How old is the Earth?

by Dr. Ed Berry

EXB150In January 2014, some parents of home-schooled students asked if I would teach their high school students math, physics, and climate physics. Since the families attended a local protestant church whose pastor preached the Earth was 6000 years old, I was concerned about discussing proxy climate data spanning six million years.

So I asked the parents. I explained I would not force students to “believe” the Earth was older than 6000 years but it is necessary to talk about scientific data that predates 6000 years. They returned with the response from their pastor,

“I will not have anyone in my church hearing about the Earth being older than 6000 years.”

End of story. The only way these home schooled students would ever hear anything about an Earth or universe older than 6000 years would be to first quit their pastor’s church, which I recommend.

This home-school event reminded me of what I saw in South Africa in the late 1960’s.

African parents bound their infant children’s legs to make them unable to walk when they grow up. These parents believed their children would survive better on charity if they were deformed.

In America in 2014, some uneducated pastors and willing parents bind their children’s minds to make them unable to understand science when they grow up.

Let me be clear.

I have no problem with religious groups teaching their version of science so long as they teach it as a science. I do have a problem with religious groups forbidding students to learn the accepted world view of science. Such a restriction is like not teaching students to read. It leaves a learning gap that impairs them for life.

Even those who wish to dispute the old-Earth theory, e.g., much older than 6000 years, must first understand the science that supports the old-Earth theory.

For example, my friend Dr. Larry Vardiman has worked in this area at the Institution for Creation Research. I have no problem with those who try, as a matter of science, to disprove the old Earth theory. All scientific theory is open to question. Incidentally, Larry and I are on the same page when it comes to rejecting the notion that our carbon dioxide emissions cause dangerous global warming. So while I explain my view on the Earth’s age below, keep in mind you can read the alternative view on ICR’s website.

The critical issue here is that science cannot prove a hypothesis. Science can only disprove a hypothesis. This is not a limitation of science. It is a limitation of all human attempts to discover the truth. Therefore, no amount of hand-waving can prove the young-Earth hypothesis. But it can be disproved by data.

Similarly, no amount of hand-waving can prove the old-Earth theory. But it still stands because no data has shown it to be false. The major hurdle for the young-Earth promoters is they must disprove the old-Earth theory and so far they have not done so.

Dictatorial teaching is wrong.

I have a problem with those who teach young-Earth theory as “fact” because this bypasses science and forces the unfortunate students to “believe” something without question just because some “authority” figure says it is true.

Both the political far left and the far right teach in a dictatorial manner.

The political left, that controls our universities, tells students to “believe” without question that our carbon dioxide emissions cause dangerous climate change. These students become climate zombies who do not understand science and who only can parrot the beliefs they have been taught.

The political right, that controls our evangelical pulpits, tells people to “believe” without question that God created the whole universe with its over 100 billion galaxies in a 24-hour period some 6000 years ago, and to reject any scientific data or statement that contradicts this belief.

Both of these examples are called “brainwashing” and you will suffer brain damage if you allow yourself to believe these claims.

The difference between science and religion.

John Kemeny taught Philosophy of Science when I attended Dartmouth College. His course included the critical philosophy needed to properly conduct science and without which no one should be given a PhD degree. On the subject of religion, he taught,

If it’s measurable, it’s science. If it’s not measurable, it’s religion. God and heaven are not measurable. Therefore, they are part of religion. You can believe whatever you wish about God and heaven because we have no way to prove your belief is wrong.

However, if you extend your religion into a statement about the world we can measure, then you have entered the world of science and we can subject your statement to test.

John Kemeny also taught that the “Theory of Evolution” is not a valid theory because it cannot make a prediction that can be tested. But here we are talking about the age of the Earth and not about evolution which is an entirely different subject. In a future article, I will write about the entropy of evolution.

An example of extending religion into science is to claim the Earth is 6000 years old. This statement is subject to scientific test and it fails, as I will review below.

(Another example of extending religion into science is to claim there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats. This statement is subject to scientific test and it fails.)

The scientific method is the path to truth.

