Evidence against a recent creation
|The divine comedy|
“”The fact that young earth creationists have to form a committee for six years to argue against a scientific principle, is evidence in and of itself that the earth is old.
|—Greg Neyman, old-earth creationist|
This article collects evidences that place a lower limit on the age of the Universe beyond the 6,000 to 10,000 years asserted by most Young Earth creationists (YECs) and the literalist Ussher chronology. All of this evidence supports deep time: the idea, considered credible by scientists since the early 1800s, that the Earth (and the Universe) is millions[note 1] or billions of years old. Modern science accepts that the Earth is about 4.54 billion years old and the entire universe is around 13.77 billion years old.[note 2]
These limits usually take the form: "Because we observe [X], which occurs at rate [Y], the universe must be at least [Z] years old". There are three standard creationist responses: First, creationists assert that current rates (Y) are different than past rates. It is possible that these rates changed — but under uniformitarianism, which is necessary for science to function, we must assume that rates did not change unless there is evidence for this change. Second, creationists appeal to the Omphalos hypothesis and argue that God deceptively created the world to appear old. This is an unfalsifiable hypothesis, and is unscientific. Third, creationists ignore the evidence and deny that [X] exists altogether or assert that belief in a Young Earth is based on faith, not science. All of these answers are critically flawed; the last, of course, is
not even wrong a naked admission of being a slave to one's own confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance to the point of complete refusal to acknowledge reality.
These ages weren't just made up — or, worse, accepted to "give evolution enough time". Each was concluded from a range of experiments and observations made across multiple disciplines of science, including astronomy, geology, biology, palaeontology, chemistry, geomorphology, and physics. For YEC to be true, each of these fields would have to be incorrect about almost everything. Some of these reported ages have indeed been revised based on new evidence (sometimes larger, sometimes smaller), but never to the orders of magnitude required by YEC.
Moreover, these dating methods are not mutually exclusive: where their range, accuracy, and applicability overlap, the dates they produce agree with each other. (For example, all dating methods for the age of the Earth agree on a 4.4-4.6 billion year-old world.) This is important especially because YECs regularly claim that radiometric dating is unreliable — yet radiometric dating is unnecessary to prove an old universe, because we have many methods of dating at our disposal.
What follows are 40 independent reasons not to believe in a young Earth:
Evidence for a minimum age of 10 thousand years.
Thermoluminescence dating: 10,000
Thermoluminescence dating offers a method for determining the age of objects, such as ceramics or lava, that contain crystalline minerals. These materials contain electrons that have been released from their atoms by ambient radiation, but have become trapped by imperfections in the mineral's structure. When one of these minerals is heated, the trapped electrons are discharged and produce light; researchers can measure that light and compare it with the level of surrounding radiation to establish the amount of time that has passed since the material was last heated (and its trapped electrons were last released).
Although this technique can date objects up to approximately 230,000 years ago, it is only accurate on objects 300 to 10,000 years in age. Ten-thousand years is, however, still over 4,000 years older than the creationist figure for the age of the Earth/Universe.
Dendrochronology is a method of dating based on annual tree growth patterns called tree rings. Tree rings are the result of changes in the tree's growth speed over the year, because many species of trees (in normal conditions in temperate regions) grow faster in the summer and slower in the winter. Thus, a tree's age can be found by counting the rings. Dendrochronology is the only method on this list that can date events precisely to a single year.
Because the thickness of tree rings varies with the local seasonal weather, a sequence of tree rings of matching thicknesses that is shared by two trees is strong evidence that the corresponding rings formed at the same time. Each individual tree only covers the span of time it was alive and growing, but as lifespans of different trees may overlap and ring sequences can also be identified from trees long dead, it is possible to match up overlapping sections and work backwards. By observing and analyzing the rings of many different trees of the same species from the same area, a map of the past can be recreated.
Using standard dendrochronological methods, researchers have combined overlapping dendrochronological records from many modern and ancient oak and pine trees to identify a continuous European tree ring sequence spanning 11,516 years, from 9494 BCE to the modern day. This predates the 2348 BCE date that the Ussher chronology claims for the Noachic flood by 7146 years, thereby standing in direct opposition to claims of a young Earth.
Even dendrochronological dates from single individual trees contradict the recent-creation doctrine, since the oldest living trees pre-date the alleged global flood that should have killed them through either oxygen deprivation or salt toxicity. A living Great Basin bristlecone pine nicknamed Methuselah is 4855 years old, predating the Ussher flood date by 485 years; though not yet independently confirmed, an unnamed second living bristlecone pine has been reported to be even older, at 5075 years old (705 years too old). A third recently-dead tree of the same species also belongs to this group: the bristlecone pine nicknamed Prometheus was 4902 years old (532 years too old) when it was cut down in August of 1964.
Although contiguous clonal populations of several plant species have been demonstrated to be even older than this—for example, a single creosote bush ring nicknamed King Clone has been dated to approximately 9700 BCE (about 7350 years too old)—only individual elements of such clonal colonies can be dendrochronologically dated, and dating the establishment of the colony's original parent generally relies on other dating methods, such as radiocarbon dating or extrapolation from observed growth rates.
