The Creation Explanation
|The Age of the Earth|
A Survey of Some Short-term Chronologies
The Age of the Oceans
The age of the oceans may be calculated from data concerning the total amount of salts present in the oceans, and the rate at which the salts are accumulating in the oceans.5 These salts are transported from land into the ocean by the river systems of the world. Uranium salts are being carried into the oceans over 100 times as fast as they are being removed by salt spray and other means, in contrast to other salts such as those of sodium and aluminum which are now entering and leaving the ocean in more or less equal amounts.
Thus uranium content can be the basis for an estimate of the age of the oceans.6 The estimated total uranium dissolved in ocean water is about 4 billion tons. The amount carried into the oceans annually is about 21,200 tons. Of this some 85 percent is taken up by various sinks or absorbed by ocean sediments and rocks. This leaves about 3,180 tons to be added each year to the uranium dissolved in the ocean waters. Assuming that there was no uranium in the ocean waters at the time of their formation and that the rates involved were roughly constant, we can estimate the maximum age of the oceans. The present uranium content divided by the annual increase is 4,000,000,.000/3.180 = 1,260,000 years. This "age" is much smaller than the 4.5 billion years embraced by evolutionary scientists.
It has been assumed for the above estimate that the uranium "clock" has been running at a uniform rate. The assumption that geologic processes have been operating at constant rates is the basic assumption of uniformitarian historical geology. If it is true, however, that waters covered the earth some 5,000 years ago in a great Flood, then the rate at which uranium was leached out of the earth and into the oceans was greater in the past than at present. This would result in a shorter time needed to reach the present uranium content.
Furthermore, we assumed that our uranium "clock" was set at zero when the oceans began. It would not be unreasonable to suppose that the oceans were created with some uranium already present. That is to say, the uranium clock was not set at zero time when the oceans were formed. It would be reasonable to conclude, then, that the age of the oceans, and of the earth, if both were formed at the same time, is perhaps 10,000 years.
Other short-term chronologies for the oceans are based upon the oceanic content of various chemical elements and compounds relative to the annual inflow of these substances from all known sources. One of the most thorough studies of this kind of data revealed that of fifty-one chemical elements contained in ocean water, twenty could have accumulated to their present concentrations in one thousand years or less. An additional nine of the elements would have required no more than ten thousand years, and eight other elements no more than 100,000 years.7
Two Helium Clocks: the Atmosphere and Hot Rocks
Just as many dissolved salts are building up in the oceans via drain-off of continental rivers, in a similar manner helium-4, the most abundant isotope of helium(atoms of the same element which differ from each other in atomic weight because of different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei are called isotopes), is flowing into the atmosphere from at least three sources: 1. principally helium-4 produced by radioactive decay of uranium and thorium in the earth's crust and oceans; 2. from cosmic helium raining on earth, mainly from the sun's corona and in meteorites; and 3. from nuclear reactions in the earth's crust caused by cosmic rays. There is also evidence that the earth's original atmosphere contained helium.
Dr. Melvin Cook first pointed out the problem which atmospheric helium raises for a multibillion year age of the earth.8 At the present rate of flow of helium into the atmosphere, the content of helium in the atmosphere could have been built up in only a small fraction of a billion years. This difficulty has yet to be solved by secular science.
Dr. Larry Vardiman's technical monograph, The Age of the Earth's Atmosphere, published in 1990, is the most recent survey of the helium problem.9 The atmosphere now contains about 4.1 billion tons of He-4. It is estimated that about 2400 tons per year of He-4 is released from the crust into the atmosphere. The theoretically calculated rate of escape of He-4 from the atmosphere into space averaged over an eleven-year solar cycle is only about 70 tons per year.10 This is only 1/33rd of the rate of inflow from the crust. If we assume a zero content of He-4 in the original atmosphere, the maximum age of our atmosphere calculated from these figures is only about 1.8 million years. On the other hand, if the earth were 4.5 billion years, the atmosphere should contain 2,500 times its measured content of helium. Joseph Chamberlain and Donald Hunten at the close of a detailled examination of atmospheric helium concluded, "The problem will not go away and it is unsolved."11 They then briefly describe two possible solutions. Vardiman discusses three possible solutions considered by secular scientists for the missing helium problem. These are "polar wind" (the escape of ionized helium at the poles where the earth's magnetic field lines could guide ions out into space); "solar wind sweeping," (in which streams of charged atoms from the sun interact with the earth's exosphere); and "hot-ion exchange" (in which high energy ions give helium atoms a kick out into space). Vardiman's discussion shows that these concepts have not yet made the helium problem go away.12 Are we not justified in concluding that the atmospheric helium clock continues to report a young age for the earth?
