Young-Earth Creation Science:

Is the science of young-earth creationism
strong or weak?  Is the earth young or old?

When we carefully examine the scientific evidence,
using the "reality checks" of scientific method to
logically compare flood geology with observations,
do we find overwhelming support for an Old Earth?

by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

What is Creation Science?  Although the term "creation science" is often associated with young-earth science, authentic creation science can be done by any scientist who believes that God created our world whether by young-earth creation, old-earth progressive creation (with miracles), or old-earth evolutionary creation (with only natural process) and who wants to use the methods of science to discover the truth about nature and its history.  But for clarity, in this page Creation Science (capitalized) will refer to young-earth science.

warning This is Part 2 in a series, and maybe it should not be read before Part 1.  Why?
I wrote this page because I'm confident that "belief in the truth of what the Bible teaches does not require belief in a young earth, and God's wonderful plan for us (for converting sin and death into salvation and life) will work, if you humbly accept God's gift of forgiving grace through Jesus Christ, whether the earth is young or old" and "the full gospel of Jesus... is fully compatible with a young earth or old earth" so "we can carefully examine the evidence-and-logic of science with an open mind, to learn what information from nature shows us about the world created by God." If you agree, feel free to read this page even though it's Part 2.  If you're not sure whether you agree, I strongly recommend reading Bible-based theology for young-earth Christians (the source of these quotations) before you continue reading this page.

disclaimer Although I am editor for Whole-Person Education which is part of the website of the American Scientific Affiliation, I'm writing this page as an author (not editor) and the views expressed in it are my own, not those of ASA.

In this page we'll look at four types of arguments two (used by proponents of a young earth) are non-scientific, and two (used to evaluate claims about age of the earth) are scientific plus some strong evidence about age.

Young-Earth Creation Science Part 1

1 Conclusion first, then Science (it's the process in young-earth science)
        Near the end of a vigorous yet friendly discussion with Henry Morris in 1983, I asked "is there any scientific evidence that could ever convince you the earth is old?"  He explained that his answer must be "no" because he believed a young earth was taught in Genesis 1, so a young-earth conclusion should be the starting point (and ending point) for his young-earth science. In 2009, CreationWiki's page on Flood Geology admits that young-earth science begins by assuming the global flood, which "is taken as an established historical fact, not as a hypothesis to be tested by science. Therefore, the flood cannot be falsified by any scientific data." But in conventional evidence-based science the sequence is different first we logically evaluate the evidence, then we reach a conclusion.
        To convert "conclusion first, then science" into a persuasive argument, proponents of young-earth Creation Science try to convince other Christians that a young earth is a necessary part of Christian theology. For example, two prominent young-earth leaders, John Morris (son of Henry Morris, and president of Institute for Creation Research) and Ken Ham (founder of Answers in Genesis), declare that if the earth is old, "the Christian faith is all in vain" and "the whole message of the Gospel falls apart." In other pages, Morris and Ham say "if the earth is old, ... then Christianity is wrong!" and "the god of an old earth destroys the Gospel." Even though we have Bible-based reasons to doubt that a young earth is an essential doctrine (is it taught with certainty in the Bible? and is it important?) they boldly declare that "if the Bible is true, the earth is young." Unfortunately, this bold claim is logically equivalent to saying "if the earth is not young, the Bible is not true" and that is why if you agree with their unwise claim, or if you know people who do I hope you'll read my "Biblical Theology..." (link above) or, for links to other authors with a wide range of views (both old earth and young earth), AGE OF THE EARTH THEOLOGY which is the source of quotes in this section.
2 Discredit the Witness (that testifies against young-earth science)
        In the two ways below, by attacking scientists and their science, young-earth creationists try to "discredit the witness" that is testifying against their views.

        Attack the Character of Scientists
        In this strategy, which is a confrontational us-against-them extension of a "conclusion first" argument, young-earth proponents define the question (how old is the earth?) as a war between two worldviews: Christian young-earth creationism and atheistic old-earth evolutionism.  Therefore, every old-earth view even when it's proposed by a Christian whose beliefs are based on the Bible, and who rejects the creative sufficiency of natural evolution is unbiblical evolution.*  The heroes and villians are clearly defined, thus forming the basis for ad hominem attacks (implicit or explicit, general or personal) on the character of those who think the earth is old, since they must be either non-Christians or deluded Christian "compromisers" who are letting themselves be used by opponents of the Bible.
        Prominent leaders of young-earth organizations (John Morris, Ken Ham, and others) claim that Christian scientists who think the earth is old have adopted this view because they value science above the Bible, and they want to be accepted by their colleagues in the scientific community, because they don't have the strength of character that is required to be a totally committed Christian, to take a stand and simply say "the Bible teaches a young earth, so I believe it."
        For example, John Morris declares that young-earth belief "should be a requirement for Christian leadership!  No church should sanction a pastor, Sunday school teacher, deacon, elder, or Bible-study leader who knowledgeably and purposefully errs on this crucial doctrine." Ken Ham is more harsh, stating that Christians who think the earth is old are "worshipping a different god, the cruel god of an old earth." Wow. 
        They want Christians to believe that every question about age-science is about much more than just age and science, so Bible-believing Christians should be on their side, on the side of God and good.  But, as explained in THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD, "proponents of both views [young earth and old earth] include intelligent scholars with expertise (theological and/or scientific) who are devout Christians with high moral character, who sincerely want to find the truth [about the world created by God]."

*Ironically, a two-model approach typically increases the perceived plausibility of evolution because all evidence for an old earth is converted into evidence for evolution.