Linguists divide languages into groups, called families, based on descent. These groups are given names, often from their locations, and these languages derive from one common ancestor (much like biological evolution), and this common ancestor is usually named by adding "proto" before the name of the group. For example, the group including nearly all languages natively spoken in Europe, Iran and surroundings and northern India is named Indo-European, and the ancestor of this language is known as Proto-Indo-European. The locations and dates of these languages can be rather accurately guessed at from linguistic, anthropological, and archeological evidence. One example is the group of languages in the Middle East and north Africa known as Afro-Asiatic languages. They include ancient Egyptian and Akkadian, among many others. Ancient Egyptian and Akkadian were both written well over 4,000 years ago, and are rather different from each other, and therefore a common ancestor of the two must be older than 6,000 years. Through more rigorous research, linguists estimate the age of Proto-Afro-Asiatic to be anywhere from 12,000 to 18,000 years old. The fact that Egyptian, Sumerian, and several other languages were written centuries before the date of the great flood is also rather convenient.
Oxidizable carbon ratio dating: 20,000
Oxidizable carbon ratio dating is a method for determining the absolute age of charcoal samples with relative accuracy. This dating method works by measuring the ratio of oxidizable carbon to organic carbon. When the sample is freshly burned, there will be no oxidizable carbon because it has been removed by the combustion process. Over time this will change and the amount of organic carbon will decrease to be replaced by oxidizable carbon at a linear rate. By measuring the ratio of these two allotropes, one can determine ages of over 20,000 years ago with a standard error under 3%.
Widmanstätten patterns: >57,300
Widmanstätten patterns are crystals composed of nickel and iron that are found in some meteorites.
Widmanstatten patterns have never been produced in the laboratory. This is because nickel-iron crystals can only grow this large (several centimeters) when they cool at an extremely slow rate of about 100-10,000 degrees Celsius per million years, from a starting point of about 500-700 degrees Celsius to a temperature of about -73 Celsius. Even at its shortest (starting at 500 degrees and cooling to -73 Celsius at 10,000 degrees per million years), this process would still take 57,300 years. The longest cooling ages have been reported at 10 million years.
Mitochondrial Eve: 99,000
Since the mitochondria in sperm are in the tail (which does not enter the egg), the DNA contained therein comes from the egg. Mitochondrial Eve is the most recent woman with an unbroken female line of descendants to every person on the planet. She is estimated to have lived from 99,000 to 234,000 years ago.
Evidence for a minimum age of 100 thousand years.
Lack of DNA in fossils: 100,000
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the universal carrier of genetic information, is present in all organisms while they are alive. When they die, their DNA begins to decay under the influence of hydrolysis and oxidation. The speed of this decay varies on a number of factors. Sometimes, the DNA will be gone within one century, and in other conditions, it will persist for as many as one million years. The average amount of time detectable DNA will persist though is somewhere in the middle; given physiological salt concentrations, neutral pH, and a temperature of 15°C, it would take around 100,000 years for all the DNA in a sample to decay to undetectable levels.
If fossils of the dinosaurs were less than 6,000 years old, detectable fragments of DNA should be present in a sizable percent of dinosaur fossils, especially in the Arctic and Antarctic regions where the decay of DNA can be slowed down 10-25 fold. A claim that soft tissues in a Tyrannosaurus fossil had been recovered in 2005 has since been shown to be mistaken, supporting the idea that dinosaur fossils are extremely old. More recent work appears to support Schweitzer’s claim with limited speculation on how the protein survived. Prior to this was a report on DNA extraction from 3.8 million-year-old ostrich egg shells. In 2018, various researchers published a paper finding that dinosaur bones contain a substantial microbial population, which might be the actual origin of the so called 'soft tissue'.
Ice layering: 145,000
Ice layering is a phenomenon that is almost universally observed in ice sheets and glaciers where the average temperature does not rise above freezing.
Annual differences in temperature and irradiation cause ice to form differently from year to year, and this generates alternating layers of light and dark ice, much like tree rings. This method is considered a relatively accurate way to measure the age of an ice sheet, as only one layer will form per year. While there have been a few cases where several layers have formed per year, these incidents do not challenge the ability of ice layering to provide a minimum age, as these false layers can be discerned from the real thing upon close inspection.
Currently, the greatest number of layers found in a single ice sheet is over 700,000, which clearly contradicts the idea of an Earth less than 10,000 years old. Even if one were to assume an absurdly high average of ten layers per year, the age demonstrated by this method would still be far greater than that suggested by young Earth creationists.
Nevertheless, the minimum age of the Earth identified by these means is 160,000 years (±15,000 years), which makes it excruciatingly unlikely that the ice is anything less than 145,000 years.
The formation of permafrost (frozen ground) is a slow process. Because earth is a good insulator and permafrost forms downward from the surface, it would have taken much more than the few thousand years allotted by creation theory to produce some of the deepest permafrost. In the Prudhoe Bay oil fields of Alaska, the permafrost which extends over 600 meters into the ground is believed to have taken over 225,000 years to reach present depth.
Rock varnish: 250,000
Rock varnish is a coating that forms on exposed surface rocks in arid environments. The varnish is formed as airborne dust accumulates on rock surfaces. This process is extremely slow; between 4 μm and 40 μm of material forms on the rock every thousand years, and instances of 40 μm of accumulation are very rare. Because the rate of accumulation is generally constant, measuring the depth of the varnish can provide dates for objects up to 250,000 years old.
Weathering rinds: 300,000
Weathering rinds are layers of weathered material that develop on glacial rocks. The weathering is caused by the oxidation of magnesium and iron rich minerals, and the thickness of this layer correlates with the age of a sample. Certain weathering rinds on basalt and andesite rocks in the eastern United States are believed to have taken over 300,000 years to form.
Y-chromosomal Adam: 150,000-200,000
The Y chromosome, unlike most DNA, is inherited only from the father, which means that all DNA on the human Y chromosome comes from a single person. This does not mean that there was only one man alive at that time, but that a single man's Y-chromosomal DNA has outcompeted the other strains and is now — not taking into account smaller and less drastic mutations — the only one left. Because the only factor affecting the makeup of the DNA on the chromosome is mutation, measuring mutation rates and extrapolating them backwards can tell you roughly when this man lived. The most recent calculations put this common ancestor as having lived 150,000-200,000 years ago.