The scientific method is the only path to truth about the world that we can measure. The key to science is to reject all hypotheses that make incorrect predictions. The hypothesis that the Earth is 6000 years old makes predictions that do not correspond to data. Therefore, the hypothesis of a 6000-year-old Earth is wrong. And when this hypothesis fails, the interpretation of the Bible upon which this hypothesis is based also fails.

Therefore, if we seek truth, we must reject the young-Earth interpretation of the Bible. This does not mean we reject what we believe about God.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say the Earth is 6000 years old. We know the word “day” used in the modern translation of Genesis originally meant a period of time that had nothing to do with a 24-hour day.

The idea of a young Earth did not arise until the fourth century. In 1650, James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, used Bible generations to calculate Adam and Eve lived in 4004 BC. The idea that this date represented the day of creation did not become a serious theological issue until the 19th century. Today, the young-Earth hypothesis is still promoted among Protestant evangelicals and about ten percent of Americans still believe this hypothesis.

Dogmatic beliefs about the real world are dangerous to our freedom.

Like climate change, what people believe does not matter until they insert their belief into politics where it affects others. The dogmatic belief that the Earth is 6000 years old affects the rationality of its believers and affects how they make political decisions.

This has happened in the dominant evangelical portion of the tea party. Their belief that their “feelings” about the material world can be trusted more than data has led them to misinterpret the meaning of principles, to waste their votes on third-party candidates, to support a government-trained Democrat for Congress rather than an excellent Republican candidate, to not support Romney over Obama for president, and, yes, to rally against Montana’s CSKT Water Compact in 2015.

Evangelical tea-party irrationality scares liberals who then vote for Democrats to avoid electing evangelical tea-party candidates.

Here are three liberal views of evangelical tea-party irrationality for your consideration.

John Kozy wrote in his Learning without Questioning in America: The Sunday School Syndrome,

Readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmatic don’t occasion much questioning. But subjects like history are another matter! Learning history, or anything else for that matter, can be likened to learning Bible verses if questioning is excluded from the process.

This kind of learning without questioning is carried over to our colleges and universities where the problem becomes really severe.

Subjects are taught as if they were comprised of revealed truths. Hardly anyone ever questions them because questioning them is discouraged. So we end up with people who graduate with degrees under their arms who are no wiser than they were on the days they matriculated as freshmen. No new idea ever enters their heads.

In this society, people who are learned are not educated. They are little different from hurdy gurdy monkeys, but we elect them to office.

Such is the legacy of the Sunday School Syndrome. It yields the stubbornness of what are essentially stillborn minds.

No amount of information conveyed can ever make a stupid person smart!

So nothing fundamental will ever change until intellectual development rather than the conveyance of information becomes the principal goal of learning.

Frank Schaeffer wrote in his We have a dumb religion problem,

To get what’s happening to the GOP and, to America, you need to understand the theology of the extremist frankly stupid and misinformed evangelical heartland.

We don’t have a political problem. We have an evangelical stupidity problem.

The Republican Party has fallen into the grip of an evangelical-led group of religious fundamentalists who are either true believers or who know how to cater to them. Now the experience of the hostage taking these “Christians” did in the shutdown is over, it’s worth figuring out how things got so crazy because they will again– until we admit who and what is at the root of our political dysfunction.

Wake up: our evangelical-led right isn’t interested in policy. They are an apocalyptic cult led by the none-too-bright. And they won’t quit. The answer isn’t dialogue but to marginalize the impact of religious delusion. Most Americans are sick of the charade.

Schaeffer’s article reveals why Republicans lose elections. Evangelical religious fundamentalists push their religious agenda even when it becomes irrational.

Schaeffer continues in his second article, Fundamentalist Belief grows Brains incapable of dealing with the Real World,

Fundamentalist belief grows brains incapable of dealing with the world as it actually is.

Being raised in a home where you’re taught from birth – as I was as the son of evangelical missionaries — that the evidence of your eyes and ears is wrong, that, for instance, unseen forces are fighting over the destiny of your soul, that whatever science the local newspaper or your teacher says to the contrary, the earth is young and science can’t be trusted, changes your brain.

