Being a biologist and a Protestant Christian on the somewhat traditional/conservative side can be fuel for some interesting conversation. And frustration, but let’s stay positive. Occasionally I have the amusing experience of talking with someone who believes in a Young Earth and reacts to my dismissal of the idea with something like, “Creation Science is just as scientific as mainstream science.” Or, “You just haven’t read the Creation Science!” This reaction could be an explanation for why I dismiss it as unscientific, but I would suggest that the opposite is true.
It’s true that in the past decades Creation Science has enjoyed being an industry worth many millions of dollars, and well-educated people have been paid to produce Creation Science in that time. If there was a way the Earth could be young, these folks would have found it. But the truth is not “up for grabs,” and reality has a way of revealing itself when ideas are tested scientifically. Despite all the funding and popularity, the Young Earth hypothesis has a reliable problem: the oceans boiling and Earth melting. That is a big obvious hypothesis fail, at least in the world of doing real science.
But just because a Young Earth is trash science doesn’t mean there’s no entertainment value here! In truth, I sometimes enjoy reading YEC literature. I think I like reading them for the same reason I like awful B-grade disaster movies. Sure, it’s trash science, but seen in the right light, entertaining trash science! It can be a fun thought experiment.
Here are just a few YEC ideas that somehow made it from the reject B-movie plot bin into the Creation Science bin:
Ever mixed concrete and felt it heat up? That’s a chemical reaction releasing heat as energy. To make the concrete ingredient that causes the heating (lime), limestone is heated up in a furnace, and some of that chemically stored heat energy gets released when you mix the concrete. It’s possible to turn lime back into limestone through another chemical reaction, and that releases heat too. The process of forming limestone is a well-understood chemical reaction, and we know exactly how much heat it releases.
This heat release becomes problem when we try to squeeze formation of the Earth’s limestone into a YEC timespan. It’s especially a problem because YEC organizations routinely try to squeeze the Earth’s enormous limestone formations into being a product of a global flood. Here’s the math for your viewing pleasure, as also seen over at Talk Origins in a great article by Mark Isaak:
- The formation of calcite (limestone) produces 11,290 joules/gram of heat
- The Earth has 5 X 10^23 g of limestone
- Therefore, just 10% of Earth’s limestone forming during a year-long global flood would produce 5.6 X 10^26 joules of heat.
Now, it takes 4,184 joules to heat 1 Liter of water 1 degree Celsius. That works out to increasing 1.195 X 10^21 Liters of water by 100 degrees Celsius. That’s enough heat to boil the Earth’s oceans. In comparison, the Earth only gets about 4.4 X 10^16 joules of heat from the sun every year. I suppose all that energy wouldn’t be released in one day, but at best it would raise the water temperature enough to kill off aquatic life.
If limestone slowly boiling all things alive sounds like an awful movie, trust me, it’s worse as a scientific explanation for limestone.
So Much Lava!
In the same article, Mark Isaak also points out that there is a ton of rock formed from lava mixed in with all those layers supposedly made by a flood. There is enough to release at least another 5.4 X 10^27 joules of heat. That’s also more than enough to boil the oceans. Along with the limestone heat, things would get pretty steamy for Noah.
Any rational scientist would reject this hypothesis far before this point. Admittedly, though, lava does make for a more exciting disaster movie than limestone.
Deadly Radiation Increase!
I’m pretty sure this one is similar to an episode of Gilligan’s Island. The Institute for Creation Research funded a program called RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) to try to cast doubt on mainstream radiometric dating. Here’s what they say about the findings:
“The RATE book is a definitive resource on radioactive dating for every scientist’s library, whether evolutionist or creationist. It examines radioisotope theory, exposes its plaguing problems, and offers a better alternative.”
Sounds pretty optimistic about their findings, eh? Their hypothesis was that the reason rocks look so old according to radiometric tests is because radioactive elements used to decay faster. ICR claims that this is a better hypothesis than an Old Earth, and somehow they keep a straight face. Admittedly, this is pretty much the only possible way to escape the super obvious and unambiguous evidence that radiometric testing gives us for an old Earth. But here we get the same problem: squeezing 4.5 billion years of radiation into less than 10,000 years is pretty spicy.
Joe Meert has kindly done the math on this, and the result is an Earth surface temperature well above the 1200 degrees Celsius needed to melt it. If the heat didn’t kill you, the radiation would. This is trash science, and probably a trash B-movie too. All the main characters would die.
A Young Earth hypothesis gets rejected every time in scientific terms. As it turns out, cramming 4.55 billion years of aging into a few thousand years is an enormous energy release. These are not just bad ideas scientifically, they are Sharknado bad. The above three things are just a small sample of all the ways YEC ideas would cook the planet. How did the mountains form? Where did all the flood water come from and go? Running these numbers is a routine part of testing a scientific hypothesis, but apparently these honest tests just aren’t a concern. A young Earth is an understandable interpretation of the Bible, but scientifically one would never conclude a young Earth.
It’s true that there are a few more mundane YEC hypotheses, but my favorite are definitely the ones where the Earth melts. It’s just so much more spectacular. I can only assume that these YEC organizations have been raiding the dumpster behind a B-movie studio for plot ideas.