Another helium clock is provided by radiogenic gas trapped in very hot rocks deep in the earth's crust. The rate of escape and diffusion upward of such trapped gas is greatly increased at high temperatures. These deep rocks are supposed to be billions of years old, yet much of the helium-4 produced in them has not escaped. This suggests that these rocks are not billions of years old or millions of years old.13
The Erosion and Sedimentation Clock
In the modern western world, the concept of a very old earth originated only about 200 years ago, principally with the work of James Hutton (1726-1797), who announced his ideas in 1785. Around 1830 Hutton's ideas of gradualism as an alternative to catastrophism, or sudden change, began to have wide acceptance through the efforts of Sir Charles Lyell, who discussed it in the first geology textbook to be published. Different strata of the earth's crust were supposed to represent different time periods. On this concept one of the best known "earth clocks" is founded.
Geologists studying the rates of volcanic activity, erosion, and sedimentation have observed that these processes are now occurring at fairly uniform rates. Many geologists assume that these rates have remained the same throughout time. This is the principle of uniformitarianism which Lyell so persuasively promoted in his very influential three-volume work, Principles of Geology. Charles Darwin was given a copy of the first volume by Captain Robert FitzRoy when they set out on their momentous five-year voyage around the world on the HMS Beagle late in 1831. As young Darwin read the book on board the ship, he realized that Lyell's uniformitarianism and great-age chronology for earth history provided the essential ingredients needed to make an evolutionary history of life plausible.
In textbooks on geology it is explained how it is possible to obtain average rates of deposition for many types of sediments. By studying exposed rocks or rock strata all over the world, and assuming that the many layers at any one point on the earth's surface were piled in order on top of one another, one can draw up a universal stratigraphic column or "geologic column." This imaginary column supposedly provides a kind of calendar for earth history.
Certain adjustments must be made to the geologic column because there are often gaps of missing sediments in different parts of the earth. When the thickness of each formation is divided by the normal or present rate of accumulation of that type of sediment, the time span represented by each type of formation can be estimated. Addition of all these times gives a figure for the approximate age of any individual rock layer back to the time represented by the deepest strata of sedimentary rocks. On this basis some geologists have attempted to set up a hypothetical "sediments clock."
Many flaws exist in the "sediments clock," and not all geologists have been happy with it. In fact its principal element, uniformitarianism, has been severely shaken in recent decades. American geologist J. Harland Bretz struggled for several decades to get his biased colleagues to pay attention to striking evidence of catastrophic erosion in the scablands in western Montana, Idaho and Washington.14 British paleontologist, Derek Ager, showed in his book The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record, that the greater part of the geological strata was laid down during relatively brief periods of very rapid deposition.15 Interspersed with the depositions were periods of often rapid scouring away of sediments and also periods of quiescence. These facts mean that the "sediments clock" has very little value for the quantitative measurement of geologic time. In this century radiometric methods have provided the most substantial and imposing support for the great-age chronology of the earth. Nevertheless, it is the fossils in the rocks, plus the theory of evolution, which have the final say in determining the relative ages of rock strata.
The secular scientific establishment is committed to the view that the sedimentary strata were laid down over a period of many hundreds of millions of years, and that the encased fossils of plants and animals give historical evidence for the evolution of life. It is assumed that all plants and animals are descended from original single-celled ancestors. Thus there supposedly has been a fantastic, continual increase in complexity, man being at the pinnacle of this process. A historical scenario has been worked out for this process. So the complexity of fossil species and its apparent relationship to the sequence of species arranged in the scenario is considered to determine the relative ages of the fossils. Consequently, the theory of evolution and its resultant scenario are the final determinants of relative age of fossils and therefore of the sedimentary strata in which they are found.
