Sunday, February 7, 2010

Creation Science Series: The Age of the Earth

The topic I want to begin with in our exam of evolution and creation science is the age of the earth. There are really only two theories about the age of the earth. Either the earth is relatively young, like between 6-10,000 years old, which fits into a Biblical framework, or it is very, very old, like around 5 billion years (evolutionary scientists estimate the age of the universe to be 10-20 billion years old), which evolutionary scientists feel is a reasonable amount of time for evolution to have run its course. The reason I want to start with the age of the earth is that it can be a game spoiler for evolution. A young earth sounds the death knoll for evolution, because there is no way that the random mutation and natural selection, thought to be the guiding principles of evolution, could have happened over just thousands or even millions of years. Evolution is about chance. Random chance. One random mutation that when combined with another random mutation over time confers a benefit which is then enhanced by another random mutation. Evolution’s best friends are time and chance. As Christians we don’t believe in chance, but atheists cling to it. However, chance without time is useless to the evolutionary scientist. If we can prove the earth is young, evolution as a theory must be discarded.

Radioisotope dating has long been a friend of evolutionary scientists because this technique has indicated that the rocks of the earth are very, very old. Several problems plague radioisotope dating though and make it difficult to accurately interpret the results. First let me explain the basics of radioisotope dating.

Radioactive isotopes (remember your periodic table from general chemistry class?) decay over time (give off energy) which causes the transformation of the parent isotope (starting one) to its daughter isotope. If we know the half-life (amount of time it takes for 50% of the parent isotope to decay into the daughter isotope) and we measure the amount of daughter isotope in a rock or fossil sample, we can estimate the age of the sample. Now back to the problems with this method of dating. There are two major assumptions in radioisotope dating.

1. The amount of daughter isotope present prior to decay (at the beginning) is assumed to be zero. The age estimates of the sample will be thrown off by the degree to which daughter isotope was present in the sample initially. The fact that we cannot know for certain the ratio of parent to daughter isotope before the decay process began means that we cannot be certain of our estimated age of the rock or fossil.

2. The second assumption of radioactive isotope dating is that of constant decay. In order to use the amount of daughter isotope in a sample and our knowledge of half-life to extrapolate the age of that sample, we have to assume a linear rate of decay.

The isochron method has been applied to help get around the first assumption, but there is no getting around the second assumption of radioisotope dating.

Creation scientists have long hypothesized that there could have been one or more periods of accelerated decay that could account for the “old” age estimates obtained by radioisotope dating. The problem has been, how to prove it. You see, accelerated decay is not without its own problems. Foremost of which is what to do with all that extra energy? When nuclear decay occurs, energy is given off. Accelerated decay would mean excess energy given off. Think energy emission of cataclysmic proportions here. (I’m envisioning all those destruction of the earth by meteor movies). Creation scientists already had problems with heat disposal. Creation and flood models simply have “too much geologic work being done in too short a time” (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth vol 1 pp 369-70). At least we’re in familiar territory! Fortunately, there is a solution to the problem of excess heat disposal. An expanding cosmos. The type of rapid expansion of the cosmos envisioned over the first 3 days of creation and also also possibly during the Biblical flood could use up all this excess energy. In fact, the one process (decay) could be used to fuel the other. This made me smile. Could it be that God is green? (Please don’t use that to support cap and trade! It’s more of an endorsement for recycling energy, not taxing it.)

Now’s the point where I tell you I’m going to leave you hanging until tomorrow. There have been some very exciting breakthroughs by the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) study. I’m going to summarize several of their more important experiments for you over the next couple of posts. To whet your appetite I will tell you this. Accelerated decay would not have occurred without leaving its mark. Although we cannot absolutely verify that there was accelerated nuclear decay during creation week and the flood, any more than evolutionary scientists can tell you for certain that decay has been constant, there are traces that accelerated decay would have left behind. We can identify accelerated radioactive decay by the tracks it left behind in the same way we can know a deer has passed by where we see its tracks. Aren’t you just dying to know what evidence they’ve found for accelerated decay? You’ll just have to tune in tomorrow!


  1. How interesting....Yes, I can't wait to hear :)

  2. You're missing a couple of points.

    First, the assumption about the presence of daughter isotopes in a sample when it was formed can be checked. Many samples contain a mixture of different radioactive isotopes, with different decay rates and decay series (and hence different daughter isotopes). If different pairs of isotopes give inconsistent results with one another, that's an indicator that either some daughter product was present when the rock was formed, or else some of either the parent or daughter isotope leached in or out of the sample during geological history. If they give the same result, that's a pretty good indicator that this has not happened.

