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Age of the Earth and Universe

 ( Part 2 — Scientific Evidence & Perspectives ) 

A brief overview of this page is in the homepage for Origins Evidence.

Sections in this page:
Historical Science — Can we reach reliable conclusions? 

Overviews of Young-Earth Science & Old-Earth Science 

Selected Topics with Age-Science Claims and Responses 

Learn more about Noah's Flood, Geology, Radiometry, and Astronomy 

We should use all of the information provided for us by God, so usually the reasons for adopting an "age of the universe" view are both scientific (the focus in this page) and theological (the focus in AGE OF THE EARTH & UNIVERSE - THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES).

This page describes high-quality educational resources on the web — with views from a variety of perspectives — that we think you'll find interesting and useful, that will stimulate your thinking and help you explore a wide range of ideas.   {information & disclaimer}

      Historical Science — Can it be reliable?
      We cannot directly observe ancient history, but can we — by a logical analysis of historical evidence (in fields like astronomy, geology, paleontology, evolutionary biology, and archaeology) — reach reliable conclusions about what happened in the past, on the earth and in other parts of the universe?  Young-earth creationists ask "Were you there? Did you see it?", and imply that "NO" means "then you can't know much about it."  What can we know, and how?

This section is now in its own page — HISTORICAL SCIENCE — which looks at criticisms and responses, and says that "officially, ASA does not have a position on historical science" but "unofficially, most members of ASA think the essential foundation of historical science — the logical evaluation of evidence about the past — provides a reliable way to learn about the history of nature."

      How old are the earth and universe?
      Most scientists think there is overwhelming scientific evidence, from a wide variety of fields, proving (beyond any reasonable doubt) that the earth and universe are very old, with ages of approximately 4.55 and 13.7 billion years, respectively.  But proponents of young-earth theories challenge the evaluations that lead to old-earth conclusions.
      The rest of this page looks at scientific evidence and logic that can help us answer questions about age.  Our goal is to help you get an accurate understanding, so we've tried to find "the best information and arguments that all sides of an issue can claim as support."  And even though the overall result won't be NEUTRAL, "we will try to be FAIR by letting representatives of each perspective clearly express their own views and criticize other views, and by treating their views with respect."  (quotes from Accurate Understanding and Respectful Attitudes)

      Typically, advocates of a young earth claim there are only two basic views of origins:  young-earth creation (Christian) and old-earth evolution (atheistic).  They define all old-earth views as "evolutionary" and imply that an old-earth view cannot be authentically Christian.  They ignore the important differences between three questions (when, how, who) and use "when" to define the answer to all three.  But the actual situation is not this simple, as you can see in THREE VIEWS OF CREATION

For all age-questions, we encourage you to carefully examine the scientific evidence-and-logic.
But it's more important to ask, "Is young-earth belief an essential part of Christian theology?"
and ask yourself whether it seems wise to insist that "if the earth is not young, the Bible is not true."

      You can jump to Selected Topics or begin with these Overviews & Responses:

      Old-Earth Science Overviews (geology & more)
      • Craig Rusbult explains the logical principle of Multiple Independent Confirmations — regarding what we can conclude from the fact that "abundant evidence from a wide range of fields... indicates that the earth and universe are billions of years old" — and summarizes Scientific Evidence for an Old Earth from a wide range of fields.
      • Deborah Haarsma & Loren Haarsma briefly summarize Geological Evidence [before 1840] for an Old Earth.
      • Hill Roberts — Evidences (*) That Have Led Many Scientists to Accept An Ancient Date for Creation of the Earth and Universe.  (* from geology, radiometric dating, plate tectonics, astronomy, and the Bible)
      • David Leveson explains how scientists determine the relative ages and absolute ages of rock formations.
      • Mark Isaak asks 20 tough questions about Producing the Geological Record in a Global Flood.
      • Answers In Creation offers a free Online Geology Curriculum for homeschoolers, or anyone who wants to learn.
      • Greg Neyman, from Answers in Creation, examines stratigraphy (science of geological layers) in the western United States, especially the Grand Canyon, and EarthHistory evaluates young-earth theories in the conclusion of a 5-part series about the Grand Canyon.
      • Dan Wonderly — The Date of Creation: Bible-Compatible Evidences for Great Age and other resources from Wonderly.

