Six items about the Age of the Earth appear below:
Evidence for a young world D Russell Humphreys
Antiquity of the Earth [Five parts] Kirk Straughen
Evidence for a young world
D. Russell Humphreys, Ph.D.
(Investigator 47, 1996 March
Used with permission from Creation Science Foundation, Qld.)
HERE is a list of natural phenomena which conflict with the evolutionary idea that the earth and universe are billions of years old. Each item imposes a maximum possible age which is much less than the required evolutionary age. Evolutionary scenarios must explain these serious discrepancies if we are to consider them.
Much more young-universe evidence exists, but I have chosen these items for brevity and simplicity. Some of the items on this list can be reconciled with an old universe only by making a series of improbable and unproven assumptions; others can fit in only with a young universe.
Below I often refer to results featuring millions of years – the point is that this refers to the maximum possible age, not the actual age. Thus, such 'upper limits'
(a) deny the billions-of-years evolutionary time-scale, and
(b) are perfectly consistent with the biblical time-scale of 6,000-10,000 years.
1. Galaxies wind themselves up too fast
The stars of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, rotate about the galactic centre with different speeds, the inner ones rotating faster than the outer ones. The observed rotation speeds are so fast that if our galaxy were more than a few hundred million years old, it would be a featureless smear of stars instead of its present spiral shape.1,2
Yet our galaxy is supposed to be at least 10 billion years old. Evolutionists call this 'the winding-up dilemma' and try to resolve it with a complex theory of 'density waves'.1 The wave theory has conceptual problems, and is not confirmed by observation. The same dilemma also applies to other galaxies. No such dilemma exists if the galaxies are accepted as recently created.
2. Comets disintegrate too quickly
According to evolutionary theory, comets are supposed to be the same age as the solar system, about five billion years. Yet each time a comet orbits close to the sun, it loses so much of its material that it could not survive much longer than about 100,000 years. Many comets have typical ages of 10,000 years.3
Evolutionists explain this discrepancy by assuming that:
Comets come from an unobserved 'Oort cloud' well beyond the orbit of Pluto, where they are protected from solar destruction. Improbable gravitational interactions with infrequently passing stars often knock comets from this 'cloud' into the solar system. Further improbable interactions with planets slow down the incoming comets.
By these means, the solar system is supposed to be 'replenished' with comets as earlier comets burn out. All this has to happen often enough to account for the hundreds of comets observed.4
So far, none of these assumptions has been substantiated either by observations or realistic calculations.
3. Earth's continents erode too fast
Each year, water and winds erode about 25 billion tonnes of dirt and rock from the continents and deposit it in the ocean.5 At that rate, it would take only 15 million years to erode all land above sea-level. Yet most of the land is supposed to have been above sea-level for hundreds of millions of years. Theories concerning the rising of land as it gets lighter following erosion are inadequate to compensate for all of this discrepancy.
4. Not enough sediment on the sea floors
The latest geologic theories (plate tectonics) say the ocean floors are 200 million years old. At the present rate of sedimentation from the continents, there should be many kilometres of sediment on the ocean floor. Yet on the average, the ocean floor has only about 250 metres (800 feet) of sediment.6
This implies that the present ocean floors have existed less than 15 million years. Some evolutionists would argue that theories of subduction (large areas of ocean floor pushed deep into the earth) could overcome this problem. However, the slow rate of subduction implied by the '200 million years' mentioned above could not dispose of more than 10 per cent of the incoming sediments, far too little to account for the discrepancy. Also there are large areas of sea-floor (e.g. the Tasman Sea off Australia) which cannot be pan of such 'subduction zones'. For these reasons, the argument for the youth of the sea floors appears valid.
5. The ocean accumulates sodium too fast
Every year, rivers` and other sources' dump more than 450 million tonnes of sodium into the ocean. Only 27 per cent of this sodium manages to get back out of the sea each year.8, 9 As far as anyone knows, the remainder simply accumulates in the ocean.
If the sea had no sodium to start with, it would have accumulated its present amount in less than 42 million years at today's input and output rates.8 This is much less than the imagined evolutionary age of the ocean - three billion years.
The usual reply to this discrepancy is that past sodium inputs must have been less and outputs greater. However, calculations which are as generous as possible to evolutionary scenarios still give a maximum age of only 62 million years.8 Calculations` for many other sea-water elements give much younger ages for the ocean.
6. The earth's magnetic field is decaying too fast
The energy stored in the earth's magnetic field has steadily decreased by a factor of 2.7 over the past 1,000 years.11 Evolutionary theories explaining this rapid decrease, as well as how the earth could have maintained its magnetic field for billions of years, are very complex and inadequate.
A much better creationist theory exists. It is straightforward, based on sound physics and explains many features of the field: its creation, rapid reversals during the Genesis Flood, intensity fluctuations (up and down) until about the time of Christ, and a steady decay since then.12
This theory matches palaeomagnetic, historic, and present data.13 The main result is that the field's energy (not local intensity) has always decayed at least as fast as now. At that irate the field could not be more than 10,000 years old.14
7. Multi-layer fossils straddle too many strata
'Polystrate' fossils, which penetrate more than one geologic stratum, are described in the accepted geologic literature. For example, at The Joggins, Nova Scotia, many erect fossil trees are scattered throughout 760 metres (2,500 feet) of geologic strata, penetrating 20 geologic horizons.15 These trees had to have been buried faster than it took them to decay. This implies that the entire formation was deposited in a few years at the most.16 Yet evolutionary theory claims that the top strata were deposited millions of years after the bottom strata.
8. Many strata are too tightly bent
In many mountainous areas, strata thousands of feet thick are bent and folded into hairpin shapes. The conventional geologic time-scale says these formations were deeply buried and solidified for hundreds of millions of years before they were bent. Yet the folding occurred without cracking, with radii so small that the entire formation had to be still wet and unsolidified when the bending occurred. This implies that the time interval between deposition and folding was less than thousands of years at the most.17
9. Out-of-sequence fossils scramble timetable
According to the evolutionary time-scale, pine trees could not have appeared earlier than 350 million years ago. But fossil pine pollen has been found in the Grand Canyon Precambrian Hakatai Shale, supposed to be about 1.5 billion years old and definitely before any land life was supposed to appear. The original research has been carefully repeated and checked under strictly controlled conditions by a committee of scientists who examined the fossil pollen with scanning electron microscopes and obtained independent evaluation by other experts.18 Finds like this cast doubt on methods of age-dating and thus on the evolutionary timetable.
10. Fossil radioactivity shortens 'geologic ages' to a few years
Radiohaloes are rings of colour formed around microscopic bits of radioactive minerals in rock crystals. They are fossil evidence of radioactive decay.19 'Squashed' Polonium-210 radiohaloes indicate that Jurassic, Triassic, and Eocene formations in the Colorado Plateau were deposited within months of one another, not hundreds of millions of years apart as required by the conventional timescale.20
'Orphan' Polonium-218 radiohaloes, having no evidence of their mother elements, imply either instant creation or drastic changes in radioactivity decay rates.21, 22
11. Not enough helium in Earth's atmosphere
All naturally occurring families of radioactive elements generate helium as they decay. If such decay took place for billions of years, as alleged by evolutionists, much helium should have found its way into the earth's atmosphere. Taking into account the slow rate of escape of helium from the atmosphere into space, and assuming no helium was in the atmosphere to begin with. it would take less than two million years to accumulate the small amount of helium in the air today.23
This means the atmosphere is much younger than the evolutionary five billion years–again consistent with a recent creation (6,000-10,000 years) of a functional atmosphere.
12. Too much helium in hot rocks
A study published in Geophysical Research Letters shows that helium produced by radioactive decay in deep, hot rocks has not had time to escape. Though the rocks are supposed to be billions of years old, their helium retention suggests an age much less than millions of years.24
13. Not enough stone age skeletons
Evolutionary anthropologists say that the Stone Age lasted for at least 100,000 years, during which time the world population of Neanderthal and Cro-magnon men was roughly constant, between one million and 10 million. All that time they were burying their dead with artefacts.25
By this scenario, they would have buried at least four billion bodies.
