Is the earth only 6,000 years old like some Christians say?
A very vocal minority of Christians believe that, based on a literal reading of the Bible, God created the world 6000 years ago, give or take a few years.
Of course, this idea is incompatible with the mainstream scientific understanding of our world. Cosmology, astronomy, physics, biology and palaeontology all point to Earth and the Universe being much older than claimed by young Earth creationists. Even the history of human civilization appears to extend to well before that point in time, with cave paintings having been dated to 30,000 years ago, and several cities believed to be continuously inhabited for more than 10,000 years.
Proponents of the young Earth ideology have devised arguments against each of these apparent contradictions. Fossils that seem to be millions of years old are actually remnants of animals from before the Flood, or even deliberate distractions created by God to sort out those who do not truly believe His message. Carbon dating doesn’t actually work, and there are always a few fringe academics who will happily swear that Big Bang cosmology is nonsense and a 6000-year-old Universe is “perfectly in line” with astronomical observations.
If that date is accurate, then the scientific evidence should support it, right? Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t at all. While many creationists are aware that there are some scientific dating techniques that contradict their timeline, very few realize just how many such techniques exist, nor how accurate they can be. In this video I will describe over 30 different dating techniques from a wide range of sciences that provide overwhelming evidence that the Earth is far older than 6,000 years. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it represents the evidence I think is the most compelling and easiest to understand. Without further ado, this is the list of evidences—roughly in chronological order—supporting a much older universe than young earth creationist claim:
Although most of recorded human history has occurred within the last 6,000 years, the Yazidi people who live primarily in northern Iraq have the oldest known calendar, which began in 4750 BCE—that’s almost 750 years BEFORE God supposedly created the universe. (More: Yazidis – Wikipedia, Yezidis – YezidiTruth.org)
It’s possible to trace the archeological, anthropological and linguistic evidence of languages to determine when they originated. Linguistic experts have estimated the ancestral Afroasiatic language that evolved into Egyptian, Phoenician, Hebrew, Arabic and over 370 other languages must be at least 11,000 years old.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Tower of Babel was supposed to have been built in 2242 BCE. This is the event that the Bible claims is the FIRST TIME multiple languages appeared (Genesis 11:1-9). And yet we have many ancient texts that are around a thousand years OLDER than that, including Sumerian writings from 3200 BCE and ancient Egyptian writings from 3500 BCE. (More: Menu, Afroasiatic Urheimat – Wikipedia, The World’s Oldest Writing, Bible Gateway passage: Genesis 11:1-9 – New International Version HYPERLINK “Bible Gateway passage: Genesis 11:1-9 – New International Version HYPERLINK “Genesis 11:1-9 NIVversionNIV – – Bible Gateway)
Tree rings are caused by changes in a tree’s growth rate over the course of a year. By counting the rings, it’s possible to determine the age of a tree to an exact year. One of the oldest individual trees found is a bristlecone pine in Nevada with a confirmed minimum age of 4,862 years old. Now that’s not older than the creationist universe, although it is 492 years older than when Noah’s Flood supposedly occurred, an event that would have destroyed the tree. There are, however, DEAD trees that are much older. We can compare the rings of living trees to the rings of older but intact dead trees by overlapping the matching patterns caused by yearly changes in temperature and precipitation. This overlapping of ring patterns allows us to date trees as far back as 13,900 years. (More: Richard Dawkins – Dating The Earth – Dendrochronology, Geochronology/Dendrochronology – Wikiversity, Ancient Assyrian Astronomers Documented Solar Storms on Clay Tablets 2,700 Years Ago – Now Matched With Radioisotope Data)
