Young Earthers most frequently believe our planet is somewhere in the vicinity of six to ten thousand years old. The leading reason for this is that it’s one of the most popular ways to interpret and calculate the chronology of events in the Bible, starting with the events described in Genesis. The “days” of Creation are, to this group, viewed as literal, twenty-four-hour periods. And note that they may not be wrong…though, if they’re right, it may not be the whole story.
The first question that arises against this group is in relation to how Earth would appear to be so old if it is, in fact, young. Answers vary, of course, but here are the two central theories:
- God chose to make the world look older than it is. (That’s not as crazy as it sounds to some. Bear with me.) His purpose in doing so is a matter of opinion and theology, but, biblically speaking, I understand the deduction. Assuming the “days” of Creation are literal, then the plants, animals, stars, and even humans (Adam and Eve) were all created with the appearance of age as well. Jumping into a time machine and traveling back to Eden, we could ask one of these two full-grown adults how old they are and be shocked when they express they were born “yesterday” or “a few hours ago”—even though they appear to be full-grown adults. We don’t read about God rearing Adam from infancy, Adam waiting for a fruit tree to reach maturation for harvesting, the animals waiting in darkness while the space gases took billions of years to form a sun and stars, or anything of the sort. God created a fully functional, operating world—and, most importantly, He’s God, with all the power and entitlement in the universe to form whatever He wanted and for whatever reason, whether or not we understand it. (However, this portion of the “appearance of age” theory is biblical, because the Bible directly explains Adam’s sudden “birth” and subsequent intelligence. Later, in the “Tricky God Theory” section of chapter 4, you will see why this line of reasoning cannot extend to all questions related to Earth’s apparent age that are not discussed in the Word.)
- The Flood of Noah’s time changed the entire globe, shifting everything on the planet around, relayering the soil and rock, and fluctuating the geological shapes our planet’s surface originally held. This intense event altered the topography of Earth so dramatically that current age-determination sciences will forever be thrown off-kilter and, thus, are unreliable.
But, as most Young Earthers stand by biblical genealogies, it would put the time between Adam and Jesus at about four thousand years, and then two thousand years between the birth of Jesus and now, creating the narrative for Earth being six thousand years old. (Much more on this topic in the following chapters.)
Though I respectfully disagree with Young Earthers on the conclusion of our planet’s age, it would be unfair to write off the entire group as irrational, irresponsible biblical interpreters. Much to the contrary; they wouldn’t be so passionate about defending Earth as being young in the first place if they weren’t driven by a sweet, humble, and respectable determination to read God’s Word and spread the Gospel message everywhere. Likewise, their research is not compiled by Bible scholars alone, but often by top scientists in fields such as biology, geology, paleontology, astronomy, and so on, which leads to a solid level of credibility behind many Young Earthers’ claims.
This group has amassed an impressive array of evidence in support of a young planet, which brings me to a point that must be made in their defense early on regarding the relationship between Young Earthers and a few of their past leaders.
Because a church service or conference isn’t necessarily made up of attendees who are experts, it’s sometimes easy for pastors, teachers, or speakers to continue presenting information long after that material has become outdated, with audience members not knowledgeable enough to recognize the material as out of date. For example, a man who taught Creationism back in the 1980s might, without ever updating his information, continue today sharing evidences that were relevant forty years ago but that are irresponsible now in light of more recent discoveries. For those in the Young Earth circle, this has been an ongoing problem (I could list a few men who are still clinging to their 1980s research at this very moment); a few key speakers have been openly criticized for continuing to represent certain obsolete discussion points as facts. The listeners hear these presentations and write off the whole group as “a bunch of old suits who don’t know anything.” Whereas outdated information could be, and has been, given from a number of platforms—including those on the Old Earth side (and, oh my goodness, it is also true for science textbooks in schools!)—this remains a major issue for the Young Earthers. There is also the matter of the personal reputation of a couple of the group’s most vocal leaders in the recent past. Though I wish it weren’t the case, when a Christian spokesperson is drawn into a major spectacle because of a moral problem, the world tends to feel as if nothing that leader has said is trustworthy, and his or her theology or teachings get buried under layers of skepticism and doubt. At times, this attitude bleeds into a whole group. A couple of decades ago, one particular Young Earth teacher got into some serious financial trouble when his ministry made some dubious moves on tax reports. The controversy caused by those decisions didn’t just affect the trustworthiness of this man’s reputation and ministry, but it threw into question the whole Young Earth constituency, casting many Young Earth ministries into the same shadow of uncertainty and irrelevance.