        Attack the Reliability of Historical Sciences
        Even though we cannot directly observe events in the ancient history of nature, can we by a logical analysis of historical evidence reach reliable conclusions about what happened in the past, on the earth and in other parts of the universe?Į
        Most young-earth creationists say NO. They challenge the credibility of all historical sciences that claim the evidence indicates an old earth and universe. They ask "Were you there? Did you see it?", and imply that "no" means "then you can't know much about it." Their skepticism about historical science is similar to the postmodernism of radical relativists who challenge the reliability of all science by claiming that scientific evidence is always inadequate, so the conclusions of scientists must be determined by their nonscientific beliefs.
        But despite this postmodern skeptical relativism, when we ask "is historical science reliable?" it's easy to answer "yes" and here is why.  Although historical data is limited, since we cannot do controlled lab experiments, historical science is empirical (based on observations) with plenty of observations available, and scientists have developed methods to reduce the practical impact of data limitations.  Occasionally there are rational reasons for caution, but in most areas (and for all important questions about age) most scholars who carefully examine the methods of historical science will confidently agree that "historical sciences [in fields like geology, radiometric dating, and astronomy] have a solid foundation — the logical evaluation of empirical evidence — that provides a reliable way to learn about the history of nature." (quoted from a page explaining why Historical Science is Empirical, Scientific, and Reliable)

A Question with Two Answers:
Ģ Perspectives and attitudes vary from one person to another, and many young-earth Christians don't share the harsh attitudes of leaders who think old-earth Christians worship "the cruel god of an old earth" and should not be allowed to lead a Bible study about any part of the Bible.  If you want to discover what a young-earth believer thinks about Arguments 1 and 2 above, during a conversation you can ask, "Could any scientific evidence convince you that the earth is old?"  After listening to their answer, you may want to ask a second question:
        1 — If they say no, ask "is your young-earth Creation Science really science?", which is appropriate because the foundation of science is an open-minded sequence:  a scientist FIRST gathers observation-evidence and logically evalutes it, and THEN reaches a conclusion.  Of course, a biased mind will not always produce a false conclusion;  scientists can hope that observations of reality will support a conclusion they prefer, and this may occur. But they should be willing to change their minds if the evidence points in another direction.  If a conclusion is predetermined and it cannot be influenced by evidence-and-logic (does this occur in young-earth science?) this is not authentic science.  In young-earth science the goal is to show that the earth is young, instead of trying to find the truth about nature and its history.  But a search for truth should be the goal of all scientists and (especially) all Christians.
        Is science compatible with belief in miracles, including the healings done by Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus?  Yes, as explained in Science and Religion — Conflict or Compatibility?
        2 — If the answer is yes, ask: "Then why do you harshly criticize the theology, and sometimes even the faith and character, of the many Christians (your brothers and sisters in Christ) who have logically and prayerfully examined the evidence, and it has convinced them that the scientific support for an old earth is extremely strong, and an old-earth interpretation of Genesis is justified by the text and is compatible with the full gospel of Jesus and conventional Christian theology?"

At the end of this page you'll find more about the logic of young-earth science (does it claim "2 + 2 = 5"?) and why I'm writing this page.

Evidence-Based Science

3 Multiple Independent Confirmations
(a principle of evidence-based science)
        A Wide Variety of Abundant Evidence: Young-earth theories of flood geology propose that a catastrophic global flood with turbulent fast-moving currents that eroded and transported the massive amounts of sediment required to form immense rock formations that are miles thick produced most of the earth's geology and fossil record. But theory-based predictions (about what we should observe if there was a global flood) don't match what we actually observe when we carefully examine geological formations and the spatial arrangement (both vertically and horizontally) of plant and animal fossils within this geological record. Thus, flood geology fails the central test of scientific method — the logical use of reality checks to compare "the way a theory claims the world is" with "the way the world really is" — because our observations show that the world of flood geology does not match the world of reality.
        Evidence from a wide range of fields — including the study of sedimentary rocks, the geological column, the fossil record in geological context, coral reefs, and seafloor spreading (caused by continental drift) with magnetic reversals, plus (in non-geological fields of science) radioactive dating, genetic molecular clocks, the development of stars, starlight from faraway galaxies, and much more — provides multiple independent confirmations indicating that the earth and universe are billions of years old.
        Because "a long time" is an essential component of many theories that in other ways (such as the domains they explain and the components they include) are relatively independent, and because of the logical relationships involved, suspicions of circular reasoning are not justified.  With this independence, the old-earth evidence is not like a "house of cards" where if one part falls it all falls.  It is more like a strong house with a ceiling supported in many ways: by concrete walls reinforced by steel rods, plus granite pillars, wood beams, and more.  Each support would be sufficient by itself, but when combined the support is even stronger.  The young-earth task of pulling down the "old-earth house" would require discarding much of modern science.  This isn't likely to happen, nor does it seem to be a desirable goal.
        The principle of multiple independent confirmations can be very useful in the logical evaluation of scientific theories.  Its reliability as an indicator of probable truth when (as in questions about age) the confirmations are multiple, independent, and strongly supported by evidence is confirmed by logic and also by its excellent "track record" in the history of science.  This powerful principle of science has convinced almost all scientists that the earth and universe are extremely old, and that scientific evidence-and-logic provides very strong support for this conclusion.

4 Carefully Examine the Details
(important in evidence-based science)
        In his lectures and in a song he teaches children to sing, Ken Ham states that the fossil record is made from "billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth." But reality is far more complex, and when we observe carefully we see details in real geology that could not be produced by flood geology, which therefore fails the reality checks of science.

