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Are Scientists Persuaded by Evidence for a Young Earth?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Young earth creation organizations have written many books and published numerous articles over the years presenting scientific evidence to prove that the earth is young (6,000 – 10,000 years old).  Several years ago, when I read these books and articles, I found many of them to be convincing.

But, I wanted to hear both sides so I started reading opposing viewpoints from scientists who believe the earth is older (4.5 billion years old).  Inevitably, these other organizations who believed in an old earth countered and refuted virtually all of the young earth arguments.  Now, this wasn’t surprising, and you could always go back to the young earth side to find refutations of refutations, and so on.

Although I have a degree in electrical engineering, I am not an expert in radiometric dating, geology, astronomy, astrophysics, or any earth sciences.  But what I found is that the virtual unanimous consensus of all branches of science that study the age of the earth and universe agreed that the earth is old.  This included Christians and non-Christians.

I realize that truth is not determined by a vote, but to have so many different disciplines agree on the age of the earth is something to think about.  But I still figured that maybe they were all wrong, until I heard something that surprised me.

If the scientific arguments of young earth creationists were truly persuasive, then they should have convinced at least some scientists, apart from the Bible, of their viewpoint.  After all, scientists will eventually listen to presentations of strong evidence.  But according to young earth creationists, no scientist, as far as they know, has ever been convinced of a young earth by scientific evidence alone.

According to Dr. John Ankerberg, who was a young earth creationist earlier in life:

When I was arguing for the young earth view in the early years of our television ministry, I remember when my friend Dr. John Morris, the President of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and one of the world’s largest young earth organizations, was being interviewed on KKLA radio in Los Angeles. He was asked, “Had he or any of his associates ever met or heard of a scientist who became persuaded that the universe or earth is only thousands of years old, based on scientific evidence without a reference to a particular interpretation of the Bible?” Morris’ answer was no, he had not.

Ankerberg continues:

Later, Duane Gish, also of ICR, was asked the same question. I was interested in his answer as I had invited Dr. Gish to be my guest in the very first debate I held on science and the Bible. I had arranged for him to debate Dr. Vincent Sarich, who was the Chairman of the Department of Anthropology at Berkeley and an evolutionist. When Dr. Gish was asked if he knew of any scientist who had ever been persuaded by the scientific evidence that the universe or the earth was 6,000 years old, he also said no.

My conclusion from these statements is that the scientific evidence for a young earth is significantly weaker than that for an old earth and that the refutations of the young earth evidence by old earthers is probably more trustworthy.

It seems that unless you start with a 24-hour interpretation of the “days” in Genesis, an interpretation that is highly disputed among conservative evangelicals and other conservative Christians, you will not arrive at the young earth position by studying science alone.

The science just does not back up the young earth position, and until young earthers are able to convince scientists based on scientific arguments alone, their position will remain less convincing to me.


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Comments

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    Thanks for this excellent post, and for your earlier posts on the meaning of the word “day” in the opening chapters of Genesis.

    As a Christian geologist I have to give a very strong endorsement of what you said. There is not a single piece of evidence that young-Earth creationists have presented for a young-Earth or for the sedimentary rock record being deposited by the flood that I find in the least bit compelling. Being that there are valid old-Earth interpretations of the Biblical creation account, I let the external evidence from geology guide me to these old-Earth interpretations over the young-Earth interpretation. A strong majority of Christian geologists would agree with me on this.

    The way I usually summarize my position is “Young-Earth creationism is not necessary Biblically, it doesn’t work scientifically, and it is an obstacle to effective evangelism of scientists.”

  • Bill Pratt

    Thanks, Kevin. As a geologist, you have far more credentials to speak to the age of the earth than I do. I like your position summary as well.

  • Russ

    The Bible does not give the age of the earth nor the age or the universe. If you read the events of creation in the Bible in the order that they are written It merely says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” and then it says, “…and God said, “Let there be light”, and “…there was evening and morning, the first day.”

    I other words, the heavens and the earth were created before “light” was created and before the “first day” began. In other words, the earth was created before time began if you simply read the Bible for what is says. However, life has existed on earth for a relatively short period of time according to the Bible.

  • Livia

    In my view of things, the issue at hand is more that God *could* have created the world in one week, right? And it is possible that the earth *could* be less thank 10k years old.