Therefore, some hear the term “Young Earth” and automatically associate it with folks who can’t be trusted morally or academically, which is unfair. I will therefore steer clear of denigrating the whole Young Earth group as a result of the actions of a few, but I’ll also avoid reiterating information that should have been laid to rest in the Young/Old Earth debate decades ago (which is quite a load, unfortunately).
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO:
However, for the sake of being balanced, I’ve commissioned the help of a Defender Publishing assistant and SkyWatch TV Magazine guest journalist, Brittney Jackson, to illustrate a couple of examples of the Young Earthers’ especially convincing discoveries. I asked her to find their most convincing pieces of evidence, while steering clear of the same, tired arguments related to the Flood of Noah’s day and what that means for rock strata. (This book is long enough without covering all of those findings and the arguments that attempt to refute them. Curious readers can go to the Institute for Creation Research, Answers in Genesis, or a number of other Young-Earth ministries for further information.)
Here’s what Brittney found:
When looking up a list of Young Earthers’ most oft-referenced evidence, two major claims keep coming up: the Faint Young Sun Paradox and helium diffusion found in zircon gems. Upon my own research into these topics, several claims were made that were later argued against by other scientists, or claims based in opinion without ample proof.
The Faint Young Sun Paradox
When a star, such as our sun, is formed, it is not as hot or bright as it will eventually become. When Earth was formed—whether that means millions, billions, or only six thousand years ago—there was a phenomenon known as the Faint Young Sun Paradox. The sun we see today is too bright to look at. It keeps our planet warm and provides the elements we need to cultivate land and, for the most part, to live upon it comfortably. There isn’t a “film,” or fogginess, around it on a clear day. But, when the Earth and sun were first formed, the sky would have been a hazy, dusty orange, and the sun would be less visible from the ground.[i] Through this discovery, astrophysicists have found that the solar luminosity shouldn’t have been warm enough to support life on Earth, and the globe should have been frozen solid.[ii] Yet, sediments in aquatic environments and bacteria found in fossils show that Earth was not frozen and was indeed hospitable, despite the distance and luminosity of the sun. This creates a paradox that has had scientists scratching their heads for decades; no reasonable or viable solutions have surfaced.
The paradox came about in the 1960s, when astrophysicists ran simulations to show that, when the sun formed, it was 25–30 percent dimmer than it is today, meaning Earth’s average surface temperature would be about -7 degrees Celsius (or 19.4 degrees Fahrenheit), and nothing should have been able to live or grow. Since this discovery, climate experts have been trying to explain how Earth could have been hospitable, coming up with several theories including greenhouse gases or the sun having a higher solar luminosity. Despite this, there is ample proof that Earth was not this cold, as we can see in discoveries from Jack Hills, Western Australia.
Western Australia has become a place of high interest for scientific discoveries when it comes to the age of Earth. Zircon is a popular gemstone found there that has been used in jewelry as a substitute for diamonds because of its hardness and unique, tawny shine. The beautiful gem, however, is an ancient mineral dated to 4.4 billion years ago that contains oxygen isotopes that had to be formed in a watery environment and could not be shaped in ice. This leads scientists to believe that there was indeed life on Earth over three billion years ago.