If the evolutionary time-scale is correct, buried bones should be able to last much longer than 100,000 years. So many of the supposed four billion Stone Age skeletons should still be around (and certainly the buried artefacts). Yet only a tiny fraction of this number has been found.
This implies that the Stone Age was much shorter than evolutionists think, a few hundred years in many areas.
14. Agriculture is too recent
The usual evolutionary picture has men existing as hunters and gatherers for 100,000 years during the Stone Age before discovering agriculture less than 10,000 years ago.25 Yet the archaeological evidence shows that Stone Age men were as intelligent as we are.
It is very improbable that none of the four billion people mentioned in Item 13 above should discover that plants grow from seeds. It is more likely that men were without agriculture less than a few hundred years, if at all.26
15. Recorded history is too short
According to evolutionists, Stone Age man existed for 100,000 years before beginning to make written records about 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. Prehistoric man built megalithic monuments, made beautiful cave paintings, and kept records of lunar phases.27 Why would he wait a thousand centuries before using the same skins to record history?26 The biblical (Hebrew text) time-scale is more likely.
1. Schefler, H. and H. Elsasser, Physics of the Galaxy and Interstellar Matter, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1987, pp. 352-353, 401-413.
2. Slusher, H. S., The Age of the Cosmos, Technical Monograph No. 9, Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA, 1980, pp. 15-16.
3. Steidl, P. F, 'Planets, Comets, and asteroids', in Design and Origins in Astronomy, G. Mulfinger, ed., Creation Research Society Books, Norcross, GA, 1983. pp. 73-106.
4. Whipple, F. L. 'Background of modern comet theory', Nature, Vol. 263, Sept. 2, 1976. p. 15.
5. Gordeyev, V.V. et al, 'The average chemical composition of suspensions in the world's rivers and the supply of sediments to the ocean by streams', Docki. Akad. Nauk. SSSR, Vol. 238, 1990, p.150.
6. Austin, S. A, priv. communication, Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA, July 7, 1988.
7. Maybeck, M., 'Concentrations des eaus fluviales en elements majeurs et apports en solution aux oceans', Rev. de Geol. Dyn. Geogr. Phys, Vol. 21, 1979, p. 215.
8. Austin, S. A. & D. R. Humphreys, 'The sea's missing salt: a dilemma for evolutionists', Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism, Vol. II, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh 1991, in press.
9. Sayles, F. L and P. C. Mangelsdorf, 'Cation-exchange characteristics of Amazon River suspended sediment and its reaction with seawater'. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Vol. 41, 1979, p. 767.
10. Austin, S. A, 'Evolution: The oceans say no!', ICR Impact, No. 8, Institute for Creation Research, El Cajon, CA, October 1973.
11. Merrill, R. T. and M. W McElhinney, The Earth's Magnetic Field, Academic Press, London, 1983, pp. 101-106.
12. Humpheys, D. R, 'Reversals of the earth's magnetic field during the Genesis flood', Proceedings of the First International Conference on Creationism, Vol. II, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, 1987. pp. 113-126. [Editor's note: This is a refinement of a building on Prof. Barnes' classic work, not an alternative.]
13. Coe, R. S. and M. Prevot, 'Evidence suggesting extremely rapid field variation during a geomagnetic reversal', Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Vol. 92, April 1989, pp. 292-298.
14. Humphreys, D. R. 'Physical mechanism for the reversals of do earth's magnetic field during the flood', Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism, Vol. II, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, 1991, in press.
15. Dunbar, C. O., Historical Geology, 2nd ed., Wiley, New York. 1970, p. 227.
16. Rupke, N. A., 'Prolegomena to a study of cataclysmic sedimentation', in Why Not Creation?, W. E. Lammerts, ed., Creation Research Society, Norcross, GA, 1970, pp. 152-158.
17. Austin, S. A. and J. D. Morris, 'Tight folds and clastic dikes as evidence for rapid deposition end deformation of two very dick stratigraphic sequences', Proceedings of the First International Conference on Creationism Vol. II, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, 1987, pp. 3-15.
18. Howe, G. F. et al, 'Creation Research Society studios on Precambrian pollen part III: a pollen analysis of Hakatai Shale and other Grand Canyon rocks', Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 24, Creation Research Society, Terre Haute, IN, March 1988, pp. 173-182.
19. Gentry, R. V., 'Radioactive halos', Annual Review of Nuclear Sci., Vol 23, 1973, pp. 347-362.
20. Gentry, R. V. et al, 'Radiohalos in coalified wood: new evidence relating to time of uranium introduction and coalification', Science, Vol. 194, October 15, 1976. pp. 315-318.
21. Gentry, R. V., 'Radiohalos in a radiochronological and cosmological perspective', Science, Vol. 184, April 5, 1974, pp. 62-66.
22. Gentry, I.V., Creation's Tiny Mystery, Earth Science Associates, Knoxville, TN, 1986, pp. 23-37, 51-59, 61-62.
23. Vardiman L., The age of the earth's atmosphere estimated by its helium content', Proceedings of the First International Conference on Creationism, Vol. II, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgb, 1987, pp. 187-195.
24. Gentry, R. V. et al. 'Differential helium retention in zircons: implications for nuclear waste management', Geophys. Res. Lett., Vol. 9, October 1982 pp. 1129-1130.
25. Deevey, E. S, 'The human population', Scientific American, Vol. 203, Sept 1960, pp. 194-204.
26. Dritt, J. 0., 'Man's earliest beginnings: discrepancies in do evolutionary timetable', Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism, Vol. 1, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, 1991, pp. 73-78.
27. Marshak, A., 'Exploring the mind of Ice Age Man', National Geographic, Vol. 147, January 1975, pp. 64-89.
For further information contact:
Creation Science Foundation,
P.O. Box 302, Sunnybank, Qld, 4109, Australia.
Creation Science Foundation Ltd is a non-profit, evangelical, non-denominational, organization which seeks to promote the biblical and scientific evidence for the truth of the whole Word of God, especially the foundational book Genesis, and its relevance to today's world.
THE ANTIQUITY OF THE EARTH
(Part 1 of 5 Parts)
(Investigator 53, 1997 March)
This article is a response to the creationist claims in "Evidence for a Young World" by D R Humphreys, which appeared in Investigator No. 47.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Alex Ritchie for providing information relating to section 9 of this article; Ron Ebert for providing me with information relating to section 12; Harry Edwards for forwarding it on to me, and Marie Gayfer for typing the article. Without the assistance of these people, my task would have been more difficult than what it was.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge my gratitude to the authors listed in the bibliography of this article; for without their work I could not have produced this paper.
Because of the length of this article, I have divided it into 5 parts so that they can be published serially. Each numbered section of this article corresponds to the identically numbered section of the creationist article which it refutes.
1 Density Waves and Galaxies
2 Comets and the Oort Cloud
3 Orogenic Cycles and Plate Tectonics
4 Ocean Sediments
5 Ocean Salinity
7 Polystrate Fossils
8 Folded Strata
9 Fossil Pollen and The Grand Canyon
Part 4<>Part 5
10 Geological Time, Radioactive Decay and the Speed of Light
11 Radiogenic Helium
12 Helium Retention in Zircons
13 Stone Age Populations
14 Culture and Agriculture
15 Writing and Civilization
What is creationism? Creationism is a religious belief held by Christian Fundamentalists that includes the following:
That the Earth is no more than 6000 to 10,000 years old; That the Universe was created by God in six 24 hour days; That the Biblical flood of Genesis inundated the entire Earth, and that all modem land life is descended from the organisms carried on the ark; That there is scientific evidence that supports their religious beliefs. I shall now examine the issues raised in the creationist article, and demonstrate that they do not stand up to close scrutiny.
1. Density Waves and Galaxies
The creationist claim that the density wave theory which explains the spiral arms of galaxies is wrong, and that these galaxies were recently created by God is not true.
According to density wave theory, the pattern of a galaxy's spiral arms marks a huge set of shock waves travelling around the galaxy. Stars do not reside permanently in an arm or between arms: as each star travels around the centre of the Galaxy in its own orbit it passes in and out of the spiral arms.