    You say, “The science just does not back up the young earth position, and until young earthers are able to convince scientists based on scientific arguments alone, their position will remain less convincing to me.”

    Well science doesn’t back up God either, but we still have FAITH that He exists.

    It’s debatable, yes, but I – for one – will never doubt that God has all the power to whip up a universe and planets in a few days. Even seconds for that matter. I believe He is that powerful.
    Job 28:11-13

    11 He searches the sources of the rivers
    and brings hidden things to light.
    12 “But where can wisdom be found?
    Where does understanding dwell?
    13 Man does not comprehend its worth;
    it cannot be found in the land of the living.

  • http://www.CalvinSchool.info Dr. Johnson C. Philip

    I feel that you have written this post without considering all the available age-indicators. There are plenty of indicators that refuse to give an old age for the earth.

    Johnson C. Philip, PhD (Physics)
    India

  • Bill Pratt

    Thanks for the comment, Livia. No old earther or young earther doubts that God can create the universe in 6 days or 6 seconds or 6 billion years, for that matter.

    The question is not what can God do, but the question is what did God do?

    In my opinion, the fact that God choreographed 13.8 billion years of history in order to prepare the universe and earth for humans is far more impressive than creating in 6 days. However, my being impressed says nothing about what God actually did. For that, we need to let the Bible and science speak.

    The biblical arguments can go either way (neither side has knock-out arguments or proofs), but science is clearly siding with an old earth.

  • Wes

    The post actually claims there are no convincing indicators that give a young age for the earth. Please share some of the ones you know of.

  • geochristian

    I have considered just about all of the “evidences” given for a young Earth, and find them to be far from convincing. Geologists in the 1800s (before Darwin, before radiometric dating) were convinced by geological evidence that the Earth must be millions of years old, and many of these geologists were Christians.

    Arguments for a young Earth fall into the following categories:
    –arguments from stratigraphy (assuming that because some sediments were deposited rapidly then all must have been)
    –arguments from rates (growth of deltas, accumulation of sediments, influx of elements into the ocean)
    –arguments refuting radiometric dating

    All of these fail. There are plenty of Christian resources refuting the YEC arguments. For a Christian geological perspective, I recommend the book The Bible, Rocks and Time by Young and Stearley. These Christian geologists hold to an inerrant Bible and to an old Earth.

    If the evidence for a young Earth were at all compelling then most Christian geologists would accept them. As it is a very strong majority of Christian geologists reject the young-Earth position.

  • joe pavlik

    I went to college and was taught the old earth model. I looked at the same rock layer now and it’s pretty obvious to me it must have been laid down rapidly and while being soft. Which can bend at a 45degree angle a wet cracker or a dry one? point is when you observe the strata, there are bends in there that could not possibly been created while dry and hard. They must have been laid down via mud flows. The evolutionary model says slow formation layer upon layer. I don’t buy that at all.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ Kevin N

    Joe:

    The way to see if rocks bend is to take rocks and put them in a press in an engineering laboratory and see how they behave under stress. That has been done many times, and indeed you can do all sorts of things to rocks by putting pressure on them. In Earth’s crust, this results in the giant anticlines and synclines (folds) that make up much of the world’s major mountain belts. These rocks show many signs of solid-state deformation.

    If one applies the same sorts of pressure to layers of unconsolidated sediments (sand, silt, clay, etc.) the results are very different. Instead of getting folded layers of rocks, one gets chaos, with blobs of material distorting and either sinking or rising, depending on density. This is called soft-sediment deformation, and is readily distinguishable in the field from solid-rock deformation.

    What is observed on a massive scale in the Earth’s crust (with some exceptions) is deformation of solid rocks, not soft-sediment deformation. If the bulk of the sedimentary rocks were laid down by Noah’s flood (and the Bible does not say that they were) then soft-sediment deformation on a massive scale should be a dominant feature of the sedimentary rocks, and it isn’t.

    This “all sediments must have been laid down rapidly and while being soft” argument is more of an “it seems to me…” kind of argument rather than something based on laboratory and field analysis, and should not be used as Christian apologetics.

    With respect,
    Kevin N, Christian geologist

  • http://forums.developerone.com/member.php?u=41739 Get Your Ex Back

    Not that I’m impressed a lot, but this is a lot more than I expected for when I found a link on Delicious telling that the info is awesome. Thanks.