In the following sections which are independent so you can read them in any order you'll see a careful examination of details in a few of the many situations where young-earth science fails the "reality checks" of scientific method, when we compare predictions of flood geology with observations of reality: A. Fossil Patterns (in forams & isotopes), B. Dry-Land Activities, C. Varve Layers,  D. Coral Reefs,  E. Seafloor Spreading & Magnetic Reversals;  and Multiple Confirmations in  F. Geology, G. Radiometric Dating,  H. Astronomy.

for more information: In the "details" below I'll sometimes refer to sections in two pages, mainly Evidence about Age and also CreationWiki's Flood Geology. I suggest that you keep these pages open, and find the relevant section (using top-of-page links or by searching) when you want to learn more about a topic.

        A Fossil Patterns in Flood Geology and in Reality
        In an effort to explain how a global flood could produce the fossil patterns we observe in the geological record, Henry Morris proposed three mechanisms during the flood:  hydrological sorting (based on size, shape, and density), ecological zonation (with sorting based on habitats and their locations; animals living together, on land or in sea, would be buried together), and differential escape (animals skilled at fleeing, due to speed and/or intelligence, would escape longer and be buried higher).   CreationWiki [Section 2] adds biogeographic zonation (similar to ecological zonation but over a wider area) and tectonic activity (if overthrusts changed the vertical ordering of rock strata).
        But when we carefully examine the fossil patterns observed in real rock formations, we find details that are impossible to explain with these sorting mechanisms, acting individually or in combination. Mark Isaak summarizes a few of the many types of observations that flood geology cannot explain correctly, in Evidence about Age [Fossil Patterns, Part 1].

        A1 A Fossil Pattern (with foraminifera) that is not consistent with Flood Geology
        Foraminifera (often abbreviated to forams) are small sea creatures, 0.1 mm to 10 mm and more.  They have shells with decorations that let us distinguish between species.  Some species are bottom dwellers, but the species that float when alive (but sink after death) are especially interesting due to their widespread distribution in oceans.
        In some sedimentary rocks we observe different foram "floater" species in many layers that together span a large vertical thickness; there is a detailed sequencing, with each species found in only one vertical layer (covering a wide horizontal area) but not in the layers above or below.  The area of a layer can be very wide, so we see a long-range consistency, a "vertical pattern with horizontal extension" in which many foram species (those that were widely distributed throughout the oceans) are arranged in the same vertical sequence all around the world.
        Conventional old-earth geology proposes a logical explanation for this pattern:  The different layers were produced slowly by a steady "rain of fossils from the sea above" over a long period of time in which the foraminifers gradually changed into a variety of time-sequential species with minor differences (*);  the species existing at a particular time produced one layer, then above this another layer was produced by another species that existed at a later time, and so on.  As predicted, the forams are also sorted according to radiometric dating with ages becoming gradually older as we look at lower layers.
        But young-earth flood geology does not explain the patterns:  In a catastrophic global flood, why would all members of one species be deposited in sediments at one level, while other species (with similar hydrological sorting because they have similar size, shape, and density) were deposited entirely within their own separate layers, below and above?  In the turbulent waters proposed by flood geology, with extremely thick layers being deposited every day, the tiny forams would all be jumbled together with no distinct patterns.   (And what about the other mechanisms? differential escape would not be a factor because forams are not actively mobile, and ecological zonation could not produce the precisely detailed long-range patterns we observe.)   For details about foraminifer patterns, see Evidence about Age [search for "microfossil"] and Microfossil Stratigraphy Presents Problems for the Flood by Glenn Morton.

* Yes, this change is evolution, but evolution is a word with many meanings and this evolution of forams does not prove the Total Macro-Evolution (100% natural evolution of all biological complexity and diversity) that is accepted by old-earth evolutionary creationists, but is challenged by old-earth progressive creationists who propose occasional miraculous-appearing divine action during the history of nature, and is one topic for questions about Intelligent Design

        A2 Analogous Pattern (but with isotopes) that is not consistent with Flood Geology
        As implied by the A1/A2 labels and similar titles, the A1-pattern above (with biological forams) is analogous to this A2-pattern (with atomic isotopes).
        Different isotopes of oxygen (such as O-16 and O-18) are atoms of O that differ in weight, but are almost identical in their chemical reactions.  Both isotopes are used to form organic structures (shells,...) & inorganic minerals, and these structures & minerals can become part of sedimentary rock.
        Scientists can measure the istotopic ratio of O-16/O-18, and the ratios for different isotopes of C, S, or Sr.  When they observe isotope-ratios in the organic structures and/or inorganic minerals that were integrated into sedimentary rocks, they observe a sequence pattern that is analogous to the pattern with forams.  Beginning with the rock at an ocean floor and moving upward, they see layers with differing isotope-ratios (for C, O, S, and/or Sr) arranged in a vertical sequence.  And when they look at the layers in ocean-floor rock at widely separated locations, they see the same vertical sequence, so there is a long-range consistency (as with forams) in a detailed "vertical pattern with horizontal extension" all over the world. {details are in Evidence about Age [Fossil Patterns, Part 1]}
        Conventional old-earth geology proposes a logical explanation for this pattern:  The different layers were produced slowly over a long period of time in which the isotope composition of the atmosphere and global seawater changed because of various biological and geological processes;  the seawater isotopes available at a particular time were used in the structures and minerals of one layer, then above this another layer was produced by seawater with different ratios of isotopes, and so on.
        But flood geology cannot explain the patterns:  In the turbulent waters of a catastrophic global flood that quickly deposited sediments, no mechanism (not ecological, hydrological, or escaping; not physical, chemical, or biological) would cause different isotope-atoms to separate into different layers that have the same vertical sequential pattern in all parts of the world.

