This is the topic I really wanted to discuss, and, in some ways, I wish I was starting here. That is why I’ve changed the title of this series for those who discover it by a search engine. There are abundant internet landings on the evidence of a young earth, virtually all sponsored by the Institute of Creation Research or Ken Ham’s groups, Answers in Genesis, and the Ark Encounter. The reason that you don’t find mainstream scientists creating websites listing the proofs of an old earth is that most don’t take the young earth creationists (YEC) claims seriously. It is the same reason they don’t waste time with websites trying to prove the earth is a sphere rather than flat or to disprove the geocentric model of the solar system. So, I feel more motivated to try and establish a concise but somewhat comprehensive listing of the major evidence for a very old earth. I will say again, many of us are old-earth creationists and we reject the label that the YEC give us, as contrasted to them, as “evolutionists” as opposed to them, the “creationists”
Rings and Layers
At this juncture the Church’s two biggest wars against science cross paths, the heliocentric model of the solar system—deemed as hearsay in the seventeen century—and now the ancient age of the earth. For indeed the earth moves around the sun in an a slightly oval-shaped ellipse orbit, and that is accepted by more than 99% of people now, and it moves with a tilted axis. Some day >99% will accept the idea that the earth is ancient and not 6,000-years-old while at this time in history only 66% believe so.
This orbital movement and tilt cause a profound effect on life on the earth in the form of seasonal changes. The farther you are from the equator the more profound the effects are. These effects can be read like a clock because their annual or seasonal marks upon life on earth. By counting these annual marks, you can count years. Many life forms have annual rings, and some geological features have annual rings or layers associated with these seasonal changes. This is a simple place to start in our journey into the indisputable evidence of an old earth.
I think we are most familiar with the annual rings that a living tree produces as it grows. I will not get into the biology of how this happens, or this series will get bogged down in the details. There is a whole science devoted to the study of tree ring dating called dendrochronology. Some trees can produce more than one ring in a year in special situations, such as extreme drought, and can having missing rings in other situations. Some trees, such as oaks, rarely have extra or missing rings. So, the dating of tree rings is not exact but can be cross-checked with other trees and markers to fine tune dates. But it is precise and reliable.
The oldest tree measured by ring count was Prometheus, a bristlecone pine cut down in Nevada with 5,000 annual rings. There are other bristlecone pine trees that may have the same dates or even older, but it would put them at risk to do a core sample to find out. This does not challenge the young earth belief that the earth was created 6,000-years- ago, but it does raise other problems for them.
The young earth creationist also say you must believe that Noah’s flood was worldwide event and occurred 4,000 years ago. They claim the earth was covered with water for over a year from that flood. That means that these trees were already 2,000 years old when they were submerged in water for a year.
Trees that thrive in wetlands can survive being mostly submerged in water for over a month. However, trees in high dry places, such as the bristlecone pines, are usually damaged beyond survival after being even partially submerged for a couple of weeks. Therefore, it would make no sense that these trees lived at the bottom of a great sea for over a year and then survived to live 4,000 more years.
While these living tree rings are limited, the science of dendrochronology has pushed back tree ring dating to a continuous 26,000 years. They do this by matching overlapping tree ring patterns, which are like fingerprints, to old dead trees and counting their rings backwards until they can overlap their pattern with even older trees and count their rings backward. This date is clear and certainly disproves the 6,000-year-old belief of the YEC.
The oldest clonal tree in the world is a Norway Spruce in Sweden (pictured below), measured at over 9000 years old, however that age was not determined by its rings. A clonal tree is defined as a single tree, established by its DNA, however, it has grown and regrown the trunk over time, thus the rings are limited to the age of the new trunk. This tree’s tissue’s age was determined by carbon-14 dating. Despite what the YEC claim, carbon-14 dating is quite accurate, especially in the younger, < 10,000 years. But I will talk about that later. But while we are on the topic of trees, this tree would certainly dispute the YEC absolute statement that the earth was created 6,000 years ago.
Coral Growth Rings
Coral also has annual growth rings. The soft organism lays down a new layer of calcium carbonate each year, which is its skeleton. Core samples of living coral reefs have had as many as 4,000 annual growth rings. While this is inside the YEC’s idea of a 6,000-year-old earth, dead and fossilized coral reefs have yielded growth rings that go back 100,000 years. In a normal universe, this would surely put an end to the notion of a 6,000-year-old earth. But religious dogmas can make us blind to the plain view evidence.
Glaciers have seasonal-annual layers produced when they alternate between dry seasons and wet seasons and brief, summer, seasons of melt. When core drills are used, long samples are pulled and examined, and these seasonal layers are visibly clear. These layers are highly reliable and correspond to other events. For example, if a volcano has erupted, creating a worldwide ash distribution, and we know the date of that eruption, it corresponds very nicely to the year predicted by counting down the seasonal layers.