Fission track dating: 700,000
Fission track dating is a radiometric dating technique that can be used to determine the age of crystalline materials that contain uranium. As uranium decays, it sends out atomic fragments, which leave scars or "fission tracks" in crystalline structures. Because decaying uranium emits fragments at a constant rate, the number of fission tracks correlates to the age of the object. This method is generally held to be accurate, as it shows a high degree of concordance with other methods such as potassium-argon dating. Yet it would also yield an age of about 700,000 years for certain tektites.
Evidence for a minimum age of 1 million years.
Relativistic jets: >1,000,000
A relativistic jet is a jet of plasma that is ejected from some quasars and galaxy centers that have powerful magnetic fields. It is conjectured that the jets are driven by the twisting of magnetic fields in an accretion disk (the plate-like cloud of matter) found encircling many celestial objects. In supermassive bodies, immensely strong magnetic fields force plasma from the accretion disk into a jet that shoots away perpendicular to the face of the disk. In some cases, these columns of plasma have been found to extend far enough to refute the idea of a young universe.
For example, the quasar PKS 1127-145 has a relativistic jet exceeding one million light-years in length. Because the speed of light cannot be exceeded, this column must be over one million years old.
Moreover, these jets are generally billions of light years from Earth, meaning they were at least a million years old several billion years ago, again due to the distant starlight problem.
Space weathering: >1,000,000
Space weathering is an effect that is observed on most asteroids. Extraterrestrial objects tend to develop a red tint as they age due to the effects of cosmic radiation and micrometeor impacts on their surfaces. Because this process proceeds at a constant rate, observing the color of an object can provide the basis for a generally reliable estimate. The ages provided by this dating technique exceed millions of years.
Petrified wood: >1,000,000
The process in which wood is preserved by permineralization, commonly known as petrification, takes extensive amounts of time. Gerald E. Teachout from the South Dakota Department of Game has written that "the mineral replacement process is very slow, probably taking millions of years".
It is true that in the laboratory petrification can be achieved in a matter of months, but petrification is far slower in natural conditions.
Naica megacrystals: >1,000,000
The Naica Mine of Chihuahua, Mexico is the home of some of the largest gypsum crystals on earth. Specimens in the area have been found to exceed 11 meters in length and 1 meter in width. Based on classical crystal growth theory, these crystals are older than one million years.
Cosmogenic nuclide dating: >1,000,000
The influx of cosmic rays onto the earth continually produces a stream of cosmogenic nuclides in the atmosphere that will fall to the ground. By measuring the build-up of these nuclides on terrestrial surfaces, the length of time for which the surface has been exposed can be inferred. This technique can be used to date objects over millions of years old.
Iron-manganese nodule growth: >1,000,000
Beryllium-10 (10Be) produced by cosmic rays shows that iron-manganese nodule growth is one of the slowest geological phenomena. It takes several million years to form one centimeter, and some are the size of potatoes. Cosmic ray-produced 10Be is produced by the interactions of protons and neutrons with nitrogen and oxygen. It then reaches the Earth via snow or rain. Since it is reactive, it gets absorbed by detritus material, within a timespan of about 300 years — very short compared to its half-life. Thusly, 10Be is excellent for use in dating marine sediment.
Amino acid racemization: >1,000,000
Amino acid racemization dating is a technique that is used to date fossilized objects up to several million years in age. The naturally occurring amino acid molecules usually possess a carbon center with four different groups joining it: a hydrogen atom, the amino group, the acid group (hence the name of the class of molecule) and a side chain, which is what distinguishes amino acids. In three-dimensional space, such a molecular topology can occupy one of two configurations. Convention labels these as D or L, which are referred to as stereoisomers and are essentially mirror images of each other. The ratio of these two isomers is initially unequal. With only one exception, naturally occurring amino acids used in polypeptide synthesis are in the L form. Over time this will decay to a more balanced state in a process called racemization, where the ratio between L and D stereoisomers will be equal (a racemic mixture).
Measuring the degree of racemization and other known quantities can show an estimated age of the sample. This is measured fairly unambiguously by the fact that different stereoisomers rotate plane polarised light in opposite directions (it is this interaction that determines the D and L labels) and so a ratio can be determined by contrasting an unknown sample with a pure D or L sample and a racemic mixture. By measuring the racemization of the amino acid isoleucine, for example, objects can be dated up to several million years old.
While it is true that there can be great variability in the rate at which amino acids undergo racemization, the changes in humidity, temperature, and acidity required to make the oldest known samples conform to a young earth (under 6,000 years) view are completely unreasonable. Such conditions would destroy all traces of the amino acids rather than just leave a racemic mixture of the molecules behind.
A stalactite is a mineral deposit that is usually — though not exclusively — found in limestone caves. They are formed on the ceilings of caverns by the slow deposition of calcium carbonate and other minerals as they drip, in solution, over the stalactite. These formations take extremely lengthy periods to form; the average growth rate is not much more than 0.1 mm per year (10 centimeters, or 4 inches, every thousand years). With such a slow rate of formation, if the earth were less than ten thousand years old we would expect to see the largest stalactites being not much longer than one meter. In fact stalactites frequently reach from the ceiling to the floor of large caverns.
It is true that cases of accelerated growth have been observed in some stalactites, but rapid growths are only temporary, as the rapidly growing stalactites quickly deplete the surrounding limestone.