        B — Dry-Land Activities (biological and geological) during The Flood
        If a catastrophic global flood produced most of the earth's geology, why do we see evidence (at all levels in miles-thick geological formations) showing "dry land" activities — in the everyday life of land animals, and in dry-land geology that could not occur in an underwater environment — at a time when, according to flood geology, the entire world was under water?
       You can read about the evidence for activities of animal life and geology process — the burrows (of several types, both vertical & horizontal), footprints, dinosaur eggs, termite nests, fossil dung, insects in amber, desert varnish on rocks & sand;  the sand dunes, rain drops, mud cracks (in multiple layers), buried river channels & canyons, paleosols (former soils), and evaporative salt beds (containing pollen, plankton, and meteor dust) — in Evidence of Age (Details in Layers) with brief responses in CreationWiki, plus Dry-Land Details in a Global Flood. I encourage you to carefully examine the observed details for each activity, and ask "how could this occur during a global flood?", and then ask (while thinking about the principle of Multiple Independent Confirmations for A1-A2 above, B here, and C-G below) "how could ALL of these occur during a global flood?"

        C Millions of Annual Varve-Layers
        On the bottom of some lakes, ancient and modern, the annual cycle of seasons produces alternating layers of sediment, a light layer (with fine sand and soil) deposited in summer, and a dark layer (with even finer soil) deposited in winter.  Each couplet pair, with a light and dark layer, is called a varve, and we can count varves — analogous to counting annual tree rings — to determine the age of sediments.  Many formations have a lot more than 10,000 varves (lakes in the Green River Formation have 6 million) so this is a problem for those who claim the earth is less than 10,000 years old.varve-layers
        As usual, the old-earth explanation — proposing that during each year one annual varve was formed by a slow "rain of sediments" with characteristics that varied in spring, summer, fall, and winter — fits the facts.  But in contrast with two examples above (A1 and A2) which are usually just ignored, young-earth creationists challenge old-earth claims about varves in two main ways, with questions about fossil fish and non-annual layers.
        Green River sediments contain preserved fossil fish spanning many varve layers, and young-earth creationists claim these fish would have decayed if the varves are annual, with many years passing before the sediment was deep enough to cover the fish.  But stagnant cold water at the bottom of a lake can become anaerobic (with an extremely low amount of dissolved oxygen) and this water, which also was saltier than the water above it, would not support bacteria to produce decay, or scavengers to eat the fish.  Wikipedia says, "varve formation requires the absence of bioturbation [mixing of sediments by bottom-dwelling plants or animals]; consequently, varves commonly form under anoxic conditions [with anaerobic water, depleted of oxygen]."  {details are in Evidence about Age [search for "exploding fish"]}
        At the edge of lakes, some layers are produced by sediment from storm runoffs, and young-earth creationists claim that due to these non-annual layers, we can't know exactly how many of the layers are annual, so conclusions about age are not reliable.  But in the large lakes of Green River, non-annual layers (which don't look the same as annual varves) rarely occur near the center of lakes where almost all layers are annual varves;  this is described in Green River Varves by Glenn Morton, who also explains why many other details (e.g., layers at the edge of lakes were less salty and had a higher isotope ratio of 0-16/0-18, plus astronomical periodicities, volcanic ash events, and more) are expected if most of the lake-center varves form slowly during an entire year. In another page Morton quotes Flint (1971): "The sediment contains pollen grains, whose number per unit volume of sediment varies cyclically being greatest in the upper parts of the dark layers. The pollen grains of various genera are stratified systematically according to the season of blooming. Finally, diatoms [1-celled algae] are twice as abundant in the light-colored layers as in the dark. From this evidence it is concluded that the light layers represent summer seasons and the dark ones fall, winter and spring."lava-layers from Mount St. Helens

        Could multiple thin layers form quickly in a turbulent global flood?  Young-earth creationists say "yes" and cite the experiments of Guy Berthault.  But the layers in his small-scale "test tube" experiments differ in important details from lake varves, which are uniform over large areas (sometimes thousands of square miles) and contain tiny particles of soil that settle slowly (in a month or more) with some so small that they settle only in winter when surface ice prevents the wind agitation that normally keeps these tiny particles suspended.  Would these tiny particles ever settle during a turbulent flood? (and to make 6 million varves, a 1-year flood would have to form a pair of light-and-dark layers every 5 seconds!)
        In his young-earth varves page Kurt Howard says: "There are many nonseasonal mechanisms for producing laminations such as storms, floods, turbidites, glacial meltwater, and spontaneous segregation of dissimilar materials."  But these mechanisms could not form a two-layer varve every 5 seconds, with the details (cyclic variations of pollens,...) observed in varves.  Howard also describes, just before his "conclusion" section, one result of Mount St Helens: "The volcano eruption produced 25 feet of volcanic ash varve-like deposits from hurricane-velocity surging flows in five hours."  But in most ways these "varve-like deposits" are not like varves — the layers are made from different materials, with different hydrological properties, chemistry, coloring, layer thickness,... (compare the two pictures in this section, with thin [0.01 cm] varves and thick layers [8 cm] in an ash hill) — so why does he imply that a layering of volcanic ash provides relevant support for a "flood geology" creation of varves?
        Creationists seem to imply that if ANY layers can form fast, then ALL layers did form fast, but in doing this they ignore important differences in the characteristics of layers. And they imply that conventional geology ignores catastrophic events, but...

