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Young Earth?
Dr Colin Groves

A long list of arguments persuaded Slusher (1979) that the age of the earth was better measured in thousands, not billions, of years. To a non-specialist they sound impressive: where is the 'missing mass' of the universe; interstellar grains are too big to have been formed by natural accretion; why is the sky dark (Olbers' Paradox); the radius of the curvature of space is only 5 years; there is too little meteoric dust on the earth and the moon to have fallen in more than 8900 years; too many asteroids in the solar system; the rings of Saturn are too young. To a cosmologist or a physicist, however, they are less convincing: Dutch (1982), for example, shows that they are based on ignorance. misunderstandings, unwarranted assumptions, and selective use of the literature.

Undaunted, creationists still quote some of Slusher's arguments, and add more. Small (undated) pamphlets by one D. Russell Humphreys, PhD, are commonly distributed at creationist meetings throughout Australia, listing 15 'natural phenomena which conflict with the evolutionary idea that the earth and universe are billions of years old': Galaxies wind themselves up too fast, Comets disintegrate too quickly, Earth's continents erode too fast, right on down to Not enough stone age skeletons, Agriculture is too recent, and Recorded history is too short.

The list of 'evidences' is supported by 27 references, at least 18 of which are articles or books by creationists, Humphreys himself being the author of two of them (on reversals of the earth's magnetic field: which, to judge by the titles of the articles, he appears to attribute in some manner to Noah's flood). The eclecticism of the list is characteristic of creationist recitals of 'evidences' - picked up from here and there, way outside the authors' fields of competence (if any), and thrown in uncomprehendingly for the benefit of an uncomprehending lay audience, easily wowed by science and anxious to hear that some science does after all support their deeply held prejudices. Examples are the last three on the list, which I will quote directly and in full (except the sources, given in square brackets), to give the flavour of the standard of literature searches and what passes for logic in the average creationist tract:

13. Not enough stone age skeletons

Evolutionary anthropologists say that the Stone Age lasted for at least 100,000 years, during which time the world population of Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon men was roughly constant, between one million and 10 million. All that time they were burying their dead with artefacts. [Ref.: Deevey (1960)].

By this scenario, they would have buried at least four billion bodies [Ref.: a creationist source]. If the evolutionary time-scale is correct, buried bones should be able to last much longer than 100,000 years. So many of the supposed four billion Stone Age skeletons should still be around (and certainly the buried artefacts). Yet only a tiny fraction of this number has been found.

This implies that the Stone Age was much shorter than evolutionists think, a few hundred years in many areas.

14     Agriculture is too recent

The usual evolutionary picture has men existing as hunters and gatherers for 100,000 years during the Stone Age before discovering agriculture less than 10,000 years ago. [Ref.: Deevey (1960)]. Yet the archaeological evidence shows that Stone Age men were as intelligent as we are.

It is very improbable that none of the four billion people mentioned on Item 13 above should discover that plants grow from seeds. It is more likely that men were without agriculture less than a few hundred years, if at all. [Ref.: same creationist source as above].

[There is another 'evidence', Recorded history is too short, which is much the same as no.14, but asks in this case why writing took so long to develop if there really were these 100,000 years].

I would suppose that any first-year archaeology student could show these up for the trash they are, but just in case there is any confusion, let me make it clear. For the first point: we do not know what the world's population was during the Late Pleistocene, nor whether it was constant or grew. It is very doubtful whether all bodies were interred, with or without artefacts, even granting that the Neandertal people really did practise burial; even in the 'ethnographic present' many are unaccounted for, and many methods of disposal are used apart from interment. Burial certainly improves the chances of a skeleton's survival, but soil chemistry, erosion, scavenging and numerous other factors make the whole process far more chancy than seems to be known to Dr Humphreys. In fact there is a whole field of endeavour, taphonomy, devoted to the study of the circumstances of the survival over time of bones. Finally, it does seem a little odd that Dr Humphreys seems to expect archaeologists to have got around to excavating most of those four billion skeletons in the couple of centuries since the field really got going.

For the second point: archaeologists, anthropologists and human geographers for over a century have been debating why some peoples did, some did not, adopt agriculture; whether it is always an unmitigated benefit; why some hunter-gatherers live alongside agriculturalists (and know very well that plants grow from seeds) and do not themselves choose to start cultivating. This has all passed Dr Humphreys by; he assumes that anyone who discovers that plants grow from seeds would at once realise the benefits of agriculture and begin planting neat rows of wheat.

It may have occurred to readers that there are also some rather decisive evidences for an old earth, such as radiometric dating. The validity of radiometric dating is, indeed. obligatorily questioned in 'creation science' writings and lectures. Thus Morris (1985) claims that radiocarbon and other methods based on radioactive decay rates are invalid because

1. they assume that the system is closed and no radioactive parent or daughter enters or leaves it,

2. they rely on there being no radiogenic daughter in the system to begin with and

3. there is no proof that the rate of decay is constant. It is as if geophysicists plied their trade by rote, never studying their methods and its parameters. The vast corpus of consistent dates - dendrochronology, varves, radiocarbon, thermoluminescence, electron spin resonance, to mention only those of archaeological importance - is never approached in creationist writings. The big picture is never tackled: creationists content themselves with sniping from the sides.

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