Indicators of a 4.5 billion-year-old Earth,
with rebuttals based on creation science
The theory of evolution describes an earth that is
about 4.5 billion years old. But many
creation scientists interpret the Genesis account of creation as requiring an earth that
is only 6,000 to 10,000 years of age. There are
numerous indicators that the earth was in existence billions of years ago.
However, these indicators all assume that various processes like the speed of
light, nuclear decay, etc. happen today as they have in the past. Because no human
before 4,000 BCE was able to observe, measure, and record these processes, it is impossible to prove
that the earth is billions of years old to everyone's satisfaction.
Some of the indicators of an old earth are presented below, with typical rebuttals as might be
stated by a creation scientist. Most of the rebuttals take the position that God
created the universe less than 10,000 years ago, but made everything from tree
rings to dinosaur eggs; from mountains to fossils as if the universe had a
multi-billion year history. Since the creative power of God is assumed by
believers to be infinite, God could have engineered creation in just this manner
-- perhaps with the intent of fooling future generations of scientists.
Age of the galaxy
There is one good indicator that our galaxy is very old:
- Indicator: The sun is one of countless numbers of stars in our galaxy.
The galaxy is over 100,000 light years across. This means that light from some stars in
our galaxy has taken many tens of thousands of years to reach earth. This would
indicate that our galaxy is much older than 10 millennia.
Rebuttal: Believers in a young earth might argue that God created our
galaxy less than 10,000 years ago, complete with light rays going in all directions from
each star, in order that the galaxy would appear to be more ancient than it really is.
That is, God created the universe as if it had a history at the time of creation. Also,
the above indicator assumes that the speed of light has remained constant. There is no
proof that this is true.
Indicators that the earth is over 8,000 years old
There are three direct indicators that the earth's age is in excess of 8000 years:
- Indicator: Some bristlecone pine trees in the White-Inyo mountain range
of California date back beyond 2000 BCE. One, labeled "Methuselah" germinated in
2726 BCE. This ocurred centuries before the date that conservative Christians assign to the Noachian
flood. But their tree rings have been matched with those of dead trees; this shows that
the latter germinated about 6000 BCE, which predates the year 4004 BCE by 2 millennia.
Rebuttal: When God created the pine trees which are now dead, he may have
created them complete with tree rings as if they had been alive before they were created.
- Indicator: In the Green River there are varves (millions of annual
layers of sediment) laid down over the past 20 million years. 4
Rebuttal: These varves may not represent annual layers of sediment;
perhaps they are something like hourly layers caused by some unknown factor. Alternatively,
when God created the river, he might have created it as if it had a multi-million year
history of varves.
- Indicator: During each springtime, tiny, one-celled algae
bloom in Lake Suigetsu, Japan. They die and sink to the bottom of the
lake. Here, they create a thin, white layer. During the rest of the
year, dark clay sediments settle to the bottom. The result are
alternating dark and light annual layers -- much like the annual
growth rings on a tree. Scientists have counted about 45,000 layers;
they have been accumulating since about 43,000 BCE. This is far beyond
the estimates of 6 to 10 millennia made by many creation scientists.
Rebuttal: Perhaps in the past, multiple layers were laid down each
year, due to temperature fluctuations. Thus, 45,000 layers could have
taken fewer than 10 millennia. 6
- Indicator: Ice core samples have been taken in Greenland that show
40,000 annual layers of ice.
Rebuttal: Again, these may not be annual layers of ice; perhaps they are
seasonal layers. Or, God may have created the ice layers, so that they looked as if they
had been formed over a very a long time.
Indicators that the earth is much older than 10,000 years of age
We have selected 14 indicators:
- Indicator: The Los Alamos National Laboratory has developed a method of
measuring the length of time that surface rocks have been exposed to cosmic rays. Cosmic
rays stream into the atmosphere from all directions in outer space and break neutrons free
when they collide with air molecules. When these neutrons hit rocks on the ground, they
sometimes react with a tiny number of mineral atoms which create radioactive isotopes. At
sea level, a few hundred modified atoms are created each year in a gram of quartz which is
near the surface of the ground. New measuring techniques can detect very small numbers of
these atoms and thus estimate the number of years that the rocks have been exposed.