Uniformitarianism & Catastrophism in Modern Geology:  Even though young-earth science does make some valid claims for the geological results of occasional catastrophic events (like the eruption of Mount St Helens) this does not contradict the old-earth theories of modern geology, which propose a combination of slow-acting uniformitarian processes and fast-acting catastrophic events such as volcanoes, earthquakes, and floods.

        D — Coral Reefs (growth rates and cycles)
        When scientists measure the height of coral reefs and the average growth rate of corals and consider the upper limits set by metabolic biochemistry, calcium solubility, and subsidence velocity (this is important because reef-foundations must sink slowly so the growing corals can remain underwater but not too far under the surface) and then calculate "height/rate (= distance/speed) = time", they conclude that some reefs are very old.  For example, estimates for three reefs (Eniwetok, Great Bahama, and Great Barrier) are 200 thousand, 800 thousand, and 18 million years.
        Also, the combination of coral-and-earth has interesting details.  The earth's rate of rotation is slowing down, due to the friction caused by tides that are produced by the moon's gravity, so each day (the time required for one rotation) is getting longer, with fewer days per solar year (the time required for earth to orbit the sun).  In astronomy, physics-based math calculations predict that in the Cambrian period each year had 412 days, in the Devonian it was 400, and now it's 365 days per year.  For similar reasons, our lunar month (time required for moon to orbit earth) has decreased from 30.5 days in the Devonian to 29.5 days now. / When corals grow they have cycles (each day, lunar month, and solar year) that produce bands we can observe, like the cyclic annual growth rings of a tree.  When we examine the growth bands in fossil corals, the relative timings of their growth-cycles (the ratios of days per lunar month, and days per solar year) match the change in timings of the earth's rotation;  the lower we look in the geological column, in any part of the world, the more days we see in each lunar month and solar year, with the observed time increases matching those predicted by the physics-and-math of astronomy.
        And there is a match between these astronomical ages (found by counting the days in lunar months and solar years at different depths in the geological column) and the ages determined by geological observations and by radiometric dating. Perry Phillips says, regarding the coral ages determined by radiometric dating, growth rates, and rotational slowdown, "the three processes upon which the dates depend — radioactivity, biological growth, and tidal friction — are independent processes, yet all three combine [with Multiple Independent Confirmations] to form a coherent, natural picture of what is happening."

        E — Seafloor Spreading and Magnetic Reversals
        The continents feel stable but are actually drifting.  When a theory of Continental Drifting was proposed in 1912, it was ridiculed.  Most scientists continued rejecting it until the 1960s when (in modified form as Plate Tectonics) it was accepted due to strong supporting evidence.  One clue is the shoreline shapes (look at eastern South America and western Africa) that "fit together" with a fit that is almost perfect when underwater continental shelves are included.  Other features (rock formations, fossils of plants and animals) also match on these continents, which were together before they began drifting apart 200 million years ago.  Plate tectonics also logically explains earthquake and volcano activities, now and in the past.  But the strongest evidence, which finally persuaded scientists in the 1960s, is the spreading of ocean floors.
        At the mid-Atlantic ridge, for example, molten magma (similar to volcanic lava) slowly rises from under the seafloor to its surface, then cools to form solid basalt.  This new ocean-bottom crust pushes the existing crust outward all along the ridge west toward North & South America, and east toward Europe and Africa so these continents slowly drift apart.  {You may be wondering, "if the Atlantic is expanding, is the Pacific shrinking?"  In a worldwide process that is too complex to describe here, new crust forms (and causes spreading) at ridges, while some crust is disappearing at other locations. }  The trans-Atlantic continents have been drifting apart for the past 200 million years, and during this time the earth's magnetic field has reversed many times;  it pointed north sometimes, as it does now, and south sometimes.
        At the ridge, hot molten magma becomes magnetized, then it cools to form solid new crust that is permanently magnetized.  As the crust moves outward, occasionally the magnetic field reverses direction so the newly forming crust becomes magnetized in the opposite direction.  Thus, we observe a series of long north/south stripes (parallel to the ridge) moving west and east, with magnetism of alternating polarity (normal and reversed) pointing north, south, north, south,...
Seafloor Spreading & Magnetic Reversals
        The zebra-like stripes were formed because new crust was being magnetized while moving outward from the ridge (where magnetizing occurs) in a process similar to a VCR tape being magnetized while moving past the recording heads (where magnetizing occurs).  This animation may help you visualize the process.  The timings of magnetic reversals are irregular and distinctive (as shown in the left diagram) like a fingerprint pattern, and reversal patterns are the same on both sides of a ridge, with approximate west-and-east mirror symmetry.
        The age of a magnetized "stripe of crust" can be determined in several ways:
  Ģ We can measure the ridge-to-stripe distance and, using laser technology, the current speed of drifting.  Then, assuming constant speed, we use "distance/speed = time" to calculate the stripe's age.
  Ģ The age of basalt (the mineral in a stripe) can be determined by radiometric dating.
  Ģ Ocean sediment gradually accumulates atop ocean-bottom crust.  At the ridge, newly formed crust has no sediment, but stripes further from the ridge (and thus older) have a thicker layer of sediment because it has accumulated for a longer time.  We can measure the current rate of increase in sediment thickness, and use "thickness/rate = time" to calculate age.
  Ģ We can also use radiometric dating to find the age of various layers in the sediment.
        There is a close match between all four determinations of age:  by horizontal distance/speed and radiometric dating for a crust-stripe;  and for the lowest (and thus oldest) layer of sediment on top of this stripe, by vertical thickness/rate and radiometric dating.
        Also, some features produced by plate tectonics can be compared with some non-tectonic geological features, and we find a match.