Some trees reproduce by cloning, and they can have root systems that are far older than their currently living trees. These include a 9,550-year-old Norway spruce in Sweden, an 11,700-year-old creosote bush ring in California, and a 13,000-year-old Palmer’s oak also in California. But far older than all of them is a clonal colony of quaking aspen found in Utah that shares a root system that is over 80,000 years old. (More: 10 Oldest Trees in the World (Updated 2019), King Clone – Wikipedia, Pando (tree) – Wikipedia)
Mitochondrial DNA passes from mother to offspring without recombination from the father, and it mutates at a regular rate. Using the mutation rate and tracking the mitochondrial DNA in different ethnicities back in time to a common ancestor, the most recent woman from whom all current women descended in an unbroken line lived about 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. Note that this only represents the single surviving female lineage, not the first female human who ever lived. The woman was part of an already existing population. (More: Found: closest link to Eve, our universal ancestor)
Calcium carbonate dripping from the ceilings of limestone caves forms into stalactites at an average rate of just 10 cm per thousand years. We’ve discovered stalactites that are at least 20 meters in length, which likely required at least 200,000 years to grow. Additionally, the limestone caves in which these stalactites formed first required tens of millions of years themselves to form. (More: Stalactite growth rates, Stalactite – Wikipedia)
Using the steady mutation rate of Y chromosome DNA, we can trace back to the oldest common ancestor from whom all current men descended in an unbroken line. This leads to a man who lived between 237,000 and 581,000 years ago. Note that this only represents the single surviving male lineage, not the first male human who ever lived. As with “Mitochondrial Eve,” the man was part of an already existing population. (More: http://haplogroup-a.com/Ancient-Root-AJHG2013.pdf, http://www.livescience.com/38613-genetic-adam-and-eve-uncovered.html)
Coral Growth Rate:
Coral reefs use dissolved calcium carbonate in seawater to grow at a rate of about 5mm per year—a rate that is strictly limited by the laws of physics and chemistry. This means that Grand Bahama Reef is at least 790,000 years old—although evidence of multiple interruptions in the reef’s formation means it is likely much older than that. (More: Age of Coral Reefs)
Distinct annual layers of ice formation can be found in various locations around the world where temperatures remain below freezing year round. These layers can be counted in much the same way as tree rings. Various methods can be used to verify the accuracy of this technique, such as comparing layers containing volcanic ash deposits with known volcanic eruptions throughout history. The most recent Antarctic cores reveal up to 800,000 years of layers. (More: 800,000-year Ice-Core Records of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Ice Core Dating)
Gypsum crystals can grow to truly massive sizes. A trove of these “megacrystals” discovered in a mine in Mexico has specimens that are over 11 meters long and one meter wide. Based on the slow formation of such crystals, and the fact that their composition indicates they grew in extremely stable conditions, their age is estimated at over 1 million years. (More: Half-Life of DNA Revealed)
Plasma ejected from the centers of galaxies and quasars by intense magnetic fields is naturally limited to the speed of light. We have discovered some relativistic jets that exceed one million light years long, which means it would have taken over a million years to reach that distance. Furthermore, most relativistic jets are billions of light years away, which means they were over a million years old billions of years ago. (More: Relativistic Jets)
Manganese Nodule Growth:
Dissolved metal compounds can precipitate around small objects lying on the seafloor in areas with the right combination of constant current, low sedimentation and high oxygen. The growth rate of these nodules is between 10 and 100 millimeters per million years. The largest nodules are more than 20 cm in diameter, which means they have existed for 2 million to 20 million years. (More: Manganese nodules)
Erosion caused by wind, glacial ice, rivers and other forces has revealed evidence of extreme age all over the world. While it can be difficult to determine precise ages, Nambia’s Fish River needed millions of years to erode the hard gneiss bedrock that forms the Fish River Canyon. And the Colorado River system took a minimum of 4.4 million years to carve out the Grand Canyon, although it could have taken as long as 70 million years. (More: erosion, The Grand Canyon: How Old is It?)
