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Indicators of a young earth, with rebuttals

Indicators within the solar system

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Five indicators included in this essay:

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Indicator 1: Distance to the moon: The moon is about 238,000 miles from the earth and is gradually moving away from the earth at about 1.48 inches (3.78 cm) per year. This is about the same speed as human fingernails grow. Assuming that this rate is constant, then if one went backwards in time by 1 billion years, the moon would have been touching the earth. Thus the moon must be less than 1 billion years of age. Scientist's measurements showing moon rocks to be many billions of years of age must be in error.

Rebuttal: There is a mathematical error in the calculation used by the young earth promoters. The distance from the center of the moon to the center of the earth currently averages about 238,000 miles or 15.08 billion inches. If they were moving apart at a constant rate of 1.5 inches per year, then about 1 billion years ago, their centers would be about 1.5 billion inches or 23,674 miles closer together; they would still be about 214,000 miles apart. The moon would have been noticeably larger in the sky than it is today. The moonlit nights would have been brighter. The tides would have been higher. But that would have been the only major effects on the earth.

However, it is always questionable to assume that present rates are equal to past values. The rate of separation of the earth and moon is not constant; it is accelerating. This is caused by the ocean tides. "The tidal bulge rotates with the earth,...and pulls the moon along with it, so the moon is being accelerated into a [progressively] higher orbit." 1 Thus, the farther back in time that one goes, the rate at which the moon is moving away from earth decreases.

The ratio of the size of the earth to the size of our moon is much larger than for any other planet in the solar system. There is a concensus among those planetary specialists who are not new-Earth creationists that the moon was formed about 4.5 billion years ago when a proto-planet about the size of Mars collided with the Earth. Computer simulations of the event predict that the moon coalesced about 14,000 miles (22,500 km) away from the earth -- about 6% of its current distance. It started to accellerate away from the Earth.

In the distant future, the moon will be so far away that the Earth's rotation may become unstable. It may wobble to the point that some places on Earth will undergo much greater temperature swings between winter and summer. Fortunately, this won't happen for billions of years into our future. 4

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Indicator 2: Comets: There are many comets with short periods. Their volatile materials boil off whenever they approach the sun. After a few passes, they would cease to be observable. Since we still see the tails of these comets when they are near the sun, they cannot be very old. But comets are generally believed to have been formed about the same time as the solar system: billions of years ago. So the solar system must be young.

Rebuttal: Short period comets (SPCs) have a period of less than 200 years. Haley's Comet at 76.1 years is probably the best known. They do in fact lose much of their volatile components with each pass around the sun, and in a few thousand years become invisible to the naked eye. But the above "indicator" assumes that no new comets are entering the inner solar system. This is not a valid assumption.

In analyzing the orbits, rotation and behavior of comets, astronomers had observed two distinct types of comets:

  • Those with short periods which lie close to the solar plane -- the disk shape made up of the sun and planets Mercury to Neptune.
  • Those with extremely long periods which appear to be randomly inclined to the solar plane.

Astronomers concluded that there must be two sources from which new comets are deflected into the inner solar system: one is a belt which re-supplies short period comets; 2the other is a spherical cloud which surrounds the sun and supplies long period comets. 3 In 1992, the former source was detected. It is the Kuiper Belt which lies beyond the planet Neptune. Over 400 comets have been observed to date in this belt. Discovery of this belt gives increased credibility to the existence of the source of long-period comets -- the "Opik-Oort Cloud," which is located beyond the Edgeworth-Juiper Belt.  Unfortunately, because of their size and distance, these comets cannot be directly observed at this time.

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Indicator 3: Sun's diameter: The diameter of the sun is shrinking about 5 feet per hour or 8.3 miles per year. Extrapolating backwards in time, about 11.4 million years ago the sun would have been so large that its surface would have reached the earth. No life would have been possible; the earth itself would have melted long before this. Thus, the sun must have been recently created.

Rebuttal: The 5 feet/hour value comes from measurements of the sun's diameter which are difficult to make and prone to error. The latest data from the Greenwich Observatory indicates a decrease of 0.008% over the past 300 years. But the standard error of the measurement is 0.007%. And so the 5 feet/hour value is totally without significance.

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Indicator 4: Mercury's magnetic field: Scientists originally predicted that the planet Mercury would not have a magnetic field. Being so close to the sun, it was believed to be too hot to support a magnetic field. But an unmanned space probe in 1974 was able to detect a very faint field. This proves that Mercury is only a few thousand years old.

Rebuttal: Scientists originally suspected that Mercury would have no magnetic field because of its size, not because of the heat of the sun. Being so small, it is believed that the planet's original molten core cooled and solidified many hundreds of millions of years ago. The Earth is much larger than Mercury and still has a liquid core which supports a large magnetic field. A probe measured a very faint field surrounding Mercury. Scientists believe that the field is simply residual magnetism in the planet core. It would be much like lava on earth preserves the magnetic field that was present when it cooled and solidified.

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Indicator 5: Volcano on Io: A Voyager photograph of Io, one of Jupiter's moons, showed an active volcano on its surface. If the solar system were billions of years old, then Io would have lost almost all of its heat. It would not be able to generate the internal molten rock that we see spewing out of the volcano.

Rebuttal: Io is a very small moon, relative to the size of Jupiter, and its orbit causes it to approach closely to the planet. The gravitational forces that are produced by the large mass of Jupiter and the small distance from Jupiter to Io are massive. They are not strong enough to tear the planet apart, but they are large enough to distort its shape. This distortion is converted to heat inside Io, which is sufficient to melt rock and generate volcanic eruptions. If Io were moved much farther away from Jupiter, its internal temperature would cool and be similar to the earth's moon. Volcanic activity would then cease.

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Related essays on this web site:

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Talk Origins" contains many articles concerning the age of the earth at: http://www.talkorigins.org/
  2. David Jewitt, "Comet home," at: http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/
  3. David Jewitt, "The Oort Cloud," at:  http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/
  4. "Why the Moon is getting further away from Earth," BBC News, 2011-FEB-01, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/
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Copyright © 1996 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated: 2012-JUL-04
Author: B.A. Robinson
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