Geomagnetic reversals: 5,000,000
A geomagnetic reversal is a change in the polarity of the Earth's magnetic field. The frequency at which these reversals occur varies greatly, but they usually happen once every 50,000 to 800,000 years, and generally take thousands of years. This fact is obviously inconsistent with the notion of a young Earth. Moreover, the age of a reversal can be estimated by extrapolation along the sea-floor magnetic strips, assuming constant spreading rates, once a chronology of strips is constructed—which has been done for a segment 5 million years old. And, beyond that, around 171 reversals are geologically documented, which (assuming a low 50,000 years per reversal) would make the Earth at least 8.5 million years old.
Many places on Earth show evidence of erosion taking place over very long time periods. The Grand Canyon, for instance, would have taken millions of years to form using the normal rate of erosion seen in water (general scientific consensus had been 6 million years, but new research reported 17 million years as the time it took to form).
Evidence for a minimum age of 10 million years.
Milankovitch astronomical cycles: 23,030,000
Milankovitch cycles are cycles of variation of the influx of sunlight, cycles caused by orbit and spin precession effects. Not only does the Earth's spin precess, but also the Earth's orbit. Its perihelion precesses forward and its orbit pole precesses backward, but in complicated quasi-periodic Spirograph patterns that also involve its orbit eccentricity varying. Combined with its spin precession, we have three main kinds of effects:
- Perihelion Precession: over about 20,000 years, the Earth's perihelion time precesses through the seasons.
- Obliquity (Axial Tilt): over about 40,000 years, the Earth's orbit precession makes the Earth's obliquity vary between about 22.1 and 24.5 degrees. It is currently 23.44 degrees and decreasing.
- Eccentricity: over about 100,000 and 400,000 years, the Earth's eccentricity varies from nearly circular to as much as 0.0679 with an average of 0.034. It is currently 0.017 and decreasing.
These variations affect climate by making high-latitude summers sometimes hot, making them melt glaciers fast, and sometimes mild, making them melt glaciers slowly, letting them accumulate over the years. This explains the successful correlation between Milankovitch cycles and continental glaciers' comings and goings during the Pleistocene, the last 2.5 million years.
This work has been extended much further back in time. At first, one might ask if it is possible to do so. But from some calculations, the Earth's spin precession rate has been declining as its rotation rate has declined, but its orbit-precession rates have remained unchanged over at least 500 million years. In fact, astronomical cycles have been used to improve the timescale from the Oligocene-Miocene boundary to the present. That boundary is now dated at 23.03 million years, to within 40,000 years. It has been more difficult to do that for the earlier Cenozoic, the Mesozoic, and especially the Paleozoic, since good cyclic sedimentary deposits have been more patchy. However, it has been possible to find evidence of astronomical cycles in some 1.4-billion-year-old (mid-Proterozoic) sediments.
Sedimentary varves: 20,000,000
Varves are laminated layers of sedimentary rock that are most commonly laid down in glacial lakes. In the summer, light colored coarse sediment is laid down, while in the winter, as the water freezes and calms, fine dark silt is laid down. This cycle produces alternating bands of dark and light which are clearly discernible and represent, as a pair, one full year. As is consistent with the old earth view, many millions of varves have been found in some places. The Green River formation in eastern Utah is home to an estimated twenty million years' worth of sedimentary layers.
The creationist response is that, instead of once per year, these varves formed many hundreds of times per year. There is, however, much evidence against accelerated formation of varves.
- Pollen in varves is much more concentrated in the upper part of the dark layer, which is thought to represent Spring. This is what would be expected if varves formed only once per year because pollen is much more common at this time.
- In Lake Suigetsu, Japan, there is a seasonal die-off of diatoms (calcareous algae) that will form layers in the bottom of the lake along with the sedimentary varves. If the 29 thousand varves in the lake formed more than once per year, there should be several sediment layers for every layer of deceased algae. However, for every one white layer of algae in Lake Suigetsu, there is only one varve.
- The varve thickness in the Green River formation correlates with both the 11-year sunspot cycle and the 21,000-year orbital cycle of the Earth.
Corals are marine organisms that slowly deposit and grow upon the residues of their calcareous remains. These corals and residues gradually become structures known as coral reefs. This process of growth and deposition is extremely slow, and some of the larger reefs have been "growing" for hundreds of thousands of years. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority estimates that corals have been growing on the Great Barrier Reef for 25 million years, and that coral reef structures have existed on the Great Barrier Reef for at least 600,000 years.
Seabed plankton layering: 56,000,000
Fossils of dead plankton that layer on the ocean floor are used to gauge temperatures from the past, based on the chemical changes of Crenarchaeota, a primitive phylum of microbe. Much like ice layering and dendrochronology, researchers drill through the ocean floor to extract samples which indicate annual temperature fluctuations in the plankton fossils, or "chemical rings" as it were. A 2004 pioneering expedition to the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole collected samples dating back to over 56 million years of temperature dating.
Baptistina asteroid family: 80,000,000
The Baptistina asteroid family is a cluster of asteroids with similar orbits. This group was produced by a collision of an asteroid 60 kilometers in diameter with an asteroid 170 kilometers in diameter. Researchers from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and the University of Prague have traced the orbits of these asteroids back from their current locations and estimated that the original collision happened 160 (±20) million years ago. 2011 data from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer has revised the collision date to 80 million years ago.
Evidence for a minimum age of 100 million years.