Young Earthers claim there is no paradox because the sun, Earth, and solar system have not been around for billions of years; therefore, the sun hasn’t had to increase in luminosity.[iii] One of the leading scientists with this claim is Dr. Danny Faulkner, who says there is no way to determine the age of the sun, but that if the sun is billions of years old, it should be much brighter today than it is. (I could not find ample proof of this conclusion.) Dr. Faulkner also states that the sun and solar system are “young and consistent with the 6,000-year age of the solar system as recorded by Biblical chronology.”[iv]
Zircon and Helium Diffusion
Along the line of zircons, one of the leading advocates for a Young Earth, Dr. Russell Humphreys, has used the helium diffusion in zircon crystals to support this hypothesis through his program RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth). Through accelerated nuclear decay and the high amount of helium left inside of zircon crystals, this model claims the Earth is younger than scientists traditionally believe.
Helium is a gas that can diffuse through solids but, as Dr. Humphreys claims, it hasn’t had enough time to pass through zircons, meaning their presence in the gems proves an Earth age of eight thousand years or less.[v] During the 1970s, the United States Energy Research and Development Administration began researching and drilling into a geothermal energy site in the Jemez Mountains near Los Alamos, New Mexico. They sent the samples from various depths for isotopic analysis and other testing. Within the nuclei of zircon, uranium and theranium are present.[vi] As the zircon sits, it begins a process called nuclear decay, which the USEPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) describes as “the emission of energy in the form of ionizing radiation.”[vii] When these elements break down, they transform into a different atom or daughter product—which, in this case, results in the formation of helium.[viii] Helium is a lightweight element that, over time, makes its way out of tight spaces. Tests on several samples showed that helium was still present, and that if the samples had been there for billions of years, the helium should have already diffused and dispersed into the atmosphere. More specifically, the zircon samples had anywhere from 17–58 percent of the helium originally deposited, confirming that a large amount of nuclear decay had taken place and, therefore, should have not been present at all if the samples had been sitting for millions of years, according to Dr. Humphreys’ research.
However, in the same article, Dr. Humphreys claims that “God may have changed diffusion rates by some drastic means, say by adjusting the laws of atomic physics which control diffusion.”[ix] While God is more than capable of doing anything He wants, why would He change the rate of nuclear decay within these gems to speed up a process that would naturally take place over billions of years so that it would really take place within a few thousand? [Readers will see in chapter 4, in the section “Tricky God Theory,” that He wouldn’t have—in fact, theologically, He couldn’t have.]
Is Humphreys the only scientist to hold this belief? How accurate are his findings?
Several scientists have spoken out against Humphreys’ RATE model, a notable one being Dr. Gary H. Loechelt who, throughout the years, has had a back-and-forth with Dr. Humphreys through scientific articles and journals. Dr. Humphreys claims that in order for the Old-Earth theory to be correct with the discovery within the zircons, they would have had to be exposed to less than 75 degrees Celsius for more than 1.5 billion years.[x] Dr. Loechelt, who believes in the Old-Earth Creation model, claims Dr. Humphreys’ experiment was “contrived to fit a preliminary dataset,” and is therefore unreliable.[xi]
In Dr. Loechelt’s interpretation of the helium remaining inside the zircon, he points out that two different states of helium are found: one is loosely bound and the other is tightly bound. As early as 1964, around the time of the zircon discovery in New Mexico, geochronologists have recognized that the age of minerals does not always reflect the rock’s forming ages. This is called the multi-diffusion domain (MDD), and is used to explain terrestrial thermal histories.[xii] Essentially, helium could still be present within the gems because of the temperature changes throughout the millions of years. As the gems sat in the ground at various depths, the temperature at the Fenton Hill, New Mexico, site rose from 87 to 197 degrees Celsius due to a heating event that occurred twenty-four thousand years ago.[xiii] Further, the calculations used in Dr. Humphreys’ RATE experiment actually support an Old-Earth model of 4.5 billion years.[xiv]
In conducting his own interpretation and calculations of the heating experiment for a two-domain diffusion model, Loechelt found that 30 percent of the loosely bound helium survived heating ramps of up to fifteen hours, and 15 percent at up to 300 degrees Celsius.[xv] As stated in the latest update to this research, Loechelt explains that if you take a rock sample from deep underground, crush it, remove the zircon, place the extracted zircon crystals in a high-pressure vacuum system, heat them to high temperatures, let them cool, then repeat the heating process a second time while measuring the released helium throughout the process, the following can be observed:
After excluding the initial temperature ramp, the high-temperature steps above 350°C accounted for over 22% of the total helium in the system, whereas the four low-temperature steps below 275°C accounted for only 0.0008% of the total helium in the system, or about eight parts per million. What do these eight parts per million of helium release tell us about the age of Earth? Very little, in fact.[xvi]
Obviously, these are only two avenues of Young Earthers’ research. These examples aren’t shared as topics of debate, but to show that the group really does come to their conclusions responsibly, tackling technical and complicated issues like the long-ago faded sun or the relationship between helium and zircon.[xvii]
UP NEXT: Theistic Evolution
[i] Harrison, T. Mark, & Lovera, Oscar, M, “The Multi-diffusion Domain Model: Past, Present, and Future,” Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, last accessed May 3, 2023, https://sims.ess.ucla.edu/argonlab/Research/GS_Ar_book_final.pdf.