Some of the difficulties encountered in the uniformitarian interpretation of the fossil and sedimentary rock data were discussed in Chapter-3. These problems included missing strata, "reversed" strata (i.e., fossils found lying in the reverse of the assumed evolutionary order), living fossils (some of which had been used for indexing certain strata), evidence of catastrophic global flooding and volcanic activity, polystrate fossils that could not possibly have been buried slowly, and the fact that fossils simply are in general not formed under the conditions assumed in uniformitarian geologic theory. Thus there is much evidence that the rock strata clock is a questionable which interpreted according to uniformitarian great-age theory of geology.
A particular kind of sedimentary data suggests that the great-age chronology is not reliable. The sediments on the ocean floors set a limit to the age of the earth, according to Dr. Steven Austin, a geologist with the Institute for Creation Research near San Diego, California.16 The average depth of sediments deposited on the ocean floors is estimated to be just over one-half mile. This amounts to about 8.2x1017 tons. The present rate at which sediments from the continents are being washed into the oceans or deposited from underground springs is about 2.75x1010 tons per year. The current theory of plate tectonics pictures large quantities of these ocean floor sediments being subducted or buried deep in the earth's mantle where great moving plates of the earth's crust meet. but this is estimated to be only about 2.75x109 tons per year, or just one-tenth of the annual new sediments being added.
Assuming uniformitarian conditions in the past, let us calculate the age of the earth from this data. The formula is
Thirty-three million years is less than one percent of the 4.5 billion years commonly cited for the age of the earth. Moreover, recent data from deep sea drilling in ocean sediments indicate that sedimentation rates in the recent past were perhaps ten to one hundred times a great as at present. If to this is added the vast quantities of sediments which must have been dumped rapidly on the ocean floors during the Flood of Noah, we can see that the thickness of ocean sediments is actually far more consistent with the biblical model of creation and the flood over a time span of around 10,000 years than with the uniformitarian model. Billions of years of erosion and sedimentation should have loaded up to sixty miles of non-existent sediments on the ocean floors. Since the sediments are mission, are we not justified in concluding that the billions of years are likewise non-existent?
Evidence of Catastrophic Activity in Earth History
In addition to what has already been surveyed above and in Chapter-3, there is a huge body of evidence for catastrophic events in the history of the earth. Steven A. Austin has assembled in his book, Catastrophes in Earth History, several hundred such events which have been reported in the scientific literature.17 They relate to astronomy, cosmology, many aspects of geology, petrology, paleontology and atmospheric science.
Moon Dust Clocks: A Broken Clock Is Replaced by One that Works
When the Lunar Lander program was approaching the historic first landing, there was much speculation and disputation among space scientists concerning the problem of dust on the moon. Many felt that because of the great age of the earth's airless satellite, there probably was a thick layer of dust on the surface, into which any lander would likely sink and perhaps be disabled. The original landers were carefully and at great expense designed to avoid this possible danger. The actually landing revealed a dust layer only 1/8th to 3 inches in depth.18
The absence of appreciable lunar dust was taken up by creationists as evidence for a young moon. The lack of meteoritic dust accumulation in the surface layers of the earth was also interpreted as evidence for a young earth.19 The first edition of The Creation Explanation (1975) included this information and interpretation.20 However, new data from satellite measurements of the meteoritic material in the space around the earth and also measurements of radio waves produced by meteoritic bombardment of the upper atmosphere showed that the amount of dust infall is much less than previously estimated. Thus the depth of dust accumulated in 4.5 billion years on the moon's surface should be only a few inches, rather than many feet.21 In like manner, the infall of meteoric dust on the earth's surface was estimated to total only a few inches. The most recent research on this subject was reported in 1993 in Science.22 The Long Duration Exposure Facility satellite exposed large aluminum surfaces to impacts by cosmic dust particles in the space around the earth. After almost six years in orbit around the earth, the satellite was retrieved and the craters on the aluminum surfaces were measured and counted. From this type of information it is estimated that the infall of cosmic dust on the earth is approximately 44,000 tons per year. An entirely independent estimate of dust infall based on the relative contents of two isotopes of the element osmium in deep sea sediments is about 57,000 tons per year. The average of these two figures is about 50,000 tons per year. If we assume that cosmic dust has fallen on the earth at this rate for 4.5 billion years; and take the density of the compacted dust to be 3.5 grams/cm3, this would produce a layer of dust on the earth's surface only about 4.5 inches deep. We may therefore conclude that cosmic dust evidence formerly cited for a young earth and moon appears to have been eliminated by the progress of scientific knowledge.