Continental drift: 200,000,000
Based on the continuity of fossil deposits and other geological formations between the South American and African tectonic plates, as well as additional wider bands of continuity across these two continents as well as India, Antarctica, and Australia, there is much evidence that at some point in history these landmasses were part of the same contiguous supercontinent. Because tectonic drift is an incredibly slow process, the separation of these landmasses would have taken millions of years. With modern technology, this can be accurately quantified. Satellite data has shown that South America and Africa are moving apart at a rate of roughly 2 cm per year (roughly the speed of fingernail growth), which means that for these diverging continents to have been together at some point in history, as all the evidence shows, the drift must have been going on for at least 200 million years.
Nitrogen impurities in natural diamonds: 200,000,000
Nitrogen is the most common impurity in natural diamonds, sometimes by as much as 1% by mass. Recently formed diamonds, however, have very little nitrogen content. A major way synthetic diamonds are distinguished from natural ones is on the basis of nitrogen permeation. It takes long periods and high pressures for the nitrogen atoms to be squeezed into the diamond lattice. Research on the kinetics of the nitrogen aggregation at the University of Reading have suggested that a certain type of diamond, Ia diamonds, spend 200-2000 million years in the upper mantle.
Impact craters: >313,000,000
The number of impact craters can provide a probable lower limit on the age of the Earth. Asteroid strikes that can produce craters on the order of kilometers across are extremely infrequent occurrences; the chance of an asteroid with an Earth-crossing orbit actually striking the planet has been estimated at 2.5 x 10−9 yr−1, and when multiplied by the estimated number of Earth-crossing asteroids this approximates about one collision for every 313,000 years. If this frequency is correct, the number of impact craters on Earth were it only a few thousand years old should be very few. The most logical number of observable >1km impact craters for a young Earth would in fact be something like zero — a number that is completely at odds with the observable evidence, since over one hundred such craters have been discovered.
Even if creationists were to present some scenario in which many dozens of large asteroids could hit the Earth in less than 6,000 years, there are still tremendous problems with this idea. The largest asteroid impacts are some of the most catastrophic events the world has ever seen. In Antarctica there is a crater 500 km in diameter which is calculated to have been caused by an asteroid 48 km in diameter roughly 250 million years ago. How the life we see today could have survived such an incident (if it had occurred in the last 6,000 years) is a serious problem for YECs; an asteroid impact that big would have led to the extinction of all medium to large size species, an event that — given the creationist model: short time frame, no evolution — the world would still not have recovered from.
Rotation of the Earth: 620,000,000
Because the Earth's rotation slows about 0.005 seconds per year, the last time a year had 400 days (or days of 22.7 hours) should be about 370 million years ago; radiometrically dated coral from 370 million years ago shows evidence of approximately 22 hours in a day. Additionally, radiometrically dated tidal rhythmites from 620 million years ago fit the rate of Earth's slowing rotation even more strongly.
Evidence for a minimum age of 1 billion years.
The composition of the Sun changes as it ages. The differing composition changes the way sound waves behave inside the Sun. Using helioseismic methods (models of pressure waves in the sun), the age of the Sun can be inferred. Using this method, an Italian team came up with an age of 4.57 ± 0.11 billion years.
Radioactive decay: 4,540,000,000
Radioactive decay is the constant predictable decay of unstable atoms into more stable isotopes or elements. Measurements of atomic decay are generally considered one of the most accurate ways of measuring the age of an object, and these measurements form the basis for the scientifically accepted age of the Earth. There are many different variations of the radiometric dating technique such as radiocarbon, argon-argon, iodine-xenon, lanthanum-barium, lead-lead, lutetium-hafnium, neon-neon, potassium-argon, rhenium-osmium, rubidium-strontium, samarium-neodymium, uranium-lead, uranium-lead-helium, uranium-thorium, and uranium-uranium, of which every single one will date objects far older than 10,000 years.
Because radiometric dating is one of the most commonly used methods of determining age, these techniques are under constant attack from young earth supporters. A few creationists, armed with only a cursory knowledge and a desire to think that they're better than scientific "experts", may misunderstand radiometric dating and just not believe it works. This is often accompanied by ignoring the high concordance of radiometric methods.
However, the most frequently used method of attack is to give examples of objects of known ages that were dated incorrectly. These instances are by far the exception rather than the rule and are usually due to unforeseen contamination or other errors that can be quickly identified and compensated for. This is not "cheating" and forcing results to conform to expectations as many young earth creationists may claim; ignoring outliers is a common practice in any context where measurements are taken, in order to achieve the most accurate results possible. If it is "cheating", then cleaning your camera lens to get a better and clearer picture would also be cheating.
Uranium-lead dating is based on the idea that because uranium-235 and uranium-238 (both common isotopes) turn into lead, and we know how long it takes for both of these isotopes to do so, we can calculate the age of something by comparing the amount of uranium in that something to the amount of lead. Scientists who are dating the Earth commonly use zircons, which are durable and contain trace amounts of uranium. Clair Patterson was the first person to use this technique to figure out the age of the Earth, achieving a result very near the current age of 4.54 billion years. Uranium-Lead dating has a minimum age of over 700 million years for uranium-235 and 4.5 billion years for uranium-238
Recession of the Moon: 4,500,000,000
South African rocks studied by geologist Ken Eriksson contain ancient tidal deposits indicating that at some point in the past, the Moon orbited "25-percent closer to Earth than it does today." The distance between the Earth and the Moon is 384,403 kilometers, so for Ken Eriksson's work to fit with a YEC timescale the Earth would have to have been receding at a speed greater than 15 kilometers per year. However, the Moon is currently receding from the Earth at a rate of 3.8 centimeters per year.