Varves are seasonal deposits of river sediments into lakes. They consist of a light-colored band of coarse sandy debris deposited during spring and summer runoff, topped by a darker layer of fine clay deposited only after the lake has frozen over in winter when the water moves slowly enough for the clay to gradually settle out. By counting the pairs of banded layers, one can determine the age of the lake. Numerous locations around the world show lake varves representing hundreds of thousands of years of sedimentation, but Wyoming’s Green River Formation varves reveal a minimum of six million years of sedimentation. For that many varves to have occurred since Noah’s flood 4,400 years ago, there would have to be 3.7 varves deposited each DAY…even though each layer of fine silt needs at least SEVERAL DAYS to settle out of water. (More: Creationist Misuse of the Green River Formation, Green River Formation – Responding To Creationism, Green River Formation – Wikipedia)
When an organism dies, its DNA begins to decay. The rate of this decay can vary depending on the environment, but under ideal conditions DNA can take as long as 6.8 million years to completely disappear. Dinosaurs that died even under less than ideal conditions for DNA preservation would still have detectible DNA if they had died within the last 6,000 years. But no dinosaur DNA has ever been found. (More: Half-Life of DNA Revealed, New tests reveal controversial dinosaur DNA isn’t so ancient after all)
Cosmic rays constantly bombard the surface of the Earth, causing an extremely slow but steady buildup of rare materials called “cosmogenic nuclides” on exposed surfaces. Analysis of stable, exposed rocks in Antarctica reveal up to 10 million years of nuclide buildup. (More: Glacial landforms HYPERLINK “http://www.antarcticglaciers.org/glacial-geology/dating-glacial-sediments-2/cosmogenic_nuclide_datin/”l HYPERLINK “Cosmogenic nuclide dating)
Numerous craters discovered around the world are a testament to the damage caused by large asteroid impacts throughout Earth’s history. If the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs had occurred within the last 6,000 years, the Earth would still be reeling from destroyed ecosystems, a poisoned atmosphere, and the extinction of all large animals. If all 70 of the known impact craters over 6 km in diameter had occurred within the last 6,000 years, the Earth would be an utterly devastated, unrecognizable nightmare with virtually all life having gone extinct. While it’s unknown precisely how long ecosystems need to recover between the worst asteroid impacts, the minimum time would be in the millions of years at least. (More: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/06/earths-colossal- HYPERLINK “https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/06/earths-colossal-crater-count-complete”crater-count-complete, Asteroid Impacts: 10 Biggest Known Hits, Asteroid Fast Facts, NASA’s Moon Data Sheds Light on Earth’s Asteroid Impact History – NASA Solar System Exploration, https://www.space.com/40690-dino-killing-asteroid-impact-warmed-earth.html)
The remains of asteroids that were shattered by impacts with other asteroids often continue to travel together in a cluster. It’s possible to trace the orbital trajectories of these asteroid clusters back to when the impact occurred. Using this technique, astronomers calculate that the impact of the Baptistina asteroid cluster occurred 80 million years ago. (More: Rewinding the Clock: An Asteroid Family History)
Lava emerging from mid-ocean trenches during seafloor spreading contains iron particles, which then orient with the Earth’s magnetic field before the lava cools. This allows us to observe that every 50,000 to 800,000 years (as measured by continental drift) the Earth’s magnetic poles switch, a process that can take several thousand years to complete. The last reversal occurred 780,000 years ago. The spreading seafloor is constantly being reabsorbed into the Earth’s mantle at subduction zones, but we still have a record of at least 150 million years of geomagnetic reversals. (More: https://www.britannica.com/science/ocean-basin/Evolution-of-the-ocean-basins-through-plate-movements, Magnetic Reversals)
The continents surrounding the Atlantic Ocean can be fitted together like puzzle pieces, indicating they were once assembled into a single land mass known as “Pangea.” The seafloor spreads at a rate of just 2-5 cm per year along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Tracing that seafloor spreading back in time to when the continents were last in contact results in 200 million years.
As further confirmation, fossils found along those continent edges and independently dated to 200 million years ago can be matched to fossils found on the opposite continents. Fossils from the same regions that are younger than 200 million years old diverge into different species. This indicates that the continents were no longer in contact after that time, which permanently separated the various species and resulted in them evolving into separate lineages.
Additionally, the Earth’s magnetic poles wander around on a several-thousand-year cycle. Magnetic particles in lava from volcanoes orient to the magnetic poles, allowing us to trace the movement of the continents over the course of millions of years. North America’s Appalachian Mountains are part of a chain that has the same composition as mountain ranges in Greenland and northern Europe. And coal deposits in North America have the same composition as coal deposits in Europe, indicating they were once connected.
