The age of the earth is a pivotal topic in the creation vs. evolution debate, one that, if ever concretely proven one way or the other, would probably end the debate altogether. If the young-earth scholars are right, evolution would be completely out of the question because there would not have been enough time for evolution to take place. On the other hand, if the earth were proven to be more than just thousands of years old, a literal reading of the Biblical account of creation and the genealogies of mankind would not hold up.
The idea of an old earth is based on isotopic methods of dating. Probably one of the most well-known of these methods is carbon-14 dating, but there are many other methods used. However, results from these different methods often tend to contradict each other, making the assumed dates rather confusing and highly questionable. There are many factors that can cause these results to be rather erroneous, and these factors often exist unnoticed by geologists.
While creationists have found quite a bit of evidence that the earth is less than a million years old, until now, they have not been able to scientifically put a number on the age of the earth. Now, we are finding more evidence that show why isotopic dating methods give such early dates. These new findings suggest that earth's "geological column" (composed of many layers of rocks and sediment believed by evolutionists to represent the different evolutionary periods) formed in merely a few millennia rather than the hundreds of thousands of years originally theorized by geologists. Scientists now believe that their excessively old original estimates on these rocks could be due to an error caused by accelerated decay as they discover that radioactive decay occurred much more rapidly in the past. While these pieces of evidence still don't give an exact age of the earth (not like the evolutionists' theories did in the first place), they do strongly suggest a young earth. In fact, the new evidence is so strong that some scholars are wondering just how much more is needed to change the accepted theories altogether.
Many of the radioactive dating methods used in this field are based on the presence of two chemicals, X and Y, where X deteriorates into Y in a given time. Formerly, creationists refuted their evolutionist counterparts' excessively old dates by pointing out that there is no way to determine how much of X and Y existed to begin with. For example, a radiology professor at a South Carolina Technical College believes that lead is a product of the gradual breakdown of certain radioactive materials (uranium and thorium) that were present on earth millions of years ago. But who is to say that the lead wasn't just here to begin with?
The methods mentioned above involving uranium and thorium involve combinations of these elements with substances called zircons. The decay of these chemicals release helium over time. Scientists determine how long the deterioration has been happening by measuring the amount of helium left in the zircons. Ironically, until a study called the RATE Project was conducted in 2000, one of the most important variables in the whole equation, the rate of diffusion, had been ignored. The RATE Project set out to determine this rate, and to their surprise, discovered it to be such that the tests determined the earth’s age to be not 1.5 billion years as thought before, but between four and fourteen thousand years.
Scientists today are finding that not even Carbon-14 dating is fool-proof. With new developments in technology, they have determined that their former estimates of an old earth using C14 dating have been skewed. Their improved C14 dating methods show the earth to be no more than fifty-seven thousand years old They also theorize that biomass before the flood may have been up to one hundred times its size today, diluting the C14 by one hundred times or more. Since C14 has a half-life of 5,730 years, this would bring the sample’s age down by about forty thousand years to ten to twenty thousand years old. Accelerated decay would make the ages even less. And, since the amount of C14 in the atmosphere appears to be continually increasing, the true age may be even less. The fact that isotopic dates are usually much more flawed than C14 dates (hundreds of millions of years as opposed to merely thousands of years) also supports the idea of accelerated decay since C14 decays faster than other isotopes.
Yet another interesting dating method looks at the age of mankind rather than the earth. Using this method, scientists were able to give an upper estimate of the age of the human race. By determining how many mutations have occurred in our mitochondrial DNA and the rate at which they occur, they discovered that the common maternal ancestor of the whole human race could have lived no more than six thousand years ago. This study has proven itself consistent not only in humans but in many other species including wolves, coyotes, dogs, ducks, birds, fruit flies, and even E-Coli.
So, what might have sped up the decay rates? Many creationists suggest a change in some of the basic physical aspects of creation (i.e. the speed of light) early in Creation and during the Flood. This theory has even been supported by secular scientists. Among other things, it is also supported by quite a few highly scientific observations made about many things, from comets to “the correlation between surface heat flow and the radioactivity of surface rocks”.
There are many other evidences against the accuracy of radiometric dating. First of all, since the rate of erosion is so high, if the earth were much older than creationists believe, the continents would be more eroded than they are, the sea would be saltier, and there would be more sediment on the ocean floor. Evidence of catastrophe in the geological column and sudden burial of mass quantities of fossils also support the idea of a massive flood. This is not to mention the lacking periods in some areas of the geological column and the polystrate (“standing”) fossils. (I mean, c’mon now, what did they do, stand for millions of years as they were being buried in sludge without deteriorating in the process?)
With all this new evidence and observations, how can one justify evolution? In light of all these questions that have arisen, it is pretty fair to say that, in the long run, it takes more than faith to believe in an old earth. It just doesn’t add up.
*For more detailed scientific information, or to check up on my facts, visit Evidences of a Recent Creation.