    The same test checks for changes in decay rates. Radioactive isotopes are very resistant to changes in decay rates; the only known method that has more than a trivial effect is stripping electrons off the atoms. But this changes decay rates to different extents in different atoms. It would take a miracle (a deliberately deceptive miracle, so I'm assuming you'd rule out such miracles) to alter multiple decay rates to the same extent rather than to radically different extents.

    And I don't see, first, how Genesis implies a rapidly expanding cosmos, or how such an expanding cosmos deals with the heat produced by massively accelerated radioactive decay (and in many young-earth models, drastically accelerated continental drift, drastically accelerated vulcanism, etc.). Even radiated heat only travels at lightspeed; heat transferred by convection or conduction moves much slower (and would melt the crust and boil the oceans on the way out).

    And radiometric dating is only one line of evidence for an old Earth: before radioactivity was discovered, geologists had already reasoned, from such geological phenomena as angular unconformities (layers of rock laid down sideways with horizontal layers laid down over them), different species of ammonnites or trilobites in successive layers of rock, and layers of freshwater sediment sandwiched between layers of saltwater sediment, that the layers of rock were laid down over far longer than several thousand years.

  3. Stephen, I admitted that the problem of the ratio of parent to daughter isotopes can be partially overcome by isochron dating. Then I moved on to discussing the issue of uniformitarianism. The reason I choose not to belabor the issue of parent-daughter isotopes is because I don't think there is a powerful enough argument against isochron dating, other than it is still highly variable, even within samples. And as to your point that radiometric dating is only one line of evidence for an old earth, there are also multiple lines of evidence for a young earth, all of which will be at least mentioned here if not discussed. Thank you for your interest in the series.

  4. I am blessed,

    I'm confused. Are you conceding here that parent-daughter isotope ratios are not a good argument against an old earth (given what Seven J has said)? If so, why bring them up?

    I would have thought that the existence of trees older than 4,000 years would, for a start, dispel the idea of a global flood in recent times.

    I would love to hear what these "multiple lines of evidence for a young earth" are, if you would so oblige us.



  5. ExPatMatt,
    I brought it up to be thorough. I don't happen to think it's the strongest argument the creation scientist has. That's why I moved on.

    I'm glad you're interested in learning about the evidence for a young earth. Stay tuned and I'll share it with you.

  6. Frankly I feel you are deliberately poisoning the well with labelling Cosmologists and Geologists as Evolutionary Scientists. These people are of all reglisions and faiths (Remember the father of 'The Big Bang' Georges Lemaitre was a Christian). Neither science depends on anything from Biology to operate. And besides Creationists understood that the earth was significantly older than a literal interpretation of the bible would suggest years before Darwin was born.
    In fact Modern Young Earth Creationism has only been around since about the '60s.

    Then of course there are the Old Earth Creationists (Mulsim & Christians) who accept Astronomy and Geology.

    Besides you don't need to even step away from explicitly Christian resources to refute Young Earth Creationism.

    Here is a write up from Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, March 2008, pages 35-39 published by American Scientific Affiliation : A Fellowship of Christians in Science on the results of RATE.

    The RATE team has honestly acknowledged that even if their technical claims were accurate, there remain unsolved problems that cannot be reconciled with any known scientific process. In his summary at the RATE conference in Denver on Sept. 15, 2007, Don DeYoung noted the need to invoke divine intervention in order to circumvent these problems. However, the oft-stated summary by the RATE team, that their results provide assurance of the biblical interpretation of a young earth, leaves the average listener with the mistaken impression that these problems are nonexistent, trivial, or soon to be resolved. Rather, the RATE team acknowledged overwhelming evidence for hundreds of millions of year’s worth of radioactivity and admitted that compressing this activity into a few thousand years would generate more than enough heat to vaporize all granitic rock. They state that no known thermodynamic process could dissipate such a large amount of heat Their expressed hope in solving heat dissipation by cooling via enhanced cosmological expansion has not been realized and is not consistent with our knowledge of the expanding universe. Thus, the RATE team has provided solid evidence that, scientifically, the earth cannot be thousands but must be billions of years old.

