Earth: Old or New?
This may seem bonkers to most people, as we are always told about the age of the Earth being in the millions or billions of years. But what is the evidence and would you be bonkers in thinking it wasn’t that old at all?
When I became a Christian 5 years ago I was presented with a big problem. Most of the evolutionary ‘facts’ I had digested and accepted over the years appeared to conflict with Biblical account of how the world (and life) started. Something wasn’t right, so I started to look at the scientific evidence for both sides with a view to try and understand what was going on.
I began writing this article simply as a way of conveying what I was learning and to encourage others to look into it themselves. I don’t want to impose my view on any reader, but help open people’s eyes to what might be happening. Nor do I present any data as conclusive. The only conclusion I would hope for is an understanding that things may not be as they are being presented to us.
So, on one side, a Biblical view of creation is very simple to understand: the world and all that is in it was created, there was a catastrophic flood that killed off lots of things. So beyond the biblical account, the evidence we see should support this.
On the other (evolutionary) side the evidence seems to get increasingly complex and difficult to understand and requires just as big a leap of faith to accept. Life happened into existence from non-living materials, and then evolution took over to create the complex structures we see today. And it took a long time!
Either way, it’s worth looking at the evidence on both sides with a critical eye and try to leave the conclusion to the evidence itself, not the particular worldview.
Age – The Sticking Point?
Put it simply, if the Earth isn’t that old (say 6000 years) then evolution is unlikely be true as there is not sufficient time for it to do its stuff. If the Earth is old, then there is a possibility, however remote, that evolution could be true even though we don’t know how for example, how additional biological information gets added to DNA.
Throughout my life I had been told said the Earth was old (millions or billions, it makes no difference). Fossils are old. The sedimentary rocks containing the fossils were old. Radiometric aging proved everything was old. I’d never looked further than this until a chap called Dr Grady McMurtry (a teacher of evolutionary science until he became a Christian at 27) opened by eyes and encouraged me to look at the facts.
Rocks And Fossils
Fossils appear in rock called sedimentary rock that has been formed when wet mud dries out. Therefore, the age of the rock and the age of the fossil are usually similar. Despite the assumption of ‘millions of years’ rock can be formed very quickly, so can fossils. In fact, the sedimentary strata had to be formed quickly else the dead animal/plant would have decayed and not be found at all in the fossil record.
Rapid formation of fossils is easy to reproduce in the laboratory, or at home with only basic conditions. It’s also be demonstrated in natural conditions (search for Mount St Helens Strata). So accepting this evidence, it immediately casts doubt on the assumption of rock strata are an indication of millions of years.
This has been further demonstrated by objects that had to be fossilised quickly else they would not have been fossilised at all. For example, fish gills (the first thing to decompose) but also in mines, human items (such as a fedora hat, a bag of flour) have fossilised in the space of 60 years.
So whichever way you look at, the processes to turn mud into rock with fossils in them can be, and have to be, quite fast. There are many instances when a single object (like a tree) has permeated multiple rock strata. If these layers were laid down slowly, the tree would have decayed. The fact that the top of the tree and roots had been ripped off, also points towards a rapid event not a slow process.
Rapid Formation of Rock?
So although many of us instinctively think that rock strata are old because that is what we’ve been told, it might not necessarily be that way if we draw our own conclusions from the evidence itself.
Have a look at this pipe, it is seized up with limescale (a type of rock) in a matter of years. It shows ‘strata’ as different concentrations of minerals were ‘laid down’ very quickly through water flow. A change in water content lays down a different layer, and it does so really quickly. The same happens in nature. What proof of this do we have?
Mount St Helens erupted in 1980 and laid down layers that turned to solid rock within days. A catastrophic flood in 1982 cut through these layers leaving vertical canyon walls to expose the layers. So if we can know this for a fact using modern evidence, it does beg the question could it have happened elsewhere? Could the Grand Canyon for example, be another example of a catastrophic evident producing evidence for a younger landscape than previously thought? Slow processes produce ‘rounded’ results, so a canyon should have more of a bowl shape that the square shape than it has.
Closer to home, could Hunstanton cliffs have been formed and exposed very quickly?
It’s easy to think that the layers of Hunstanton Cliffs were a product of millions of years, but could they, like Mount St Helens strata, have been laid down in a very short amount of time?
These methods are used to prove that things are a particular age. The most familiar of which is Carbon-14 dating. There are many other methods frequently used such as Uranium 238 that decays into lead.
Whatever the method, the thinking behind them is the same. If today we find X amount of some radioactive element in a sample, we can date it to the point at which that thing was created or lived because we know the rate at which that radioactive element decays.
Without going into much depth (I don’t think it is needed anyway), in order to date it using these techniques, we have to assume we know how much of that radioactive element was in it to start with. Secondly. we also have to assume that it is a closed system, i.e. none of that radioactive element enters or leaves the sample through natural processes (e.g. water leaching, environmental contamination).
The problem is we do not know how much of that element was there to start with, nor how much entered or left the sample.
So what seems to happen, particularly with keen evolutionists is to make up those conditions that best meet their expected outcome (e.g. it’s millions of years old). Of course, Christians can do the same by only looking at the evidence that meets their expected outcome. I do not want to be someone that falls into this trap – but I am excited at looking at the evidence itself and seeing where it leads.
The problems with radiometric dating are easily replicated in the lab. Take a rock sample, measure how much of a radioactive element is present at the start point. Chop the sample in two, place one item in flowing water and leave the other dry for a period of 6 weeks. Then use radiometric dating to ‘age’ them both and you will get completely different answers. One will be young, the other could appear to be millions of years older because the radioactive element has leached out. Of course the way scientist’s address this is to ‘calibrate’ samples to predict how much of something was present in the first place, and simulate the conditions that sample was exposed to. Put another way, they can make up the conditions or invent new ones that yield results inline with their expectations.
So What’s Going On?
Put simply, people often only look at the evidence that matches their predefined worldview. Anything that doesn’t match, is discarded. Sadly, both sides are at it. All too often Christians fail to engage their analytical brains and fail to examine the evidence before them. Evolutionists may have their brains engaged, but may only be on the evidence that confirms their particular worldview. After all, they don’t want to let God into their science as it doesn’t fit into their purely naturalistic thinking.
I would encourage anyone to look into the science here. What is the best inference of the observed data?
The science is fascinating, as is the worldview conflict. For more information, visit www.creationworldview.org and have a read of some of the articles.