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Young Earth creationists make a number of claims in the field of geophysics, mostly related to the age of the Earth and flood geology. According to the United States National Academy of Sciences, creation geophysics, and creation science generally, fails to meet the key criteria of science because it lacks empirical support, supplies no tentative hypotheses, and resolves to describe natural history in terms of scientifically untestable supernatural events.[1]

Claims relating to the age of the Earth

Earth's magnetic field: rapid-decay and rapid reversals

This hypothesis was developed by Thomas G. Barnes, who was Creation Research Society president in the mid 1970s. Taking the assumption that the Earth's magnetic field decayed exponentially, and ignoring evidence of it fluctuating over time, he estimated that "the life of the earth's magnetic field should be reckoned in thousands, not millions or billions, of years." It has drawn harsh criticism from both scientists and some creationists.[2]

It has long been observed that Earth's magnetic field gradually changes over time (e.g., by Henry Gellibrand of Gresham College, in 1634). Much of this change is due to movement of the magnet poles, and changes in the Earth's non-dipole field. The Earth's magnetic field strength was measured by Carl Friedrich Gauss in 1835 and has been repeatedly measured since then, showing a relative decay of about 5% over the last 150 years.[3]

While the details of the creationists' arguments have changed, in essence the argument is that if the Earth's dipole changes by 5% per century, the Earth can't be much older than 20 centuries.[4]

One proposal is based on the assumption that Earth was created from pure water with all of the molecules' spins aligned creating a substantial magnetic field.[5] However spin relaxation times, which measure the time nuclear magnetisations take to return to the equilibrium, are typically measured in the range of milliseconds or seconds.

Russell Humphreys accepts a core-current based magnetic field and archaeomagnetic measurements of the magnetic field (based on measurements of human artefacts), and concludes that several reversals of the magnetic field occurred during the biblical flood.[6] The concept of rapid magnetic field reversals has been linked to the creationist theory that runaway plate subduction occurred during Noah's flood.[7][8] Such rapid (month long) variation contradict measurements of the conductivity of the Earth's mantle.[9]

Such ideas are inconsistent with the basic physics of magnetism.[10] While short term variations have been shown to be due to a variety of factors, the long-term (million year) variation in field intensity (and even reversal in polarity) are modeled as due to changes in electric currents in the liquid outer core of the Earth.

Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth project

Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (R.A.T.E.) is a joint project by the Institute for Creation Research and the Creation Research Society to produce experimental geochronological results that support a Young Earth creationist view that the age of the Earth is only thousands of years — not billions, as the scientific consensus has concluded.

The membership of R.A.T.E. has been self-described as "Bible-believing Christian, committed to young-earth creation." Members are:[11]

Creationists involved in the R.A.T.E. Project point to experiments they have performed, which they claim demonstrate that 1.5 billion years of nuclear decay took place over a short period of time, from which they infer that "billion-fold speed-ups of nuclear decay" have occurred, a massive violation of the principle that radioisotope decay rates are constant, a core principle underlying nuclear physics generally, and radiometric dating in particular.[12]

The scientific community points to numerous flaws in these experiments, to the fact that their results have not been accepted for publication by any peer-reviewed scientific journal, and to the fact that the creationist scientists conducting them were untrained in experimental geochronology.[13][14]

In refutation of young-Earth claims of inconstant decay rates affecting the reliability of radiometric dating, Roger C. Wiens, a physicist specialising in isotope dating states:

There are only three quite technical instances where a half-life changes, and these do not affect the dating methods [under discussion][15]":
  1. Only one technical exception occurs under terrestrial conditions, and this is not for an isotope used for dating. ... The artificially-produced isotope, beryllium-7 has been shown to change by up to 1.5%, depending on its chemical environment. ... [H]eavier atoms are even less subject to these minute changes, so the dates of rocks made by electron-capture decays would only be off by at most a few hundredths of a percent.
  2. ... Another case is material inside of stars, which is in a plasma state where electrons are not bound to atoms. In the extremely hot stellar environment, a completely different kind of decay can occur. 'Bound-state beta decay' occurs when the nucleus emits an electron into a bound electronic state close to the nucleus. ... All normal matter, such as everything on Earth, the Moon, meteorites, etc. has electrons in normal positions, so these instances never apply to rocks, or anything colder than several hundred thousand degrees. ...
  3. The last case also involves very fast-moving matter. It has been demonstrated by atomic clocks in very fast spacecraft. These atomic clocks slow down very slightly (only a second or so per year) as predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity. No rocks in our solar system are going fast enough to make a noticeable change in their dates. ...

