Origin of the Earth
An unsuccessful attempt to correct an error
on young-earth creationist websites. Part 1
About the age of the earth, and why it is so important:
You may wish to skip this introduction if you are familiar with the differences between old and young earth beliefs.
Many creationists and scientists disagree about the age of the Earth. The
most vocal creationists believe in a young earth in a young universe that have been in
existence fewer than 10,000 years. All of the scientists that we have heard of, who are not young
earth creationists, believe that the earth coalesced over four billion years ago.
||Old earth belief:|
Over 99.8% of specialists in the biological and geological sciences support the theory
of evolution. More details. This implies a very old earth. A near universal estimate,
based on radiometric measurements of earth rocks, is that that the earth coalesced
into more or less its current shape about 4.5 billion years
earth creationists" believe that God inspired the authors of the Bible
to write text that is inerrant -- free of error.
They interpret Genesis 1 and 2 in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old
Testament) literally and interpret it as implying a very old universe. They generally accept
the scientists' estimate of a universe coming into existence
approximately 15 billion years ago and a roughly 4.5 billion year
old Earth. They believe that God created both.
Young earth belief: Many, perhaps
most, Christian Creationists are "young earth creationists" who view
the Earth and the rest of the universe as less than 10,000 years old.
Conservative Christians have made many calculations
to estimate the date of
creation on the basis of the biblical records of generations of
ancient Hebrews, from Adam and Eve onwards. They have computed dates ranging from 3641 to 6000
common estimate for creation is 4004 BCE; this implies a 6 millennia-old
However, some young earth creationists suspect that some of the
generations between Adam and David were simply not reported in the
Bible. That is, when the Bible states that A begat B, then A might have
been really the grandfather, not the father, of B. This could push the
date of creation, according to their interpretation of the Bible, back
perhaps to sometime between 4000 and 8000 BCE -- as much as ten
millennia before the present time.
The difference between ten thousand years and 4.5 billion years is enormous.
It is roughly like comparing the thickness of a piece of 20 pound copy paper to half the length
of a football field!
Resolving the age of the Earth has a profound impact on the theory of
||If the earth's age 10,000 years or less, there could not possibly have been
sufficient time for animal and plant species to have evolved. In a rare
display of unanimity, both the supporters of a young earth and
supporters of the theory of evolution agree on this fact. If the earth
were in fact that young, then the various life forms on earth could not
have evolved. They must have been created (or transported to earth by a
more advanced civilization) sometime during the past 10,000 years.
The vast majority of biologists, geologists, cosmologists,
astronomers, etc. believe that the earth is "old,"
and that evolution from a primitive cell to the
current diversity of life forms is possible. More details. Further, they believe that
the fossil record and radiometric analysis prove that much of it actually
happened. Unfortunately, very early life forms were incapable of leaving
fossils behind, and so the complete history of evolution is not fully
documented, and may never be so.
One strong indicator of the earth's age:
Both young earth creationists and old earth scientists believe that their
estimates of the Earth's age are consistent with calculations based on the
gradual deceleration of the
earth's rotational speed. Everyone agrees that the earth is continuously slowing down;
the days are gradually getting longer. Unfortunately, people interpret the data
in two very different ways:
What some young creationists and almost all scientists agree on:
A combination of
many factors "...causes a slowing of the
Earth's rotational speed." 1 The main cause of the
deceleration, by far are the tides created by the gravitational pull of
the sun and moon. "...the moon is responsible for 56% of the earth's
tidal energy while the sun claims responsibility for 44%." 2 Tides generate friction
between the moving water and the base of the oceans. This converts a very small part of the earth's kinetic
(rotational) energy into
heat. That slows the earth rotational speed, and heats up the ocean by a
miniscule amount. The phenomenon functions much as brake pads work in an automobile.
The car slows; its kinetic energy is converted to heat. Other possible causes of the deceleration are relatively small, and
The long-term changes in the Earth's oblateness parameter,
J3. This is caused by a change in the earth's shape. The
surface of the earth is still rebounding after the pressures caused by the
glaciers in the last ice age disappeared. Strong earthquakes can change the oblateness as well. The earthquake
that created the South Asian tsunami in 2004-DEC-24 is believed to
have shortened the length of a day by a few microseconds.
