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The Age of the Earth

Ian Taylor

Living Fossil1. Historically, the western mind has, until the beginning of the nineteenth century, considered the earth to be only a few thousand years old and this was based upon the Biblical account and the ensuing genealogies given into historical times. Following European and Elizabethan exploration, questions of race were raised and doubts cast upon the universality of the Genesis Flood. The argument was based upon the belief that the colored peoples could not be the descendants of Adam — racial prejudice assumed Adam to have been white! According to Scripture there were only eight people on the ark (1 Peter 3:20) and it was assumed these were white thus the colored people could only have survived the Genesis Flood if it had been local. The Church recognized that this was not Scriptural and were opposed. Theologians and scientists worked on the Biblical genealogies and, under Bishop James Usher (1581-1656), arrived at a date of 4004 BC as the year of creation making the age of the earth about 6,000 years. This date, 4004 BC, was inserted as a footnote in Bibles printed after about 1670 and remained there until they were quietly dropped about 1870. At this time many of the Church hierarchy had accepted Darwinian evolution and these dates, which are not necessarily correct, had become an embarrassment.

2. In the early 1800's there was great interest in discovering coal and minerals and it became evident that rock strata had at one time been sediment laid down by water. At first thought to be good evidence for the Genesis Flood, it was difficult to explain the multiple layers of stratum and it seemed more reasonable to think that these had been caused by a multiple number of local floods. This now required a much longer time but seemed to solve the problem of getting all the animals onto the ark and feeding them etc. The local floods were recognized to have been enormous as stratum were traced continuously from one continent to another while the only water source possible was the ocean. However, for flooding to occur locally it meant that the land surface itself must rise and fall below ocean level. A very slow process since there is little evidence that this has ever occurred yet this is the story still taught today. There had long been a Greek notion that life on earth had progressed over time from very simple to complex; some naturalists believed they saw in the sedimentary rock strata that same progression of life (as fossils) from simple sea creatures in the lowest strata to mammals and finally man at the top. This became a dogma and provided a foundation later for Darwin's Theory. Charles Lyell, secretary to the Geological Society of London, set out to find evidence for a very old earth. Lyell's findings were published in his Principles of Geology (1830-1833).

3. One of Charles Lyell's evidences that cast great doubt on the Bible footnotes concerned the recession of Niagara Falls in Canada. The falling waters erode the soft underlayers of rock leaving a gorge. A local geologist told Lyell in 1841 that the Falls retreat about three feet per year; Lyell concluded that one foot a year was a more probable figure and, with a seven mile gorge, the age of Niagara Falls became 35,000 years — measured by Sir Charles the great scientist and thus considered beyond dispute! Theologians wavered, gave in and the ground was ripe for Charles Darwin. Since that day accurate measurements have shown that the rate of recession is over six feet per year making the age of the Falls less than 6,000 years, a near confirmation of the Usher date. Actually, human history only extends back about 5,000 years. We are told that there will be in the last days those who will scoff at the belief in the Genesis Flood (2 Peter 3:3-6). Lord Bertrand Russell, a confessed atheist, was one such scoffer. From the time of Lyell's Principles' and later Darwin's `Origin (1859), the assumed age of the earth has steadily increased.

4. The Big Bang Theory is an attempt to explain the origin of the universe without the need for a Creator. One obvious difficulty with the theory is the evident order in the universe, galactic walls, precise distances of earth, sun and moon etc. that cannot have arisen from an explosion! Then the great problem of there being insufficient mass in the universe and the need to appeal to "dark matter" to account for the supposed accretion of the sub-atomic particles. Comets provide tangible evidence for a universe of limited age. Comets consist of ice and dust: Haley's comet is a long period comet and returns to our solar system every 76 years, at which time it loops around our sun then returns to outer space. During the four to five months it remains within our solar system it loses water by sublimation at 10 tons per second leaving a trail of dust and gets visibly smaller. The fact that we see comets at all indicates just a few thousand years otherwise they would have all been used up long ago. In 1950 Jan H. Oort (1900-1992) proposed that there is a great cloud of comets beyond our solar system to account for the continuing existence of comets. There is not a shred of evidence for it.

5. Herman von Helmholtz (1821-1894), a German physician, raised the question in 1841 that if our sun was being "used up" it must have been larger in the past and is now getting smaller. If the rate of decrease was too large this would confine the beginning of life on earth to just a few thousand years ago. Measurements of the sun's diameter began in 1841 and were published by Eddy and Boornazian in 1976. The rate of decrease was so great that the temperature on earth would have made life impossible only half a million years ago; evolution demands at least 3,000 million! There were arguments over statistics and cyclic variation and, although a lesser rate is now conceded, the early earth would certainly have been too hot for life to have existed even 10 million years ago.

6. The moon has always been an enigma, where did it come from? To this day there is no agreed answer except perhaps that God created it and placed it there on the fourth day of Creation. Both the earth and the moon attract dust from space as they orbit the sun. In the early 1960's the measured and accepted rate of dust infall upon the earth was 5 million tons per year; a similar rate was expected upon the moon and an accumulated depth of dust over 4.5 billion years was expected to be hundreds of feet — one estimate, over a mile! The unmaned landers of the Apollo project made it clear that in fact there was less than one inch. in 1969 the first question put to astronaut Neil Armstrong concerned the depth of dust and he reported it to be "scuff deep." Most of this dust was powdered rock containing the pin-head sized metallic iron/nickel particles. Because of this evidence, the early measurements of the dust infall upon earth have been rejected and new lower rates supplied by radar back-scattering techniques to account for the dust actually found on the moon. This enables the 4.5 billion year age to remain unviolated by mere facts.