There is, however, another process occuring on the moon which should have produced much moon dust. British astronomer R.A. Lyttleton of Cambridge University had proposed in 1950 that the action of ultraviolet light and X-rays upon moon rocks should continually spall off surface layers to produce dust.23 He estimated the rate of this process to be a few ten-thousandths of an inch per year. If only 0.00001 inches of dust were produced annually for 4.5 billion years, the result would be about 375 feet of dust! No such dust layer exists, even in the lunar seas (large low-lying areas) into which electric fields and solar wind would tend to sweep loose dust. Thus the lack of lunar dust still is suggestive of a young moon that is not billions of years old.
An Important Lesson: In Science, Losing a Debate Is a Learning Exerience
The above history is instructive for Christians who wish to offer to their unbelieving friends an intelligent and effective apologetic for the faith of Christ. We must never forget that our platform is the Word of God, not the current conclusions of scientists. Science is always changing. So we should not be disturbed if on occasion new scientific findings invalidate one of our arguments based on previous science. We expect the worldlings to acknowledge the scientific evidence which points to the mind and hand of God in the world. We cannot expect them to respect us if we cling to scientific evidence from the past which has been discredited by new research findings. Remember, the kingdom of God is not going to collapse because we sometimes lose an argument. Christ's kingdom, i.e., His sovereign rule over all, will in the end prevail, even though we His servants may once in a while have to admit our mistakes. Honesty and candor will in such a circumstance be a powerful demonstration of the reality of our faith and of our total commitment to truth. As the old saying goes, "We can't win 'em all." In any event, in science losing a debate is a learning experience.
The Population Growth Clock
The "explosion" of the world population has become a significant topic during the last few years. Scientists studying growth rates are especially concerned about the necessary requirements for life such as food, water, and space. Some scientists who specialize in these kinds of studies have made calculations that might help answer the question, How long would it take for the present world population to grow from just one family?
The rate of world population growth has varied radically during history as a result of many influences, including famines, pestilence, wars, and probably a number of catastrophic events. Estimates of the total human population 2,000 years ago center at about 300 million.24 If the average length of a generation were forty years, in 5,000 years one couple could multiply to 300 million if each family had an average of just 2.3 children. This corresponds to an average annual population increase of only 0.35 percent, whereas the present world population growth rate, considered by some to be catastrophic, is about two percent annually, almost six times as great as the hypothetical rate used in the above calculation.
If, on the other hand, the human race had been on earth for one million years with a growth rate of only 1/100th of one percent annually, the resulting population would be 5x1043 people, i.e., the number 5 followed by forty-three zeros. This is enough people to fill completely more than a thousand solar systems solidly packed. Thus the notion that the human race has been multiplying for a million years or so seems absurd, even taking into account the fact that modern medicine and technology were not available until this century. The consideration of reasonable population growth curves seems to support the biblical chronology of thousands of years, rather than the evolutionary chronology of several million years for man's history on earth.
This argument, however, is not a proof that the human race could not have existed on the earth for a million years. The above highly oversimplified population growth estimate would be greatly reduced if there were periodic catastrophes every few thousand years which wiped out a large proportion of the human race. However, intuitively it does seem unlikely that the human race could have existed on earth for a million years without long ago reaching the absolute limit set by the available earth resources.