If the continents had moved to their current positions during Noah’s flood, as many creationists claim, the energy released would have boiled the oceans, poisoned the atmosphere through massive volcanic eruptions, and destroyed virtually all life on Earth. (More: seafloor spreading, http://www.livescience.com/38218-facts-about-pangaea.html, http://www.geo.hunter.cuny.edu/tbw/Iceland.Field.Trip/Lectures/2.plate.tectonics/plate_tectonics.htm, https://ncse.com/cej/4/1/impossible-voyage-noahs-ark)
Coral Growth Rings:
Tidal friction slows the Earth’s rotation at a rate of two seconds every 100,000 years. Projecting this rate backward in time 370 million years results in days that were 22 hours long with 400 days in the year. Corals produce both daily and annual growth rings, and in fossil corals these rings can be counted to determine how many days there were in a year when the corals were alive. Fossil corals that have been determined through other means to be 370 million years old have 400 daily growth rings per year. This indicates that a year was 400 days long when they were alive, which matches the Earth’s predicted rotation for 370 million years ago. (More: https://www.jstor.org/stable/24931079?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents)
A mathematical model of the ocean’s response to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide indicates that once a certain tipping point is reached, a cascade of positive feedbacks leads to severe ocean acidification, which dissolves the calcium carbonate used in shells grown by marine organisms. The effects last for tens of thousands of years before returning to normal. The geological records indicate that this phenomenon has occurred dozens of times over the last 540 million years, coinciding most dramatically with four of the five great mass extinctions. (More: https://scitechdaily.com/new-study-shows-breaching-carbon-threshold-could-lead-to-mass-extinction/)
Some geological layers cannot be dated using radiometric dating techniques. However, if one already knows through other dating methods the age of any fossils contained in such a layer, one can conclude that the layer is the same age as the fossils. Fossils species most suitable for this dating method are those that are easily preserved, easily identified, geographically widespread, and that appear in the fossil record for only a relatively short period of time. Common examples include brachiopods, trilobites, ammonites and a variety of microfossils, which are especially useful for determining the ages of Cambrian samples out to 540 million years ago. Biostratigraphy using stromatolites has also proved useful for determining the ages of geological layers a billion years old, and may even be useful for dating samples more than 2.5 billion years old. (More: https://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/disciplines/biostratigraphy, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biostratigraphy, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0012825266900407)
As uranium within a crystal structure decays, the atomic fragments cause thin streaks—or tracks—to appear in the crystal. These tracks can be counted to determine the age of the crystal, ranging from 30 years to over a billion years. The tracks disappear if exposed to high enough temperatures, which means fission tracks establish the minimum age of crystals. This method is useful for confirming the accuracy of other dating techniques. (More: http://apps.usd.edu/esci/creation/age/content/current_scientific_clocks/fission_track_dating.html, https://www.usu.edu/geo/luminlab/FT.pdf)
The Moon currently orbits the Earth at a distance of 384,400 km. However, preserved ancient tidal sediments show that the Moon used to orbit 25% closer—that’s 96,100 km closer—than it does today. The Moon is gradually receding from the Earth at a rate of 3.82 cm per year, and at that rate it would have taken the Moon 2.5 billion years to travel those 96,100 km. However, those tidal sediments also indicate that the rate of recession back then was much SLOWER than it is now—on average just 1.27 cm per year. That complicates the calculation, but it’s clear that the Moon took far longer than 2.5 billion years to reach its current position. Alternate dating methods show those tidal deposits to be 3.2 billion years old.
