Is the Earth Young?

Is the Earth Young?


The question of whether the earth is young has aroused considerable discussion in creationist circles. I have tended to think that the earth is billions of years old, because so many radiometric dating methods sometimes yield ages in the 4 or 5 billion year range. However, it occurred to me that there is another explanation for this that is consistent with an earth that is only thousands of years old. We can assume that in the creation, vast amounts of energy were released. This could have caused radioactive elements to decay very rapidly, but at approximately the same relative rates as they do today. This would have made the matter out of which the earth is composed appear old very quickly. This could have occurred when this matter was in a gaseous phase (without form and void), permitting the tremendous heat to escape rapidly. Then the gaseous substance could have been formed into the earth, sun, and planets. There may be many other evidences to consider, but at least this one evidence is not conclusive.

Another way the radiometric ages can be explained is if the gases out of which the earth formed, aged for billions of years before they condensed and formed the earth. This would mean that the old radiometric ages observed on earth do not necessarily have any relationship to the age of the earth or the age of the rocks themselves. This possibility does not even require any miraculous interventions.

There is some evidence that the earth is young, or at least some of its features are. This evidence was discovered by Robert Gentry. There has been a lot of debate over his polonium halo discoveries, which he takes as indicating that the earth was formed instantly, but some other results of his are equally significant and less debated. Gentry found squashed polonium haloes and young uranium haloes in coalified wood, indicating an age for the geologic column in the thousands rather than millions of years. (See the Oct. 15, 1976 issue of Science.)

In another paper, "Radioactive Halos in a Radiochronological and Cosmological Perspective," presented at the 63rd annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (April 1984), Gentry summarized the various findings of his research, including the polonium halos, coalified wood research, and zircon retention.

Here is a short summary of the results concerning helium retention in zircons, supplied by Aaron Blosser:

"It is difficult to understand how such high retention of helium can be accounted for except by restricting the age of these granites (and hence the earth) to something of the order of several thousand years. These results are consistent with an approximate 6000-year age of the earth and moreover are in direct conflict with the presumed 4.5-billion-year age of the earth determined by radioactive dating techniques. Evolutionary colleagues can prove this deduction for a young age of the earth is wrong if they can show just how this unusually high retention of helium can be deduced from the accepted 1.5-billion-year age of those zircons by using only uniformitarian principles."

Similar findings were done by comparing the amount of lead retention in the same samples. Basically it's predicted that 1% of the radiogenic lead would have migrated out of the zircons in 300,000 years. Considering that the zircons in question are assumed to be 1.5 billion years old, it's clear to see that nearly all of the lead would have long since departed. However, almost all of the lead remained in the zircon, indicated a very short time period indeed!

For some evidence for a young universe, see and . For some evidence for a young sun, see Another possibility is to explain some problematic features of the Genesis creation account in terms of an old universe in the following way. We can imagine that the sun existed from day 1 of creation week, but did not ignite until day 4. The moon may also have existed from the first day but not have been visible until the sun ignited. Possibly many nearby stars ignited at about the same time. The earth may have formed rapidly by gravitational collapse, too, on or before day 1. Of course, such naturalistic explanations cannot account for the origin of life in a few days, which must have been due to a miraculous intervention. Likewise, it is not necessary for a Bible believer to explain the creation of the earth, sun, and planets in naturalistic terms.

We also comment on how the universe might have originated. There are many theories existing today, including the Big Bang theory, in which the mass of the universe was once concentrated in a tiny region of incredible energy; the inflation theory, in which the universe expanded much faster than the (current) speed of light; the plasma theory, in which the universe always existed, and in which electromagnetic rather than gravitational forces dominate; and probably many others. To me it seems much more reasonable to assume that the universe was created in much its present form by a loving and merciful God who spoke everything into existence. The Bible says that "he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood forth," implying a fiat creation out of nothing in which all stars, systems, and galaxies suddenly appeared out of nothingness. This would seem to exclude a Big Bang type of creation.

Let us examine the Creation position, stripped of theological jargon, so that it can be considered from a scientific perspective. The creation view, as I understand it, is that there is another realm of existence, the spiritual realm, in which physical laws are to some extent different from ours. In the spiritual realm, personality and intelligence are natural and intrinsic, and not derived from the interaction of elementary physical and chamical processes, as they are in our realm. In the spiritual realm, it is natural that existence should be eternal, and there is no second law of thermodynamics to cause everything to run down. At some time in the past, a wise and powerful Being in the spiritual realm originated the existence of this universe. However, this realm is to some extent an image of the spiritual realm, because of the appearance of intellectual and moral qualities in beings in our realm of existence. The spiritual realm interacts with this realm, but generally not in ways that can be detected in the laboratory.

In fact, the creationist view (or something similar) is not hard to justify, to some extent, from observed facts. Since the current universe obeys the second law of thermodynamics, it could not have existed forever. Therefore, it must have had an origin. It is plausible that it originated from something else. What it originated from must have had a lot more energy than exists in our universe. In addition, it is simplest to argue that the source of our universe always existed. This implies that this source obeys somewhat different physical laws than our universe. Finally, our universe gives some evidence of design, both in the marvelous intricacy of its physical structure as well as in the organization of life. This could imply that the source of our universe was an intelligent being. Since this source interacted with our universe in the past, it is plausible that this interaction continues in some form even today.

Another discussion of the age of the earth may be found here.

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