Delusion leads to more delusion, unless something helps you snap out of it. I describe my “snapping out” process in my new book And God Said, “Billy!” There I explore the roots of American religious delusion, and offer another way to approach spirituality and God that makes peace with a fact-based life.

Religious delusion takes smart young brains and makes them unable to relate to the actual world.

It makes them ready to believe anyone standing “against the establishment,” since the fact-based community has always been portrayed by evangelicals as the enemy of their Bible-based literalism and the godly community of the self-isolated embattled I-believe-everything-in-the-Bible faithful.

Appeals to rational thought, facts or evidence gain no traction in brains conditioned to think that reality itself is a threat and that theology contradicts science. Religious delusion takes smart young brains and makes them unable to relate to the actual world.

Let me explain some philosophy of science.

Philosophically, an all-powerful God could have created, in the last ten seconds, everyone on Earth, and implanted our memories with everything we know, and all that we have experienced … and we would be none the wiser because we would be incapable of proving this had happened.

Similarly, an all-powerful God could have created, 6000 years ago, our universe with its over 100 billion galaxies, separated by 47 billion light-years, travelling away from a center where we can calculate a Big Bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago, and we would be none the wiser because we cannot prove God did not do this.

But we have to admit that IF God indeed created everything 6000 years ago, then He made sure the measurements we can make of our Earth and universe make them “appear” to be much older than 6000 years.

Would an all-powerful and just God fool us like this? This does not square away with the belief that God is truth.

The philosophy of science has means to take care of this sort of problem. In science, we must assume the simplest explanation is the true explanation until evidence proves otherwise. And the simplest explanation is God created our universe with the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago and a lot of stuff happened before we humans assumed our place on our planet that orbits one star among billions in the Milky Way galaxy that is one of more than 100 billion galaxies in our universe.

The philosophy of science, properly used, will lead us to truth.

Rebuttals to the Earth is only 6000 years old.

There are many rebuttals to the young-Earth hypothesis. Let’s start with a recent, impressive feat of physics:

Physicists find Genesis Footprints 13.8 billion years old.

(Please see my comment @5 below noting this evidence has not been confirmed.)

In 1980, Physicist Andrei Linde first predicted the Big Bang would have left its cosmic fingerprints in gravitational waves, ripples in space-time, formed in the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang. In 2014, experimental physicists found clear evidence of Linde’s predictions. If the young-Earth hypothesis were true then such a prediction and its associated evidence would be impossible.

According to the Standford University news release:

Andrei Linde, the Harold Trap Friis Professor of Physics at Stanford, has been awarded the 2014 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics for his work in developing the theory of cosmic inflation, the theory that explains the origin and structure of the universe.

Linde shares the award – and the accompanying $1 million prize – with fellow inflation pioneers Alan Guth, a professor of physics at MIT, and Alexei Starobinsky, a cosmologist at the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Kavli Prize, bestowed each year by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, is a top scientific prize that recognizes scientists for their seminal advances in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience.

The theory of cosmic inflation has revolutionized our thinking about how the universe came to be after the Big Bang. The theory extends our physical description of the cosmos all the way back to when the universe was only a tiny fraction of a second old.

According to the theory, very soon after the universe came into existence, it underwent a short-lived phase of exponential expansion, during which it expanded by a huge factor – hence the name inflation. The consequences of this episode orchestrated the evolution of the cosmos.

During the 1970s, Guth, Linde and Starobinsky worked independently on models of the early universe. In 1980, Guth, at the time a scientist at what is now the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford, proposed inflation theory. Linde later suggested modifications to Guth’s theory to overcome some of its shortcomings, creating what was called “new inflation.”

Linde soon put forward a more general theory, called chaotic inflation, which encompasses most of the inflation scenarios being studied today. Linde has continued to push the boundaries of inflation theory, proposing ever more exotic versions – including a scenario that could have led to the formation of multiple universes.