      Young-Earth Science Overviews (geology & more)
      • John Morris proposes major geological changes during Creation Week and Noah's Flood.
      • Tas Walker offers a 12-page series about Biblical Geology.
      • Arthur Chadwick outlines a Creation/Flood Model.
      • claims for young-earth evidence (from geology, radiometric dating, astronomy,...) by Russell Humphreys and Carl Wieland and Jonathan Sarfati.
      • a summary (by Ashby Camp) of ideas in Faith, Form and Time (a book by Kurt Wise, a prominent young-earth scientist).
      • and within the community of young-earth creation scientists, debates about theories and approaches.

      Old-Earth Responses (geology & more)
      Advocates of young-earth flood geology often point to a geological feature caused by a fast-acting catastrophic event (a flood, volcano,...) and imply that this proves old-earth geology is wrong because it insists that ALL geological features were produced by slow-acting uniformitarian processes.  But modern conventional geological science, which is accepted by almost all geologists, is a "hybrid combination" proposing that slow uniformitarian processes produced most features, but fast catastrophic events produced some features, as explained by Mark Isaak and Greg Neyman.
      Two young-earth models (for plate tectonics & radiometric dating) are evaluated by Deborah Haarsma & Loren Haarsma and Greg Neyman examines catastrophic plate tectonics and provides links (1 at start, 7 at end) where you can learn more.  Twenty young-earth books are reviewed by Greg Neyman & others who explain why "the scientific arguments [for a young earth & young universe] are completely void of any credible evidence."
      Hundreds of questions — about the when and how of origins, in areas of geology, physics, astronomy, biology, and beyond — were examined by Mark Isaak (for Talk Origins) and then Greg Neyman (for Answers in Creation),who give brief responses (*) that are labeled "TO" and "AiC" in the topics-table below.   In a similar way, except in one big page instead of many small ones, Matthew Tiscareno and Brent Dalrymple present old-earth evidence while responding to a variety of young-earth claims;  and, for a smaller range of questions, Chris Stassen;  and a collection of small pages assembled, by Craig Rusbult, from the topics-pages below.

      Young-Earth Responses (geology & more)
      One response is to acknowledge the weakness of current young-earth science, but hope it will improve in the future and will become more satisfactory.   { But most scientists think this optimism is not justified, since the abundant evidence for an old earth (and old universe) occurs in so many different areas, covering a wide range of phenomena, and is strong in each area. }   Another response is to claim that their own logical analysis of the evidence is better than the conventional analysis:
      Tas Walker responds to old-earth arguments and there is a 3-part series (OE YE OE) about The Problems of Flood Geology by Mark Isaak (OE) & Jonathan Sarfati (YE) & Brad Henke (OE), and a comprehensive page about The Fossil Record by Sean Pitman.   * For counter-responses to the responses from TalkOrigins, CreationWiki summarizes many young-earth claims.

      Radiometric Dating — Overviews & Responses
      • Principles and applications are explained by the Haarsmas and Roger Wiens (briefly & in detail) and Jonathon Woolf & Brent Dalrymple & Hill Roberts.  The reliability of radiometric dating is challenged in AIG's Answer Book (Ham, Sarfati & Wieland) and by Clyde Webster and in Arthur Chadwick's 56-part FAQ but Brent Dalrymple responds to these criticisms.
      • The results of RATE (Radioactivity and the Age of The Earth), a young-earth research project by ICR, are described in book-outlines of Thousands not Billions (popular level) and Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (technical level);  a dialogue in ASA's journal begins with Assessing the RATE Project by Randy Isaac (June 2007) followed (in March 2008) by response & replies from RATE plus Randy Isaac and Kirk Bertsche;  expanded responses from RATE authors, Isaac, and Bertsche, plus Gary Loechelt and others, are in RATE AND RADIOMETRIC DATING.   /   The claims of RATE are also criticized by Stephen Meyers & Greg Neyman and others.

