A Desperate Attempt to Solve an Intractable Problem

Artist's conception of a large asteroid hitting the earth (click for credit)

Artist’s conception of a large asteroid hitting the earth (click for credit)

One of the many problems associated with an ancient earth is the young, faint sun. In a nutshell, we think we understand the way a star produces energy, and based on this understanding, a star starts off dim and grows brighter over time. Based on what we know, then, the sun should have been about 25% dimmer 3.8 billion years ago, when most evolutionists think life first emerged on earth. However, if the sun really were 25% dimmer back then, the earth would be far too frigid to support life.

This problem has been recognized for more than 40 years now, and evolutionists have worked hard on it (see here and here), but a solution has remained elusive. However, a recent paper has proposed a possible solution, and I found it interesting, because it illustrates exactly how desperate evolutionists are to get rid of this intractable problem.

In essence, the paper says that the way to fix the problem is to have earth pummeled by very large (greater than 100 kilometers in diameter) asteroids. They are so large that the authors call them “planetesimals”:

Planetesimals exceeding 100 km in diameter pummeled the early Earth for hundreds of Myr, resulting in large volumes of melt produced both by immediate depressurization and by subsequent mantle convection driven by the impact.

But wait a minute. Wouldn’t constant bombardment with large asteroids cause a problem for the formation of life? Not necessarily. Obviously, the impacts would inhibit the formation of life wherever they occurred, but they might make the earth as a whole more hospitable for life.

How? Well, impacts from large asteroids would melt lots of rock, making huge pools of lava. Those pools of lava would release the gases that had been trapped in the rock. Some of them would be greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and water vapor. Those greenhouse gases would then trap energy in the atmosphere, making the earth warmer than it otherwise would be.

Of course, there’s the rub. If the number of asteroid bombardments becomes too great (or the asteroids are too large), too many greenhouse gases would be released, and the earth would get too hot. If there aren’t enough bombardments (or the asteroids are too small), too few greenhouse gases would be released, and the earth wouldn’t get warm enough. In other words, the rate and severity of these impacts need to be balanced very precisely to keep the earth warm, but not too warm.

That’s not the end of the story, however. The greenhouse gases also have to leave the atmosphere over time. Otherwise, the earth would end up getting too hot as the sun got brighter and brighter. At the right time, then, the asteroid impacts would have to start decreasing, and the greenhouse gases would have to leave the atmosphere. Of course, these processes couldn’t happen too slowly or too quickly. Their rates would have to be coordinated with the increase in the sun’s brightness.

To me, this all seems very hard to believe. In order to keep the earth hospitable for life over evolutionary history, there has to be this perfectly-coordinated “dance” between asteroid impacts, greenhouse gas concentrations, and the brightness of the sun. Any misstep in the dance would destroy life on earth.

Of course, if you are committed to believing in an ancient earth, I guess any story, no matter how desperate, is better than an intractable problem.

16 Comments

  1. Daniel S says:

    I suppose it is more likely, though, than everything being created by chance.

  2. Old Earther says:

    Old Earth creationists also believe the cosmos is billions of years old, but they are not evolutionists, ie John Lennox, Francis Schaeffer, and many others. You don’t have to be an evolutionist to believe an old earth.

    1. pwcheney says:

      I suppose that time, space and matter may have been warped in the first few days, more or less. There is mention of rolling like a scroll in the Bible, and it also seems to work into Einstein’s theories. My understanding is that particular amount of time was relative to single days as we now know twenty-four hours. Rather than taking God literally, if it were all a thousand year metaphor, perhaps the meaning is that a day is like a half-billion years. Excusing the argument, I confess that our ability to calculate “how long” it took for God to spread out the stars and form every atom in “one day” using E=mc2 may be limited to some extent.

  3. Sj says:

    Old Earther, would you mind explaining the old earth creationist model? Does it posit both the earth and the universe being billions of years old, or just the universe? And does it posit special creation, like the YEC model, or directed evolution?

    Thanks for the information…

    1. Old Earther says:

      John Lennox does posit a special creation of humans, and he covers a lot on this subject in his short book Seven Days That Divide The World: https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Days-That-Divide-World/dp/0310492173

      1. Old Earther says:

        There is also a youtube video here, but I’m not sure how much he covers in this talk. The book covered everything facet I know of. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FmO2XKMe6g

      2. Jonathan Sarfati says:

        We have reviewed this book on our site. One problem is that human death alone is a problem for his view. That is, the dating methods he trusts puts Homo sapiens fossils at about 200,000 years ago, and some of that by sinful means such as cannibalism. Hard to pretzelize the Genesis 5 and 11 chronogenealogies to stretch Adam that far back.

  4. Believer says:

    The problem is “confirmation bias”. Everybody tries to confirm their belief through science. Very few people are in search of truth. Suppose you see a perfectly round or a square rock. everybody will agree that it did not happen by chance(naturally), there is a human behind it. But evolutionists believe that so many more complex things happen by chance, because they do not want to believe that there could be another force(creator).

    1. ML/NJ says:

      Almost everybody.

      I don’t really know what to believe, except maybe: When Contradictions exist, examine your Premises.

      “Evolution” (speciation, really) is full of contradictions. The simplest one for me is that evolution is supposed to take a long time. But we observe each animal species has a characteristic number of chromosome pairs. We have 23. Apes have 24. Yes, some animals have offspring with the “wrong” number of chromosome pairs. But none of these ever have grandchildren. You cannot get from 22 (or whatever) to 23 “over a long period of time” unless each animal population includes a significant minority of interbreeding members with the “wrong” chromosome number. But we don’t observe this.