More recent work on Precambrian sediments gives more precise numbers. From Neoproterozoic (620 million years ago) "tidal rhythmites" in Elatina and Reynella, Australia, the Moon's major axis had a value 0.965 ± 0.005 times its present-day value. That implies an average recession rate of 2.17 ± 0.31 cm/yr, a little more than half the present-day rate of 3.82 ± 0.07 cm/yr. Going back further to banded iron formations in Western Australia in the Paleoproterozoic (2450 Mya), one finds a major-axis ratio of 0.906 ± 0.029, and an average recession rate of 1.24 ± 0.71 cm/yr over most of the Proterozoic. So for whatever reason, the Moon is now outspiraling relatively rapidly, something that makes creationist-style extrapolation of it unjustified.
Ultimately, the recession of the moon is entirely concordant with its radiometrically recorded age of 4.5 billion years.
There is a mathematical relationship between a star's mass, the rate at which it spins and the star's age. Stars spin at a lower rate as they age. The mathematical model has been tested against over 30 stars whose age was previously known using other techniques and is shown to be accurate within 10% for stars in the 1 billion to 4.6 billion years old range.
Presolar Grains: 7,000,000,000
Presolar grains are small grains (on the order of micrometers or smaller) that originated in a time before the sun was formed. The unique environment of each star gives it its own unique isotopic signatures that differ from that of our solar system and the galactic average, which is how their presolar origin is determined. A January 2020 study of the Murchison meteorite found silicon carbide grains that ranged in age from only a few million years older than the sun to as old as 7 billion years.
Globular clusters: >10,000,000,000
Stars can't be any older than the universe that they occupy. Finding the age of the oldest stars or groupings of stars is thus one way to determine a minimum age for the Universe. Old stars can be found in globular clusters — groupings of a few hundred thousand to one million stars or so.
Fortunately, the lifetime of a star is related to its mass. Massive stars burn out quickly; those that are 10 times more massive than the Sun burn out in 20 million years. Stars half as massive as the sun can last 20 billion years.
If we assume that the stars in a given globular cluster formed at roughly the same time, and that there was a reasonable distribution of stellar masses in the cluster initially (reasonable assumptions, based on what is known about star formation), then we can get an estimate of its age by examining the stars it contains. We can estimate star masses by evaluating their luminosities and distances from earth. If we observe no stars more massive than ten solar masses, indicating that all of those big stars burned all of their fuel and became something else, then the cluster must be at least 20 million years old. If we saw clusters containing only stars half as massive as the sun or less, then the cluster would have to be at least 20 billion years old.
The oldest observable globular clusters contain stars of 0.7 solar masses or less, which places them between 11 and 18 billion years old. Uncertainties in distances prevent greater precision. Taking the lower estimate of 11 billion years for the age of these clusters, the universe must be even older than that, since it took time for the cluster to form in the first place. Taking the cluster formation time into account pushes the lower limit for the age of the universe based on the age of globular clusters to 12-13 billion years. Even if we hedge on that estimate, we can be confident that according to scientific evidence, the universe has existed for more than 10 billion years.
According to this estimate, the scientific evidence differs from the YEC assertion of the universe's age by a factor of about 1 million.
Distant starlight: 13,700,000,000
The fact that distant starlight can be seen from Earth has always been a major problem for the young Earth idea. Because the speed of light is finite, what you are actually seeing when you look at an object is an image of that object from the past. "From the past" here has a few caveats regarding the relativity of our concept of the past, the future, and now. In the BBC Horizon program What Time Is It? noted physicist Brian Cox suggested that, as information cannot travel faster than light, and that time and space are relative, it can be considered that the stars actually are what they look like "now", in a manner of speaking. Either way, though, the bottom line is still the same; the light has travelled a certain distance, for a certain time, before arriving on Earth to be seen by our eyes or telescopes. We can use this data to put a minimum time on the existence of the Universe, by looking at how long some light has been travelling.
On Earth, the delay caused by the speed of light is incredibly minor — when you look at an object a mile away, the light has been travelling for five microseconds. When you look at the star closest to the Earth, you are seeing light that has been in transit for 8.3 minutes. It's more noticeable with sound and distant objects, but only because the light from things such as distant explosions or jet fighters is so much faster. There's still a delay and transit time for the information that says whatever made the light/sound must have been around that long ago to produce it.
On the cosmic scale of things, this delay is far from minor and really is noticeable. When astronomers look at the second closest star to the Earth (Proxima Centauri) which is roughly four light years away, they are seeing the star as it was four years ago from our perspective. When astronomers look at objects in the region of space known as the "Hubble ultra deep field", they are seeing the stars there as they were over ten billion years ago. Light we are receiving from these fields has been travelling for ten billion years, and the universe must have, therefore, existed long enough for that transit time to take place.
The farthest distance that deep-space telescopes can see is somewhere in the region of 13.7 billion light-years (approximately); this implies that light has taken around 13.7 billion years to travel across the universe to reach us. Thus, one concludes that the universe is at least 13.7 billion years old.
Therein lies the problem for young Earth creationism: if the universe is only 6,000 years old, how can objects billions of light-years away — and therefore billions of years old — be seen?
There are a few creationist "zingers" to solve this problem, but are almost exclusively centered on pretending the problem doesn't exist. One is omphalism, which suggests the light was already in place and on its way 6,000 years ago, which is basically like saying that "6,000 years ago, the world was created 14 billion years ago", which is a form of Last Thursdayism. They also like time dilation fields and changing the speed of light, but this requires a lot of Goddidit to make it work, as there is zero evidence for why the speed of light should change. There are a lot of issues surrounding changing fundamental physical constants such as c, namely that according to E=mc2, increasing c to make the world 6,000 years old would lead to normal radioactive decay blowing the planet up. Qualified astrophysicist Jason Lisle came up with the "anisotropic synchrony convention", which exploits how to reliably measure of the speed of light, but suffers from special pleading in that it assumes a highly unlikely physical reality deriving from a mathematical quirk is literally true — and there is no additional evidence for such a thing.
