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How Old is the Earth

A Response to “Scientific” Creationism

by G. Brent Dalrymple

Copyright © 1984-2006


Radiometric dating methods provide a reliable means of determining the ages of critical points in geologic and planetary history, including the age of the Earth, the Moon, and meteorites. That the age of the Earth is billions of years is virtually beyond question because it is supported by a wide variety of independently determined scientific evidence which indicates that the Earth is 4.5 to 4.6 billion years old. Scientists are continually refining this age, but it is highly unlikely that it will change in the future by more than a few percent. In the past, the age of the Earth was the subject of much dispute, but the past few decades have seen the development of new techniques not previously available. There is virtually no dispute among knowledgeable scientists about the antiquity of the Earth and her sister planets.

Radiometric dating has independently confirmed and quantified the geologic time scale (Figure 1), which originally was constructed on the basis of stratigraphic and faunal succession, before the development of modern isotopic dating techniques. Although radiometric dating has allowed scientists to assign ages and to establish the length of the various eras, periods, and epochs, the relative order of these geologic time units has remained unchanged. This is powerful proof that both the dating techniques and the paleontologic and stratigraphic principles on which the time scale was originally based are sound.

There is also no doubt that the rocks now exposed on the surface of the Earth or accessible to scientists by drilling were deposited and emplaced over the geologic epochs, starting in the earliest Precambrian more than 3.8 billion years ago. There are more than 100,000 radiometric ages in the scientific literature that date rock formations and geologic events ranging in age from Holocene to earliest Precambrian. These data and all the accumulated knowledge from the science of geology show conclusively that the Earth we now see is the result of natural processes operating over vast periods and not the product of one or two worldwide catastrophic events.

The geologic corollaries of “scientific” creationism — namely, that the Earth is no more than 10,000 years old and that the sedimentary rocks of the geologic column were deposited within about one year during a worldwide flood about 7000 years ago — are demonstrably wrong. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support these tenets and no scientific grounds for seriously considering “scientific” creationism, as described by Morris (92, 95), Kofahl and Segraves (77), Gish and others (54), and Morris and Parker (97) as a valid scientific theory. Indeed, most of the “research” presented in these publications consists of quoting each other’s mistakes.

Moreover, creationists’ criticisms of geologic principles in general and of radiometric dating in particular are invalid. Examined objectively, these criticisms invariably turn out to be based on obsolete or nonexistent data, misrepresentations of the scientific evidence, and incomplete, erroneous, or superficial understanding of the methods.

Creationist authors claim that there is scientific evidence for a very young Earth, but their reasoning is invariably flawed by false initial assumptions and a total disregard for the scientific evidence concerning the history of the Earth, its geology, its physics, and its chemistry. Their calculations are meaningless and cannot be taken seriously.

“Scientific” creationism does not provide any rational basis for meaningful scientific investigations of the Earth, the Solar System, or the universe. To accept or even take seriously the tenets of “scientific” creationism requires total abandonment of the results of two centuries of scientific investigations and of the principles of objectivity, rationality, and open-minded inquiry that are fundamental to science.



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