A Nice Argument for the Age of the Earth

This comes from Geoffrey Pearce by way of PZ Myers:

I am regularly approached by young Earth creationists… If I have the time I try to engage them on the age of Earth, since Earth is something whose existence them and I agree upon. They will tell me that Earth is somewhere between 6,000 – 10,000 years old, and, when prompted, that the rest of the universe is the same age as well. I have taken the approach of responding to this assertion by pulling out a print of the far side of the Moon

I cannot tell you how handy this is! Once they’ve had a good look I usually point out that almost all of the craters were formed by asteroids smashing into the planet, and that the Moon has over 250 craters with a diameter of 100 km or more. After explaining that Earth is just as likely to be struck by large asteroids as the Moon (is more likely to be struck, in-fact, due to its greater gravitational well), I then ask them to consider what their time-scale entails: that Earth should be struck every couple of decades by an asteroid capable of completely ejecting an area about the size of New Hampshire (not to pick on New Hampshire). Since such an event has never been observed and there are no well-preserved impact structures anywhere close to this size range, I then suggest to them that the only sensible conclusion is that Earth is much older than they had thought.

This may seem a convoluted way of making a point about Earth’s age, in particular since more precise and direct dating methods than crater counting are used for Earth, but I think that it may have an important advantage. In the past I have tried explaining to creationists how our understanding of Earth’s age is obtained, but they seem to take the “what I can’t see isn’t real” attitude when they hear words such as “radioactivity”, and “isotope”. Conversely, many of them seemed to be somewhat shaken after seeing this image and hearing my explanation, with one even admitting that the Moon looks “very old”. Furthermore, such images are a good starting point for discussing the degree to which chaos and uncertainty are inherent to the universe. Yay!


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  • aar9n

    What about moon dust that proves a young moon!!!!!!! All those asteroids hit the moon during the global flood, while the moon sheilded most of it, one asteroid did hit earth, crashing in the yuckan peninsula area while breaking apart the water canopy above the earth and causing runaway subduction and rapid shifting of the tectonic plates. 😀

    The really sad thing is that the above arguement would be taken seriously by many creationists.

    It would, however, make a really good plot for a sci-fi move! :-)

  • Scott Barber

    It is sad how often the moon-dust argument is promoted by prominent evangelicals.  One thing that I encounter a lot is the YEC use of supposition.  Rather than countering evidence with evidence, every argument you provide is instead met with a supposition.  Describe the important hominid fossil finds, and you get stuff like: “well, suppose neanderthals were just humans with physical disorders, or mismatched skeletons”.  And when you explain the how geneticists have mapped the neanderthal genome, and found them to be a separate species of hominid, then you get: “well, suppose the DNA is corrupted!”  You can never win with suppositional reasoning.

  • rmwilliamsjr

     that Earth should be struck every couple of decades by an asteroid capable of completely ejecting an area about the size of New Hampshire (not to pick on New Hampshire).  

    picking on NH would be to propose that each asteroid actually hits NH. wouldn’t that really be a great example of intelligent design? to repeatedly hit and then eject exactly the borders of NH? not a round crater the size of NH, but a crater exactly the shape of the boundaries of NH. now i’d be impressed, the first time it happened *grin*…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

      RM Williams, if it happened now, just when New Hampshire has had a bill promoting the teaching of Intelligent Design introduced, then I suppose it might indeed seem like divine providence.

  • Simon

    What a glorious testament to the providential protection of God, that during the whole of the Earths 6,000 year history he swung the moon around like a catcher’s mitt to block all of the asteroids.

    Celebrating the “mental” in “fundamental”.

  • http://www.rethinkingao.com Mike Beidler

    Sheesh.  Those aren’t crater impacts.  They are direct evidence of bubbles of carbon dioxide gas produced by propionic acid bacteria (notably Propionibacterium freudenreichii subsp. shermanii) during the formation of the moon.

  • David Evans

    I wonder if anyone remembers C. S. Lewis’s idea (in his Silent Planet trilogy) that the Moon’s craters are scars from the war in heaven? He writes something like “The Moon is the shield of the Dark Lord of Tellus (= the Earth), scarred by many a blow.”

    I remember thinking that was rather fine, at the time.

  • Stefanfo

    Many ways to go about this, since we do  not have any facts about how those crates where formed, or when.
    A creationist version goes like this:
    SummaryThe cratering patterns observed on the moon were formed during two distinct impacting episodes. The abundant small craters on the lunar highland surfaces were caused by meteor impacts around the time of the Fall or perhaps during Creation Week itself. The large impact basins and resultant maria were formed at the time of the Flood by a narrow, intense, swarm of meteoroids travelling on parallel paths. The meteoroids were likely comets or fragments of a large comet. Those which missed the earth or moon left the solar system on a very long-period orbit. This model explains the uniform distribution of craters on the highlands of the moon, the non-uniform distribution of lunar maria, and the near absence of impact features on the lunar maria. A specific pattern of cometary impacts on the earth and moon is predicted by this model providing direction for future research. Apart from the earth and moon, significant impacts would not have occurred on other bodies in the solar system at the time of the Flood. Therefore, evidence of a second episode of large, non-uniform impacts on other bodies in the solar system is not expected to be found. (more here: http://bit.ly/viBkBB).
    I also found a pdf written by Michael J. Oard, he says this in the intro:The moon is the standard by which to estimate the number of craters on the earth. The number of craters greater than 30 km by evolutionary age categories is about 1,900. Scaling to the earth and considering the greater gravitational cross section results in 36,000 craters greater than 30 km. Based on very larger craters on the moon and Mars and the size frequency distribution on the moon extrapolated to the earth, about 100 craters greater than 1,000 km in diameter and a few up to 4,000 to 5,000 km in diameter should have occurred on Earth. This tremendous bombardment must have occurred very early in the Flood, tailing off during the rest of the Flood with a few post-Flood impacts. Such a bombardment would be adequate to initiate the Flood. The evidence for such an impact bombardment very likely can be found in the Precambrian igneous rocks and suggests that the Precambrian is early Flood. (http://bit.ly/t8bzck)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/ James F. McGrath

      So to put it more succinctly, the creationist response is simply to make something up for which there is no evidence? That is unsurprising.

    • David Evans

      Oard also recognizes that the total energy of the impact would be huge, and suggests hopefully that it might be enough to “start and maintain the Flood”. It took me 5 minutes on Google to find that the energy would be enough to boil the oceans.

      Again, I wonder why such a clever man, who has put a lot of work into his calculations, didn’t think of that.

      • David Evans

        This was of course meant as a PS to my earlier post about Chicxulub. My fault.

  • David Evans

    Oard, to his credit, does recognize that if his “tremendous bombardment” occurred after the Flood “all life would have been wiped out”. This is certainly true, considering that the single impact at Chicxulub (diameter of crater 180km) contributed largely to the extinction of the dinosaurs. What he does not ask himself is what would happen if it occurred during the Flood. The ocean is no protection against such huge impacts. Noah would have emerged into a world dotted with colossal volcanoes and molten lava beds, emitting huge quantities of carbon dioxide, sulphuric acid and dust. But that’s academic because the Ark would have been sunk by multiple tsunamis.

    I wonder why such a clever man didn’t think of that :)