The stars making up any particular spiral arm are therefore, constantly changing. Although the constant interchange seems to suggest that the arm will quickly lose its identity, gravity ensures that this is not the case. The very existence of the arms means that gravity is stronger here - because of the bunching of the stars - than outside. As the stars move around the galaxy, they are pulled quickly towards an arm, and then once inside, are slowed down.
Getting out of an arm is a slow process, too, against the force of the arms' extra gravity. Then it is a glide between arms before being accelerated on to the next. The net result is that a star spends longer in a spiral arm, and so at any given time more stars reside in the arms than between them. The arms are density fluctuations in the galaxy's disc where the gravity is higher. Computer calculations show that once this perturbation is set up, it will slowly propagate around the galaxy at its own pace, preserving its spiral shape as the stars drift through the pattern.
So much for the supposed dilemma of spiral arms in galaxies. The only dilemma that exists is the one faced by creationists when they claim that the Universe and the Earth are only 6000-10,000 years old, as the following demonstrates:
In 1987 a Type H supernova (SN 1987A), that is, a stellar explosion was observed in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is about 150,000 light years from Earth (a light year is an astronomical measurement. It is the distance light travels in one year: 5,880,000,000,000 miles).
Now if the Universe is only 10,000 years old, and the star exploded a few seconds after it was created (faulty workmanship by God?), then the event should have been observed 140,000 years from now rather than in 1987. The reason being that light, even travelling at the speed of 186,282 miles per second from the explosion, will take 150,000 years to reach us.
Furthermore, the massive star that exploded (Sk-69 202) did so because it had reached the end-point of its life due to the cessation of its fusion chain reactions. Stars much heavier than our sun bum their fuel at a profligate tempo, and may have a life expectancy of a few million years.
SN 1987A poses a serious problem to the creationist belief that the Universe is no more than 10,000 years old. Firstly, the light from the explosion took 150,000 years to reach Earth; secondly, Sk-69 202 was millions of years old even before it exploded.
Creationists try and solve this dilemma by claiming that the speed of light was much faster in the past than it is now. This belief is unfounded, and will be addressed in part 4, section 10.
A figure for the age of the Universe that is generally accepted as at least approximately correct is 15 billion years. This scientifically based estimate is far more likely to be correct than the unsupported claims of the creationists.
2. Comets and the Oort Cloud
The creationist claim that the scientific theory which explains the origin of comets, is improbable and unsubstantiated, is based on a lack of modem scientific knowledge.
If comets entered the solar system randomly from outer space, a number should come and go in distinctly hyperbolic orbits. No comet with a distinctly hyperbolic orbit has ever been observed.
In view of this fact a more logical possibility is that the source of the comets is a local reservoir bound to the sun, and the evidence from the statistics of cometary orbits indicates an essentially spherical shell of cometary planetoids in the range of one to two light years exists. This shell is known as the Oort Cloud, and the cometary planetoids in it - the remnants of the solar systems formation - orbit the sun in circular paths.
It has been estimated that the Oort Cloud contains 100,000,000,000 cometary planetoids with an average diameter of roughly one mile. The total mass of the cloud has been estimated as being 1/100 or even possibly 1/10 that of Earth.
The reason why no one has observed the Oort Cloud is as follows: The shell of space enclosing the sun at a distance between one and two light years, has a volume of thirty cubic light years. If the 100 billion cometary planetoids were evenly distributed through that volume, the average distance separating them would be about 1 1/4 billion miles.
Naturally, a volume of space containing a cometary planetoid, (whose average diameter is roughly one mile) every billion miles or so, is not going to make any impression at all at a distance of a light year or more. The cometary planetoids will reveal themselves neither by luminosity (comets only become luminous within about 2.5 AU of the sun) nor by blocking out the light of the stars.
Comets enter the solar system when the gravitational influences of the nearer stars alter their (the comets) orbit. The creationist claim that these interactions are improbable is also based on inadequate information.
Gravity is one of the four fundamental forces which moulds the Universe into the form we observe, and it operates over immense distances. The gravitational pull of Alpha Centauri, our nearest star (apart from the sun) at 4.3 light years on those cometary planetoids which happen to be directly between that star and our sun, is 10 per cent that of the sun, and this is not negligible. A few other stars exert gravitational attractions for those planetoids nearest them to an amount of over 1 per cent that of the sun.
If these stellar attractions decrease the orbital velocity of a planetoid, it will fall towards the sun, its circular orbit becoming elliptical. If the orbital velocity is slowed sufficiently, it will fall in toward the sun so sharply as to enter the solar system proper.
Once a comet enters the solar system, there is always the chance that it will come close enough to some planet to have its orbit affected. In some cases, its velocity will be increased so that its orbit will become slightly hyperbolic and it may then leave the solar system for good. In other cases, its velocity will be decreased and it will no longer gain the kinetic energy required to send it back to the Oort Cloud. It will often only recede no further than the neighbourhood of the planetary perturbation, so that it will, in effect, have been captured by the planet.
All the outer planets have "families" of comets, that of Jupiter, very naturally being the largest. To date, the earth bound observer has seen and recorded about 700 comets, all of which are explicable in terms of modem science rather than the supernaturalism of the creationists.
3. Orogenic Cycles and Plate Tectonics
The reason why all land above sea level has not been eroded is because of mountain-building activity. An orogeny, or period of mountain-building, is an extremely protracted sequence of events, taking many tens of millions of years to develop fully. Orogenies tend to follow one another in cycles, often with the rocks of an earlier orogeny being involved in a subsequent episode of mountain formation.
But how are mountains formed? Why and how do the continents move? Why are the volcanic and earthquake zones found in and around the ocean basins? The answers to these questions are provided by the theory of plate tectonics.
This theory brings together all aspects of geology and forms them into a unified whole. Research has shown that the earth's crust is made up of a series of rigid but mobile plates, each about 100 km thick. Seven, such as the Pacific Plate, are very large; the rest are much smaller. The plate margins are the volcanic and earthquake zones. Movement of the plates is caused by convection currents generated in the mantle. Structural activity is concentrated where the plates move apart, pass each other or collide.
Orogenies occur because the Earth's crust is made up of these series of rigid plates of rock which overlie the more plastic rock of the Earth's mantle. The ocean floor and the land masses rest on these plates, which may move as much as 10 cm a year, carrying the continents adrift, and over millions of years, opening and closing oceans.
The plates grow from mid-oceanic ridges, and these ridges form a 64,000 km global, underwater mountain chain, broken by great vertical fractures or faults. Lava rises out of cracks in the mid-oceanic ridges and forms new ocean floor.
Ocean floor spreading from the ridges is destroyed where adjacent plates collide and one is forced down or subducted into the Earth's interior below deep-sea trenches. After millions of years of sea-floor spreading subduction of one mass of ocean crust leads to island arc development, as in the Western Pacific.
The ocean crust is consumed beneath this arc and where a trench develops on a continental margin. Continental movement of the zone of sea-floor spreading may carry the island arc into collision with the continent to produce folded and metamorphosed mountains.
Mountains are also formed on the other side of the ocean, as the subduction of several plate "slices" produces violent earth movements. Closing of the ocean can weld the two mountain areas together to produce peaks of 11imalayan scale, and beneath them, the remains of the old ocean lie buried among the ancient sediments.
In the mountain roots, magma is injected under high temperature and pressure resulting in metamorphism, and at higher levels the strata are folded into complex patterns.
The fact that continental drift has occurred proves that the Earth is millions of years old rather than the 6-10 thousand years proposed by the Creationists.
All the world's continents were once joined and formed the super-continent of Pangea, which existed until about 200 million years ago. It then broke up through the action of plate tectonics and the continents have since moved to their present positions.
The supporting evidence for continental drift is as follows: Similar types of rocks of about the same age have been found on the continents. Some of the rock sequences indicate that the continents had similar climatic, biological, and volcanic histories.