The Age of the Mississippi River Delta
Additional striking evidence from sediments is to be found in the extensive studies of the delta of the Mississippi River during the past century. Charles Lyell, father of evolutionary geology, after a superficial examination, estimated the age of the delta to be only 60,000 years. This seems to be far short of what is required by current historical geology.
More recent study shows that Lyell's estimate was excessive. Detailed examination conducted over a period of many years by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the cooperation of civilian geologists greatly reduced this figure. It now appears that the maximum age of the delta, that is, the time required for the Mississippi River to deposit the present accumulation of sediments making up the delta, is no more than 5,000 years.25
The Gas and Oil Seepage Clock
Trapped oil and gas deposits and the rates at which they leak through the layers of sediments to the surface of the earth again suggest a shorter time scale for the earth than evolutionists claim. Sometimes in oil well exploration a "gusher" results. The well goes wild and spews out oil and natural gas until measures are taken to bring the flow under control. How can we explain this? It is believed that the oil was formed when organic materials were covered and trapped suddenly beneath heavy layers of earth and rock, usually under conditions of elevated temperature and pressure. The pressures in oil deposits result from three basic causes. Most of the pressures are due to the weight of all the layers of earth resting on top of the trapped oil and gas; the other causes of pressure are from the weight of oil pressing down upon itself and gases that may be present.
After rather detailed study of measurements of pressure in deep oil wells in various parts of the world, Dr. Melvin Cook concluded that the very high observed pressures require sudden deep burial.26 Moreover, the containing rocks are porous so that to retain these pressures for periods greater than a few thousand years is apparently impossible under the observed permeabilities of the reservoir and trap formations. (Permeability determines the rate at which leakage may occur through the material.)
Geostatic pressure refers to the total force of the overlying layers of earth pressing down on any material beneath it. If an oil deposit is trapped beneath the thousands of tons of earth, the pressure may be evenly distributed throughout the liquid. The pressure of the earth's weight will push the oil up through the opening made by a drill.
The conclusion that oil and gas have remained trapped at such high pressures for millions of years does not seem to be valid. It would not be possible for the rocky sediments to maintain a sufficiently good seal for such a long time. Secular scientists have admitted that the occurrence of fluids in the reservoirs within the earth at excessive pressures is a mystery. These formations containing oil, gas, or water are supposedly millions of years oil, and the pressures are extremely high. a fully satisfactory explanation is lacking.27 Rather recent catastrophic deposition of sediments could be the answer.
Believers in creation feel that they possess the answer to this mystery, for it fits within their basic assumption of global catastrophe. They believe that the excessively high-pressure oil and water reservoirs are not nearly as old as most geologists think. What may have happened five to ten thousand years ago was a tremendous catastrophe which caused a great deal of overthrusting, or the movement of large blocks of earth over one another. This type of violent action could have trapped rivers and lakes as well a animal life and all sorts of vegetable matter. The strata left overlying many of the trapped fluid formations would have produced high geostatic pressures. From that time on, leakage would have caused the pressures to decay, some things very slowly but always fast enough that no excess pressures would remain at all if the formations were more than a few thousand years old.
The Cooling Earth Clock
In the late nineteenth century the British physicist Lord Kelvin (William Thompson), a devout believer in creation, greatly upset the evolutionary theorists by demonstrating that the cooling of the earth from a molten state to its present temperature would only require some millions of years, rather than the tens of millions of years then in vogue. Several decades later radioactive elements were discovered in the earth's crust. Since these continually produce heat beneath the surface, it was assumed that this new information completely invalidated Kelvin's conclusions. The reason was that the added heat would greatly increase the time required for the earth to cool.
More recent calculations show, however, that the problem still persists for evolutionary geology. Without radioactivity the time for cooling is calculated to be 22 million years. With radioactivity the figure is 45 million years, still far too short to fit the evolutionary scenario for history of life on earth.28 The actual facts fit the creation model without difficulty, because there is no need to assume that the earth was ever in a molten state in the first place.
