"Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it befits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God."

- Johannes Kepler



Where did the earth come from?
3) how old is the earth?


He stretches out the north over empty space, and hangs the earth on nothing. He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness.

- Job 26:7,10 NASB
Bible's book of Job, circa 1200 BC

"The earth is flat. Whoever claims it is round is an atheist deserving of punishment."

- Sheik Bin Baz
Islamic fatwa circa 1995
Yousef M. Ibrahim, "Muslim Edicts take on New Force"
The New York Times, February 12, 1995, p. A-14

5 How old is the earth?


There are two major schools of thought within geology for dating the earth. This competition of theories, though not directly related to the Bible, has interesting parallels to the two ways of interpreting the creation account. The geological debate is between uniformitarianism and catastrophism.

Uniformitarianism seeks to explain the world's present geography in terms of common processes and events operating over great periods of time.

Catastrophism interprets our present geographic condition as having been the result of major cataclysmic events over a shorter period of time.

Unfortunately, these two ideas suffer the same shortcoming. They both deal with the past in an historical manner. Though the study of the earth is classified as a science, the strict determination of the ancient geological past can only be extrapolated based upon how we interpret today's geological data.


A significant part of geological studies is that of the geologic column. Assembled during the nineteenth-century, the geologic column is a theoretical timeline of the earth's strata organized by the fossils typically found in them. It should be also pointed out that this theoretical column (constructed during the period when determinism dominated scientific thinking) never actually occurs:

It is simply an idea, an ideal series of geologic systems, and not an actual column of rocks that can be observed at a particular locality. Real rock formations are characterized by gaps and reversals of this ideal, imaginary sequence. Even the Grand Canyon only includes less than half of the geologic systems.12

The geologic column is based upon the assumption that Darwin's theory of evolution is true. The strata having the simplest fossil, for example, is placed at the bottom of the column. This placement designates it as being the oldest of the fossil bearing layers. Strata containing more complex fossils are placed in correspondingly higher levels of the column. Assuming evolution to be true, these are then given the appropriate younger ages. Therein lies several problems.


As can happen, evolutionists often stake their beliefs on the so-called fact of the great age of the strata in which any given fossil is found. Meanwhile, many uniformitarianist geologists stake their belief of the great age of that same strata on the so-called fact of evolution. They interpret the age of strata by the great amount of time fossils within it are believed to have needed to evolve. This is circular reasoning which neither the evolutionist nor uniformitarianist can use alone to prove anything.

Additionally, the geologic column locates the smaller organisms at the lowest levels (theoretically from millions of years ago) with progressively larger organisms nearer the top (theoretically more recent specimens). The problem with this so-called timeline of evolution is that it is no different from conditions that exist at this very moment.

If one were to look at a cross-section of the earth right now, the deepest levels contain nothing larger than microbial life. As the surface is approached, one progressively encounters multicellular creatures, protozoa, small insects, larger insects, small burrowing mammals, and then large mammals. A cross-section through the sea bed reveals a similar progression.

Thus one cannot conclude that the distance between levels where small and large life forms are found actually equate to millions of years of transmutation. A sudden burial of today's conditions under a sufficient amount of silt would display identical characteristics to the supposed evolutionary timeline that is said to span many millions of years. You and the ape in the zoo are not separated by millions of years, nor is the ape and any monkey he's staring at, nor is the monkey and its fleas, nor are the fleas and its germs. They all coexist right now.


Another assumption about the theoretical geologic column is that when real life geologic conditions are found which violate the theoretical column, those findings are sometimes explained as follows:

Fossils found too low in the geologic column (i.e., before they were supposed to have evolved) are termed stratigraphic leaks. Specimens found too high in the geologic column are considered as reworked specimens." 13

These reworked specimens seemingly have no size limit. A known region of Cambrian limestone (350 miles long, 35 miles wide, and 6 miles thick) overlays Cretaceous shale which is supposedly some 900 million years its younger.


One alternative to studying strata to determine the earth's age is the process of carbon dating, or carbon-14 dating. This measures the known and constant decay of carbon atoms within any object containing the element. When coal (a high carbon material) from the Cretaceous period mentioned above is tested with this method, it tests out at 45-50,000 years old.That is a far cry from evolution's construction that Cretaceous coal be found in the range of hundreds of millions of years.

What is the problem here?

Plenty of materials other than coal have been tested using carbon dating; materials believed to be among the planet's oldest items such as marble, graphite, oil, and diamonds. Absolutely nothing has tested older than around 55,000 years. The carbon dating method is theoretically capable of discerning objects as old as 100,000 years yet none have been discovered, or at least tested. Carbon dating is considered so reliable that it is in wide use today around the globe. However, when someone wants to establish a date in the millions or billions of years, then they use a different method.

Radiometric analysis is the other popular method of dating objects. This method is conceptually similar to carbon dating but basically measures the radioactive decay of certain elements. Different variations of this include the potassium-argon method, the lead-lead method, the ribidium-strontium method, and so on.