  • http://www.creation.info DANIEL HABE

    First of all, who honestly cares if ‘scientists’ agree on a young earth or not. My faith is in the scriptures alone and not man’s fallible word.

    Rom 3:4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

    It is incredible that Christians defend the old age theories just to find some compromising ground for the long age evolutionists. No one reading the Bible without an indoctrination of an old earth during their schooling years would ever think of millions of years. It’s only after an indoctrination at this level and being told of millions of years that would would ever try to marry the scripture with secular reports. The christians who agree with the old age are simply compromising and nothing more.

    A quick study of the promoters of the old age and their agendas clearly documented in books should be self-explanatory

    Lyell’s main aim, he confessed, was to ‘free the science from Moses’.

    Also, should we honestly expect the world to accept the easiest conclusion from the observable data? If they did, then they would have to accept that God has the power to judge and He is truly in control. This is something the materialists fully understand.

    Rom 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

    1Co 3:20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

    Young earth dating methods, which the old agers just can’t bear to acknowledge?

    http://www.drdino.com/read-article.php?id=6
    http://www.drdino.com/article-categories.php?c=16
    http://creation.com/young-age-of-the-earth-universe-qa
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers#/topic/young-age-evidence
    http://www.creationresearch.net/crc%20misc/site%20map.htm

    Another point is that even Dawkins understands these facts much better than the compromising Christians who believe in an old earth. Dawkins mocks those who essentially claim that Jesus died for a mythical sin because they believe in hominoids prior to Adam.

    I could go in to a lot more detail, but those who wish to seek teh truth, God will reveal it.

    I am very disheartened that so many so-called Christians are defending the unbiblical position of an old earth, who allow some form of man-creation prior to Adam. It is a heretical teaching.

  • Bill Pratt

    “My faith is in the scriptures alone and not man’s fallible word.”

    Unfortunately, man must interpret the meaning of Scripture and his interpretation is fallible. The church, until the last couple hundred years, never took any hard positions on this subject, and left it open to different interpretations. I don’t find the age of the earth in any of the early Christian creeds. Last time I checked, the age of the earth was not part of Christian orthodoxy.

    I don’t happen to believe in macro-evolution, so I’m not sure why you would say I’m compromising with evolutionists. Besides, as I’ve stated in another post, billions of years does not help evolution one bit!!

    “I am very disheartened that so many so-called Christians are defending the unbiblical position of an old earth, who allow some form of man-creation prior to Adam. It is a heretical teaching.”

    Something can only be heretical if it contradicts an essential teaching of Christianity. When did the age of the earth become an essential teaching of Christianity? Must I believe this to be saved?

  • samuel

    I was wondering if someone can help me out with a question? In the bible it describes as space and earth being created first, and then a source of light(unknown), but not until day three, does God create the Sun, Moon, and Stars. According to Old earth theory, the Sun is alot older than Earth, and so are many stars. Which means it contradicts the word of God. According to the bible the Earth should be older than our sun and stars. Does anyone have a possible explanation for this?

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Samuel,
    One simple explanation is that God did not create the Sun, moon, and stars on day four (that’s what you meant to say, I think). The perspective on day four is from the earth, which was covered by an opaque atmosphere prior to day four. On day four, an observer on earth could finally see the stars and moon that were already created previously because of a change in the atmosphere (this fits well with the scientific evidence as well). Once the earth-based observer could see the sun, moon, and stars, the author of Genesis explained their purpose in Gen. 1:16-18. This makes better sense of the light on day one and the seed-bearing plants on day three (plants need the sun to exist).

    Hope this helps,
    BP

  • http://akaretnikov.01maroc.org ostrov

    Thank you,
    very interesting article

  • dimitar zdravkov

    RELIGION & SCIENCE CONNECT!BIBLE CODE UNLOCKED!-According to the Bible the world has been created in six days,but according to the Science this process has taken billions of years.If we exclude the difference in time and we pay attention to the SEQUENCE,we will see that there is no contradiction between both,but only the question-why in the Bible things happened so fast?There is an answer and it`s in the Bible itself.Moses described the Creation from his own sight as an eyewitness.Where and when he saw It,how could he have seen something happen before his existence?Answer:For forty days he has been at the mount Sinai where he got information about the past,present and future.The Creation had been REcreated to him in six days there,he had seen how the already existing world had been made.The long process of evolution had been shown to him in the first six days and the SEVENTH day had been dedicated to human`s appearing.After that he had seen the difference between Adam`s origin and Eve`s one.Adam comes from the dirt in the process of evolution,but Eve comes from DNA material out his body,which marks another jump for the evolution or in other words-the missing section of the chain which Science is looking for.The Creation continue and The Next Jump Is Coming…2012 ?!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2010/07/12/a-legit-young-earth-theory-our-planet-may-be-only-4-4-billion-years-old/ nicholee