An effect that scientist call "deep ocean dissipation."
In ancient times, the rotation of the earth was sufficiently accurate to
measure time. One rotation of the earth's rotation was defined as 24 hours;
one second was set at 1/86,400 of a day. But with the increased need for
precision, scientists recognized that the earth's rotation could no longer
be used as a time standard. The rotational speed is continuously changing.
They decided to define the second as an absolute interval of time: exactly
86,400 of our present-day seconds totaled almost exactly the length of one
day back in 1820 CE. Almost two centuries have passed since
that base year. During that interval, the earth has slowed down slightly. Each of today's days
now consists of about 86,400.002 seconds. Two milliseconds may not seem like
much, compared to 86,000 seconds. However, they accumulate during the year.
year has lengthened by 365' x 2 = 730
milliseconds -- almost one second. 1
Leap seconds have traditionally been inserted either at the middle or end
of the year in order to keep time in synchronism with the earth's rotation.
When a leap second is inserted, in essence, clocks are stopped for a second
to let the Earth catch up. This ensures "...that the difference between a uniform time
scale defined by atomic clocks does not differ from the Earth's
rotational time by more than 0.9 seconds." 5 This was done 22 times
in the 30 year period from 1970 to 1999; the process has continued to
the present time. 6
What some young earth creation scientists conclude about the leap
Many creationist websites observe that scientists make an adjustment of one
second during most years and no adjustment during other years. This
about 0.7 seconds per year or in excess of 2 milliseconds per
day. This may not seem like much. But
it amounts to over 20 milliseconds difference in the length of a day per decade, 0.2 seconds per century, 20
seconds per 10,000 years. If this rate were constant, the loss would be over 9 million seconds
per day over the 4.5 billion years that scientists believe the earth has
existed. Since there are only 86,400 seconds in the day, that is
clearly impossible. Still, If the earth's rate of deceleration has
extended throughout the life of the
earth at even a fraction of the present rate, then:
||If the earth's rotational speed had started off at a reasonable
value 4.5 billion years ago, as supporters of evolution claimed, it would have
essentially stopped turning by now. That
clearly has not happened.
||Since the earth's speed at the equator is currently about 1,609 kph (1,000
mph), its rotational speed would have been extremely high 4.5 billion years ago. The earth would have flattened into the shape of a pancake
long ago. That clearly did not happen
Thus, they conclude, the age of the earth must be a very small fraction of 4.5 billion
years. If this is true, then evolution could not possibly have happened. There simply
would not have been sufficient time for the present diversity of
life forms on earth to have evolved. The species must have been specially created
recently, presumably by God. They are confident that these observations,
along with other indicators, points to an earth of less than 10,000 years of
Most creation science websites
that explain this "proof" of a young earth and the impossibility
of evolution seem to use very similar wording. We suspect that many have
directly or indirectly derived their
beliefs from the same book(s). Still, it makes sense as creation scientists view
the data. It makes a powerful proof/indication that an old earth is
simply impossible, and that evolution never happened. 3,7
This topic continues in the next essay
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Earth Rotation," at: http://www.colorado.edu/
Mat Rosenberg, "The Sun and Moon Affect the Oceans," About, at: http://geography.about.com
Wysong(?), "Age of the Earth," (1981 ?), Page 21. There are
many books with titles like this one; most are out of print. It is
unclear which one is used by many creation science websites.
R.A. Nelson, et al., "The leap second: Its history and possible future,"
at: http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/ You need software to read this PDF file.
It can be obtained free from:
"Leap seconds," U.S. Navy Observatory, at: http://tycho.usno.navy.mil/
"NIST time scale data archive," National Institute of Standards and
Technology," at: http://www.boulder.nist.gov/
Scott Huse, "The Collapse Of Evolution," (1996), Page 25.
Copyright © 2002 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2002-JAN-3
Latest update: 2011-JUL-28
Author: B.A. Robinson