Moreover, by studying the magnetism of rocks, scientists are able to calculate the position of the Earth's magnetic poles at the time the rocks formed. These studies of rocks from different continents have shown the ancient magnetic axes coincide only if the continents now separated are joined.
Fossils also provide supporting evidence that the continents were linked. Fossils of closely related plants and animals, which could not have crossed the oceans now separating the continents, have been found on all the southern continents.
All these facts are explicable by the theory of evolution. Creationism can't logically account for them because there is no supporting evidence for the belief that the Earth is the product of a supernatural creation. The Earth's crust can be read like a history book, reaching back 4,600 million years to the natural formation of our world. There is no evidence for a supernatural origin.
THE ANTIQUITY OF THE EARTH
(Part 2 of 5 Parts)
(Investigator 54, 1997 May)
This article is the second part of a five part series that refutes the creationist article "Evidence for a Young World", which appeared in Investigator No. 47. Each numbered section of this article corresponds to the identically numbered section of the creationist article which it disproves.
4. Ocean Sediments
The creationist claim that the depth of ocean sediment indicates a young Earth is wrong. Waves generated by earthquakes traverse the crust beneath the sea floor, and analysis of these waves reveal that sediments as much as 1,000 metres overlie the oceanic crust.
Ocean sediments accumulate to even greater depths in mobile belts (an area where the Earth's crust is moving due to plate tectonics), and are carried to these regions by far-travelled turbidity currents. The rate at which sediments accumulate is difficult to estimate, but it may be in the order of 5 cm-per century. During a single geological period, as much as 7 km may be formed in a mobile belt. In several Pre-Cambrian deposits, for example in East Greenland and Spitzbergen, up to 15 km of sediment accumulated before being folded and metamorphosed.
During the late Pre-Cambrian and Lower Palaeozoic orogeny, which affected Northern Europe and what is now Eastern Greenland and North America, a great deal of sedimentation occurred while metamorphism and folding were going on elsewhere in the belt.
Sediments, rather than supporting creationist beliefs, do the exact opposite. When the thickness of strata have been plotted against their age, as measured by radioactive dating, an excellent and very strong correlation has been found between them. Now if strata were deposited quickly during the global deluge, then we should not find such a correlation. The fact that such a correlation has been found proves that the Earth is much older than the creationists 10,000 years.
The creationist claim that subduction is insufficient to account for the disposal of sediments is also wrong. Firstly, the many deep-water samples of sediment obtained by drilling from aboard Glomar Challenger confirmed the theory that the plates of lithosphere, together with their mantle of sediment, are continually destroyed when they plunge down through the trenches. The sea floor is therefore being continuously renewed and the older sediments continuously destroyed. Secondly, the Pre-Cambrian deposits mentioned earlier prove that sediments can be disposed of by uniformitarian processes. The catastrophism of the creationists is not supported by any geological evidence.
Moreover, as the Earth is neither contracting nor expanding - an event only possible if, for example, the gravitational constant fluctuated with time; an assumption that can be ruled out as such effects would be visible on other planetary surfaces, yet no planet shows signs of any such changes - oceanic lithosphere must be destroyed at precisely the same rate as it is being produced.
The creationist claim that the ocean floor has existed for less than 15 million years is without foundation. The reason why no portion of the oceanic crust has been found to be older than about 200 million years, is because, as mentioned earlier, crust older than this has been subducted into the mantel through the action of plate tectonics.
When thinking about plate movement, a conveyor belt analogy can be used. In a conveyor, the belt continually appears from below, moves along the length, then turns down, and passes temporarily from sight as it completes its circuit. Although broad and irregular rather than long and narrow, a plate of lithosphere acts like the top of a slowly moving conveyor belt. Along one edge (not the side) of each plate there is a long, clearly defined fracture in the oceanic crust. The Plate moves directly away from the fracture, just as if it were a continuous belt rising up the fracture from the mantle below. This analogy is only partly correct, because the plate is not rising as a solid ribbon. It is being built, or rather added to, as it rises. New lithosphere is being created continually as magma wells up along the fracture and cools to form new igneous rock.
The formation of new lithosphere is a continuous process. Movement of lithosphere away from the ocean ridge, like the movement of a conveyor belt is a continuous process also. Finally at a distance of a 1,000 km or more from the spreading edge, the moving lithosphere bends downward, and, again like a conveyor belt, disappears back into the mantle where it is reheated and slowly remixed in with the material of the mantle. Eventually some of the remixed material may again rise as magma, at the spreading edge, thus completing a cycle through the mantle circuit which may take as long as 200 million years.
The evidence that confirms the theory of plate tectonics has already been given in Part 1, Section 3, and therefore will not be repeated here.
5. Ocean Salinity
The creationist's attempts to determine the age of the Earth by ocean salinity are outdated and inaccurate. In the 18th and 19th centuries a few preliminary attempts were made to actually measure and evaluate certain properties of the Earth in an attempt to determine its age, and one of the properties chosen was the saltiness of the ocean.
It was assumed that the original ocean was fresh and that salt had been added at approximately the current rate ever since rivers commenced to flow (about 2.5 billion tons of new salts are added to the sea each year). Calculations based on this method gave an age of approximately one billion years.
Although this hypotheses was well conceived for its time and the supporting calculations mathematically correct, it involved so many unknown factors that no geologist today has much confidence in its accuracy. Aside from indicating that periods longer than the creationist 10,000 years are needed, this method still fails to provide a reliable estimate of the Earth's age.
The creationist claim relating to input and output rates of salts is also wrong. We know that the overall salinity of the sea is not changing rapidly with time, despite the fact that over millions of years, the amount of dissolved salts added by rivers has far exceeded the salts now dissolved in the sea. Why then, isn't the sea more salty than it is? The reason is that the composition of the ocean is in a steady state; material is being removed at the same rate at which it is added. Some of the elements, such as silicon, calcium, and phosphorus, are withdrawn from seawater by aquatic plants and animals to build their shells or skeletons. Other elements, such as potassium and sodium, are absorbed and removed by clay particles and other minerals as they slowly settle to the sea floor. Still others, such as copper and lead are precipitated as sulfide minerals in claystones and mudstones rich in organic matter. The net result of all these processes of extraction, taken together with what is being added, is that the composition of seawater remains constant.
Creationist claims for a young Earth based on ocean salinity can probably be traced back to Henry Morris, the founder of modem creationism. These claims have been investigated by Dr Martin Bridgstock, and what follows is a summary of his article "The Reliability of Creationist Claims", which appears on page 63 of "Creationism An Australian Perspective".
The reference source Morris used was "Chemical Oceanography", edited by J P Riley and G Skirrow. Morris claims that Riley and Skirrow made calculations concerning the length of time certain elements take to accumulate in the oceans from river inflow. He then quotes a table listing 12 elements and the length of time required for each one to accumulate in the ocean from river inflow. For example, sodium is listed as taking 260,000,000 years, magnesium as taking 45,000,000 years and silicon as taking 8,000 years.
All the figures in Morris' table are well below billions of years, and he implies that these figures indicate that evolutionary timescales are wrong. However, when Dr Bridgstock checked Morris' reference source he discovered two errors. The first is that the calculations were not made by Riley and Skirrow, the table appears in the paper "Minor Elements in Seawater", by E D Goldberg. Listed below are some extracts from Goldberg's table:
Abundance of the elements in seawater and residence times
Elements Concentration in mg/l Residence times (years) Na 10,500 2.6 x 108 Mg 1,350 4.5 x 107 Al 0.01 100 Si 3.0 8.0 x 103
The second error Dr Bridgstock found is much more serious as it is a complete misrepresentation of Goldberg's paper. As you can see the table deals with the residence times of elements; residence time meaning the time an element remains in sea-water before being removed by precipitation processes. It says nothing about the time required for elements to build up in the oceans. The paper, is instead, about how long they remain in the ocean before removal.
Morris has not only misrepresented Goldberg's paper, he has also used selective citation, a tactic which is common in pseudoscience. As Dr Bridgstock points out, Morris did not quote any results for aluminium, which has a residence time of 100 years. Had he used this figure, it would have exposed the flaw in his argument, as everyone knows that the oceans are much older than this.