    we’ll anyways i was scanning downwards on this page. Like i’ve said on many other sites. Who gives a flying duck on whenever the earth evolved or created or the BIG BANG THEORY. Were still here brightt as freakin’ day! :) nobody needs to question that. I mean seriously? Honestly? Noo, it’s not something that big to talk about. I mean geeez! Animals are god. Mushrooms are god. Rocks are god. People are god. Love is god. Softball is god. Who cares. Everything in this tiny liddle world is godddd!
    ~ nichole! :)

  • Pingback: Why Aren’t Scientists Persuaded by Evidence for a Young Earth? or Bad Argument # 2 Against Young Earth Creationism « Janitorial Musings()

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  • http://twitter.com/thatchadmiller Chad Miller

    THIS↑↑↑↑↑

    I find it so ironic that one of the main horses YEC’s ride in on is “I’ll trust infallible scripture instead of fallible man”. Hello! Fallible man must interpret infallible scripture!

    Most of the OEC’s I know hold to a doctrine of strict inerrancy and infalliblity… We just happen to interpret the infallible scripture differently than our YEC brothers do.

    The direct source of this flow of thought comes straight from the divisive ministry of Ken Ham and AIG. Until he changes direction on this, we’ll continue to have division in the body of Christ where it is absolutely unnecessary.