In our consideration of many different types of "earth clocks" used to estimate the "ages" of various structures in the earth, we have seen that they do not give exact values. Furthermore, all of them involve assumptions with respect to initial conditions as well as to past rates of natural processes. Nevertheless, it is apparent that there is evidence to support the view that the earth is not as old as the secular scientific community believes. The belief that the earth and the universe are billions of years old is grounded, first, in the belief that the present state of the physical universe and of the biosphere is the result of very slow processes of change and, second, on the results of age estimates and measurements which make use of certain radioactive isotopes of naturally occurring elements in the earth's crust, in meteors, and in lunar rocks. Let us see if these radiometric methods for determining the ages of the materials composing the earth have any deficiencies.
6. Block, Salman, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Vol. 44, 1980, pp. 373-377.
7. Riley, J.B. and G. Skirow, editors, Chemical Oceanography, Vol. 1 (Academic Press, London, 1965), pp. 164-165.
8. Cook, Melvin A., "Where Is the Earth's Radiogenic Helium?" Nature, 1957, Vol. 179, p. 213; Cook, Melvin, Prehistory and Earth Models (Max Parrish, London, 1966), pp. 10-14.
9. Vardiman, Larry, The Age of the Earth's Atmosphere: A Study of the Helium Flux Through the Atmosphere (Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA 92021, 1990).
10. MacDonald, G.J.F., "The Escape of Helium from the Earth's Atmosphere," in The Origin and Evolution of Atmospheres and Oceans, P.J. Brancazio and A.G.W. Cameron, editors. (John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1964), pp. 127-182; see p. 127.
11. Chamberlain, Joseph W. and Donald M. Hunten, Theory of Planetary Atmospheres, 2nd Edition (Academic Press, new York, 1987), p. 372.
12. Vardiman, Larry, ibid. (ref. 9), pp, 24-25.
13. Gentry, R.V., et al., "Differential Helium Retention in Zircons: Implications for Nuclear Waste Management," Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 9, Oct. 1982, pp. 1129-1130.
14. Bretz, J.H., "The Lake Missoula Floods and the Channeled Scabland," Journal of Geology, vol. 77, 1969, pp. 505-543.
15. Ager, D.V., The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record, Second Edition (John Wiley, New York, 1981).
16. Nevins, S.E. (Steven Austin), Creation--Acts, Facts, Impacts (Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA, 92021), 1974, p. 164.
17. Austin, Steven A., Catastrophes in Earth History (Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA, 1984).
18. Pasachoff, J.M., Contemporary Astronomy (W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, 1977), pp. 294-295.
19. Morris, Henry M., editor, Scientific Creationism (Creation-Life Publishers, San Diego, 1974), pp. 151-153; Slusher, Harold S., Age of the Cosmos (Institute for Creation Research, San Diego, 1980), pp. 39-41.
20. Kofahl, Robert E. and Kelly L. Segraves, The Creation Explanation (Harold Shaw Publishers, Wheaton Ill., 1975), pp. 190-191.
21. Dohnanyi, J.S., Icarus, Vol. 17, 1972, pp. 1-48.
22. Love, S.G. and D.E. Brownlee, Science, Vol. 262, 22 Oct. 1993, pp. 550-553.
23. Lyttleton, R.A., The Modern Universe (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1968), p. 154.
24. Coale, Ansley J., Scientific American, Vol. 231, Sept. 1974, p. 43.
25. Allen, Benjamin F., Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 9, March 1973, pp. 96-114.
26. Cook, Melvin A., Prehistory and Earth Models (Max Parrish, London, 1966), pp. 254-265; See also Hubbert, M.K. and W.W. Rubey, Bull. Geological Society of America, Vol. 70, 1959, pp. 115-206.
27. Dickey, P., et al., Science, Vol. 160, 10 May 1968, p. 609.
28. Ingersoll, Leonard R., Otto J. Zobel and Alfred C. Ingersoll, Heat Conduction With Engineering, Geological and Other Applications (Univ. of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1954), pp. 99-107; Slusher, Harold S. and Thomas P. Gamwell, The Age of the Earth: A Study of the Cooling of the earth Under the Influence of Radioactive Heat Sources (Institute for Creation Research, San Diego, 1978).