Now that I have finished summarising Dr Bridgstock's findings, it should be clear that creationist claims for a young Earth based on ocean salinity are invalid.
The dynamo theory of the Earth's magnetic field is based on two basic facts; the existence of a core composed of molten metal and the presence of motions in this core. It requires no additional assumptions, and from these facts we can derive the magnetic field merely by applying the laws of classical physics which have been known and uncontested for well over 100 years.
A dynamo converts the energy of mechanical motion into electrical current. The simplest illustration of such a machine is the disk dynamo invented by Michael Faraday. Faraday put a disk of copper on a spindle and spun the disk over a bar magnet positioned near the outer edge of the disk. The motion of the conductor through the magnetic field of the magnet induced a small current in the disk. Now we can replace the bar magnet with a coil, and this will induce a current in the disk in exactly the same way, provided we start with a current in the coil. If we feed the current induced in the disk back into the coil, we have a self-contained system for generating current simply by spinning the disk.
The Faraday disk itself could not maintain a current for very long, because the current in the disk is so weak that it would soon be dissipated by the resistance of the conductor. However, in order to make the system self-sustaining, all we need do is increase its size; theory says that the bigger we make such a dynamo, the better it will function. If such an apparatus were constructed on a planet size scale, it would produce self-sustaining currents.
Now the spinning disc of the dynamo is analogous to the fluid core of the Earth. The motion of particles in the fluid can literally pull and stretch the field lines of magnetic force, and in the process of stretching they gain energy - energy which is imparted by the motion of the particles. This basic process of the conversion of mechanical energy - not essentially different from the operation of a dynamo - can be shown mathematically to account satisfactorily for the electric currents and magnetism of the Earth's core.
If the core contained no electric currents at the beginning of the Earth's history, it could soon have acquired small currents by some chemical battery action. These tiny currents would be amplified by the fluid motion, and amplification would continue until and equilibrium state was reached. Thereafter the core would contain self-replenishing electric currents and the Earth would have a permanent magnetic field.
The strongest arguments for the dynamo theory comes from the nature of the Earth's magnetic field. For many years geophysicists have known that the magnetic field is irregular and constantly changing. There are many eddies in the field, and they are eddies in a literal sense because they change with the passage of time.
Moreover, the overall strength of the Earth's field as a whole tends to fluctuate, and we know that the north magnetic pole has been wandering about the Arctic in the course of geological time.
All this is precisely what we should expect on the dynamo theory. It represents overwhelming evidence that the core of the Earth is in motion, and that the variations and changes in the field must reflect these motions. So the pieces of the puzzle fit together - seismology tells us that the Earth's core is fluid, and the study of the magnetic field confirms that there are motions in the core.
It is abundantly clear that the creationists are wrong when they claim that dynamo theory can't account for Earth's magnetic field. Any alternative explanation they might have must not only account for the generation of earth's magnetic field, it must also account for the operation of electric motors. The reason being that the laws of physics apply equally to both.
The creationists claim that the available data supports their beliefs. However, this is not the case. If the Biblical deluge occurred, then the geological record should support their claims, but it does not.
In fact the geological evidence does the opposite; it proves that the event never took place. Floods deposit high – energy sediments such as gravel, for example, whereas less energetic conditions deposit sands, silts and muds. If the Biblical deluge had occurred, then the worldwide sequence of sedimentary rocks would grade upwards from high - energy sediments deposited during the height of the flood to low energy sediments which would have been deposited during the waning of the flood. Such a grading can be produced in simple laboratory tests or can be seen with localised flooding and submarine mass flow. However, it is not seen on a global scale, and this fact proves that there never was world wide flood.
Does palaeomagnetism support creationist claims? We saw in Part 1, Section 3, that palaeomagnetic data supports the theory of plate tectonics, which in turn enables us to explain the geography of our world in terms of natural, rather than supernatural forces as employed by creationists.
The creationist claim that the Earth's magnetic field is decaying is also unfounded. In order for this decay to occur, the Earth's liquid outer core would need to be freezing and this would have drastic consequences for the Earth.
Firstly, continental drift would have no driving mechanism and no continent would move. This is clearly not happening as continental movement has been measured. Secondly, catastrophic earthquakes, which are caused by the breaking of rock at shallow depths, would not occur. Instead rare gentle earthquakes, similar to moonquakes, would be recorded at great depth, and there would be none of the numerous small earthquakes that are recorded worldwide each day.
Thirdly, the Earth's magnetic field protects us from harmful solar radiation. If the field was decaying, then increased radiation levels would harm life on our planet, and if the field collapsed completely it is unlikely that any life would survive at all. Since none of these events have been observed, we can be sure that the Earth's magnetic field is not decaying.
THE ANTIQUITY OF THE EARTH
(Part 3 of 5 Parts)
(Investigator 55, 1997 July)
This is the third part of a five part series that refutes the creationist article "Evidence for a Young World", which appeared in Investigator No. 47. Each numbered section of this article corresponds to the identically numbered section of the creationist article which it disproves.
7. Polystrate Fossils
The term "polystrate fossil" is an invention of the creationists and in this case refers to fossil trees number of different strata levels, which is hardly surprising. The predictable conclusion the creationists arrive at, is that these formations were produced by the Biblical deluge.
These fossils "are described in the accepted geologic literature". However, the creationists claim that they can be used to disprove the science of geology is without foundation. For example, an extensive fossil forest lies in the north eastern portion of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Here the majority of the petrified tree trunks are found still standing upright in positions of original growth in the enclosing medium of volcanic tuffs and breccia. Even more unusual is the occurrence here of not merely a single fossil forest, but a verticle succession of 27 buried forests - one above the other - in a thickness of over 600 metres of volcanic debris.
Was this formation deposited in a short time by a global flood? The answer is a resounding no. Successive periods of volcanic activity buried generations of forests, which would regrow as each eruption died down. It would have taken hundreds of years for each forest to regrow, then eventually the old volcano would erupt once more, bury the new green forest, and the whole cycle would begin anew.
This cycle took place 27 times and clearly could not have been caused by the Great Flood. Moreover, the petrified trees are 50,000,000 years old which is far older than the creationists 6,000 -10,000 years.
Before I address the implication that The Joggins area was formed in a short period of time by the action of the Biblical deluge, I shall give a brief outline of one of the features of this coal bearing region. The productive coal measures of the Cumberland Group are Westphalian B. They occur in the northern part of Cumberland Basin, Nova Scotia and are mined at The Joggins, River Herbert, Springhill Coalfields.
Near Joggins, in the sea cliffs along the eastern shore of the Bay of Fundy, 5,000 feet of coal measures with no less than 65 separate coal horizons are exposed. This section was first described in 1845 by Sir William Logan who pointed out the phenomena of cyclic sedimentation so well displayed in these rocks. The coals are thin, only five seams attain mineable thickness, and most average three feet or less.
Creationists claim that all the world's coal measures were formed during the Great Flood. If this is in fact true, then coal should be found within marine rocks and associated with rocks containing marine fossils.
Unfortunately for the creationists this is not the case. As Professor Ian Plimer points out in his book "Telling Lies for God": coal is found associated with and enclosed by terrestrial rocks. Moreover, on the basis of coal chemistry, coal fluorescence and the preserved plant remains in coal, the various depositional environments of coal can be established, yet no marine coals have ever been found.
The fact that coal deposits exist in The Joggins, and the fact that the rocks display cyclic sedimentation which could not have been produced by a global deluge, (In "Telling Lies for God", Professor Plimer has pointed out the order that the sequence of sedimentary rocks would display if there had been a global deluge. As a summary of his findings relating to this matter, and the claim that the Earth's magnetic field is decaying were given on the last page of part 2, they will not be repeated here. I apologize to Professor Plimer for not making clear the fact that this was a summary of his work.) clearly prove that the area was not formed by the action of Noah's flood.
A far more logical explanation exists for the formation of coal. Almost all coal was deposited after the Silurian Period, which ended about 400 million years ago. The first plants with lignified (woody) tissues evolved during the Silurian Period. During the subsequent Devonian Period there was enough lignin in plants so that coal seams of significant proportions could develop. The rocks of every geologic period since then contain coal.