      Astronomy — Overviews & Responses
      To help you learn quickly and well, here are some carefully selected resources:
      • explanations of the Big Bang Expansion:  a brief overview and Cosmology 101 (a series from NASA) and Three Evidences (by Perry Phillips) and news + FAQ + tutorial (from Ned Wright).
      • old-universe claims by TO and Hill Roberts;  a good overview of current young-universe astronomy by Danny Faulkner;  young-universe claims by Don DeYoung and Jonathan Sarfati (with science plus Galileo).  The overviews & responses above also include some astronomy, especially in Humphreys (topics 1-3), and TO's Topic-List & Tiscareno (astronomy plus the final topic in page, Star Distances).

      There is plenty of evidence for the Big Bang, as described in the above (in the overview, Cosmo 101, Phillips, Wright) and by Hugh Ross & TO (brief) & TalkOrigins (in depth), plus responses to 10 Problems for the Big Bang (Richard Deem) and Complexity & The Second Law (Craig Rusbult).  David Berlinski (OE) wonders what happened before the beginning and Apologetics Press (YE, A B) describes science history and science.  John Hartnett and Carl Wieland think disagreements among OE-scientists shows the Big Bang theory is in trouble, but Greg Neyman (A B) explains that this is just how science works.  Astronomy (about Distant Starlight, Big Bang, and Solar System) is in Chapters 1-3 of an excellent book (available online) by Robert Newman & Perry Phillips, Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth (2nd Edition, 2007).
      You can also learn about Distant Starlight (plus Light Speed Slowdown & White Hole Cosmology) and more in ASTRONOMY — AGE OF THE UNIVERSE.

      Scientific Methods and Logical Evaluations
      This page begins by asking, Can we use historical science to get reliable information about the history of nature?
      Usually, advocates of a young earth say NO.  Frank Sherwin, a young-earth scientist, seems to disagree when he explains why scientists should Follow the Evidence but John Morris thinks scientists cannot study the past with confidence so Biblical interpretation (not historical science) is the most reliable way to know the history of nature.   Ken Ham agrees;  he thinks the old-earth conclusions of conventional science are not due to scientific evidence-and-logic, they are caused by scientists looking through a sinful secular lens (not a Biblical lens) with old-earth presuppositions;  he thinks we should return to Biblical authority and should not "start outside the Bible to (re)interpret the Words of Scripture" but (as explained by Craig Rusbult) he doesn't follow his own advice when he asks, does the earth rotate and orbit?
      To gather information about their young-earth (YE) views of science, ask a YE believer, "Is there any scientific evidence that would convince you the earth is old?"   If they answer yes, ask "then why do you harshly criticize the theology (and sometimes 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?"   If they say no, ask "should a scientist reach a conclusion before examining the evidence?"
      Greg Neyman describes the conclusion first approach of YE "scientists" and the tendency of young-earth believers to avoid old-earth evidence, and the fact that YE websites don't link to pages with OE evidence-and-logic so it won't be seen by their YE followers;  and Glenn Morton explains how, when he was a YE believer, his Morton's [YE] Demon prevented him from seeing any non-YE evidence.
      How can we wisely use information from THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD in Scripture and Nature?

      Selected Topics
      The table below shows age-claims (•) and responses from two perspectives, young earth (YE) and old earth (OE).  If you want to study these topics (and many others) in more depth, you can explore four pages — for NOAH'S FLOOD, GEOLOGY, RADIOMETRIC DATING, and ASTRONOMY — that contain plenty of educational resources.

For a variety of reasons — personal and interpersonal, spiritual and scientific — it's important to ask, "Is young-earth belief an essential part of Christian theology?"

note:  Information about size (such as "8 k") is for the main part of a page, not including end-references; the "AiC" and "TO" pages are brief, usually about 1 k, as explained above.