Inflation theory took a step toward validation earlier this year when the principal investigators of the BICEP2 experiment – including Chao-Lin Kuo, an assistant professor of physics at Stanford – announced that they had indirectly detected gravitational waves, ripples in space-time that were created in the first moments of the universe. Although the discovery still requires independent confirmation, gravitational waves are a key prediction of the processes outlined in inflation theory, and their detection would shore up its place in physics.

Here are two rebuttals done in the Christian context. I encourage all who believe the young-Earth hypothesis to read these two referenced articles.

Bradford G. Schleifer writes in his “Is the Earth 6000 Years Old?“:

Few people—including most Bible students—understand that millions of yearspassed between the events of Genesis 1:1 and verse 2. It is not the Bible’s purpose to give every last detail of history. For example, God’s Word covers the first 2,000 years of humanity’s existence on Earth in only six chapters (Gen. 1-6).

Christians should not run from science. While scientists do not always interpret the data correctly, certain concepts and fundamental laws mesh with the creation. Scientific laws man has discovered and defined were created by the God of the universe.

Let’s look at one scientific proof supporting all we have covered. The speed of light is one of the more constant variables in the universe, with a speed of approximately 186,000 miles per second. This means that if you were 186,000 miles away from a person who turned on a bright light, it would take one second before that light reached you.

No doubt, you have probably experienced this “delay” with sound. Since light travels faster than sound, if a person on an opposite side of a football field clashed cymbals, you would see the action before the sound reached your ears.

The only difference is that light travels so fast that enormous distances are required for a “delay” to be realized. The only place with enough space to demonstrate this effect is outer space. Because of the size of the cosmos, distances are often measured in light-years, the distance light can travel in one year. What does this have to do with the age of our universe?

If Earth and the universe were only 6,000 years old, we would only be able to see stars with a maximum distance of 6,000 light-years. Otherwise the light would not have had time to reach us.

Let’s put this in context.

The Milky Way galaxy is approximately 100,000 light-years across, with our solar system about 28,000 light-years from the center. This puts us about 22,000 light-years from our galaxy’s outer edge. If the universe were only 6,000 years old, we would see only a fraction of the 200 billion stars in just OUR galaxy since light from others would not have had enough time to reach us!

Of course, you have seen countless pictures of stars near Earth. There are amazing images of some of the estimated 125 billion galaxies. Of these, 3,000 are visible and can be anywhere from 80,000 to billions of light-years away. Light from the most distant galaxies had to have traveled for billions of years before it reached Earth. Of course, for light to travel billions of years there had to have been a universe for billions of years!

Earth has existed for billions of years. And it was only very recently that God renewed—recreated—the Earth to prepare it for the first human beings, Adam and Eve!

When one allows the Bible to interpret itself, and uses that knowledge to properly interpret scientific data, the truth of creation is not only accurate, but magnificent and awe-inspiring!

Todd Strandberg writes in his “This Old Planet: The Debate over the Earth’s age”,

I wouldn’t tackle this topic if I weren’t concerned about the credibility of the Christian faith. Untold numbers of people have already turned to evolution or a non-literal approach to Scripture based on the realization that the 6,000-year theory offers no logical explanation for an overabundance of fossil records. I want to reach out to people who are unable to accept Christianity because of the young earth view.

To be able to say that the earth is only a few thousand years old, we would have to greatly abbreviate the historical evidence found in the fossil records. The earth contains countless layers of sedimentary fossils that reveal a vast wealth of geological and organic activity. The evidence for an earth older than 6,000 years is quite lengthy. Here is a list of some key indicators that point to an old earth.

Mega Meteor Impacts – Researchers have found dozens of meteor-impact craters that are so large they would have profoundly affected the earth’s climate. One crater in Northern Canada is around 60 miles wide. A giant meteor that struck the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula is blamed for causing one of the largest mass extinctions of dinosaurs. It’s inconceivable that the biblical writers could have missed reporting an event that would have blanketed the globe with a choking blizzard of ash.