The reason radiometric dating is less often used is because it measures changes more minute than carbon dating, hence it has a much larger margin for error. This prevents it from being a best source of information. It assumes an initial condition, a uniform and consistent radioactive decay of the material in question with no parent or daughter atoms being added to or lost from it, and then multiplies a small reading in the sample by a very large factor to arrive at a ballpark age. Geologist John Morris comments from his experience,

When the scientist wants to date a rock, he sends it to a lab. But... that lab won't even take that rock unless he sends in a form with it telling them exactly how old he thinks that rock is. That gives them a target to shoot for." 14

Ken Carlson, an international fuels consultant I have met, confirmed from his own experience that samples he, too, submitted to labs do indeed ask for a range they are to aim at, and consequently find a date somewhere within the submitted parameters.

British engineer Sidney P. Clementson has shown that 200 year-old volcanic rocks have tested anywhere from 100 million to 10 billion years old (twice the oldest estimated age of the earth).

Geologist John Calvert recently pointed out that newly formed rocks created by the Mount St. Helens eruption have tested out to measure 20 million years old when using radiometric dating.

Scott Huse amusingly points out that the publication Science has even shown that living snails, by the use of a radiation measuring method, result in being measured at 2,300 years old. 16

Perhaps now you can start to see why this dating method is not used like carbon dating. It is reserved for testing objects which pro-evolutionists need or believe to be millions or billions of years old. John Whitcomb, in his book The World That Perished, quotes Clementson's conclusions of radiometric dating,

Furthermore, these ages have no relationship to the age of the earth, because of course, the various ages computed have varied so widely. Consequently ratios of parent and daughter elements are merely ratios, and their use as a base for projecting 'ages' of the rocks, or of the earth itself, is highly questionable and fraught with many assumptions that cannot be checked." 15

As mentioned previously, this dating method is not totally untrustworthy, but until there are vast improvements in methods and technology it should not be accredited to have the reliability that evolutionists imagine it to have.

9.6 What is the significance of the worldwide flood relative to the earth's origin?

Huge discrepancies for uniformitarian geology to explain, such as entire regions of the earth which overlay supposedly younger regions, are more easily explained by the geology of catastrophism. One major event of catastrophist geology is that of a worldwide flood. Such a hydraulic cataclysm is recorded in the Bible and is also quite commonly mentioned among a majority of unrelated ancient writings (as numerous books that I have seen in the British Museum are dedicated towards). Perhaps the only contested aspect in that debate is the source, extent, and effect of that flood.


There are at least two major theories thought to explain the source of the hydraulic cataclysm. The older idea is the collapse of an antediluvian vapor canopy, which would have been the release of a great deal of water suspended in the upper atmosphere.

The more recent idea to put forth to explain a phenomenally large and sudden flood which could have encompassed most, if not all, of the world is the hydroplate theory. This theory holds that vast amounts of water once lay trapped below the surface of the earth; a possible result of degassing which is used to explain the origin of the oceans. It would have been subject to tremendous and increasing pressure with the passing of time.

Trapped water eventually may have exploded out of the surface through a crack tracing along the mid-Atlantic ridge; a crack resulting from pressure within, such as heat, or from pressure without, such as a meteor impact. The energy involved in such an explosion would have also thrown fantastic amounts of silt into the air and potentially agitated tectonic plate movement to a severe and worldwide degree.

By either idea, such a release of moisture into the earth's system would demand a corresponding atmospheric pressure increase. Such a sudden pressure increase would explain the mystery of over five million mammoths, found in Alaska and Siberia, that appear to have been instantly encased in ice. Zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson was not a catastrophist until he made this first hand observation,

First, the mammoth was upright, but it had a broken hip. Second, its exterior was whole and perfect, with none of its two-foot long shaggy fur rubbed or torn off. Third, it was fresh; its parts, although they had started to rot when the heat of fire got at them, were just as they had been in life; the stomach contents had not begun to decompose. Finally, there were buttercups on its tongue.17

The mammoth's stomach contents, the number of mammoths found, and the mammoths' lack of oil-producing glands and erector muscles (common to all known Arctic animals) suggest the northern climate was once markedly different than it is today. Even a 1978 U.S. Geological Survey Report testifies that a variety of tropical plants apparently were once common to Alaska.

Hydraulic cataclysm goes on to offer plausible explanations for present rock stratification, the disappearance of dinosaurs, the ice age, and coal formation. This subject, like so many others we have looked at, is the focus of entire books. May it suffice to say the cataclysmic geology is quite amenable to the biblical model of a short-term creation. But a short-term creation is not the only interpretation of the Genesis account (more on the age of the earth and the universe).

If we can believe Moses' account of the planet's origin, something he could not possibly have guessed or figured out, yet it parallels the most recent discoveries, can we not also believe his explanation that it was God who told him? Without committing to either one of the presented time scenarios, I find the idea that the earth is a work of God's is plausible no matter how long it took.



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NEXT: Where did man come from?

See also:

How long did creation take?

Natural revelation: what it reveals about origins

What about the accounts of a worldwide flood?

Natural revelation: good science is good theology

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It is hard to find any two people, Christian or non, who perfectly agree on the age of the earth.

While such an event will never be pinpointed in time, there is something to be learned by seeing what's been gathered, and understanding how date ranges have been assigned.

If this sufficiently interests you, finish this subject by reading my answers to the more broad based question "How long did creation take?"