Ice core samples in Greenland have had annual rings counted back to 120,000 years. The oldest sample is from Antarctica and was counted back to over 800,000 years. But recently, a 2,000,000-year-old ice sample was brought up from Antarctica by a Princeton team. These are definitive, observable, and clearly make the claim by the YEC of a 6,000-year-old earth, impossible.
I’ve listened to debates and lectures by YEC and have never heard them address this. I suspect that they will say, as they have in other dating methods, that the rate of change has been different in the past. So, glaciers put down hundreds or thousands of annual rings in a single year? That is quite naive as these annual layers have been extensively studied with chemistry, pollens, gases, and other markers that support the annual layers being laid down yearly. This alone should put a rest to the young earth claim.
Bodies of water, rivers, lakes and in some cases the oceans, put down annual layers of sediments. The layers are deposited according to seasonal changes such as a dry summer when the layer seals over, and a wet winter when new material is washed in. Lake Ohrid is Europe’s oldest lake. A team of scientists have been drilling into its sediments and looking at its seasonal rings. They have now drilled 1800 feet into the lakebed and have counted 1,000,000 continuous seasonal layers, laid down over that many years.
The Nile river has had annual floods between June and September from spring rains in the Ethiopian highlands. That flooding has been blunted by the creation of Aswan High Dam in 1970. The age of the Nile has been determined through its sediments to be over 40 million years old, but by using complicated techniques of matching sediments to what was going on, geologically, upstream and isotope-decay dating. I will not mention those ages here because we are talking about counting visible annual rings. However, by carefully looking annual rings or layers, the date of deposits in Mediterranean show seasonal rings going back 414,000 years. This again makes a 6,000-year-old earth impossible.
Besides the soft (still mud) sedimental annual layering, sediments can also turn into sedimentary rocks (shale and sandstone) while maintaining their annual layering fingerprints. These lines are called varves. These annual layers in varves of a Swedish lake have been carefully counted back to precisely 13,527 years. The annual layers or varves have been counted backwards in the Green River shale of Wyoming to over 1,000,000 years via direct observation of annual, seasonal lines of deposition. How do you square this up with a 6,000-year-old earth?
The YEC say that the reason they insist that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that Noah’s flood was worldwide and only 4,000 because the Bible must be taken in the most simple and obvious interpretation. However, when it comes to the evidence in nature, the YECs take the most prosperous interpretation. I haven’t heard their explanation of the above evidence but I have heard them explain many of the other evidences as, the world was different before Noah’s flood. Isotopes decayed much more slowly, giving the false impression of an older earth. This makes no sense to a physicist who understand isotopes and their decay.
In case you are joining my conversation at this point, I want to be clear once again what my motive is for addressing the age of the earth. I am not on the offensive. I am not trying to convert YEC to my point of view. I, unlike them, am certainly not saying their faith is inferior to mine. I really don’t care if they believe the earth was created last Thursday … in the afternoon. But there is a real problem when they insist the Bible says the earth is 6,000 years old and if you don’t believe them, you are not a good person, and not a true believer. Furthermore, because they have no evidence from nature to support their view, they then create a narrative that the scientists, who are very smart, who have worked for decades in their fields, who truly want to pursue truth above all else, are bad guys. The scientists, or in their words, “Humanists, evolutionists, god-haters” are out to destroy your religion as an operative of Satan himself. This distrust of everyone outside of their small subculture is very unhealthy. The result is the conservative Christians, who subscribe to the YEC ideas, then stop trusting outside authorities in all areas. I saw it with COVID, where an estimated 350,000 people died unnecessarily because they didn’t trust the experts. I am a retired medical provider and I saw distrust in my practice, and I hear that is getting worse. The patient, who may have never even had a first aid course, believes that the doctor or PA is not smart as them in medical areas, or does not have their best interest at heart. Now that I’m a cancer patient, I’ve watched several cancer patients died—without a good reason—only because they didn’t trust their doctors.
But it drifts into a general mistrust of everyone outside their group. They will believe political lies if it comes from political figures who they consider to be inside their social group, but not trust any political figure, even demonize them, if they are from the other group. This is not healthy for any group and this is of great concern. It is about the pursuit of truth.
However, the biggest loss, in my opinion, are those people, often young people, who are told that to be a Christian they must believe that the earth is 6,000-years-old. If the young person is smart and well-read, they will soon realize that such an idea is prosperous and then leave Christianity, believing they have no choice. I will continue this look at the evidence of an old earth.
Thanks for reading,