Scientists have found ages of about 8,500 years for "recent" glacial moraines in
Newfoundland and 830,000 years for extinct volcanoes in Nevada.
Rebuttal: This indicator assumes that cosmic ray levels have remained
constant over the past years, and that the degree of reaction between the cosmic rays and
the quartz has also been constant. Perhaps these rates in the past have been much higher
than at present; this would generate the observed level of modified atoms over a few
- Indicator: The "nuclide" argument is one of the best proofs
of an "old earth". Nuclides are forms of matter that are radioactive. Each
nuclide decays into another form of matter at a certain rate. After an interval of time
equal to its half-life, only half of the original material is left. Scientists have
- Every nuclide with a half-life over 80 million years can be found naturally
occurring on earth.
- All Nuclides with a half-life under 80 million years do not exist naturally at
The only logical explanation for these observations is that the world formed billions
of years ago. There are enough long-lived nuclides still around to be still detectable.
The short-lived nuclides have long since decayed and disappeared. The only exceptions to
the latter are short lived nuclides which are being continuously generated by the decay of
Rebuttal: As before, God might have decided to create the world so that
it appeared to have a pre-creation history. Thus, he would have not included nuclides with
- Indicator: Because of tides, the rotation of the earth is
gradually slowing, by about 1 second every 50,000 years. About 380 million years ago, each day
would have about 20 hours long! There would have been about 398 days
in the year. Studies of rings on rugose coral fossils that were independently
estimated to be 370 million years old revealed that when they were alive,
there were about 400 days in the year. This relationship has been confirmed with other coral fossils.
This is rather good evidence that the world was in existence a third of a billion years
Rebuttal: The radiometric method used to predict the age of the coral fossils
assumes that the speed of light has been constant over the life of the corals.
The ring calculations would have
assumed that the current rate by which the earth's rotation
is decelerating is the same as it has been in the past. The agreement of the two age calculations
may thus be coincidental and without significance. Both calculations may be equally
- Indicator: The thickness of the coral reef at Eniwetok atoll in the
Pacific Ocean has been measured at up to 1,380 meters. Even the most optimistic coral
growth rates would require that the atoll be over 130,000 years of age.
Rebuttal: The temperature, oxygen content of the atmosphere, etc. in
ancient times may have been much higher than they are at present. These factors could have
caused much faster coral growth in the past. The estimate is without significance.
- Indicator: It takes thousands of years of below-freezing temperatures
to build a 100 foot layer of permafrost. But large areas in the north are permanently
frozen to depths of almost one mile! This took many tens of millennia to accomplish.
Rebuttal: This calculation assumes that the freezing point of water has
remained constant over the past thousands of years. There is no proof that this has
- Indicator: Radiocarbon dating of wood, using accelerator mass
spectrometry, is accurate as far back as 50,000 years. The method has identified many
wooden and textile objects to be many tens of thousands of years old.
Rebuttal: Radiocarbon dating assumes that the speed of light is constant.
There is no proof that this is true.
- Indicator: Reversals of the earth's magnetic pole are recorded in the
Atlantic Ocean sea bottom for the past 80 million years.
Rebuttal: This calculation assumes that the Atlantic Ocean is increasing
in width at a constant rate. Under the influence of the Noachian flood, the rate of increase
may have been much higher in the past than it is at present. This would greatly influence
the accuracy of the above calculation.
- Indicator: The rate at which the continents are spreading apart from
each other indicates that the Atlantic Ocean is about 200 million years old.
Rebuttal: Same as for Indicator 7.
