Biblical Evidences

Dating Methods
Which Clock Sets the Outer Limit?

Harry Osborne

How many times have you heard it stated as fact that the earth is four to five billion years old? Do you know how the evolutionists arrived at that number? It is obvious that none of the rocks had a date written on them, so how can one make such statements with certainty? Is there any evidence which would suggest that the earth is actually younger than four to five billion years old? When one reads the mainstream newspapers and magazines, it seems to be taken for granted that the earth is at least four to five billion years old.

In a 1992 article in Time entitled "Echoes of the Big Bang," it was boldly stated as a fact that the so-called "Big Bang" from which our universe is supposed to have been born took place about 15,000,300,000 years ago (4 May 92, p. 62). As I read further in the article looking for the evidence of this rather precise dating, I found that no proof was forthcoming. Instead, I read of unnamed "scientists" and "researchers" who have "interpreted" a unspecified set of "data" to "suggest" that this conclusion is "possibly" in keeping with their "dominant explanation of the cosmos." That is really some concrete evidence upon which to base such firm statements! When I took a geology course several years ago, I noted the same bold claim made on the same scarcity of facts. This article is not going to be written upon the basis of a personal claim of expertise, but is intended to point to several facts from which the reader can think about the rational conclusion which must be reached about such claims regarding the age of the earth.

There are many ways to estimate the age of the earth by examining various processes at work in our world and estimating their length of action. For instance, we can find a rock with a radioactive element in it and try to estimate its age by comparing the amount of that element remaining with the amount which has been used. We can gauge the erosion of sediment from the continents into the oceans and the rate of erosion in order to make an estimate of the earth's age. Measurements of the sun, the earth's magnetic field and other forces can help us estimate their rate of change and provide a basis upon which to make some estimate about the age of our world.

Assumptions In Dating

All estimates about the earth's age based upon these kinds of dating methods are based on at least three assumptions:

  1. That the process rate is constant or has a known functional variation.
  2. That the process system is closed or one with known external effects.
  3. That the starting components in the process are known.

The problems with these three vital assumptions is that none of them are provable or testable when applied to dating the earth's age. It is impossible for us to be certain that any of our assumptions are true. Therefore, at the very best, the estimates of the earth's age that we get from these methods form an outer bounds possible for the earth's age. In other words, the true age may be significantly different than the age estimated by using these methods. It is also important to remember that the lesser limit must rule in comparing one process to another. Let us examine the reason for this fact.

Setting Outer Bounds

If I came into an empty kitchen to find three timers counting elapsed time and wanted to know how long it had been since someone had been in that kitchen, what would I do? If one timer read 60 minutes, another 45 minutes and another 30 minutes, which gives me the best estimate? Obviously, the one reading 30 minutes shows someone had to be there thirty minutes ago to start it. Thus, the reading of 30 minutes is the outer limit to the time since someone was in the kitchen.

The oldest estimates to the earth's age have come from those measuring the deterioration of uranium to lead and assuming that no lead existed originally, but that it is all the result of decay from uranium. Old ages are also obtained from the rubidium-strontium and potassium-argon methods using similar assumptions. Without getting into technical points about the lack of validity of such assumptions, let us remember that if younger dates exist they must logically rule.

Some Evidence Advanced for a Young Earth

In the Geological Society of America Bulletin (Jan. 73), the average sediment thickness over the entire ocean was given as 2,950 feet. When that is multiplied by the area of the world's oceans and the density of the sediment, we are told that the mass of ocean sediments is about 820 million billion tons. How long would it take to deposit that much sediment on the ocean floor if there was none to begin with? What limit does the ocean put on its own age?

Robert Garrels and Fred Mackenzie wrote Evolution of Sedimentary Rocks in which they listed and quantified sources and rates at which sediment is added to the ocean each year. The total addition of sediment to the world's oceans was found to be 27.5 billion tons per year. Most geologists accepting the general theory of evolution will admit that this total is approximately correct and is to be taken as a constant rate throughout that supposed evolution.

However, when we divide the total mass of ocean sediment by that rate, we find the outer limit of the age of the earth's oceans to be 30 million years! That is far too little time to provide for the evolution of all living creatures out of the ancient oceans as the theory holds. By their own figures, the evolutionists are at odds with the facts.

Then there is the problem for evolutionists which comes from the known rate of the sun's shrinkage. Physics Today (Vol. 32, No. 17, 1979) reported on the work of astrophysicist John Eddy who has shown that the sun shrinks at a constant rate of 0.1% per century over the past 400 years of recorded observations. That means the sun would have touched the earth if it were 20 million years old and that life would have been impossible just 100,00 years ago due to the sun's proximity to earth. Again, that leaves no time for the evolutionists' theories!

The problem does not stop there. The strength of earth's magnetic field or dipole has been measured ever since Karl Gauss first evaluated it in 1835. Physicists like Sir Horace Lamb and Dr. Thomas Barnes have examined the depletion of the earth's magnetic field and shown that, given its rate of depletion, the earth cannot be older than about 10,000 years. That is well within the general time frame allowed by the Bible account. Though some have suggested that there is a regeneration of the earth's magnetic field on a regular basis, their claim has not been established as fact nor have they explained how the energy necessary for such could have been ongoing for the past 4.5 billion years if one is to accept that as the age of the earth. Until they prove such, the facts regarding the depletion of the magnetic field and the implications regarding the earth's age must be accepted at face value.

Examination of other processes such as the influx of radiocarbon to the earth system give the same 10,000 year outer limit to the earth's age. Besides these, other evidences for a young earth are discussed in detail in other articles within this special issue. Why are these facts not given the wide circulation that are given to the older age estimates? Why are our children taught the age of the earth as 4 to 5 billion years as if it were a fact undisputed by the evidence? Even more troubling, why are some brethren starting to accept such claims as if they were proven fact?

Think About It

Do even the proponents of the general theory of evolution claim that all dating evidence presents a unanimous verification of the earth as 4.5 billion years old and the universe as 15 to 20 billion years old? Do the ancient earth creationists claim that no variant evidence regarding an age of the earth being measured in the thousands of years exist? The answer is obviously, "No." On his website, Hugh Ross has a chart presenting the dates gained by the various methods. He reaches his proposed age by taking the median date as the one to be most likely. Hill Roberts does much the same in his material noting that dating methods give us varying conclusions to the earth's age from billions to millions of years. Then, he goes on to say that the earth may even be only thousands of years old, while making it clear that he favors the older dates. In each case, they depend upon an average, a median or a heavier weight towards the older dates to establish the accepted age of the earth. By what logic do they come to such conclusions?

The analogy given earlier regarding the clocks giving elapsed time is a parallel to this discussion. If we see varying "clocks" for the earth with varying times given, how do we decide which one must govern the outer limits? When we see processes that are fundamental to the earth which show evidence of having been functional for a maximum of 30 million, 100 thousand or 10 thousand years, what must we conclude? We must conclude that the earth cannot possibly be 4.5 billion years old! It does not take an Einstein to figure that one out.

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