  7. BT, don't forget that Bishop Ussher's account of genealogy has only been around since 1650. Ussher's works has been the basis for Young Earth Creationists as we know them today. Of course Ussher's chronology went against early church fathers such as Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Augustine who saw Genesis as allegory (it is a poem notice that days 1 and 4 have basically the same style, days 2 and 5 also, and days 3 and 6).

    It was in 1923 when a Seventh-Day Adventist brought back the idea of a 6,000 year old earth. Like you said though it never really caught on until the 60's with Morris and Whitcomb's work.

  8. Bathtub and Bean Stalk,

    For those of you who are theistic evolutionists, please see my previous posts on that topic. Perhaps you think I'm claiming all evolutionists are atheists because you didn't read those posts. I acknowlede that 1. there are Christians who believe in evolution and 2. that creationism is a theory (one that I believe has more Biblical and scientific merit, thus this series) just like evolution is a theory. In science what we do is examine the evidence for the theories and weigh the evidence before deciding.

    I'm exploring the evidence for a young earth currently and will continue to do so over the next few posts. All scientific theories have critics.

    I already addressed the problem of the release of excess energy required for accelerated decay- the the expansion of the cosmos, like that that would be expected during creation and possibly post flood- the RATE team do this more thoroughly. Are you suggesting that there are no problems with old earth cosmology? That there are no valid arguments against an old earth? If so, I hope you'll stay tuned because they will be addressed here.

    I'm not sure what you're saying about Biblical chronologies. We can add up the years given in the Bible, pre- and post-flood. Whether you want to take them literally or not is up to you. I addressed this issue of interpretation in my previous posts on theistic evolution.

    Thank you for your interest in this discipline.

  9. I am blessed,

    "that creationism is a theory (one that I believe has more Biblical and scientific merit, thus this series) just like evolution is a theory."

    Could you please define 'theory' as you are using it in this context? Thanks.


  10. Hey Blessed,

    Good thing that I came here before I started a mocking tone on you. Sorry that I had that intention.

    Now. I would like to correct you on a few, yet very important mistakes:

    You said:
    evolutionary scientists estimate the age of the universe to be 10-20 billion years old

    1. It is geologists, and even physicists, who estimate the age of the Earth. Not "Evolutionary scientists", unless you are trying to say that any geologist has to be an evolutionary scientist too.

    2. For the required acceleration rate to give you a few thousand years as results, which was Steven's point. You did not deal with the heat released by accelerated decay. How would you channel that energy from the rock out into the expansion of the Universe? Do you see the problem? You are saying that the energy was used elsewhere, when we are dealing with crystals embedded in rock.


  11. sorry, above should read: who estimate the age of the Earth and of the Universe

  12. Matt,

    That's a good question. I define a scientific theory as a proposed explanation for something. Furthermore, for a theory to be taken seriously as a theory, there needs to be some supporting evidence, ie why it is thought to explain that which is in question. However, it must remain a theory until it is proven to be factual. In the case of our origin, I don't believe either theory (creation or evolution) can be absolutely proven, unless we were to rewind the clock and re-create or re-evolve. What we can do, is examine evidence and weigh for ourselves which theory appears to be more valid and which one appears to be more flawed. One of the many reasons my husband and I choose to homeschool our children is because evolution is taught as fact in public school, rather than taught as a theory.

    The Webster's definition that most closely fits mine is as follows: "a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena."

  13. One of the biggest problem with young earth creationism is the large number of gigantic impact craters on the surface of the Earth. A single event would have been enough to cause global extinctions and surely would have been recorded in human history, but this is not what we find at all.

    We do, however, find meteorite deposits in layers of rock around the crater buried deeply and uniformly. In other words, it couldn't have been made by anything other than a meteorite impact, and even sedimentary layers above and below it point to a very old Earth.

    In addition, a cursory glance at the pockmarked face of the moon should tell you immediately that it has been around for a very long while. There would be signs such as debris if the moon was bombarded all at once in a short amount of time (say 6,000 to 12,000 years) If it looks like a duck and it smells like a duck...

  14. evolution is taught as fact in public school, rather than taught as a theory


    1. All the books of biology that I have checked teach evolution as the best scientific explanation. Not as a "fact."

    2. Why would it be wrong for your children to learn good science? If it conflicts with your beliefs, but your beliefs are the true, wouldn't your children be able to see the truth by themselves? Will you at least let them know what science says?