        F — Multiple Confirmations in Geology
        Mark Isaak outlines the many Problems with a Global Flood which include geological problems in Sections 5-7.
        Section 5, The Flood Itself, asks "Where did the Flood water come from, and where did it go?"  Isaak describes young-earth responses — Vapor Canopy, Hydroplate, Comet, Runaway Subduction — and briefly explains why, when we "consider all the implications of their models," each model is not satisfactory.
        Section 6, Implications of a Flood, asks 5 questions  —  How do you explain the relative ages of mountains?  Why is there no evidence of a flood in ice cores?  How are the polar ice caps (with ice cores) even possible?  Why did the Flood not leave traces on the sea floors?  Why is there no evidence of a flood in tree ring dating?  —  that flood geology cannot answer in a satisfactory way.
        Section 7, Producing the Geological Record, is 20 questions asking whether a global flood could produce a wide variety of observed geological features:   an organized fossil record with many patterns (in addition to those in A1 and A2), geological eras (in miles-thick columns, consistent in many ways all over the world), detailed layering of carbonate in miles-thick formations, and the relative numbers of aquatic & terrestrial fossils;   surface features (as in Section B) deep in the geological column far under the surface of flood waters, including angular nonconformities (with details that require process and time), salt deposits (how did they evaporate during the flood?), fossil forests (in multiple layers) with soil and roots;   varves (as in C), chalk deposits (made from tiny organisms that settle at .5 meter/year);   corals (with growth correlated to astronomy, as in D);   huge numbers of fossil animals (how could they all fit on earth when the flood began?), huge amounts of organic matter (including coal) from pre-flood vegetation (an earth-sized forest would produce less than 2% of this, so how could it all fit on earth?), limestone deposits (requiring lots of shell-organisms);   valleys (some carved by slow glacial erosion) and mountains, granite batholiths (formed by slow processes), modified sedimentary rocks (recrystallized and deformed by slow metamorphosis), fossil mineralization (usually a slow process);   hematite layers (impossible in oxygen-rich atmosphere of Noah's Flood?);   heat-producing processes (volcanic magma, limestone formation, meteor impacts, radioactive decay, biological decay, plus more heat with any of the four models in Section 5) during a global flood would boil away all ocean water and then it would take millions of years for earth to cool.

        We also find Multiple Old-Earth Confirmations that are independent, yet mutually supportive and consistent, in non-geological areas of science:

        G — Multiple Confirmations in Radiometric Dating
        Almost all scientists who understand Radiometric Dating think it is a reliable way to determine dates (how old is it? when did it exist?) for a wide range of organic and inorganic structures.  One reason for confidence is the consistency between ages determined in different independent ways.  For example,
        in A1 the layer-dates obtained by analyzing geology, forams, diatoms, and radiometric dating all give consistent results;  one consistency is that when we test layers lower in the geological column, we find older radiometric dates.
        in A2 all istotopes are stable (not radioactive) and mass spectrometry is used to analyze isotope ratios, which are more reliable due to the stability of isotopes.
        in B, radiometric dating is not necessary because the problem for flood geology is when we ask "why, in the middle of a flood, do we see biological and geological dry-land activities?"
        in C there is a match between the ages found by simply counting varve layers (like counting tree rings) and by C-14 dating of organic material (pollen,...) in varves.
        in D the agreement between independent dating methods — by radiometric dating, calculating rotational slowdown, and counting coral growth rings, plus observing geology — is described earlier.
        in E there is a match between ages (for crust and sediment) found by radiometric dating and by distance/speed & thickness/rate.
        in F, most geological observations (of rock formations, geological column, ice cores,...) can be cross-checked with radiometric dating, which agrees with the dates from geology.
        In addition, flood geology has a problem with heat.  A major young-earth research project, RATE (Radioisotopes and Age of the Earth), concedes the occurrence of "more than 500 million years worth (at today’s rates) of nuclear and radioisotope decay.”  This decay occurs throughout the geological formations that, according to flood geology, were produced by the flood.  Therefore RATE must propose that almost all of this decay occurred during the one-year flood, because for some unknown reason the decay rate for certain atoms (but not others) was extremely high (but only for a year, not before or after).  The heat problem is described by Larry Vardiman, a member of RATE: "The amount of heat produced by a decay rate of a million times faster than normal during the year of the Flood could potentially vaporize the earth’s oceans, melt the crust, and obliterate the surface of the earth. (Unresolved Problems in RATE)"  It seems that their global flood really was catastrophic!  The heat problem is magnified by other sources of heat but flood geology has no solutions.

        H Multiple Confirmations in Astronomy
        In astronomy, scientists study the entire universe, including the characteristics and development of stars, galaxies, and planets.  Almost all astronomers think there is a wide variety of evidence in cosmology of the Big Bang, physics of star fusion, light from distant stars, and more showing us that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old.
        The cosmology and physics are too complex to summarize here, but the question about distant starlight is simple:  If the universe has existed for less than 10 thousand years, how can we see light from stars that are a long distance from us, if this light would take billions of years to reach us?  Advocates of a young earth-and-universe can challenge each term in the equation "distance to star / speed of light  =  time of travel", or claim that starlight was created "in transit" to earth (so the starlight we see did not actually come from a star) and the distance actually traveled after creation is much less than the distance from star to earth, which would give the starlight a false appearance of old age.  These four responses are described in ASTRONOMY and AGE OF THE UNIVERSE but a careful examination shows that each response is unsatisfactory.

