. McLean, 1989). For example, it is impossible for anyone to discern the original components of the system. To declare that the system started out as 100% parent element and 0% daughter element is a complete guess.
Secondly, there is no such thing as a closed system in nature. The entire notion of having a process taking place over lengthy periods without any outside meddling is totally hypothetical. It is completely impossible to make the claim that parent or daughter elements have neither been added to nor taken away from the system over millions of years of time.
Thirdly, it is foolish to suggest the rate of decay has always taken place in the past at the equivalent rate it is observed today. Every single process in nature operates at a rate affected by many environmental factors. Also, "scientific measurements of decay rates have only been conducted since the time of the Curies in the early 1900s" (P. Taylor, 1989). There is little evidence or persuading proof that decay rates have been unchanging over billions of years. Scientists cannot go back into the past to double-check. If the decay rates have ever been higher in the past, then rocks would be wrongly "dated" as being old rocks.
How Reliable Are Radiometric Dates?
It has already been shown that the theory behind the dating procedure is based purely on assumptions that have no way of being tested. There are also other examples that show that these procedures are questionable. For example, during the Apollo 11 mission, lunar soil was obtained and was dated using four different radiometric methods. The results produced four different ages.
Pb207-Pb206 - 4.6 billion years
Pb206-U238 - 5.41 billion years
Pb207-U235 - 4.89 billion years
Pb208-Th232 - 8.20 billion years (Science, 1970).
"Lunar rocks that were taken from the same location and dated by a potassium-argon dating technique gave an age of 2.3 billion years" (G. S. McLean, R. Oakland, L. McLean, 1989). Five different dates were produced by five different methods. Which of these methods is the right one, or are any of them right?
If there are questions regarding the accuracy of a dating technique, an excellent way of testing the method would be to date a material of a known age. If the material came up the same age as the known material, then there would be no discrepancy as to the reliability of the method. For instance, The Journal of Geophysical Research reported that "lava rocks formed in 1800 and 1801 in Hawaii were dated by a potassium-argon method and showed an age of formation of 160 million to 3 billion years" (G. S. McLean, R. Oakland, L. McLean, 1989). This indicates a huge difference between the actual age and the age as determined by a radiometric dating method. This kind of evidence forces one to question the reliability of the radiometric dating methods.
Evolutionist William Stansfield, Ph.D., California Polytech State, has stated:
"It is obvious that radiometric techniques may not be the absolute dating methods that they are claimed to be. Age estimates on a given geological stratum by different radiometric methods are often quite different (sometimes by hundreds of millions of years). There is no absolutely reliable long-term radiological "clock". The uncertainties inherent in radiometric dating are disturbing to geologists and evolutionists..." (The Quote Book, 1990)
Both the creation model and the evolution model present varying facts regarding the age of the earth. However, these facts are distinct from the belief in a supernatural God. The issue is examining the evidence surrounding the age of the earth and drawing a logical conclusion. In order for something to be deemed correct, it must be backed up by observable evidence and repeated experiments that prove it to be true. With the theory of evolution. radiometric dating is the only method which attempts to determine an ancient age for the earth, yet it is also inaccurate and unreliable. The theory of evolution presents no life-based or biologically based methods proving the earth to be billions of years old. Therefore, based on the scientific