    3. Evolution is not taught until upper middle to high-school. By that age your kids would be reasonable enough to make their own mind, wouldn't they?

    4. What is there to be so terrified about in evolution that you rather home-school your kids than let them have the school experience?

    5. Do you want your kids to be carbon copies of yourself and your husband, never to be able to grow up beyond and be themselves?

    6. Your kids are marvelous. Those smiles are worth anything. Congrats.


  15. G.E.

    Rest assured that our children will be taught the merits of both theories and allowed to make up their own minds. I'm a little concerned about the thought of breeding carbon copies of ourselves. Hopefully they will be fortunate and acquire the best of both their dad and myself.

    Thank you for not having a mocking tone. I appreciate that.

    As for my lumping geologists and physicists together, I'm sorry if that was offensive. I do the same thing to "creationists". It's rather tiring to run through the gamut of disciplines each time: physicists, geophysicists, chemists, geochemists, etc. I realize there are scientists in every discipline that consider themselves to be evolutionary scientists or creation scientists to some degree depending on their field of study.


  16. Debunky Monkey,

    The craters you mention could be explained by creation events (days 1-3) or by a world-wide cataclysmic flood. I realize that since you don't believe in creation this answer doesn't do it for you. Please hang on throughout this series and you may change your mind. But for Biblical creationists these craters do not pose a problem. Remember, the flood of the Bible wiped out the whole planet, except for the 8 people and the animals God saved.

  17. Your own statement conflicts. Any Craters from before the flood would be destroyed by the flood. We'll set aside for the moment that Creationists have yet to find the flood strata.

    There are of the order of 180 known impact craters which would have had to have all been post flood.

    Here are the biggest

    Basically the suggestion is that in the last 4000 years these huge devastating impacts happened.

    Do you realise that in that timeline it's one on average every 22 years?

    And no one apparently noticed.

  18. Bathtub,

    Here's a link to someone who's thought about this a whole lot more than I have, but interestingly came up with the same thing I did.

    I quote the following from his hypothetical explanation:

    Genesis 7:11 - when "the fountains of the great deep" were broken up - there were a series of geologic events not unlike volcanic eruptions (recall the maars craters) except that they were significantly more energetic. These could have formed many of the geologic features that today are interpreted as having been caused by impacts upon the Earth.

    He gives a bunch of pictures, like you widpedia pics, and refutes several of them as not actually being high-impact craters- a couple were caused by nuclear testing underground. We expect something of this magnitude would occur during a global catastrophic flood like the one described in the Bible?

  19. Funny the link I gave didn't have any pics.

    He's not refuting anything. He just taken things like look similar and say 'see these aren't impact craters!' Well done on calling something that wasn't on the list of impact craters in the first place and identifying it as something that isn't an impact crater.

    'Science allows us to investigate things and allows us to test if they are impact craters or not. Of course I agree with them when they say No, but then disagree when it suits me'

    And then saying 'because my personal interpretation of the bible doesn't allow them to be impact craters over any extended period of time therefore they can't be'.

    Once again, you can't invoke the flood for what is clearly 'post flood' damage.

    Besides "there were a series of geologic events not unlike volcanic eruptions (recall the maars craters) except that they were significantly more energetic"
    That's the path to boiling oceans. Another problem with invoking lots of action over an incredibly short period of time.

  20. The difference between impact craters and craters formed from geological/volcanic events is that impact craters contain shock-metamorphic effects in the surrounding rock. This can only occur if there was a force pressing down, not up, that formed the crater. Nuclear bombs form the same shock-metamorphic effects while volcanoes do not. This includes Yosemite's super-volcano calderas.

    Impact craters are easily distinguishable from volcanic ones and a global flood would erode craters, not create them.

  21. Anyway, let's get back on the subject of radiometric dating. There's a huge problem with fossils, rock strata, and accelerated decay.

    Bones have been fossilized with radiometric dates going as far back as hundreds of millions of years. Some of these fossils include human remains. So if there was accelerated decay, it occurred after the creation week.

    So there is a big problem with heat/energy dispersion given such radioactive energy in a short period of time would melt the surface of the Earth regardless of how fast the universe is expanding.

    Secondly, no matter where you are on the planet, fossils buried deeper in the ground always date older than fossils near the surface. If radiometric dating was unreliable, then we shouldn't see fossils dating older in a linear correlation with depth. This is especially true if you believe all the dinosaurs, for example, were killed at the same time during the global flood.