Super Volcanoes – Several of the earth’s volcanoes periodically have erupted with a force so massive in scale, they would dwarf any eruption that modern man has ever witnessed. The Toba Caldera on the island of Sumatra once exploded with a force that released a volume of ash 3,000 times greater than the amount produced by the 1980 Mount St. Helen’s eruption. Core samples taken 2,000 miles away from Toba have measured ash layers as deep as 36 inches. Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is the home of one of these super volcanoes. If it were to erupt, much of North America would be devastated by the blast.

Mount Everest – Ages ago, the Eurasian and Indian continents collided spectacularly to form the Himalayan mountain range. Geological movement continues to take place today as India is gradually pushed beneath China and Nepal at a rate of about 3 inches per year. Going by the current rate of upwelling, it has taken Mount Everest at least 100,000 years to rise to its 29,035-foot elevation. Before the great collision, the bedrock that makes up the Himalayan range was once at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. The top 1,500 feet of Mount Everest is comprised of limestone. This type of rock is slowly formed by the deposition and consolidation of the skeletons of marine invertebrates. Because these creatures are minuscule, it would take a very long time to accumulate these limestone layers.

Coral Reefs -Coral is made up of the skeletons and calcium deposits of tiny animals that live in warm, shallow seas. It takes an estimated 100 years to produce a few centimeters of coral growth. One coral atoll has been measured at 3,900 feet in depth.

Light and Cosmic Events – The sun is one of countless numbers of stars in the Milky Way. Our little galaxy is over 100,000 light years across. This means that light from some stars in our galaxy has taken many tens of thousands of years to reach earth. A common explanation for our ability to see stars that are millions of light years away is that God created the light from these distant stars already in transit. The problem with the light-in-motion claim is that as light travels through the universe, forces it encounters alter its properties, giving us a travel log of its journey. Many of the cosmic events we see in the universe take millions of years to occur. It doesn’t seem logical for God to have constructed such a multifaceted, elaborate hoax.

Bristlecone Pine Trees – The annual growth rings of trees are among the most reliable measures of time. Some Bristlecone pine trees in the White-Inyo mountain range of California date back beyond 6000 BC.

Algae Growth Cycle – During the springtime, tiny, one-celled algae bloom in Lake Suigetsu, Japan. They die and sink to the bottom of the lake, where they create a thin, white layer. During the rest of the year, dark clay sediments settle to the bottom. The results are alternating dark and light annual layers — much like the annual growth rings on a tree. Scientists have counted about 45,000 layers.

Moon Dust – Measurements by sensors attached to satellites show that space dust accumulates on the moon at the rate of about 2 nanograms per square centimeter each year. (A nanogram is one thousandth of a millionth of a gram.) This rate would require 4.5 billion years to reach a depth of 1.5 inches, which is approximately the depth experienced by the astronauts who walked on the moon.

Cosmic Rays – The Los Alamos National Laboratory has developed a method of measuring the length of time that surface rocks have been exposed to cosmic rays. Cosmic rays stream into the atmosphere from all directions in outer space and break neutrons free when they collide with air molecules. When these neutrons hit rocks on the ground, they sometimes react with a tiny number of mineral atoms that create radioactive isotopes. At sea level, a few hundred modified atoms are created each year in a gram of quartz near the surface of the ground. New measuring techniques can detect very small numbers of these atoms and thus estimate the number of years that the rocks have been exposed. Scientists have found ages of about 8,500 years for “recent” glacial moraines in Newfoundland and 830,000 years for extinct volcanoes in Nevada.

Radioactive Decay -The “nuclide” argument is one of the best proofs of an old earth. Nuclides are forms of matter that are radioactive. Each nuclide decays into another form of matter at a certain rate. After an interval of time equal to its half-life, only half of the original material is left. Scientists have found that every nuclide with a half-life of over 80 million years can be found naturally occurring on earth. All nuclides with a half-life under 80 million years do not exist naturally at detectable levels.

Ice Ages – In North America, more than 20 glacial advances and retreats have occurred during the last 2 million years. It takes a foot of snowfall to produce an inch of glacial ice. Since some of the ice is thousands of feet thick, it takes centuries of snow to produce each ice age event. These glaciers would have had to move across the land like freight trains to fit into the 6,000-year model.