- Indicator: Accelerator mass spectrometry measures particles of high
atomic mass. Surface rocks have had their ages measured up to 10 million years old by
detecting their level of Beryllium-10 and aluminum-26 isotopes. 2 Other
elements like Potassium and Argon are used for older rocks. Radioactive dating of some earth rocks gives an age of
almost 4,000 million years. Some moon rocks and meteorites from outer space give dates in
excess of 4,000 million years.
Rebuttal: All of these calculations assume that the decay constant (the
fraction of the radioactive atoms in a sample which disintegrates per unit of time) is
constant. This, in turn, assumes that the speed of light has remained constant. There is
no proof that these assumptions are true.
- Indicator: If we assumed that all of the minerals which are carried by
rivers into the oceans remains trapped in the oceans, then it would take 260 million years
for the concentration of sodium to reach its present level. If plankton, fish or other
plants adsorb sodium, then it would take much longer. We can conclude that the age
of the earth is something greater than a quarter billion years, and is in all probability
Rebuttal: This indicator assumes that all of the sodium entered the
oceans via rivers. When the "fountains of the great deep," mentioned in
Genesis 7:11 and Genesis 8:2, were opened, water rushed to the surface from deep under the
earth. This water may well have brought a high concentration of sodium with it.
- Indicator: Measurements by sensors attached to satellites shows that
space dust accumulates on the moon at the rate of about 2 nanograms per square centimeter
per year. (A nanogram is one thousandth of a million of a gram.) This rate would require
4.5 billion years to reach a depth of 1.5 inches, which is approximately the depth
experienced by the astronauts who walked on the moon. This agrees rather well with
radioactive dating of moon rocks.
Rebuttal: There is absolutely no indication that the rate at which space
dust is deposited on the moon is constant. The solar system may have passed through a
region of the universe where the amount of space dust was millions of times higher that it
is at the present. The measured age of the moon rocks may well have a massive error.
- Indicator: Estimates for the length of time for the galaxies to have
spread apart to their present spacing are in excess of 10,000 million years.
Rebuttal: Many astronomers base their age calculations on the Hubble
constant (H0). This "constant" describes how fast the universe is expanding. By
extrapolating backwards, scientists can estimate when the universe was concentrated into a
single point, at the time of the "Big Bang". But this assumes that the
entire universe did actually originate in one location in the form of a Big Bang. God
could just as easily created the galaxies, say 8,000 years ago. He might have separated
them across vast stretches of space and set them moving away from each other.
What astronomers have done is to observe the present location, velocity and acceleration
of many galaxies, and assume that the entire universe has existed long enough so that one
can extrapolate backwards in time to the time of the big bang. The result is an estimate
of the age of the universe at between 10,000 and 16,000 million years. There is faulty
logic here. First they assume an old universe, then calculate its age, and find that it is
old. They have created a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Indicator: Evolutionary principles applied to geology indicate that
about 100 million years ago, the ancient super continent of Pangea was beginning to split
apart so that land that would become South America and Africa drifted apart. At
first, the drift caused some shallow seas and a few land bridges. Later, the Atlantic
Ocean opened up and became gradually wider until it became the ocean that we see today.
This theory would have a logical consequence in the evolution of dinosaurs. Before this
split in land mass took place, dinosaurs would have evolved into a variety of species
which were found throughout Pangea. Since 100 million years ago, when the land bridges
disappeared and the seas became too deep to cross, the dinosaurs would have evolved
differently in Africa and South America, due to their isolation from each other. This is
precisely what has been observed in the fossil record.
Rebuttal: The tremendous stresses on the earth's crust which happened
during the world-wide flood of Noah may have caused the Atlantic Ocean to have widened
from nothing into its present width over a period of a few years circa 2350
BCE, not tens
of millions of years as estimated by some scientists. At the time that the split began,
there may simply have been different species of dinosaurs created by God, who found the
climate and food supply better suited to their needs on either side of the embryo Atlantic
Ocean. Over a period of a few years they might have found themselves isolated from each
other. Neither the old world nor the new world dinosaurs evolved into new species. The
belief in evolution of the species is simply a mistake in interpreting the fossil record.