Roger C. Wiens, Radiometric Dating, A Christian Perspective[16]


Robert V. Gentry studied these halos and concluded that the rock must have formed within three minutes if the halo was formed by Po-218. This is taken by some creationists as evidence that the earth was formed instantaneously. Other creationists, including some fellow Seventh Day Adventists, have disparaged his work, and have "accused him of willfully ignoring pertinent evidence and of inconsistently and arbitrarily assuming nonuniform decay rates for all radioactive isotopes except polonium."[17]

Critics of Gentry from within the scientific community have pointed out that Po-218 is a decay product of radon, which as a gas can be given off by a grain of uranium in one part of the rock and collected in another part of the rock to form a uraniumless halo. Gentry's examples rely on a radon ring that is close to the Po-210 ring and it is a bit difficult to tell them apart, and it is not certain whether the rings can be positively associated with polonium.[18]

Gentry's work has been continued and expanded by the creationist R.A.T.E. project that was operating between 1997 and 2005. Radiohalos were studied as part of the R.A.T.E. project by creationists such as Andrew Snelling of Answers in Genesis, Russell Humphreys, John Baumgardner and Steven A. Austin at the Institute of Creation Research as well as others at the Creation Research Society.[citation needed] However, Lorence G. Collins, J. Richard Wakefield and others have repeatedly and soundly rebutted the radiohalo evidence for a young earth in peer-reviewed publications.[citation needed]

Claims relating to flood geology

Geophysical hypotheses related to flood geology include:

  • Runaway subduction, the rapid movement of tectonic plates, which John Baumgardner posits to have initiated the catastrophic breakup of a single primal supercontinent, which in turn precipitated the global flood of Noah. During the year-long global flood, the continents rapidly split apart and moved to their present positions.
  • Hydroplates, an alternative hypothesis proposed by Walt Brown of superfast continental drift. His hypothesis has not been regarded by the scientific community to be founded on science. Other creationist organizations such as the Institute for Creation Research are skeptical of the hydroplate theory.
  • Vapor canopy, the idea that the waters for the flood came from a "canopy" of water vapor surrounding the Earth. One major proponent of the vapor canopy is Kent Hovind, who has made the model, combined with the hydroplate theory, popular among the general population of creationists, but most creation scientists now reject the idea.[19] For instance, Walt Brown's Center for Scientific Creation opposes it, and it has also fallen into disfavour at Answers in Genesis.

See also


  1. Script error
  2. p282-283, The Creationists, Expanded Edition, 2006, Ronald Numbers
  3. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science, 1988 16 p.435 "Time Variations of the Earth's Magnetic Field: From Daily to Secular" by Vincent Courtillot and Jean Louis Le Mouel
  4. Russell Humphreys, D. (2002), "The Earth’s Magnetic Field is Still Losing Energy", Creation Research Society Quarterly 39 (1): 1–11,, retrieved 2010-05-21
  5. "The Earth: Is It Young or Is It Old?", Dr. Jay L. Wile
  6. "The Earth's Magnetic Field is Young ", Russell Humphreys, Institute for Creation research
  7. Andrew A. Snelling (1991), Fossil magnetism reveals rapid reversals of the earth's magnetic field, Answers in Genesis,
  8. Andrew A. Snelling (2007), Can Catastrophic Plate Tectonics Explain Flood Geology?, Answers in Genesis,
  9. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science, 1988 16 p.452 "Time Variations of the Earth's Magnetic Field: From Daily to Secular" by Vincent Courtillot and Jean Louis Le Mouel
  10. Claim CD701, TalkOrigins Archive
  11. Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, a Young Earth Creationist Research Initiative, Larry Vardiman, Andrew A. Snelling, Eugene F. Chaffin (ed)
  12. Nuclear Decay: Evidence For A Young World, D. Russell Humphreys, Impact, Number 352, October 2002.
  13. Young-Earth Creationist Helium Diffusion "Dates" Fallacies Based on Bad Assumptions and Questionable Data, Kevin R. Henke, TalkOrigins website, Original version: March 17, 2005, Revision: November 24, 2005.
  14. R.A.T.E: More Faulty Creation Science from The Institute for Creation Research, J. G. Meert, Gondwana Research, The Official Journal of the International Association for Gondwana, November 13, 2000 (updated February 6, 2003).
  15. Dating methods discussed were potassium-argon dating, argon-argon dating, rubidium-strontium dating, samarium-neodymium dating, lutetium-hafnium, rhenium-osmium dating, and uranium-lead dating.
  16. Radiometric Dating, A Christian Perspective, Roger C. Wiens, American Scientific Affiliation, p20-21
  17. p282, The Creationists, Expanded Edition, 2006, Ronald Numbers
  18. Thomas A. Baillieul, "Polonium Haloes" Refuted 2001-2005, archives
  19. Creation Ministries International, "Noah's Flood - What about all that water?"

External links


Vapor canopy

Rapid-decay theory