  Coral Reefs — a YE solution?
  Paula Weston describes coral biology, with appendix (not by her?) claiming Barrier Reef is 3700 years old (10 k) [OE: but reefs grow only when they're under water] (3 k);  Tas Walker claims that fossil reefs aren't reefs (2 k).
Coral Reefs — a problem for YE?
  Why do scientists think reefs required a long time to grow?  Perry Phillips describes principles (8 k) and timing-details (5 k) that are summarized by Don Lindsay (2 k), and Dan Wonderly provides in-depth analysis of reefs (50 k).
AIG claims a fast growth rate (3 k) but EarthHistory says it's not that fast (8 k for Part 1 in 2-part page).   Roth-1979 is often cited, re: fast rates, but Ariel Roth (in 1995) barely mentions his own paper when he asks, are fossil reefs really reefs? (29 k);  and EarthHistory explains why yes, they are reefs (40 k).
  Varve Layers — a YE solution?
  In some rock formations we observe millions of thin layers that, according to conventional geology, were produced in millions of years.
  An overview of young-earth responses, from John Morris (3 k) and, in more detail, Kurt Howard (10 k).
  How do layers form?  Andrew Snelling's overview of layering (5 k) introduces the sedimentation experiments of Guy Berthault.
Varve Layers — a problem for YE?
  Explanations of what varves are (and what they tell us about time) from Don Lindsay (1 k), Perry Phillips (4 k), and Glenn Morton describes the uniformity & details (1 k & 2 k).
  Can varves form in less than a year?  AiC  TO
  The Truth about Varves by Greg Neyman (11 k) plus varve-ideas (19 k) from Jonathan Sarfati (YE), and Kevin Henke.
Varves and Fossils in the Green River Formation are examined by Paul Garner (YE, 6 k) and — with careful attention to important details — Glenn Morton (OE, 41 k);  also Michael Oard (YE, 17 k) and Greg Neyman (OE, 9 k);  and focusing on fossils, John Whitmore (YE, 6 k) and Daniel Woolley (YE, 23 k) and Don Lindsay (OE, 3 k). ==[find OE w fish]
  Patterns of Small Fossils — a YE solution?
  Tammy Tosk looks at relationships between microfossil patterns and flood geology principles (22 k) and — without trying to explain the patterns — Frank Sherwin discusses microfossil evolution (3 k).
Patterns of Small Fossils — a problem for YE?
  In a very tough question for YE theories, Glenn Morton asks whether young-earth flood geology can explain fossil patterns in foraminifer microfossils (21 k) and we see similar patterns for pollen (4 k) and isotopic changes (5 k+).
note:  The problem for flood geology is the patterns, because the "evolution" in the patterns requires only minor macro-evolution (with small differences between successive species) which is accepted by most young-earth creationists.  If you have any doubts about the overwhelming scientific evidence for an old earth, study these pages carefully;  and you can also think about the many other Multiple Independent Confirmations above and below.
  The Geological Column — an explanation?
  John Morris and Steven Austin describe a young-earth theory about layered strata (3 k) and ten misconceptions about the geological column. (10 k)
  The Geological Column — an explanation?
  Does the entire geological column exist (TO) in proper sequence (AiC TO) with meteor craters (TO) and meteorites (TO), and could it be deposited by a global flood? (AiC TO)
  Grand Canyon — an explanation?
  You can buy ICR's Grand Canyon book but it's not available on the web, and I haven't found a "GC series" like those on the right.  But there are small pages — such as John Morris (4 k) & William Hoesch (3 k) & AIG (2 k) — plus Gary Parker (30 k).
  Grand Canyon — an explanation?
  Greg Neyman reviews ICR's book about the Grand Canyon (intro - 71 k for Chapters 3 & 4 & 5), Jon Woolf (4 pages for 83 k),  GC Explorer (description + explanation for 28 k),  EarthHistory (5 pages for 172 k, including an excellent conclusion).
Two YE pages about the GC (Tas Walker & Tom Vail) claim that rocks/layers cannot bend without breaking but TO and Greg Neyman disagree.
The origin of sandstones (Coconino & Navajo) in the GC are debated by Snelling & Austin versus AiC & TO & Neyman (A B).