All of the species of land animals, with the exception of humans, were created in a single
- Indicator: The human genome project has mapped all of our genes.
Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics
"The genome reveals, indisputably and beyond any
serious doubt, that Darwin was right -- mankind evolved over a long period
of time from primitive animal ancestors...The core recipe of humanity
carries clumps of genes that show we are descended from bacteria. There is
no other way to explain the jerry-rigged nature of the genes that control
key aspects of our development...The theory of evolution is the only way to
explain the arrangement of the 30,000 genes and three billion letters that
constitute our genetic code...The message our genes send is that Charles
Darwin was right."
Eric Lander of the Whitehead Institute in
Cambridge, Mass., said that if you look at our genome it is clear that
"evolution...must make new genes from old parts." Since
evolution of the species must have taken billions of years to evolve from
bacteria to humans, the earth must be very old.
Rebuttal: That is an invalid conclusion. When God created humanity a
few thousand years ago, he could have decided to re-use building blocks that
he had already formed in order to create bacteria, mold, etc.
- Old earth proofs: Most scientists accept these indicators, and many more
like them, as proof of an old earth and universe. However, those scientists are forced to
make a basic assumption: that naturally occurring processes and fundamental constants in
the past behaved in the same way as they do today. For example:
- The speed of light has remained more or less constant.
- The number of cosmic rays hitting
the earth has not changed much over time.
- Space dust has accumulated at about the same rate over many thousands of years
- The rate of growth of coral is similar in the past
to what it is today.
Even if you assume that coral growth was once 10 times faster than today, the atoll is
still over 13,000 years old. If you assume that the cosmic ray rate was once 80 times the
current level, the hills in Nevada are still over 10,000 years old. If you assumed that
space dust accumulated 1,000 times faster in the past, then the moon would still be
million years old.
Any one of these examples indicates that the earth is probably much older than 10,000
years old, Taken together, they are even more convincing.
Some of the examples can have reduced accuracy caused by sample contamination. For
example, nuclide tests assume that no "parent" or "daughter" isotopes
migrated in or out of the sample. Fortunately, these errors can been eliminated by testing
of multiple samples from a variety of locations.
- Rebuttal of old-earth proofs: The main weaknesses of the old earth
indicators is that they all make assumptions about the uniform nature of certain
fundamental factors: the speed of light, mass of the electron, gravitational constant,
decay rates of radioactive substances, etc. These various parameters do seem constant
today. However, there is no proof, acceptable to young earth creationists,
that these factors have remained constant over long
periods of time in the past. If one assumes that new-earth creationists'
interpretation of the Bible's creation stories is correct, and that the earth
and the rest of the universe was created between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago, then one can
estimate roughly how these "constants" have varied over the past millennia.
A related essay on this web site:
- Bill Chaisson, "Coral Astronomy" at the end of: http://www.earth.rochester.edu/ees207/oct28.html
- "Dating," Rafter Radiocarbon Laboratory, at: http://www.gns.cri.nz/atom/dating/
- "Dating rocks by means of radioactive minerals," at: http://gretchen.geo.rpi.edu/roecker/GeoII/articles/
- R.J. Schadewald, "Six flood arguments creationists can't answer," at:
- Robert Schadewald, "Six 'Flood' arguments Creationists can't
answer." Creation/Evolution 9: 12-17. Quoted in Mark Isaak,
"Problems with a Global Flood," at: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/
- H. Kitagawa and J. van der Plicht, "Atmospheric Radiocarbon Calibration to 45,000 yr
B.P.: Late Glacial Fluctuations and Cosmogenic Isotope Production," Science
279:1187-1190, 20 1998-FEB-20.
- Arthur Caplan, "Darwin vindicated: Cracking of human genome
confirms theory of evolution," at: http://www.msnbc.com/news/534127.asp?cp1=1
Copyright © 1997 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2008-AUG-25
Author: B.A. Robinson