Billions or Thousands?

On November 12, 2014, at 16:05 GTM, it was confirmed by the European Space Agency that a robot probe called Philae from the Rosetta Mission had made the first-ever landing on a comet, some 6.4 billion kilometers from earth. The mission’s prime objective, as set forth on the European Space Agency’s website is “to help understand the origin and evolution of the Solar System. The comet’s composition reflects the composition of the pre-solar nebula out of which the Sun and the planets of the Solar System formed, more than 4.6 billion years ago.” [Source]

This 4.6-billion-year age for our solar system stands in stark contrast to the Christian’s belief in a young earth, an earth that is only thousands rather than billions of years old. Belief in a young earth is based on evidence such as the decay of the earth’s magnetic field, the presence of fragile organic molecules in fossils supposed to be millions of years old, the lower-than-expected levels of helium in the atmosphere and salt in the sea (for an earth supposed to be billions of years old), the presence of fossilized trees that crosscut layers of rocks indicating a rapid burial in a Noah-like flood, and the lack of human skeletons when human civilization is taught by evolutionists to be 200,000 years old.

Where then does this 4.6-billion-year figure for the age of our solar system come from and can it be relied upon? Such a figure was bandied about when I was a geology student at Edinburgh University, Scotland, and I found myself asking the question, where do they get such an age from, especially when the Bible presents the earth as only some six thousand years old?

The unsatisfactory answer the lecturer gave to my question was based on radiometric dating. Radiometric dating is used to determine the age of something by measuring the relative concentrations of “parent” and “daughter” isotopes in an igneous (volcanic) rock, a rock that is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava. This is how it works: radioactive atoms, such as uranium (known as parent isotopes), decay into stable atoms, such as lead (known as daughter isotopes), and do so at a measurable rate. To date an igneous rock the geologist first measures the concentration of the parent isotope (such as uranium-238) and then measures the concentration of the daughter isotope (such as lead-206). Taking these measurements and applying the known rate of radioactive decay, they estimate the time it has taken for the daughter isotope to accumulate within the rock. The problem with this type of dating method, however, is that it is based on certain assumptions that cannot be scientifically proven.

First, the geologist assumes that the starting conditions of the rock are known. He cannot be sure, however, that there weren’t already some daughter isotopes at the start of the rock’s formation because no one was there to measure such data. When a sample of the lava in the Mt. St. Helens crater, which had been observed to form and cool in 1986, was analyzed in 1996 (only 10 years after the eruption), it contained so much argon-40 (the daughter isotope of the parent isotope potassium-40) that it had a calculated age of 350,000 years!

The second assumption is that the decay rates of the isotopes have always been constant. The problem with this assumption is that every process in nature operates at a rate influenced by many different factors and if one of the factors changes the rate is altered. We have no way of knowing whether the decay rates of isotopes have changed.

Third, the geologist assumes a closed system whereby no processes have resulted in the addition or subtraction of parent or daughter isotopes. The idea that a system in nature could remain closed for millions or billions of years is absurd to the highest degree.

Rather than base our knowledge of the age of the world upon the flawed dating methods of man, God would have us place our faith upon the accurate record of the Word of God. We know that Adam was created on the sixth day of creation, and using the Bible’s record of his offspring recorded in Genesis chapters 5–11, we calculate that two thousand years passed between the time Adam lived on the earth and Abraham. Most scholars would agree that Abraham lived about 2,000 B.C. (four thousand years ago). So adding these years together—Adam to Abraham to the present day—we believe the earth to be around six thousand years old.

As Christians we accept the biblical account of creation and, “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3). I know where my faith rests—not in the changing theories of man but in the unchanging truth of God as revealed in His Word.

Rev. David Stewart is the minister of Portglenone Free Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland.

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