by Bill Nugent
Those who believe in a multi-billion year age of planet earth point to the absence of certain radioactive isotopes as perhaps their strongest evidence for old earth. Let me briefly explain this line of reasoning for the nonscientist. According to astronomers, when stars like our sun form there are large quantities of unstable atoms present. These unstable atoms are called radioisotopes and they decay at a known rate. They emit radiation as they decay.
For instance, atoms of the element Thorium 229 decay at such a rapid rate that half of the original amount of Thorium 229 is gone in just 7,340 years. In another 7,340 years half of the remainder of the Thorium 229 has decayed away into a simpler element. For this reason Thorium 229 is said to have a half life of 7,340 years. In about 20 half lives, which equals 146,800 years, Thorium 229 will be so rare as to be undetectable in nature.
Old earth evolutionists make much of the fact that radioisotopes with half lives of less than 70 million years are not detectable on earth except for a few radioisotopes in that category that are produced in nature. Thus they conclude that the earth is so old that the radioisotopes had time to decay and enough half lives have elapsed so that the elements in question are not detectable at present. The first caution with which I would admonish old earthers is that they are arguing from the LACK of isotopes. This is akin to the logical fallacy of arguing from silence.
Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, in a recent article ironically titled Is Young Earth Creationism a Heresy? available athttp://www.answersingenesis.org/ writes “Short lived isotopes by definition emit radiation more often. Also the shorter the half life, the higher the energy of decay in general.” Dr. Sarfati goes on to say, in his defense of young earth, that if God created the earth with rapidly decaying isotopes the radiation would be destructive to living things. Following Dr. Sarfati’s logic we come to the inescapable conclusion that God created the earth free of dangerously radioactive short lived isotopes so that the earth could be inhabited by living organisms. This explains the lack of radioisotopes with half lives of less than 70 million years.
The creation is, by definition, a miraculous event. A miracle is supernatural power overruling and accelerating natural processes. When studying any miracle after the fact, one should not be surprised to find some features that would ordinarily seem to have happened over a long time period. In examining that same miracle one would also expect to find evidence that the miracle occurred within a short time frame. Both types of evidence are present in any miracle.
For instance, if you were present at the wedding in Cana and studied Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine you would be presented with two categories of evidence relating to the age of the wine. If you were to taste the wine you would sense that there are products of fermentation present in the wine. Any wine expert could immediately tell you that fermentation takes several months and you are tempted to conclude that the wine is at least that old. Next you are confronted by evidence that consists of reliable eyewitnesses telling you that the wine was mere water just minutes ago.
The conflict is resolved when you realize that the evidence for old age of the wine (i.e., the presence of the products of fermentation) is what an astute investigator would call proleptic evidence. Proleptic evidence is evidence that points to anticipated elapsed time. Anticipated elapsed time is time that an observer would have expected to have elapsed but did not actually elapse in the formation of the wine. The wine was recently formed by Jesus’ miraculous power and did not take months to ferment. Essentially it is “young” wine with features one would expect to find only in “old” wine.
To conclude, the young earth position can explain any old earth evidence as proleptic evidence by simply appealing to the fact that the creation is a miracle in which supernatural power accelerates natural processes. The atheistic old earth position cannot tolerate any of the many evidences that point to young earth because their view does not allow for supernatural intervention of any kind.
Evidence such as human artifacts in coal seams (DTF #56), exponential decay of the earth’s magnetic field (DTF #151), red blood cells and hemoglobin found inside dinosaur bones (article“The Real Jurassic Park” in secular Journal Earth June 1997 pp. 55-57) points to a young age of earth. Other evidence for young earth, too extensive to list here, destroys the old earth position. (There are sincere Christians who believe in old earth creationism but that is a topic for another article.)
The evidence for young earth published by the Institute for Creation Research and Answers In Genesis and many other fine organizations serves to confirm and amplify the biblical creation account and the biblical time frame.