  • zuma

    Detailed examination about the reliability of half life value as spelt out by radioactive dating method or radiometric dating method.
    The following is the extract from the 3rd paragraph under the sub-title, Half-life, from the website address, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-life:
    (Half-life (t½) is the time required for a quantity to fall to half its value as measured at the beginning of the time period. In physics, it is typically used to describe a property of radioactive decay, but may be used to describe any quantity which follows an exponential decay.)
    As the phrase, half life (t½) is the time required for a quantity to fall to half its value, is mentioned above, it gives the implication that radioactive decay would cause the value of substance to reduce to half of its value. Or in other words, the value of substance would turn up to be zero upon another half life period has passed.
    Let’s examine the list of isotopes that has been adopted by scientists to assess the age of rocks or fossils or the earth. The following is the list of isotopes extracted from the website address, http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/radiometric.html, and, http://anthro.palomar.edu/time/table_of_isotopes.htm:
    Parent Isotope; Stable Daughter Product; Half-Life Values
    Lutetium-176; Hafnium-176; 37.8 billion years
    Uranium-238; Lead-206; 4.5 billion years
    Uranium-235; Lead-207; 704 million years
    Thorium-232; Lead-208; 14.0 billion years
    Rubidium-87; Strontium-87; 48.8 billion years
    Potassium-40; Argon-40; 1.25 billion years
    Samarium-147; Neodymium-143; 106 billion years
    Carbon-14; Nitrogen-14; 5730 +/-40
    The above list shows that Carbon-14, Potassium-40 and Uranium-235 would turn up to be Nitrogen-14, Argon-40 and Lead-207 in 5730 years +/- 40, 1.25 billion years, 704 million years respectively in order to achieve the half life values. As we know scientists have assessed the age of the earth to be 4.5 billion years, all these Carbon-14, Potassium-40, Uranium-235 would currently be turned up to be Nitrogen-14, Argon-40, Lead-207 since the current age of the earth ever since its creation, i.e. 4.5 billion years as computed by means of radioactive dating method, should have exceeded 5730 years +/- 40, 1.25 billion years, and 704 million years respectively since their creation. As all the Carbon-14, Potassium-40 and Uranium-235, that have existed since the creation of this earth, should have been turned up to be Nitrogen, Argon-40 and Lead-207 currently, there should not be any of these isotopes be available in this modern society. The current existence of Carbon-14, Potassium-40 and Uranium-235 has placed the reliability of radioactive dating method into question. If Carbon-14, Potassium-40 and Uranium-235 could have turned up to be Nitrogen-14, Argon-40 and Lead-207 after 5730 +/-40 years, 1.25 billion years and 704 million years and that the age of the earth should be 4.5 billion years, none of the above substances, i.e. Carbon-14, Patassium-40 and Uranium-235, could be found available in this modern society since they should have been turned up to be Nitrogen-14, Argon-40 and lead-207 currently. The above have placed the reliability of the rest of the isotopes that have been established by scientists into question due to nobody could live billion years to witness the actual transformation of materials from one to another. The unreliability of radioactive dating method would simply falsify the age of fossils, rocks and the earth into billion years. As radioactive dating method is unreliable, the age that has been derived from this method could not be used to assess the age of fossils. As it is not accurate to compute the age of fossils by means of radioactive dating method, the order of fossils that has been set by radioactive dating method could not be accurate. Thus, it is irrational to use this method to comment that dinosaurs and apes should have existed earlier than the origin of human beings so as to support evolutionary theory.
    Would there be any existence of radioactive after full complete radioactive decay?
    The following extract from the 1st paragraph under the sub-title, What Is Radioactive Material And How Does It Decay?, from the website address, http://ohioline.osu.edu/rer-fact/rer_20.htm, has placed the reliability of radioactive dating method into question:
    (All materials are made of atoms. Radioactive atoms are unstable; that is, they have too much energy. When radioactive atoms release their extra energy, they are said to decay. All radioactive atoms decay. After releasing all their excess energy, the atoms become stable and are no longer radioactive.)
    The phrase, All radioactive atoms decay…the atoms become…no longer radioactive, as mentioned above implies that radioactive would lose its effectiveness upon the complete atoms decay after the entire process. Besides, the phrase, no longer radioactive, as mentioned in the later part of the extract gives the proof the substance would lose its radioactive after the entire radioactive atoms decay.
    As listed among the isotopes, Carbon-14, Potassium-40 and Uranium-235 would turn up to be Nitrogen-14, Argon-40, Lead-207 in 5730 years +/- 40, 1.25 billion years, 704 million years respectively in order to achieve the half life values by means of radioactive decay. Or in other words, after transforming into Nitrogen-14, Argon-40 and Lead-207, it would need another 5730 years +/-40, 1.25 billion years and 704 million years for Nitrogen-14, Argon-40 and Lead-207 respectively to cause another reduction of half life values so as to cause the ultimate annihilation of radioactive decay. Once a full reduction of value has been stretched over the process, there should not be any radioactive decay remains at the end.
    As mentioned above that radioactive decay would become ineffectiveness after the entire process and it would take 11460 years (i.e. 5730 * 2), 2.50 billion years (i.e. 1.25 billion years * 2) and 1.408 million years (704 million years * 2) for Carbon-14, Potassium-40 and Uranium-235 to achieve full complete lives of decay. A question has to be raised. As scientists have used radioactive dating method to assess the current age of the earth to be 4.5 billion years and these computed years should have exceeded the number of years in which Carbon-14, Argon-40 and Lead-207 would have completed their decay in radioactive atoms, the current Carbon-14, Argon-40 and Uranium-235 should have lost their radioactive after their entire atoms decay. Yet we could locate Carbon-14, Argon-40 and Uranium-235 currently that would emit radioactive decay. This has placed the unreliability of radioactive dating method into question. There is a question about the reliability on how scientists would link up one material to be the daughter isotope of another. Besides, the unreliability of the use of isotopes would place the reliability of the age of fossils, rocks and the earth that has been computed by scientists to be in question. The unreliability of the age of fossils, rocks and the earth through radioactive dating method has placed a question about the reliability of the order of fossils, i.e. dinosaurs should have existed before the origin of human beings, since we could no longer trust the figures that have been computed through this method. It seems to be that radioactive dating method should not be used to support evolution.

  • Nucc3 .

    I’m still a young earth believer in creation but I attended an apologetics class on old earth teachings from Hugh Ross at our church. I kept coming out of the meetings thinking they made NO SENSE whatsoever to me.
    I thought DOES SCIENCE determine the truth of God’s Word or does the revelation from God’s Holy Spirit do so?
    1. What purpose are the genealogies in Genesis if they don’t shed some light on time since creation?
    2. What about DEATH before sin? Why???? If sin brought death, then who sinned before Adam?

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