[ii] Dumin, Yurri, V., “The Faint Young Sun Paradox in the Context of Modern Cosmology,” May 2015, Lomonosov Moscow State University; retrieved from Research Gate on May 3, 2023, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276296220_The_Faint_Young_Sun_Paradox_in_the_Context_of_Modern_Cosmology.
[iii] Faulkner, Danny R., “The Young Faint Sun Paradox and the Age of the Solar System,” June 1, 1998, Institute for Creation Research, last accessed May 3, 2023, https://www.icr.org/article/young-faint-sun-paradox-age-solar-system/.
[iv] Faulkner, Danny R., “The Young Faint Sun Paradox and the Age of the Solar System,” August 1, 2001, Answers In Genesis, last accessed May 3, 2023, https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/sun/the-young-faint-sun-paradox-and-the-age-of-the-solar-system/. Originally published in Journal of Creation vol. 15, no. 2, (August 2001): 3–4.
[v] Humphreys PhD, Russell, “Young Helium Diffusion Age of Zircons Supports Accelerated Nuclear Decay,” Institute for Creation Research, last accessed May 3, 2023, https://www.icr.org/i/pdf/technical/Young-Helium-Diffusion-Age-of-Zircons.pdf.
[vii] “Radioactive Decay,” United States Environmental Protection Agency, last accessed May 3, 2023, https://www.epa.gov/radiation/radioactive-decay#:~:text=Radioactive%20decay%20is%20the%20emission,emitted%20can%20include%20alpha%20particles.
[viii] Humphreys PhD, Russell, “Young Helium Diffusion…”
[xi] Loechelt, Gary H., “A Response to the RATE Team Regarding Helium Diffusion in Zircon,” American Scientific Affiliation, last accessed May 3, 2023, https://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/helium-gl4.pdf.
[xii] Harrison, T. Mark, & Lovera, Oscar, M, “The Multi-diffusion Domain Model…”
[xiii] Lochelt, Gary H., “Critics of Helium Evidence for a Young World Now Seem Silent?” Creation Ministries International, last accessed May 3, 2023, https://creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j24_3/j24_3_34-39.pdf, 34.
[xiv] Lochelt, Gary H., “Fenton Hill Revisited: The Retention of Helium in Zircons and the Case for Accelerated Nuclear Decay,” American Scientific Affiliation, last accessed May 3, 2023, https://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/helium-gl3.pdf.
[xv] Loechelt, Gary H., “A Response to the RATE Team…”
[xvi] Loechelt, Gary H., “Accelerated Nuclear Decay in the Light of New Experimental Data,” American Science Affiliation, last accessed May 3, 2023, https://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2020/PSCF3-20Loechelt.pdf.
[xvii] Jackson, Brittney, Defender Publishing assistant and SkyWatch TV Magazine guest journalist, May 1, 2023, from a report attached in a personal email between Jackson and Donna Howell.