    Third, there is no way to explain how far the continents have drifted due to plate tectonics without billions of years for them to slowly drift. Rock strata confirms the different environments a location has been in over time.

  22. I love that you are revealing the assumptions made. If this were a topic on a particular arithmetic theorem the assumptions would OF COURSE be stated. However I often find that when we move into the science realm, particularly evolution, that assumptions are rarely mentioned. :) Not listing assumptions allows evolutionists to use circular reasoning right under our noses. :)

  23. Here's an article on the physics of the flood which covers plate tectonics issues mentioned:

    About using craters to estimate the age of the earth: There has evidently been recent debate about the significance of secondary impacts, fallback debris, and shaky assumptions of this model. Science (May 26, 2006) reported that at a conference last March, "125 planetary scientists deadlocked" over how to apply the method, with many doubting that crater counts have anything to do with telling time. Geological dates inferred from the method could be "off by orders of magnitude."

    DebunkyMonkey- You said, "So there is a big problem with heat/energy dispersion given such radioactive energy in a short period of time would melt the surface of the Earth regardless of how fast the universe is expanding." This is not a statement you can make since you don't know how fast the cosmos may have been expanding during creation. Yes, this is just a model, but so is evolution. We don't have to understand why something occurred to understand that it did or does occur. In science there are many examples of observations that we do not understand. Just look in your medicine cabinet. The "enigma" of accelerated decay accompanied by rapid cooling is suggested by the He diffusion study. I will talk about another line of evidence of this in a future post.

    Here's a link about the evidence for creation contained within the fossil record:

  24. Here's an article on the physics of the flood which covers plate tectonics issues mentioned:

    *facepalm* Floods don't cause the plates to move at several miles per hour just as sure as the ocean doesn't cause the sea doesn't "push" the continents apart.

    This is not a statement you can make since you don't know how fast the cosmos may have been expanding during creation.

    This is not rocket science. Assuming you have a stable Earth and atmosphere sitting out in space, it doesn't matter how fast galaxies are moving away from you; the Earth won't dissipate more heat. In fact, if the Universe expands fast enough, which it will by the way, then atoms themselves lose their cohesion and fly apart.

    By the way, I do know how fast the Universe was expanding at the time of the big bang: the speed of light. Even at that rate of expansion, the microwave background radiation shows the Universe still being extremely hot almost 400,000 years later.

    Here's a link about the evidence for creation contained within the fossil record:

    Let's also not forget that fossils date millions of years old (125,000 years for human fossils) using radiometric dating. So the idea that radioactive decay was greater in "creation week" before the plants and animals arrived is just ridiculous even from a biblical PoV.

    Another thing no one brought up is the problem of distant starlight. The speed of light is constant. We see objects billions of light years away. Therefore light traveled for billions of years. To increase the speed of light violates every law of physics imaginable. Once again, even if it was possible, it would most likely melt the surface of the Earth given e=mc^2. There is absolutely no evidence that the speed of light could be any other value.

    Similarly, there are examples of supernovas older than 12,000 years of age. So did God make stars pre-supernovaed?

    For crying out loud, the He content in our own sun dates it back to 4.5 billion years of age.

    In order for young earth creationism to be true, you have to dispute and overturn well-established theories, data, and laws from almost every field of science from astrophysics to microbiology. The fact that geology, astronomy, paleontology, chemistry, physics, etc... all reinforce the idea of an old universe pretty much settles the case.

    I'm sorry, but young Earth creationism is total fail.

  25. Hey Blessed.

    Its not really about trying to prove that creation is true. Its about Faith. These guys lack it, and what you are doing does nothing to help them achieve it.

  26. You're absolutely right Jean. It is absolutely about faith. Faith that your particular interpretation of your particular chosen version of the bible overrules the actual observations of of hundreds of years of active scientific research in every field of science. Astronomy, Paleontology, Physics, Geology, Plate Techtonics, etc, etc. Scientists of all faiths, many, many of them Christians. Christians who just think that using their eyes/hands/brains that they believe God gave them to use is more important than idolizing a particular text.

  27. Well, at least I have the capability of using my own brains to do my own thinking. The so called "Christians" who try to use "Creation" as a way to reach people like you are normally as lost, probably worse than the athiest! Ray Comfort is a good example. If he continues in the path he is in, you and him will be spending eternity in the same. He may even recieve greater condemnation that the athiests...



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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.