  How were fossils formed, and what can they tell us about age of the earth?
  Each view should be criticized for what it is, not what it isn't.  A central educational goal of this website is to describe all views accurately, and not allow any distorted "strawman" caricatures built by opponents of a view.  In the pages below, it's clear that OEs propose a combination of slow-acting uniform process and fast-acting catastrophic events, as explained earlier.  But YEs often imply that OEs think ALL features were formed slowly by an accumulation of small events, with NO features formed quickly by relatively large events.  When you read, think carefully with alert awareness, and don't allow any inaccurate strawmen in your thinking.
  Basic Fossil Principles are explained by Don Lindsay (OE, A B C D) and John Morris (YE, A B).
  Rapid Rocks:  Does OE claim that ALL rocks and fossils are formed slowly?  Consider some YE claims (by John Morris, AIG, and Tas Walker) and OE responses (by Greg Neyman):  YE OE - YE - YE OE.  When you're evaluating the relevance of analogies, think about similarities and also differences between the analogy-situation and actual-situation.  For example, don't just ask "Can a rock form quickly?", also ask "Could this rock form quickly?"  And the problem for YE is not speed, it's geological context.
  YEs claim their position is supported by mass burials (YE OE) and polystrate (upright, in situ) fossils: YE OE.  YEs claim that SOME fossils formed quickly, and OEs agree but they disagree with a YE implication that ALL formed quickly (A B) and they wonder about numbers (OE YE).  Here are pairs about moulting (YE OE) and birth (YE OE), a dino (YE OE) and whales (YE OE), plus contorted fossils [OE] and a "how fast" overview [YE].

  Fossil Patterns in Geology — YE solutions?
  Tas Walker introduces basic principles (7 k) and Jim Gibson analyzes fossil patterns (48 k).

Fossil Patterns in Geology — a problem for YE?
  Do fossil patterns exist, and are they explained by ecological zonation or hydrology or ability to escape or a combination of these factors? (TO)   Glenn Morton describes some fossil patterns. (plus Patterns of Small Fossils)

Although fossil patterns provide information about both age and evolution, WHEN and HOW are different questions about creation.  Evidence for basic fossil evolution strongly supports an old earth, but it doesn't clearly distinguish between old-earth evolutionary creation and old-earth progressive creation.
  Does the claim for a "geological column" assume evolution (AiC TO) and does it use circular reasoning by dating strata with fossils, and fossils with strata? (YE OE)
  An "expansion of fossil ranges" is criticized by John Woodmorappe (22 k) but TO and Greg Neyman (6 k) explain why it's a normal part of open-minded science.  Views of fossil patterns by Ken Ham and Greg Neyman.
Dinosaur Blood in Old Layers — a problem for OE?
  A "sensational dinosaur blood report" from Carl Wieland plus a followup.
  Is dino tissue a "devastating issue" for OE?  Frank Sherwin & Carl Wieland
  Dinosaur Blood in Old Layers — an OE solution?
  dino-fossils with blood cells?  TO & Greg Neyman & Gary Hurd
  and soft tissues?  TO & Rich Deem & Gary Hurd
a tissue claim (AIG) & response (Greg Neyman), plus blood and tissue with Greg Moore & Carl Wieland:  GM  GM  CW  GM
  Details within Layers — YE solutions?
  Have YEs tried to explain these details?  Here are two responses:
  mudcracks in drought or flood?  Glenn Morton & William Hoesch
  burrows (vertical and horizontal) - Glenn Morton (A B C) & Sean Pitman
Details within Layers — problems for YE?
  Interesting "flood activities" (of animals,...) are described by EarthHistory (dinosaur eggs) and Glen Morton:  termites & dinos  tracks & raindrops  fossilized dung  bio-varnish  river channels  salt deposits.  {and more}

  Volcano Pollution during Flood — YE solution?

  [so far, I haven't found any YE responses for this]

Volcano Pollution during Flood — problem for YE?
  Glenn Morton describes the resulting sulfuric acid (9 k) and carbon dioxide (4 k) and you can read a pollution paper (11 k) rejected by a young-earth journal.

If all of the volcanic rocks in flood layers were produced by volcanoes during Noah's Flood, as proposed in flood geology, what would happen to the water and air?  and if all meteors in flood-layers fell to earth during the flood, what would happen to Noah's Ark?

  Extrapolation of Rates
  Matthew Tiscareno explains why many young-earth claims — based on "measuring rates of various Earth processes, then attempting to extrapolate them backwards for millions of years... to show that the process in question would [with an old earth] build up to absurdity" — are not scientifically valid because they ignore or underestimate opposing processes (that lead to long-term balance) or changes in rate.  The following young-earth claims are from the overviews above.