Coal seams began their development in extensive swamps where water at the surface inhibited the decomposition of organic debris. The swamps in which the largest seams developed were along ancient coasts, and often extended far inland. Such areas had any of several kinds of environment, including open water, treeless marshland, and forested swamp.
Leaves, stems, flowers, fruits, and other plant parts came to rest in these sites having been brought in by water or wind. Mineral grains and rock fragments were also washed in but because the water flowed sluggishly the amount of inorganic material that accumulated was relatively small. If the area was slowly subsiding, the layer of organic material became progressively thicker. It was acted upon by bacteria and fungi and further altered by chemical and physical processes. The resulting material was a brown or black deposit called peat.
At some point in time the sedimentary conditions were altered so that the deposition of inorganic material became predominant. This was usually a result of inundation by the sea caused by subsidence of the land, so that there was open water where mud or silt could accumulate. Thus the peat became buried, and later the mud or silt was buried as well, perhaps beneath lime sediment as the water deepened.
Eventually changing sea levels caused another period of swampy conditions to prevail in which more organic matter accumulated. Many repetitions of tho cycle of events sometimes occurred, resulting in the formation of various layers of organic matter separated by layers of sediment. Eventually, because of the pressures, temperatures, and other geological factors associated with burial, the peat became coal, and the sediments sedimentary rock such as shale and limestone.
8. Folded Strata
The creationist claim that strata in mountainous areas was deposited and folded in less than thousands of years is completely wrong. In Part 1, Section 3, I gave an account of how mountains are formed and the time-scales involved, so I will not repeat this information here. However, I will address the claim that the formations would have been "still wet and unsolidified [deposited by the Flood] when the bending occurred".
Sedimentary rocks exposed in cliffs and mountains rarely lie horizontally. Instead, these rocks usually exhibit a slope or dip on their bedding surfaces. Dip (the greatest angle from the horizontal that can be measured down an inclined rock surface) is produced when strata are subjected to tectonic forces and become either tilted or folded. Folding is an expression of compression within the crust, rocks being squashed and buckled by lateral forces. If the forces are equal from both sides, the fold will be neat and symmetrical, but when unequal forces are involved, an asymmetrical fold, with a leaning fold axis occurs.
Although the folds in sedimentary strata lie in the brittle outer zone of the Earth, these rocks do not shatter, except along the faults, but instead have behaved more as a plastic clay. This is not because the material is wet or unsolidified, but because thick shale layers actually have plastic properties and are readily squeezed out of shape if unequal forces are applied for long periods of time. Limestone, too, has a type of plastic property under great pressures because the layers of atoms within mineral crystals can slip internally like a pack of playing cards, and thus continually rearrange themselves. Sandstone layers remain brittle, even under high confining pressures, but slippage occurs along countless numbers of tiny faults and tension cracks, giving the overall appearance that the layer has been bent.
9. Fossil Pine Pollen and The Grand Canyon
I would like to express my thanks to Alex Ritchie and Barry Williams for providing me with information relating to creationist fossil pollen claims. Claims, which, as we shall see, are highly suspect.
Before addressing the fossil pollen claim, I will give a brief geological history of the Grand Canyon's formation in order to show that it is not a "monument to catastrophe" (the Great Flood) as creationists would have us believe.
The Grand Canyon is a tremendous chasm cut by the Colorado River through the Colorado Plateau, in north western Arizona. It extends from the mouth of the Little Colorado River on the east to Lake Mead on the west.
Within the great main gorge are many peaks, mesas, butts, and smaller canyons. All but the inner (lowest) gorge is cut through essentially horizontal sedimentary rock strata, most of which were deposited throughout the 350 million years of The Paleozoic Era during which this part of the continent was frequently submerged by fluctuating marine and fresh-water environments.
The entire region was uplifted abut 60 million years ago, and the work of erosion began levelling the region to a plain. Once more the uplifting process occurred, the land attaining its present elevation of 6,000 - 9,000 feet. Then, several million years ago, the Colorado River began its incisive carving, which has already cut through rock up to a billion years old, and is still in the process of doing so. The exposed rock of the canyon walls reveals many chapters of Earth's history; history which refutes rather than confirms creationist beliefs.
I shall now address the creationist claim that "fossil pine pollen has been found in Grand Canyon Precambrian Hakatai Shale… Finds like this cast doubt on methods of age-dating and thus on the evolutionary timetable".
In order to show that the creationist claim is unfounded, I shall quote, from one of their own publications: "Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe", edited by Steven A. Austin, Ph. D."In 1966, C. L. Burdick published a controversial paper, claiming that pollen of vascular plants had been isolated from the Hakatai Shale (Precambrian) of the Unkar Group of the Canyon... Naturally, there was concern that his samples of Hakatai Shale had been contaminated somehow by modem pollen...Now it should be obvious that if less care was taken to avoid contamination; then this fact casts doubt on the authenticity of the finds, and this is admitted in the creationist article.
Other researchers have tried to duplicate Burdick's work: Arthur V. Chadwick collected fifty samples of Hakatai Shale from the same locations as Burdick had earlier, paying close attention to possible sources of contamination... Chadwick found no authentic pollen in the fifty samples of Hakatai Shale. The inability to repeat Burdick's work with fifty samples at his collection sites indicated to Chadwick that Burdick had not collected authentic Precambrian pollen, he had collected contamination.
Work by G. F. Howe, E. L. Williams, G. T. Matzko, and W. E. Lammerts appears to confirm Burdicks earlier work. Two out of ten preparations of Hakatai Shale were observed to contain pollen...less care was taken than by Chadwick to avoid contamination"."One legitimate explanation for the occurrence of pine pollen in Hakatai Shale is that pollen has infiltrated from the modem atmosphere into pores within the rock. Pollen is microscopic, and could have migrated into the rock between mineral grains, during more than a thousand years of recent exposure at the surface. Are Howe, Williams, Matzko, and Lammerts confident that such small objects as pollen grains did not infiltrate into the shale along fractures and between mineral grains after the rock was lithified? They are confident, but not certain".The creationists have not proved that their beliefs are true. The only thing that they have proved is that their experimental methodology is inadequate.
THE ANTIQUITY OF THE EARTH
(Part 4 of 5 Parts)
(Investigator 56, 1997 September)
This is the fourth part of a five part series that refutes the creationist article "Evidence for a Young World", which appeared in Investigator No. 47. Each numbered section of this article corresponds to the identically numbered section of the creationist article which it disproves.
10. Geological Time, Radioactive Decay and The Speed of light
Creationists repeatedly claim that various dating methods used by scientists which rely on radioactive decay are either inaccurate, unreliable, or both. This assertion is simply not true.
To interpret past events - and put them in the correct order, geologists consider time in two ways: relative time, which places events in sequence; and absolute time, which gives a date in years.
The Relative Time Scale has been established over the past 150 years of geological research. It forms a standard scheme against which rock layers, or strata, in any part of the crust can be measured. Certain fundamental principles of stratigraphy were used to establish this relative scale. Possibly the most important of these is the principle of Superposition of Strata.
This states that in a given sequence of rocks, the oldest layers lie beneath the younger ones, provided that no large-scale faulting or folding has upturned the rocks. Other principles suggest that an igneous dyke must be younger than the rock through which it cuts, and fragments of rock in a conglomerate, for example, must come from an older formation.
During the 18th and early 19th centuries, the great British amateur geologist William Smith, and other pioneering stratigraphers, realised the value of fossils as a stratigraphic tool. They recognised that a sequence could be established, characterised by fossils, and that strata could be correlated over wide areas when they contained the same fossils.
Today, a detailed sequence of time zones is the basis of the relative time scale. Each zone is defined by the occurrence in the strata of a particular zone fossil.
Creationists claim that geological time scales are based on the assumption of evolution, and that scientists have used circular reasoning: fossils are used to date rocks, and at the same time, rocks are used to date fossils. This is simply not the case.