Young-Earth Creation Science Part 2

Before you continue reading, I'll remind you about the warning and suggestion earlier in this page, and will add another suggestion:  If you're not confident that "God's wonderful plan for us will work whether the earth is young or old" and "the full gospel of Jesus is fully compatible with a young earth or old earth," I hope you'll read the concluding section about The Best and Worst Outcomes for you as a person before you read what is below.

        If you have carefully examined Sections A-H with an open mind by asking, "in a neutral evaluation of the evidence, based on logic rather than personal preference, what would be the conclusion?" I think you'll agree that the scientific support for an old earth is extremely strong, with multiple independent confirmations.  Conventional old-earth theories correctly explain the major features of geology, plus important details.  By contrast, young-earth flood geology repeatedly fails the logical reality checks of scientific method for a wide variety of observations.
        Of course, Ken Ham knows that the geology is more complex than his overly simplistic slogan, "billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth," and young-earth scientists make a valiant effort to construct theories that are consistent with the detailed evidence.  But they are failing.  Why?
        Based on what we learn by carefully studying the world created by God, it seems almost certain that the earth really is old.  If an old earth is true (if it corresponds to reality) then trying to make observations of reality fit into a theory of young-earth flood geology is like trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole, which is impossible because in reality there is not a match between the shapes of peg and hole.  In a similar way, a mismatch between reality and flood geology is the most logical explanation for why young-earth science fails in so many reality checks over such a wide range of science.
        Or consider a game of Whac-a-Mole, which is similar in some ways (but not others) to coping with the reality checks of science.  When young-earth science tries to solve one problem by proposing catastrophic plate tectonics (so flood water could cover currently high mountains) or rapid radioactive decay (to match observations of decay) this causes other problems to "pop up" due to excessive heat.  And rapid water currents (generated by the physics of a global flood) are required to produce some observed geological features, but are incompatbile with the existence of other geological features that require calm water and lots of settling time.

        Young-earth science cannot explain small details (like the forams, isotopes, and varves in Sections A & C) and it also fails in big ways, as in the catastrophic heat problems that would vaporize oceans and melt crust.  The heat problem for young-earth science is described by Randy Isaac in his review of RATE's book, Thousands not Billions: "The authors admit that a young-earth position cannot be reconciled with the scientific data without assuming that exotic solutions will be discovered in the future.  No known thermodynamic process could account for the required rate of heat removal nor is there any known way to protect organisms from radiation damage. ... Yet they are so confident that these problems will be resolved that they encourage a message that the reliability of [their young-earth interpretation of] the Bible has been confirmed." 
        You can see this bold message in ICR's homepage for RATE which proudly proclaims their "Exciting Research Results" providing "Evidence for a Young World," and claims that their non-technical version of Thousand not Billions will "equip the layperson to defend scientific six-day creation and refute modern dating techniques... [by showing how] ...the results [of RATE] confirm the Scriptural account" of a recent 144-hour creation.  So, how do they solve the heat problem, and explain the fact that radiometric dates are consistent with the wide variety of independent non-radiometric observations in Sections A-F?
        Ģ FAITH:  In dogmatic young-earth creationism, open-minded scientific evaluation is not an option.  A young earth is the starting point for their science, which is conclusion first so it "cannot be falsified by any scientific data."
        Ģ FUTURE SCIENCE:  They can hope that "exotic solutions will be discovered in the future" even though, based on everything we know about general principles that are the foundations of physics, there is no possible solution for the heat problems associated with a young earth and global flood.
        Ģ APPEARANCE OF AGE:  In his famous book, The Genesis Flood (1961), Henry Morris claimed that we sometimes observe a false appearance of old age, which is caused by an apparent history indicating old age.  He made this claim to explain why several types of radiometric dating yield the same numerical value for age (and often it's a very old age) when each method is used independently to determine the age of the same object.  Similarly, for questions about distant starlight a common response is that starlight was created in transit to earth, so the starlight actually is young even though it appears to be old.  But even though I think "theories proposing Apparent Age are worthy of careful, respectful consideration,... a theory of Actual Age... is preferable;  an old universe with true actual history avoids misleading us with false apparent history, is scientifically supported, theologically satisfactory, matches our common sense intuitions about the reality of our experiences, and provides a solid foundation for science and for living by faith." (from Apparent Age & Theology)
        Ģ MIRACLES:  An event is a miracle when we do observe it even though it "could not happen" according to the normal behavior of nature.  Christians believe that God occasionally does miracles, so if there was a global flood that would not naturally produce what is observed, we should seriously consider the possibility that God did miracles to produce what is observed.  Although it's rare for this to be explicitly proposed by young-earth scientists, "multiple miracles" seems to be the only possible explanation that is consistent with a young earth and young universe, when we carefully examine the evidence.  The miracles could have been accomplished by a temporary change in the "laws of nature" (which are governed and actualized by God) during the flood, and by God doing on-the-spot customized miracles in whatever ways were necessary to produce everything we now observe.   /   But we should ask an important theological question:  Why would God produce everything we observe in a false apparent history with many non-essential details (in patterns of forams & isotopes, and much more) when these details would not be necessary to create a mature world that was suitable for Adam and Eve in Eden?  And although many miracles, covering a wide range of phenomena, are recorded in the Bible, during the flood there is no reporting of major miracles of the many types needed to produce geology and remove heat.  And the goal of flood geology is to explain how a global flood would naturally produce what we observe, without miracles, so when we evaluate flood geology and ask "whose theory is being repaired" we see an important difference:  young-earth creationists need flood miracles to fix a weakness in a theory (flood geology) they are proposing;  by contrast, old-earth creationists propose creation miracles due to perceived weakness in a theory (all-natural evolution) they are criticizing.