Salt in the Sea — problem for OE?
  In their overviews above, Sarfati & Humphreys & Wieland all claim that the oceans of an old earth would have more salt than we observe, so the earth cannot be old, and in another page Sarfati provides details.
  Salt in the Sea — OE solution?
But do young-earth calculations include all of the ways that salts can be removed from the oceans?  Neyman and Isaak say "no" for salts in general (AiC TO) and specifically for sodium (TO), and so do the Haarsmas.

Helium in Air and Rocks — problem for OE?
  Jonathan Sarfati outlines two helium-arguments by explaining why, if the earth is old, we should observe more helium in the atmosphere (from which it escapes slowly) and less helium in zircon-rocks (from which it escapes quickly).  Russell Humphreys explains the details of his rock-argument that is based on the diffusion of helium out of zircons.   {and you can explore more YE and OE zircon-arguments}

  Helium in Air and Rocks — OE solution?
TO and Dave Matson explain why the air-argument is "an oversimplification of a complex problem."  And critiques of the rock-argument by AiC and TO show why Randy Isaac (in ASA's journal, PSCF, June 2007) reports that the zircon system is "so complex both theoretically and experimentally that helium concentrations are not considered by geochronologists to be reliable for any dating implications."
Erosion of Continents — problem for OE?
  Due to rapid erosion, after a few million years the continents would disappear.
  Erosion of Continents — OE solution?
  This doesn't occur because erosion is balanced by the uplifting of mountains. (AiC TO)
Decrease of Magnetic Field — problem for OE?
  Is an old earth impossible because its magnetic field is decreasing too quickly?  This claim, now revised (including a recognition of magnetic reversals), is summarized by Russell Humphreys (in claim #6) & Jonathan Sarfati & Andrew Snelling (A  B);  Humphreys (1993 & 2002) claims that reversals — mostly during Noah's Flood — contributed to a decrease in total magnetic energy that is still occurring.
  Decrease of Magnetic Field — OE solution?
  Based on conventional views of magnetism (Deem & NASA) there are responses by TO (brief overview) and Joe Meert (thorough examination of revised YE claims) and Tim Thompson (including "Current Creationist Status" near end) plus sections (re: basics & unrevised Barnes) in Chris Stassen & Brent Dalrymple.
Speed of Moon Recession — problem for OE?
  If the moon had moved away for 4.5 billion years at the current rate, it would be much further away.
  Speed of Moon Recession — OE solution?
  The arrangement of continents has changed, and this changed the rate of recession, so the "if" isn't correct and neither is the calculation. (TO)
Number of Supernova Remnants — problem for OE?
  In an old universe, we would see more second- and third-generation supernova remnants.
  Number of Supernova Remnants — OE solution?
  The YE math is based on wrong premises, and supernovas support OE in several ways. (TO  Neyman)

We hope you'll carefully examine the questions above by clicking the links and reading the pages,
and (if you want) you can expand your studies of these age-questions, and others,
by using the abundant educational resources above and area-pages below.


If you want to learn more
about age-science questions,
you can explore these areas:

  Noah's Flood     Geology     Radiometric Dating     Astronomy  
( currently only Astronomy has significant content )
The pages below contain large numbers of
candidates for resource-pages in each area,
as explained in the project-overview page.


INFORMATION for readers is in a brief page about our Goal (a quick education for you), Quality (because we've made choices) and Variety (you'll see multiple positions, hence the disclaimer below), Exploring with Freedom (you can use sections and page-links in any order), Size (what does "20 k + 5k" mean?), and Links (that open in a new window)

In this page you'll find links to resource-pages expressing a wide range of views, which don't necessarily represent the views of the American Scientific Affiliation.  Therefore, linking to a page does not imply an endorsement by the ASA.  We encourage you to use your own critical thinking to evaluate everything you read.

 This website for Whole-Person Education has TWO KINDS OF LINKS:
an ITALICIZED LINK keeps you inside a page, moving you to another part of it, and
 a NON-ITALICIZED LINK opens another page.  Both keep everything inside this window, 
so your browser's BACK-button will always take you back to where you were.

this page, written by Craig Rusbult (editor of ASA's website for Whole-Person Education), is
and was revised June 4, 2010

all links were checked-and-fixed on July 3, 2006

other links-pages about Origins Questions are at the top of this page,
or you can Search the Website