If the Earth were only 6,000 years old, as creationists claim, the Moon wouldn’t be receding at a rate of 3.82 cm per year, but an average of 16 KILOMETERS per year. (More: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/moonrec.html, https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Recession_of_the_Moon, https://all-geo.org/highlyallochthonous/2007/07/where-the-moon-was-at-3-2-billion-years-ago/)
By knowing a star’s mass and the rate at which it spins, it’s possible to calculate its age. Calibrated using our Sun, the process has been used to determine the ages of stars up to 4.5 billion years old, with up to a 90% accuracy rate. (More: https://www.science20.com/news_articles/gyrochronology_how_to_accurately_determine_the_age_of_a_star-151973, https://www.thoughtco.com/how-old-is-a-star-3073652, https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2011-15)
Radioactive “parent” isotopes decay at a predictable rate into more stable “daughter” elements. By measuring the ratio of the parent to daughter elements in suitable samples—ideally volcanic rock or carbon—one can determine the age of the samples. There are over 40 different isotopes used in radiometric dating, which allows researchers to date a wide variety of materials and cross-check the accuracy of the results. Five different radiometric techniques have revealed the age of the Earth to be 4.543 billion years old with 99% accuracy. (More: https://ncse.com/library-resource/radiometric-dating-does-work, http://www.sciencemeetsreligion.org/evolution/reliability.php, http://www.indiana.edu/~ensiweb/evid.anc.earth.pdf, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiometric_dating)
Lifespan of Stars:
The lifespan of a star can be calculated almost entirely by its mass. Even the largest, hottest and thus shortest-lived stars live millions of years at a minimum, but most stars have life spans measured in billions of years. The existence of many observed ancient dead and dying stars indicates the universe must be well over several billion years old. (More: https://www.space.com/24054-how-old-is-the-universe.html, https://www.astronomynotes.com/evolutn/s2.htm,)
Globular clusters are dense groups of stars of a similar age. If a cluster contains a mixture of small and large stars, the cluster must still be relatively young, because large stars burn out much more quickly than small stars. A cluster with only small stars remaining is thus relatively old. Additionally, the first stars that formed in the early universe had to consist almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, since those two light elements were the first to form. This means that the smallest, metal-poor stars in globular clusters are the oldest observed stars, and have been calculated to be between 11 and 14 billion years old. (More: https://www.e-education.psu.edu/astro801/content/l7_p6.html, 7 Oldest Stars in the Universe | Oldest.org, https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2011-15, https://biologos.org/articles/multiple-lines-of-evidence-for-an-old-universe)
Distance of Stars:
Since a light year is the distance light travels in one year, and the most distant observed object is a galaxy 13.39 billion light years away, that means the light from that galaxy traveled for 13.39 billion years before reaching us. (More: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/most-distant-object-in-the-universe-spotted-by-hubble-space-telescope-shattering-record-for-the-a6911096.html, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_most_distant_astronomical_objects,)
Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation:
The universe has been cooling ever since its intensely hot, dense beginning. By measuring the current background radiation temperature, it’s possible to determine the density, composition and rate of expansion of the universe. This has narrowed the age of the universe to between 13.772 billion and 13.82 billion years old. (More: https://www.space.com/24054-how-old-is-the-universe.html, http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/bb_tests_cmb.html)
It should be clear by now that the evidence against a young Earth and universe is overwhelming. However, creationists who believe the Bible over any scientific evidence will typically attack the science. Often they are outright dishonest, such as using long-scale radiometric dating techniques on short-scale samples to claim the technique is inaccurate—which is about as reasonable as using a yardstick to measure the length of an amoeba to claim rulers are inaccurate. But sometimes creationists instead point to some of the wide ranges in the evidence I’ve provided. Or they claim that the speed of light may have fluctuated, or that the rate of radioactive decay may have changed over time. But any possible changes in that evidence would by necessity be quite small to avoid causing the universe to look dramatically different than it does now. So even if the results were to turn out to be as favorable as possible for the young Earth claim, they would still show a DRASTICALLY older universe than young earth creationism allows for—by up to many, MANY orders of magnitude.
So other creationists instead claim that God created a 6,000-year-old universe with only the APPEARANCE of great age—like gypsum megacrystals being created fully formed, or light from distant stars being created already reaching the Earth, or radioisotopes already substantially decayed into other elements, etc. But if so, then all this evidence means God deliberately created the universe with a FALSE HISTORY…which would be as deceptive as creating a fully-grown human being with an old scar from a knife fight that never happened. Furthermore, there is no biblical evidence to support the claim that God created a deceptive universe.
So yet other creationists claim that Satan planted the fossil record, radioactive isotopes, cosmic microwave background radiation, and all the other evidence to trick humanity into believing the world is much older than the Bible implies—as if somehow that would destroy their faith in God (spoiler alert: it certainly doesn’t have to, since there are well over a billion Christians—including prominent Christian leaders like the Pope—who accept the scientific evidence for an ancient universe yet still believe in God). But Satan planting evidence could only happen if God WANTED him to deceive humanity. That’s the inevitable consequence of an all-powerful God. So whether Satan was involved or not, God would ultimately be the one who deliberately arranged for humanity to be deceived.
Regardless, such speculation is pointless. When it comes to determining the age of the Earth and universe, we can only study and report on the evidence we have, not on the evidence we don’t have. And that evidence overwhelmingly contradicts young earth creationism.
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