        Young-Earth Education
        How do advocates of a young earth respond to the mountain of evidence for an old earth and old universe in many areas of science, including geology (A-F), radiometric dating (G), and astronomy (H)?
        In a minority response, the strength of this evidence is acknowledged by a few conscientious young-earth scientists who respond with appropriate humility.
        But in typical young-earth education in books, websites, lectures, and workshops there is very little humility.  Instead there are bold claims, made with a confidence that is not logically justifiable, about their interpretations of scripture (in theology) and nature (in science).  We see bold claims for the certainty of their interpretation of Genesis (notice that this claim is about their interpretation of the Bible), and we see scientific explanations that may sound impressive (at least for their main audience of non-scientists) but are not satisfactory when the evidence-and-logic is carefully examined.
        Because a careful examination decreases the effectiveness of their arguments, most young-earth websites don't want their followers to understand the strong scientific support for an old earth, and the weak theological support for their own "conclusion first" science, so they don't link to pages in old-earth websites.  But old-earth websites do link to young-earth pages.  You can see both views, old earth and young earth, in AGE OF THE EARTH - SCIENCE.  And you can decide whether you agree with my conclusion that the six days of Genesis 1 form a logical framework for creation history that is age-neutral, so the Bible does not teach anything about the earth's age.

        Can you prove it?
        Can science prove the earth is old?  No.  In science, proof is impossible.  But scientists can develop a high level of logically justified confidence in the truth or falsity of a theory.  Almost all open-minded scientists who carefully examine the evidence have concluded that an old earth is proved beyond any reasonable doubt, so claims that "the earth is young" and "2 + 2 = 5" seem equally foolish.  But there is a difference.  Anyone who understands four simple concepts ( 2 , + , = , 5 ) will know that "2 + 2 = 5" is wrong.  By contrast with this simplicity, questions about age are complex;  and a "multiple confirmations" approach requires an investment of time if you want to understand each area of science, even when the main ideas are coherently summarized, as in this page.  And it's easy for non-scientists to be confused by young-earth arguments that "sound impressive" even though these arguments are not impressive for scientists who understand the evidence-and-logic more completely.

        Why does it matter?  (a personal perspective from the author)
        I wrote this page because I think everyone, and especially Christians, should be seekers of truth.  If an old earth is the truth (because it corresponds to reality, because the earth really is old) this should be acknowledged by Christians.
        In our search for truth, how should we use information from scripture and nature?  For the most important things in life — for learning about God and how He wants us to live and love — the Bible is more important.  But for other questions we don't have to make an either-or choice;  instead we can learn from both scripture and nature, and our understanding of total reality (spiritual plus physical) will be more complete and accurate.  This approach was approved by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (1982) when they affirmed that "in some cases extrabiblical data have value for clarifying what Scripture teaches, and for prompting correction of faulty interpretations."  This type of correction happened between 1500 and 1700.  In 1500, most people were wrong in their interpretations of nature (thinking the earth was stationary) and scripture (thinking it taught a stationary earth).  But in 1700, most educated people were correct in their interpretations of nature (yes, the earth moves) and scripture (no, the Bible does not teach a stationary earth).
In 1700, and in 2009, almost all devout Christians are persuaded (by strong scientific evidence) that the earth moves;  this motivates us to carefully examine "stationary earth" passages in the Bible, and we find strong reasons to conclude that the Bible does not teach a stationary earth.  In a similar way, many devout Christians are persuaded (by strong scientific evidence) that the earth is old;  this motivates us to carefully examine "young earth" passages in the Bible, and we find strong reasons to conclude that the Bible does not teach a young earth.  I think these conclusions are the best possible result in a search for truth, because it seems extremely probable that we have correct interpretations of nature (the earth moves and is old) and also scripture (no, the Bible does not teach us that the earth is stationary or young).
        At the other end of the spectrum, I think the worst result occurs when a Christian believes the unwise conclusion-first argument claiming that "if the earth is not young, the Bible is not true" and then concludes — based on a logical evaluation of evidence from nature — that the earth is not young, so the Bible is not true, and faith is weakened or abandoned.  Another spiritual loss occurs when non-Christians who are earnest seekers of truth — but who mistakenly think a young earth and Jesus are a "package deal" so they must believe both or neither — decide that they should reject the whole package because, based on their knowledge of science, they conclude that the earth is not young.

        Living by Faith
        The goal of a Christian is to live by faith in Christ, to make decisions throughout each day on the basis of trust in God's character and promises.  If your faith is affected by anything, including your views of science-and-Christianity, it will affect the way you live.  If you see a conflict between the claims of science (saying "the earth is old") and your interpretation of the Bible (if you think it teaches a young earth, so "if the earth is old, the Bible is not true"), this perceived conflict can be a challenge to your personal faith and the quality of your Christian living.
        Therefore this page will end the way it began, by confidently proclaiming that there is no actual conflict because "God's wonderful plan for us will work whether the earth is young or old" because "the full gospel of Jesus is fully compatible with a young earth or old earth."  If you are not confident about the truth of this statement, I hope you will read Biblical Theology for young-earth Christians.