CMB and Extreme Redshift: 13,800,000,000
The Cosmic Microwave Background is residual light left over from the very beginnings of the universe when the temperature finally cooled enough to let Hydrogen atoms deionize. The distance between us and the CMB is 13.8 billion light-years, again supporting the points in the previous section that the Universe has to be at least 13.8 billion years old.
Again, there are the creationist "zingers", but the only remaining "theory" of c-decay is disproved by the extreme redshift at the CMB. The amount of redshift light experiences is directly related to the Hubble expansion of the universe. Currently, the value of this expansion is 46 miles per second per megaparsec, which approximates the value of redshift at the CMB. The CMB itself experiences redshift of approximately 1100, which was obtained by dividing the energy that Hydrogen releases during ionization by the current observed energy of the light it emitted. In order to explain this with c-decay, that redshift would have had to occur in a timeframe 2 million times shorter. This means, as redshift is a linear relationship because it is a one-dimensional function, that things 1 megaparsec away would be moving away from us at 92 million miles per second. That's 494c already at triple the distance of the Andromeda Galaxy. Because things that are moving away from us at a speed greater than c would not be visible, nothing farther away than 6600 light-years would be visible.
Now creationists can say that the speed of light decayed from approximately 2.1 million times its current value, but this comes with some issues. The speed of light is intrinsically tied to the square root of the values of electric and magnetic permeability in the vacuum. In order to have the light be 2 million times faster, the product of the two values would have to be 4 trillion times larger. Now, because these 2 constants are also intrinsically tied to the strength of the electromagnetic force, c-decay bullshittery would cause all stars to stop working, all molecules to dissociate, all electrons to fall into nuclei, all nuclei to rip themselves apart, massive amounts of Hawking radiation, all the problems that come with fiddling with the fine-structure constant, and all quarks to rip themselves out of their protons and neutrons. Basically, c-decay in this situation would require the universe to destroy itself as soon as it was created. Even if the stars were created out there, they would just stop working in seconds. And then, all of this doesn't mention that such a speed of expansion would require the vacuum itself to contain enough energy to rip itself apart within Planck times.
Of course, most creationists (like most laypeople) wouldn't really be able to follow the physics outlined above and so would just blink at it without understanding it. The difference, of course, is that the general public doesn't have a denialist agenda and would conclude that the experts probably know what they're talking about. Creationists, on the other hand, would take advantage of the difficulty of the science and conclude "tl;dr, so it doesn't count!" They can then use ungodly amounts of Goddidit to get around this situation, so sure, yeah, the universe is only 6000 years old.
Evidence for a recent creation
- Astrophysics: Astrophysics is essential to determination of the speed of light which generates the starlight problem. In order for the universe outside of the Earth to be seen, either the speed of light has to be changing or light had to have started en route to Earth already. The former is not supported by modern science or any observational evidence, and even semi-coherent theories regarding an anisotropic synchrony convention or c-decay can't account for the massive change needed. The latter is a case of special pleading and can lead to Last Thursdayism.
- Cosmology: The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) — a background level of very cold, low frequency radiation, billions of light-years away, predicted to exist by the "Big Bang" model and discovered and researched intensively throughout the latter half of the 20th century.
- Newtonian mechanics: Gravity (as described by Newton) itself contradicts YEC belief.[note 5]
- Relativity: If c is not constant as YECs claim, then all of the relativistic equations would go out the window.
- Nuclear physics: the decay rates of certain isotopes are known and are used in radiometric dating. YEC beliefs often require these well-established rates to change by, for lack of a better term, stuff.
- Electromagnetism: Since one can derive the speed of light from the vacuum permeability and the vacuum permittivity, unpredictable changes in speed of light pretty much renders the predictive power of electromagnetism nil.
- Quantum Fluctuations: C-decay requires such a high vacuum energy that space itself would be ingloriously unstable, leading to the formation of vacuum decay bubbles. An energy of 10^5 ergs per cubic meter is far above the calculated vacuum metastability limit for vacuum decay.
- Transport phenomena
- Fluid mechanics (momentum transfer) is pretty much incompatible with the idea of a global flood.
- Heat transfer is pretty much incompatible with all the variations of ideas that require water under earth's crusts, or in case of radiative heat transfer, White hole cosmology and anything that involves a different speed of light or radioactive material giving radiation at a significantly different rate.
- Mass transfer would also have to be ignored, due to phenomena such as diffusion of impurities or crystal/sediment formation.
- Reaction kinetics: The rate that amino acids undergo racemisation (conversion to an equal mix of stereoisomers) is a well-known process that occurs at a specific rate. It can therefore be used as a dating method and has shown biological molecules to be far older than 6,000 years.
- Thermodynamics: All of the laws of thermodynamics are violated in a creation event.
- Materials science: Tribology is the study of wear and friction in materials in relative motion to each other. The well-documented rates and mechanisms of wear and erosion preclude the rapid formation of geological features, such as the Grand Canyon, as claimed by young Earth creationists.
- Botany: Dendrochronology, which is accurate to a handful of years, has dated trees that go back ten thousand years at least, long before most YEC proponents say the universe even existed.[note 6]
- Evolution: For obvious reasons. This throws out morphology, zoology, ecology, and comparative anatomy. (Let's not even discuss nylon-eating bacteria.)
