Evidence for a Young Earth, Part 1
Okay, this post has been a long time coming. I mentioned during my Swiftocracy post on the subject that I’d soon be writing on some of the physical, measurable, scientific facts that are better explained by a Young Earth Creationist model than the standard Uniformitarian model. Unfortunately soon after the last Swiftocracy post I was hit with a rather large project at work and soon lost almost all of my writing time. On top of that, I wanted to be sure to do this post correctly, with some research instead of simply from memory. Research that I didn’t have much time to do.
But here it is. It’s a summary, mind you, but a summary is better than nothing. Here are some of the best evidences that the Earth may be a great deal younger than we think.
You may have noticed that I used the world Uniformitarian to refer to the standard model of dating the Earth. The whole idea of Uniformitarianism is that the key to understanding the past comes though observing the present. With a few exceptions the natural processes we see around us today have been essentially the same throughout the history of our Earth. This idea came about in contrast to Catastrophism, which theorized that the Earth had been shaped by several massive, near global catastrophes throughout it’s history.
However the Uniformitarian model has some issues when you break it down. The first group of “evidences” I’ll list here are those that are difficult for the Uniformitarian model to explain, but explained easily if the Earth is much younger.
1. The Amount of Salt and Sediment in the Ocean
Just about all the salt you can taste in ocean water started out on land. When rainwater collects into rivers salts and sediments are dissolved and brought to the ocean. We can fairly accurately measure the amount of erosion that occurs each year; that is, the amount of sediment that is transported from land into the ocean via rivers and other processes. We can also fairly accurately measure the amount of salt that is added to the ocean each year. Once salt and sediment enters the ocean it almost never leaves, but simply builds up. About 20 million tons of sediment and 450 million tons of sodium are added to the world’s oceans each year¹.
The sediments pile up on top of the basalt rock of the ocean floor. The salt is absorbed into the water, and about 27% of the 450 million tons that are added each year end up leaving the ocean through various means. The other 73% remains. At the current rate of deposition, it would take less than 46 million years for the ocean to have achieved it’s current level of saltiness if it started with no salt at all². This is far less than the current stated age of the oceans, which is 3 billion years.
Similarly to our best modern knowledge only about 1 billion tons of sediment are removed from the ocean floor each year through plate tectonic subduction, which means that 19 billion tons simply accumulate each year. Following Uniformitarian assumptions (that is the assumption that the amount of sediment that is deposited now will be very similar to the amount that has always been deposited) it would only take 12 million years to build up the amount of sediment that currently exists. Again, that’s 12 million compared to Uniformitarian ocean age of 3 billion years. There is a massive amount of missing sediment, and no current explanation for where it all went.
The next natural question is how the YEC model fares any better, since 12 and 46 million years are a far cry from the 15 to 7 thousand year age that the YEC model proposes. Still, an integral part of the YEC model is that at some point the Earth was devastated by a worldwide flood event. This event, if it occurred, would have resulted in massive amounts of sediment and sodium being eroded in an extremely short period of time.
2. The decay of the Earth’s Magnetic Field
The Earth’s magnetic field is something that we have been able to accurately measure since the mid 19th century. Since 1845 regular and well documented measurements have recorded that the magnetic field appears to be exponentially decaying. Archeological measurements seem to indicate that the magnetic field was 40% stronger in the year 1000 AD than it is today. The earth is rapidly losing it’s magnetism, with a 1.4% decrease recorded in only three decades, between 1970 and 2000¹. These measurements tell us that the Earth’s magnetic field has a half life of about 1,465 years: that is, the field’s strength is reduced by 50% every 1,465 years. However, this has interesting results if you extrapolate this trend into the past, with the magnetic field effectively doubling every 1,465 years into the past. At that rate the magnetic field would be so powerful that only 20,000 years ago the heat it generated would prevent life from existing on Earth’s surface. In other words there is no way that the current rate of decay has been maintained over more than 4 billion years, not even close. There are two explanations for this. The Uniformitarian explanation is that a complicated series of currents in the outer core of the planet create a kind of dynamo effect that “recharges” the Earth’s magnetic field over time, and that this current decay is just part of an oscillation where the field goes up and down in strength. The YEC explanation is that the Earth’s magnetic field is caused by a simple current of molten metal that is gradually slowing down due to friction (think of a giant bowl of pancake batter that you’re stirring rapidly. If you remove your whisk the batter will continue to rotate in the same direction, but will eventually come to a stop. It’s the same principle).
In this sense the YEC model explains the facts we can measure today in a far simpler manner than the Uniformitarian model, which must posit a complicated continuously acting “dynamo” system in the outer core. I’ve also read that the YEC model better matches up with the electrical currents we can measure on the ocean floor, but since I am neither a geologist nor an electrical engineer I’m not going to go into that.
3. The Amount of Helium in the Atmosphere and in the Crust
One of the byproducts the radioactive decay of certain isotopes of uranium and thorium in helium. Helium is an extremely light gas, and is difficult to contain. Have you noticed that a helium balloon will slowly lose it’s lifting power over time, and that the balloon itself will seem to be shrinking? That’s because helium is an amazing escape artist and will slowly escape most materials that try to contain it. Rocks are no exception, so when helium is produced by radioactive decay the helium atoms will slowly make their way to the surface. We can measure this rate of escape pretty accurately.
However when certain geologists were drilling into Precambrian rocks in New Mexico they discovered samples of zircon crystals that showed something remarkable. They contained both uranium and helium within them; far more helium then should still be hanging around ¹. The helium contained within the zircons should have escaped over a maximum period of 100,000 years: however these zircons were from rock that was dated to be 1.5 billion years old. Using the confirmed rate of helium diffusion as a measuring device the zircons gave them a probable age of between 4,000 and 8,000 years old, fitting nicely within the YEC framework. As it stands the helium content of these zircons remains a puzzling mystery to the Uniformitarian model.
When helium escapes from rock, it enters the atmosphere. Some helium escapes into space, but for the most part it migrates to the upper atmosphere and remains. Given the current measured amount of helium escaping into the atmosphere the current levels of atmospheric helium would have accumulated in 1.8 million years. If a flood event occurred, followed by massive upheaval and tectonic activity (as the YEC model holds), then that could explain how that much helium escaped the crust in only 12 to 6 thousand years.
Hoo body, we’re at over 1,000 words already, and I’m only about halfway done. We’ll continue this on Wednesday.
¹M. Meybeck, “Concentrations des eaux fluvials en majeurs et apports en solution aux oceans,” Revue de Géologie Dynamique et de Géographie Physique 21, no. 3 (1979): 215.
²F. L. Sayles and P. C. Mangelsdorf, “Cation-Exchange Characteristics of Amazon with Suspended Sediment and Its Reaction with Seawater,” Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 43 (1979): 767–779.
¹A. L. McDonald and R. H. Gunst, “An Analysis of the Earth’s Magnetic Field from 1835 to 1965,” ESSA Technical Report, IER 46-IES 1 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1967).
R. T. Merrill and M. W. McElhinney, The Earth’s Magnetic Field (London: Academic Press, 1983), pp. 101–106.
¹R. V. Gentry, G. L. Glish, and E. H. McBay, “Differential Helium Retention in Zircons: Implications for Nuclear Waste Containment,” Geophysical Research Letters 9, no. 10 (1982): 1129–1130.