The geological time scale had been established well before Darwin published his "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life", in 1859. As previously mentioned the principle of stratigraphic superposition was first forcefully presented and widely introduced to science by William Smith (1769-1839), an English civil engineer and land surveyor. At the end of the eighteenth century, modem geology began as James Hutton (1726-1797), a Scottish geologist exposed the fallacies of the neptunian arguments (an early geological theory that claimed the Earth's crust was structurally static. Mountains were either inherited vestiges of an early molten, chaotic period of the creation, or were formed only 2,000 or 3,000 years ago by catastrophic waves and currents during the Biblical deluge).
Hutton fully recognised the dynamic nature of the Earth's interior, and at the same time laid the groundwork for the overthrow of catastrophism, by Charles Lyell (1797-1975), whose "Principles of Geology" (1830-1833) was a persuasive syntheses of mushrooming factual data with a uniformitarian interpretation of Earth history. About 1830 two British geologists, Adam Sedgwick and Roderick Murchison began a conscious effort to develop a systematic relative time scale, and their efforts helped develop an organised, workable scheme of classification now well known even outside the walks of geology. Below is a table listing the major eras of Earth's geologic history, and the dates when these eras were named.
Archaic British Scale Eras (Modern Scale)
Transition (of Werner) (1786)
|Primitive or Primary (1759)||Precambrian (modern name)|
An examination of history clearly shows that the Relative Time Scale existed before the theory of evolution, and that creationist claims are unfounded. Because the time scale was based on a wealth of evidence it has remained virtually unchanged, even in the light of evolution and modern radiometric dating.
During the last few decades our understanding of absolute time has increased dramatically. The refinement of the techniques of radiometric dating has shown how old the Earth really is. A figure of 4,600 million years can be given to the time since the formation of the Earth.
The technique of radiometric dating is quiet straightforward in principle. Radioactive elements trapped in minerals in the rocks of the crust decay spontaneously through time into more stable elements, releasing energy in the form of radiation. This happens at a constant rate. If the rate of decay from "parent" element to "daughter" element is known, and the present proportions of parent to daughter are calculated, then the time during which decay has occurred (in other words, the age of the rock containing the radioactive elements) can be measured.
The rate of decay of a radioactive element is measured in terms of its "half-life". This is the time taken for half of the parent element's atoms to decay. The most favoured methods for geological timekeeping are the potassium to argon system (half-life: 11,850 million years) and the rubidium to strontium system (half-life: 50,000 million years). The carbon 14 system (half-life: 5,570 years) is of use for dating relatively recent material, up to about 70,000 years old.
The geological time scale used by geologists today is a composite scale of reference built up by using both relative and absolute dating. The two approaches are complementary, and show that the age of the Earth is far greater than the creationist's 10,000 years.
Radiometric dating is rejected by creationists because they believe that the speed of light has been slowing down, and at the time of creation was some 200 billion times faster than it is now. This claim is without foundation.
If the speed of light was changing the whole Universe would suffer massive disruptions due to the radical alteration of one of nature's fundamental laws. However, the fact that the Universe is a stable system is proof in itself that the laws of nature remain constant.
If the speed of light was as fast as the creationists claim, then the sun's nuclear fusion reactions would have been so energetic that the Earth would have been reduced to a molten mass. Furthermore, the radioactive decay of elements in our planet, like the sun's fusion reactions, would have been accelerated to such a degree that the energy liberated would have vaporized the Earth. The fact that our world exists is abundant proof that the creationist's claim is sheer fantasy.
11. Radiogenic Helium
The creationist claim relating to radiogenic helium has been investigated by Ken Smith, and what follows is a summary of his article "Where is the Earth's Radiogenic Helium?" which appears on page 20 of "Creationism An Australian Perspective".
In January 1957, a letter was published in Nature titled "Where is the Earth's Radiogenic Helium?". The author was M. A. Cook, a creationist, and he attempted to prove that there was insufficient helium in the atmosphere if our planet was about 4.5 billion years old. Cook's claim is still being repeated by creationists, and is mentioned in the second of the "Origins" series of films that were produced in the early 1980's. In the booklet accompanying the films (Taylor 1983, page 13) Cook is quoted as saying."There is no chance whatsoever that helium could be leaving the atmosphere. Where is the earth's radiogenic helium? The answer seems to be that the earth is just not that old".This, like the other creationist claims, is without foundation. In order to understand why, a brief account of the physics of gases will need to be given. Molecules of gases travel with different speeds, and the relative numbers moving with these various speeds can be calculated using the Maxwell-Boltzmann law.
The average speed of the molecules depends on the temperatures and increases as the temperature rises. It also depends on the mass of the molecules: molecules of light gases, such as hydrogen and helium have a higher speed than those of heavier gases, such as oxygen and nitrogen.
The Maxwell-Boltzmann law enables scientists to calculate what proportion of molecules have sufficient speed to escape from the atmosphere (>11 km per second). At sea level temperatures, a negligible proportion of molecules are moving faster than the escape speed. However, during the International Geophysical Year of 1957-1958 it was discovered that the upper regions of the atmosphere were much hotter than previously thought. One of these regions, called the thermosphere, has an air temperature of about 2,000oC which is sufficiently high for helium to escape relatively freely.
Cook's original work was done before the international Geophysical Year, and therefore was based on insufficient data. It can now be proved that the Earth's radiogenic helium has escaped into space from the hot upper regions of the atmosphere.
12. Helium Retention in Zircons
I would like to express my thanks to Ron Ebert for investigating the creationist claim relating to helium retention, and to Barry Williams for forwarding the information to me. In order to show that this creationist claim is false, I shall quote from Mr Ebert's letter."I pulled the Gentry article... There is no discussion of the age of the rocks, except an acknowledgment that precambrian rocks are as old as is generally accepted (Gentry references a study by Zartman for this). In fact, in the abstract of the article, Gentry says "ancient Precambrian rocks".Once again the creationists have misrepresented a scientific article while attempting to prove their insupportable beliefs, thus demonstrating an inability to perform basic research.
"Gentry found that gaseous helium is retained surprisingly well in zircons, and that the amount of diffusion of He out of the zircons is nearly wholly dependent on the temperature of the rock. Deeper, hotter rock had more loss of He than cooler rock closer to the surface. Corrosion of the rock seems to be a negligible factor in He loss, so Gentry concludes that deep granite storage of radioactive waste should be a very safe corrosion - resistant waste contamination procedure".
THE ANTIQUITY OF THE EARTH
(Part 5 of 5 Parts)
(Investigator 57, 1997 November)
This is the fifth and final part of this article which refutes the creationist article "Evidence for a Young World", which appeared in Investigator No. 47. Each numbered section of this article corresponds to the identically numbered section of the creationist article which it disproves.
13. Stone Age Populations
The Stone Age is divided into three basic periods: The Palaeolithic, the Mesolithic, and the Neolithic. The development of agriculture began in the Neolithic period, and before that time all people led hunter - gatherer lifestyles.
Mobile hunter-gatherers seldom have permanent burial grounds, so grave fields where a society's dead are all buried inside a defined area, are a sure sign of a population with a high degree of sedentism. While known hunter – gatherers perform certain rituals or ceremonies in connection with burials, the burials generally take place wherever the group happens to be at the time, and such people rarely inter the dead below ground or erect lasting monuments above ground. Instead, the dead are often placed on platforms in the wilderness, and scavenging animals restore the remains to the earth. It goes without saying that this kind of burial is seldom found in the archaeological record, and this explains why so few stone age graves have been discovered.
Creationists claim that the Earth is no more than 10,000 years old. However, it is unlikely that the current global population of c.5 billion people could have reached its present size in so short a period of time, especially if we are all descended from Noah's family.
The calculations on human populations that were performed by Edward S Deevey of Yale University clearly show that 10,000 years is an insufficient length of time. He has estimated that the hominid population of the Earth two million years ago was not
much over 100,000 individuals, presumably all of them australopithecines, living in Africa. Three hundred thousand years ago, towards the end of Homo erectus' known tenancy, the human population had climbed probably to a million, and 25,000 years ago, during the time of the Cro-Magnon peoples, it had jumped to more than three million.