- Genetics: the discovery of the genetic code was one of the biggest confirmations of evolution by natural selection and went a great way to explain the empirical observations such as Mendel's Laws. The supposed dichotomy between "macroevolution" and "microevolution" can only exist if there are two forms of DNA, one that mutates and another that is immune to mutation — otherwise there is no barrier between the two. This is not borne out in observations.
- Immunology: Disease-causing bacteria and viruses mutate and become immune to our attempts at destroying or immunizing against them. This is one of the more powerful and very much real observations of evolution that supposedly doesn't happen in the YEC belief-system. See MRSA drug resistance and Richard Lenski's lab results.
- Psychology/Neuroscience: Humans and other animals use an unnecessarily slow memory-recall procedure. This would not occur if humans were intelligently designed (useful explanation here).
- Mathematics: Trigonometry is incompatible with c-decay, one of a very few explanations for the starlight problem.
- Computer Science
- Cellular automata: Self-reproducing molecules are cellular automata which combine themselves using a few simple rules to cause emergent properties. If cellular automata (which are Turing-complete) are ignored, the entire corpus of computability theory has to be ignored.
- Geomagnetism: The ocean floor alone shows that there were over 180 geomagnetic reversals, while none have occurred in the roughly 2,000 years that humanity had compasses.
- Geomorphology: Uplift causes mountain ranges to form, a process that can be observed to occur at a fixed rate.
- Hydrology: None of the features of the Earth show any evidence of a global flood.
- Petrology: Rocks and crystal structures take considerably longer than 6,000 years to form.
- Plate tectonics: Tectonic plates are known to move at a certain rate, postulating that some pieces of land were once connected at some point — something observed and confirmed in the fossil record.
- Seismology: Seismic tomography shows that some subducting plates can reach the core-mantle boundary nearly 3000 km below Earth's surface, showing that the plates have been moving for millions of years.
- Stratigraphy: Rock layering through sedimentation takes a long damn time. Although creationists bizarrely like to attribute this to the Global Flood, a single event cannot explain layering.
- Volcanology: There are a lot of volcanoes which clearly haven't erupted in the past 6,000 years. It also takes at minimum tens of thousands of years for there to be enough volcanic buildup for islands like Hawaii to form.
- Fossil fuel: The biomass must be trapped underground for hundreds of thousands to millions of years to transform into coal and oil.
- Palaeontology: Self-explanatory. There is a massive amount of evidence from palaeontology that only works and makes sense given a very, very old Earth.
- Metrology: Modern measurement defines distance based on the speed of light and time based on radioactive decay. If radiometric dating and starlight problem are to be said invalid, one might as well throw out these definitions.
- Humanities: Okay, we'll be honest. These don't need to be included. But for anyone who chooses not to trust hard science anyway: archaeology, anthropology, history, philosophy, philosophy of science, linguistics,[note 7] and even religious studies each assumes, or actually requires, more than six thousand years of human existence. Proto-writing appears to have started on its way to evolving into writing systems by the 7th or 6th millennium BCE. Historians can and have identified kings operating more than 6,000 years ago; archeologists document artifacts hundreds of thousands of years old; science has developed since humans started talking to each other.
- 101 evidences for a young age of the Earth and the universe
- Last Thursdayism
- Common descent
- Fractal wrongness
- Biblical criticism
- Chris Stassen (1996), The Age of the Earth
- Possible material: Sulphur Emission and Transformations at Deep Sea Hydrothermal Vents
- 100 reasons the Earth is old
- Estimates in the millions of years were common at the time, but the process of nuclear fusion was not yet known: this created intractable problems due to geological discoveries on Earth suggesting a lifespan of at least 300 million years, but no estimate being able to get the sun's age above 20 million.
- The formation of an entire planet is a process spanning millions of years. Suggesting the Earth is 4.54 billion years old does not imply a sudden point of creation — merely that the process that formed the planet began around that time.
- Space is a vacuum, and vacuums are good insulators. Ask thermos manufacturers.
- That space is "cold" is tricky, since there's very little matter to be any temperature, and with diffuse enough particles there's not really a difference between that particle's temperature and their speed. Is an interstellar oxygen molecule traveling 17,000 km/s very hot or just very fast? Answer: yes. What people usually mean about space being cold is the average radiation temperature of the CMB, which is a few Kelvin. Which basically means if you put a baseball in intergalactic space very far from anything else, it would cool until the energy it emitted was the same as the energy it got from the CMB -- a few Kelvin. If you're closer to other things -- a star for instance -- space can be quite warm. The Earth is also suspended in "cold" space, but is a relatively warm 278 Kelvin (the black-body temperature for the ~340 W/m2 the Earth radiates). Asteroids, like the Earth, are relatively close to the sun to receive thermal radiation far hotter than the CMB, and likewise can't cool down except by radiation, which is a poor way of cooling off. That's why the ISS relies on boiling ammonia to stay cool, and the Apollo astronauts used boiling water, basically bringing their own way to convect heat so they didn't have to rely on radiation.
- Intelligent falling, although initially
creatpostulated as a parody, turns out to be a necessary part of intelligent design.
- Some try to counter that trees can grow two rings in a year, which is true for some species on occasion, but other long-living species, like the bristlecone pine, are known to actually skip rings every once in a while. Even if we only had species that could occasionally grow extra rings, YEC would require a consistent rate of two to three rings per year since creation.
- Oh come on! Do you think any linguist accepts that languages diversified in a single day to prevent the workers of the Tower of Babel from understanding each other?
- Biblical Interpretation and Theology: Romans 1:20 — Clear Support for an Old Earth by Greg Neyman (29 December 2004) Old Earth Ministries.
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