Hawaiian Island Chain – If we could remove all of the water in the Pacific Ocean, we would find that the Hawaiian Islands are peaks on a 10,000-foot-high ridge that extends 3,000 miles to the northwest. The Hawaiian chain gets progressively older and becomes more eroded farther beyond the volcanically active region of the “Big Island” of Hawaii. All three factors – the movement of the ocean crust, the building of volcanic islands, and the erosion – are time-consuming geological processes.

Seating capacity – A lot of creationists try to defend the narrow timeline of the young earth view by arguing that Noah brought all the animals that ever existed onto the ark with him. They fail to realize that many of these prehistoric creatures were huge; some beasts weighed as much as 100 tons. However, getting all those bulky dinosaurs onto the ark would have been the least of Noah’s problems. Scientists estimate that a total of 10 million species have existed on the earth. Because Noah never could have crammed that many animals into the ark, when the rains came, it would appear that most of them were left standing at the dock. It is interesting to note that scientists have calculated that Noah could have fit all of the 16,000 species of land animals currently living on the earth into the ark.

Coal – The Great Flood is frequently cited as the instantaneous creator of many fossil records. Geologists tell us that coal took millions of years to build up, and creationists point to the Flood as the source. The claim is made that when the Flood transpired, it buried all the earth’s vegetation, creating the coal we mine today. The problem with this theory is that the available amount of plant material could not account for coal layers that are hundreds of feet thick. It would have taken several feet of organic material like ferns, grasses, and a few bugs just to produce a few inches of coal.

Salt Deposits – In the state of Utah, there is a huge, underground deposit of salt created by the continual evaporation of a shallow sea that once covered the land. The dome is nearly 5,000 feet deep and it was pushed to the surface by volcanic forces. Noah’s flood cannot account for such a vast quantity of salt being deposited in a compact location and in such short stretch of time. A steady stream of water over millions of years is the only plausible solution.

Grand Canyon I – Young earth proponents like to disprove popular belief that the Grand Canyon is the result of millions of years of erosion by saying the Great Flood carved out the steep canyon walls in a few days. There are several problems with this simple explanation for the formation of the Grand Canyon. The Canyon is not the product of flooding. It was formed by the uplifting of a plateau by mountain-building events. The narrow inner gorge of the Grand Canyon and its many tributaries are the antithesis of the erosion that would be found as part of a broad floodplain.

Grand Canyon II – The Grand Canyon example is a two-parter in order to also account for all those thousands of layers of sedimentary rock that give the Grand Canyon its beauty. Creationists often say the Great Flood laid down the layers and in its aftermath, the receding waters dug out the gorge. One of the more prominent formations in the Grand Canyon is the Coconino Sandstone. This layer is found only a few hundred feet below the rim. Geologists have described this sandstone as originating from an ancient desert. Remnants of sand dunes can be seen in many outcrops of the formation in a phenomenon called cross bedding. Many footprints in this sandstone have been recognized as those of lizards scurrying across the desert. It’s ridiculous to think there could be a sandy desert formation wedged between a series of layers that were all formed by the same flood event.

Long-Term Projections Based On Faulty Short-Term Data

Many young earth proofs are based on long-term projections made from flawed short-term observations. It is bad science to simply conclude all trends move in a continuous straight line. A Porsche GT2 can go from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, but it can’t go from zero to 20,000 mph in 2 minutes. Even though the long-term projection for acceleration matches the initial short-term data, at higher speeds, other factors take over that hinder the car’s ability to achieve higher speeds.

It would be foolhardy to assume the ocean tides coming in indicate another global flood is about to take place. We have the rainbow as God’s promise that there will be no second Great Flood. In the next three examples, I take creationists to task for misapplying short-term trends to fit their young earth view.