7. The Industrial Revolution in England introduced the need for coal and, as mine shafts were sunk deeper, the rock became hotter; the temperature increased one centigrade degree for every 30 meters or 100 feet. This is a rule of thumb figure for any mine shaft throughout the world. Obviously, mine depth is limited to working conditions for men while ventilation and cooling becomes an expensive problem. William Thompson (Lord Kelvin, 1824-1907) opposed Darwinian evolution and pointed out that at the known rate at which heat was escaping from the centre of the earth, it could not possibly be more than 25 million years since the cooling earth crusted over from its hot liquid state (according to the LaPlace Theory). At that time, Darwin wanted 400 million years for his biological evolution! The theory of evolution then suffered a set-back until Kelvin died in 1907. At the measured rate of cooling, if the earth is indeed millions of years old, it should by this time be stone cold and the oceans frozen over. When this problem is faced at all, the hot earth is explained away by arguing that the earth's heat is sustained by decaying radioactive elements deep within the core. If this is true, then helium gas, the by-product of radioactive decay, would havediffused through the solid rock filling the earth's atmoshere so that today our atmosphere should be mostly helium with traces of oxygen and nitrogen. Helium would not be lost to outer space.

8. Israel has a natural chronometer consisting of the fresh waters of the River Jordan containing about 300 ppm of salt running into the Dead Sea where water evaporates at precisely the rate at which it enters leaving the salts to concentrate. The respective rates of water inflow and salt concentrations are accurately known. The Encyclopedia Britannica under "Dead Sea" provides all this data where it is noted that this body of water is 1200 feet below sea level (thus evaporation is the only way it can leave), it contains 11.6 billion tons of salt and the River Jordan adds to this total 850,000 tons of salt per year. Geologists are confident that this drift valley is five million years old but simple division of the figures allows only 13,500 years! Further, the Britannia article points out that there are salt springs at the bottom of the Dead Sea and this will reduce the age perhaps by half, again confirming that this chronometer began about five or six thousand years ago, likely following the Flood.

9. The population of the earth today is about six billion. Using the formula employed by demographers it can readily be shown that it would take just about 5,000 years to reach this figure beginning with Noah's family and assuming only 2.4 children per family. Historically, the rate of increase has been far greater than 2.4 but war, famine, plague etc would effectively and reasonably reduce the rate to 2.4 children. The evolutionary appeal to a million years for mankind on the other hand, demands impossibly low rates of increase to reach today's world population. In recognition of this, textbooks explain away the problem by speaking of there having been great periods of "population stability."

10. The billions of years claimed today are based almost exclusively upon the radiometric dating techniques. Very briefly, these depend upon unstable isotopes of certain elements that break down spontaneously at known rates to become stable elements. By measuring the ratio of unstable (radioactive) element to stable element (daughter product) and knowing the rate of decay, the age can be determined. Except for Carbon 14 that gives ages of less than about 50,000 years, all the other radiometric methods give ages in millions of years. With all the assumptions and uncertainty of these methods and the inability to calibrate, it might well be suspected that the only reason these methods are employed at all is because they provide the long ages expected! Among the difficulties is the fact that the rates of decay have been measured since about 1927 and, while they seem to have been constant since that time, it is assumed that these rates have been constant for billions of years. This is extrapolation on the truly grand scale. Supernova explosions for example, are known to affect the rates of decay. It is also assumed that the initial conditions included no daughter products; how can we know? Finally, no scientific measurement is possible without some means of calibration against samples of known age. This can be done in the case of the Carbon 14 method for the past three thousand years using say, dated wooden casket lids. The method goes badly off beyond this range of calibration. However, for the other radiometric methods there is nothing of known age beyond a few thousand years so that there can be no calibration. Textbooks will often lead readers to believe that science has established the age of every rock stratum and fossil radiometrically. The fact is, the radiometric dates must conform to the fossil dates before being accepted while the fossil dates are based upon assumptions made in the 19th century about sedimentation rates. Those same textbooks fail to mention all the assumptions or the calibration problem.

11. The "living fossil" is often an embarrassment to the evolutionary faith and is usually wreathed in controversy when discovered. Some examples are: The paleotragus, a giraffid thought to have become extinct 25 million years ago, that was found as living herds in 1906 and is now named Okapi johnsoni. The Coelacanth, a lobe-finned fish thought to have become extinct 75 million years ago and was discovered alive and well in a deep trench off the west coast of Madagascar in 1938. More recently, more Coelacanths have been discovered in Indonesia. The plesiosaur, a sea-dwelling dinosaur believed to have become extinct at the time of the demise of all the other dinosaurs about 60 million years ago, was discovered as a rotting corpse in the south Pacific by a Japanese trawler in April 1977. A zoologist aboard the vessel recognized it, took fin samples, photographs, counted vertebrae etc. then, under captain's orders, had to dump it back in the ocean. The Japanese government celebrated the discovery with a 50 yen postage stamp as the "discovery of the century." The western scientific press ignored the discovery. Perhaps it came too close to undermining the faith in the 60 million years, a matter absolutely essential to the belief in evolution.


A preserved coelacanth at the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco. Courtesy of BrokenSphere. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. 

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