The increase in population, according to Deevey, has not gone in a steady curve. Rather, it has had a series of surges, reflecting the great cultural innovations associated with the evolution of humans. The first, of course, was the development of stone tools. This allowed for population increase in two different ways: it enabled hominids to venture out into the world, ultimately to the point of inhabiting a number of different kinds of environments that tool-less populations could not have survived in; it also made populations more efficient, enabling them to exploit various environments more intensively. In the days of the crude chopping tool of the Oldowan, the population density of Africa has been estimated to have been only one per hundred square miles. By the end of the Palaeolithic, humans had spread throughout Europe and Asia as well as Africa and their density had risen tenfold, to one per ten square miles.
The second innovation was the double discovery of how to grow crops and domesticate animals. It enabled people to settle down permanently for the first time, and for the first time to live together in large numbers. Even nomadic herdsman could exist in far greater concentrations on a given area of land than hunter-gatherers could. The effect on world population was staggering. In 4000 years it jumped from an estimated 5 million to 86 million.
The third innovation was the industrial age. It had its beginnings about 300 years ago when the population was in the neighbourhood of 550 million. It is abundantly clear that creationist claims relating to stone age skeletons, and the length of this period of human history are without foundation.
14. Culture and Agriculture
The period from 10,000 BC to 4,000 BC witnessed the most important single innovation in the history of humanity before the industrial revolution: the seemingly simple change from acquiring food entirely by hunting and gathering to producing it
through cultivation and stock breeding. The beginnings of this momentous change can be traced to what is known as the Neolithic period, and it was the food producing cultures that evolved in South-west Asia during this time that eventually gave rise to Western civilisation.
Archaeological evidence suggests that farming began on the hills and grasslands that flank the arid Syrian steppe and on the southern Mesopotamian floodplains. Just as they did thousands of years ago, these slopes still harbor the wild ancestors of the cereals and animals that became the basis of the region's agricultural economy - wild barley, two forms of wild wheat, plant foods such as legumes, and wild cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs.
The development of agriculture is in part due to the change in climatic conditions that resulted in the burst of new vegetation at the end of the last Ice Age. This event is only fairly recent in Earth's history. For, sometime between one and two million years ago, the last great Ice Age, the Pleistocene, began and massive ice-sheets covered much of Northern Europe and North America. At their maximum extent they reached south to a line from Bristol to Berlin in Northern Europe and south of the Great Lakes in North America. Even areas far away from the ice sheets were affected. Within the Pleistocene epoch there were times when temperatures rose and ice-sheets retreated, times when they fell again and the ice-sheets advanced once more. It was not until about 12,000 years ago that they finally retreated and climatic conditions gradually ameliorated over much of the Earth.
The warmer and wetter climate that developed in South-west Asia at the end of the Pleistocene era, brought about great environmental changes. Open woodlands flourished, with nuts that could be harvested and grasses that had the potential to be domesticated, and the warmer winters enabled communities to move from caves in the mountainous areas to regions where wild cereal grasses, such as barley and emmer grew, and could be gathered. The harvesting of Wild grain, in turn, stimulated the development of such tools as sickle blades and grinding stones and the building of storage facilities – developments that paved the way for the emergence of agriculture.
Probably the single most important factor in the transition from a hunter-gatherer economy to a food producing economy was the establishment of settled communities. Plants and animals were originally domesticated as a minor part of a general subsistence strategy, but they soon became so important that farming became an almost universal way of life.
The development of agriculture was delayed not only by unfavourable environmental factors, but also by cultural factors as well. Cultural change is a cumulative process. It follows that as cultures become more complex, the pace of change quickens.
However, this acceleration is not a smooth progression: both temporally and spatially it proceeds in jerks. Culture can be envisaged as an adaptive system made up of a number of interlocking and interacting parts, such as technology, economy, social organisation and ideology. There will be long periods of time during which only minor shifts occur and the culture remains stable. But there will be other times when changes in one or more parts cause immense repercussions throughout the rest of the system.
The development of human culture begins with the slow opening of the Old Stone Age (Lower and Middle Palaeolithic), over three million years in which cultural development often lagged behind physical evolution. There follows an acceleration of cultural change associated with late hunter - gatherers from c. 20,000 years ago (Late Palaeolithic and Mesolithic). Then, with the development of farming (the Neolithic), c. 11,000 years ago, comes an incredible cultural burgeoning. People increasingly modify and control their environment, and this control makes possible social organisation on a scale and of a complexity far beyond the capacity of even the most advanced hunter-gatherer society.
The fact that agriculture is a fairly recent development in the evolution of human culture gives no credence to creationist claims. The evidence brought to light by archaeologists confirms that human beings and human culture evolved from very primitive beginnings over millions of years, with agriculture and civilisation being the most recent links in a long chain of events that led to their development.
15. Writing and Civilisation
The cave paintings of Upper Palaeolithic humans (c. 40,000 years ago) are not suitable as a medium for recording history, nor were they intended to. These objects are expressions of the magical and religious beliefs of the people who created them.
Much Palaeolithic art is found deep in caves, beyond the reach of daylight, and this suggests that this period of art reflected more than mere enjoyment of art for its own sake. Humans in Palaeolithic times obtained their food primarily by hunting, and the role of magic appears to have been directed toward this end. It appears that the hunters believed that they could gain magical power over their quarry, either by representing it on a cave wall or floor, or by enacting a ritual hunt in front of a representation of the animal.
More than 6,000 years ago, the Stone Age peoples of western Europe started to erect stone monuments over their dead - as tombs or as ceremonial places - and thereby introduced the megalithic tradition of the Neolithic period.
Stonehenge, the famous stone circle in Salisbury Plain, England is an example of a Neolithic monument with astronomical connections. It was built by the Beaker People sometime between c. 2,500 and 2,000 BC. The exact use of Stonehenge is unknown, but it seems that the stones were so arranged that the shadows of the sun and also of the full moon cast by certain stones, would point exactly toward the centre at certain times, namely those times corresponding to the shortest and longest days of the year. Stonehenge appears to have been built in order to record astronomical events, and as a focus for the religious beliefs associated with these events.
The development of writing commenced when people began to live In cities (c. 3,000 BC), which represents a more complex form of society than that of hunter-gatherers, or a simple agricultural village. The invention of writing was a response to the needs of a more complex society, which could not function without keeping a record of activities. Their detail had grown beyond the ability of human memory. The earliest documents were lists of commodities, recorded in the temples, and of the signs used in writing, to be learned by would-be scribes. As writing developed, however, other activities were recorded: the official acts and exploits of rulers, laws and regulations, the business transactions of private citizens and, in time, the thought and traditions of individuals and societies. In short, not only was a complex civilisation facilitated by the keeping of records, but detailed reconstruction of history became possible.
The creationist claim that the biblical time scale (as interpreted by christian fundamentalists) of 6,000 to 10,000 years is adequate, is simply not true. Far more accurate dates for the evolution of human culture have already been given in section 13 and 14 of this article, so I will not repeat them here.
The creationist claims in "Evidence for a Young World" have been examined, and have been proven wrong. There is no evidence that the Earth is 10,000 years old, no evidence for a global deluge, and no evidence for a supernatural creation.
If God did create. the Universe in the manner the creationists claim, then why did he do so in such a way that the theory of evolution is endorsed by the testimony of nature?
The reason why creationists reject the theory of evolution is not because it is wrong, but because it conflicts with their literal interpretation of Genesis. It appears that they are prepared to sacrifice their reason on the altar of faith in the quest for religious certainty."In the creation story, in the creeds of Christianity, and in countless stories in the biblical drama, a nonoperative, prescientific, and clearly false view of the world is perpetuated. Those who seek to preserve these biblical understandings have to become anti-intellectual or must close off vast portions of their thinking processes or twist their brains into a kind of first century pretzel in order to maintain their faith system".After having thoroughly examined creationism, I think that we can justifiably say that it is an intellectually bankrupt delusion based on a tissue of fabrications.
(Bishop J. S. Sponge. Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, pp 26-27)
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