The Earth’s Magnetic Field – Over the past 150 years, there has been a measured decrease in the earth’s magnetic field. The decrease is hailed as positive proof that the planet was created around 6,000 years ago. The argument is made that if we went back in time a million years, the earth’s magnetic field would be too strong for life to exist. It’s baffling that some folks can assume the decline in the magnetic field has been a continuous event. It is common knowledge that our planet’s magnetic field has frequently shifted between the North Pole and the South Pole. When volcanic lava erupts onto the surface and cools, the iron molecules embedded in the rock retain a record of the earth’s magnetic field. A detailed examination of core drillings retrieved from the ocean floor has found the magnetic polarity of the poles has changed several times.

The Gulf of Mexico – Several creationist books argue that the earth must be relatively young because the Gulf of Mexico would have filled up with sediment from the Mississippi River had the process been going on for millions of years. True, a large amount of the sediment–some 500 million tons annually–is carried to the Gulf each year. However, it is incorrect to assume that the Gulf Coast region has always been as we see it today. Many moons ago, a shallow sea once reached all the way up to the central Midwest. At one time, the mouth of the Mississippi River would have been located in southern Iowa.

The Movement of Celestial Bodies – Young earth creationists frequently cite the movements and gyrations of heavenly bodies to support their views. They point to data showing that the sun is shrinking as solid evidence that the earth can only be a few thousand years old. They claim that if time were to be reversed by millions of years, the sun would become too large and hot for life to exist on earth. They also cite reports that show that the moon is pulling away from the earth at a rate of 2 inches per year, adding that this, too, could not be a process millions of years old. People who use these types of proofs clearly lack the most basic understanding of the movements of the sun and moon. All celestial bodies wobble and oscillate as they travel through space. Gaseous bodies like our sun have the added feature of being able to pulsate. Years down the road, we might find the sun expanding and the moon slowly orbiting closer to the earth.

Timelines Fail To Match

The strongest evidence for an old earth view has to be the inability of Ussher’s timeline to account for or accommodate all the major cataclysmic events that we find recorded in the fossil records. When we add up all the meteor impacts, super volcanoes, earthquakes, mammoth tidal waves, and ice ages, we end up with thousands of events that could never fit into a 6,000-year timeline.

If time started in 4004 BC, we would have experienced a major global disaster every couple of years. The fact that mankind has never witnessed any of these large-scale calamities would seem to be enough evidence that their occurrence had to have been spread out over many millions of years.

Many leading creationists claim that most meteor impacts transpired during the Great Flood. The heat generated by such a short-term bombardment would have vaporized the world’s oceans. It would have taken divine intervention to prevent Noah and his poor animals from being boiled alive.

Another point to consider is that these major events are not stacked on top of each other in the fossil record. In between the layers of volcanic ash and dust from meteor impacts are sedimentary bands containing the remains of forests, meadows, lakes, seas, deserts, and many other environments. It would only take a couple of unique fossil records to create a problem for the time-pressed young earth view, but in most cases, dozens of layers are deposited between these cataclysmic events.

There Is No Necessity For A Young Earth

Fitting the age of our world into the 6,000-year time frame would require disrupting our understanding of the speed of light, annual growth cycles, the erosion process, historical records of tectonic movement, rates of decay for radioactive atoms, climate patterns, the historical content of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the freezing point of water, and a host of other processes.

It would be foolish to modify everything we know about how the physical world operates just to accommodate one single theory. I find the chasm between reality and the young earth theory too vast for any explanation to span. Even if one is kind enough to assume that the growth of coral was once 10 times faster than it is today, some reefs would still be more than 13,000 years old.

God is not going to vanish if it turns out that the world is a million, a billion, or a trillion years old. There is the general idea in the Bible that God created Adam and Eve a certain number of generations ago, but the Good Book gives no exact reference for the age of the earth itself.

Far too many Christians have fallen into a group-think mentality that holds the Bible hostage to a young earth way of thinking. Regardless of what view is true, the Word of God is not facing any danger.

Pat Robertson says the Earth is billions of years, not 6000 years, old.

13 thoughts on “How old is the Earth?”

  1. Dr. Ed

    Have you ever looked at the evidence that those proxy are poorly dated and not useful in that respect?

    I would refer you to the excellent work of Dr. Sarfatti and his associates at Creation Ministries International, cmi.com

    All observations are interpreted in a structure based on many assumptions. Yes, over time, many have gotten to the point that there are few assumptions. Unfortunately some assumption have become dogma that cannot be questioned. Please give them a skeptical view.

  2. Looking over the list of proofs I notice that most of them are based on uniformitarian principles. That is, the idea that things have been happening about the same way and rate since the beginning. That immediately runs into the problem that many major features cannot be explained under uniformitarian rules and require catastrophic causes. When we take catastrophic causes into account we start to realize how ridiculous it is to think that microscopic layers could accumulate for millions of years undisturbed.

    A great example of this are the ice cores. The researchers tell us that the earth was several degrees warmer than now for several thousand years during the hypsithermal. With the amount of melt we see now how can anyone seriously believe the glaciers and ice caps weren't melted or at least seriously damaged during that period???

  3. It should be pointed out (and I wish this pastor would realize it) that nowhere in the Bible is it claimed that the earth is only some 6,000 years old.

  4. Outstanding treatise, and to the point. My one critique is of the characterization of the tea party. I'm sure there are members of the tea party who are religious fundamentalists who believe in a 6000-year-old-earth. I am confident that they are the insignificant minority. To me, the accusation that the tea party is chock full of religious fundamentalists is a wish and mantra of the left, it does a good job of scaring mainstream conservatives into opposing the tea party. The left is world class at creating dissention and conflict among its enemies and among its useful idiots.

    The fundamentals of the tea party are limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets. Because these precepts were shared by the Founders, who were majority religious, it isn't a huge leap to delude people that the tea party is too far right whacko.

    I understand Dr. Ed's posit that to split up the GOP by fielding more conservative candidates who scare "independents" is counterproductive. However, I hold two views he may consider:

    1. Introducing more conservative candidates into the primary process helps to inject tea party principles (see above) into the discussion whether they get nominated or not.

    2. Should a more conservative candidate get nominated, it is not a slam dunk that they will alienate the electorate. But I submit they do have to exhibit the logic Dr. Ed promotes, not a fundamentalist vision.

  5. My paragraph, "Physicists find Genesis Footprints 13.8 billion years old," now needs correction.

    <a href="http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/news/10.1063/PT.5.7143?utm_source=Physics+Today&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=5306738_Physics+Today%3a+The+week+in+Physics+2-6+February&dm_i=1Y69,35QPE,E1P3O9,BBITX,1&quot; target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Physics Today just announced the finding has not been confirmed. Their news release says,

    Evidence for gravitational waves may yet be lurking in the original BICEP2 data; if so, it will take more work to tease it out.

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  7. Pingback: Why Greg Gianforte will not be governor of Montana

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  9. Pingback: New discovery proves Earth billions of years old

  10. Dear Vernon, Greenland and Antarctica ice cores show annual records that exceed 800,000 years. It was not warm enough in Greenland and Antarctica in the last 800,000 years to have melted the snow that became ice cores. But if it did get warm enough then that would have deleted some of the annual records in the present ice cores. The result would be that the ice cores measure a longer time period.

    Still, we are a long way out from 6000 years.

  11. Dear Greg, you are correct. Although the English interpretation of the Bible uses the word "day", the Jewish Bible in Hebrew uses a word that means period of time.

    Also, until the Earth appeared billions of years after the universe began, there was no such thing as a "day."

    The belief in a 6000 year old earth and universe is a hypothesis. Data prove this hypothesis is wrong. Therefore, Bible translators and interpreters made a mistake.

  12. Dear Big D, It is now February 2017, so we can look back. I now have written a whole book on the tea party. They opposed the CSKT Water Compact and they were wrong. They were irrational. They were a danger to Montana.

    My book "Montana's Last Indian Water Compact" shows that tea party "principles" may at first seem conservative, but they are not conservative. They accomplish very non-conservative goals. The tea party helped elect Jon Tester to the US Senate because Denny Rehberg "was not good enough for them." Tester accomplish the exact opposite of conservative goals.

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