      There are lots of other contradictions. The premise is false.

  5. cjl says:

    Remarkable. Laughable, really. God is not so horrible once you get to know Him – why are so many so desperate to avoid His face?
    I think these are the sorts of things God will point to at the end of time and say something to the effect of “See? You knew I was there all along. You just refused to recognize me.”

  6. Michael Vineyard says:

    One can believe in an old earth, old sun, and a 13+ Billion year universe, and still believe in a Creator! (I would recommend the works of Doctor Hugh Ross, a PhD in Astrophysics, and quite an interesting commentator on the Bible.)

    And there is plenty of evidence that either the earth is very old – OR – God created the earth with an appearance of age.

    The author has an earned PhD in Nuclear Chemistry – so I am sure he can explain that the ‘evidence’ of the “Okla Natural Reactor” in Gabon, Africa shows that a ‘natural reactor’ existed about 2 billion years ago and operated at low power for several million years; the natural uranium that was found was unusually depleted in U235…and there were lots of fission products found in the region. This evidence is of age – or God created the Okla reactor with an appearance of extreme age. While there are plenty of young earth believers who try to explain geologic formations like the Grand Canyon as something that could have been created in a short time….there is NOTHING short of time that can change the way a natural nuclear reactor operations would occur, or the decay chains of fission products would be affected.

    1. Jay Wile says:

      I will have to disagree with you, Michael. While there is some evidence that seems to indicate the earth is ancient, I think the majority of the scientific evidence makes the earth look very young. Thus, I don’t think the earth is very old, and I don’t think God made it with an appearance of age, because as a scientist, it looks very young to me.

      I think the Oklo (not Okla) natural reactor is an example of this. I have not examined the site directly, but I have read the scientific papers. On balance, the evidence points to a young earth. For example, the rocks in which the reactions occurred are supposed to be 1.74 +/- 0.20 billion years old. However, as Meshik and his colleagues report, most of the fission products have not moved, despite the fact that they are found in fractured and porous sandstone that is saturated with water. It is hard to understand how they could have stayed put for nearly 2 billion years in such an environment. It is much easier to understand if the rock is only thousands of years old.

      Also, I personally think the very fact that the fission reactions happened naturally adds to the evidence that radioactive decay was faster in the past. Most old-earthers believe that the reactions occurred nearly 2 billion years ago when the percentage of U-235 in uranium ore was higher. However, even with a higher concentration of U-235, some of the 16 places where the reactions seem to have occurred simply don’t have the right geometry to allow for sustained fission. If radioactive decay was faster at some point in the past, it is easier to explain how the fission reactions could have been sustained.

      Finally, I am not sure where you got the idea that these reactions “operated at low power for several million years…” Even those who assume an old earth when analyzing the sites say that they probably operated for “only” 150,000 years or so.

      1. Michael Vineyard says:

        Do you have any familiarity with nuclear physics, reactor theory, decay chains for fission products, etc. that would allow you to understand the reports on the Okla Natural Reactor?

        On what scientific basis do you postulate that there can be varying decay rates or other fundamental ‘constants’ of science that are not constant? In the same manner – I have heard ‘pseudo scientists’ who explain away the light we see from distant galaxies as ‘new’ but the speed of light was much faster…and has dropped down to what it is today. This means that many of the foundational physics principles wouldn’t work then as we know them today…and the universe would not be well ordered.

        Ultimately – scientific constants ARE CONSTANT. Speculating that decay rates change is based on wishful ‘beliefs’ but not based on logical thinking. As I said – the Okla Natural Reactor provides an appearance of 2 billion years of age – and it is indisputable by anyone who has the science background to understand nuclear physics principles.

        (My ‘millions of years’ was from memory….and reviewing it, yes, it was a shorter period of time…)

        1. Jay Wile says:

          Thanks for your reply, Michael. Yes, I do have a lot of familiarity with nuclear physics, reactor theory, and the decay chains of fission products. Those are directly related to my Ph.D. and the research I did with the National Science Foundation. So yes, I understand the scientific papers that have been written about the Oklo (not Okla) reactor.

          In terms of varying decay rates, there is scientific evidence to indicate that radioactive half-lives can change (see here and here, for example). These are not “wishful ‘beliefs'” as you call them. Instead, they are serious scientific data that must be addressed.

          You say that “pseudo scientists” suggest that the speed of light might have been greater in the past. However, there have been many, many papers in the scientific literature postulating an increased speed of light in the past (see here, here, here, and here, for example). All of these papers are from the standard, peer-reviewed literature, so I am not sure how you can call the authors “pseudo scientists.”

          It’s interesting that you say, “Ultimately – scientific constants ARE CONSTANT” in this discussion. In fact, there are scientists who conclude that the Oklo (not Okla) natural reactors provide strong evidence for a decrease in the fine structure constant.

          You claim, “the Okla [sic] Natural Reactor provides an appearance of 2 billion years of age – and it is indisputable by anyone who has the science background to understand nuclear physics principles.” However, that is quite untrue. My Ph.D. is in nuclear chemistry and is directly related to nuclear fission. I have done research in nuclear fission that was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and led to several publications (see here, here,and here, for example). I see the Oklo (not Okla) natural reactors as evidence for a young earth and variable radioactive decay rates. Dr. Eugene F. Chaffin, who taught at the Naval Nuclear Power School, also sees the Oklo data as evidence that radioactive decay rates can change. Dr. Chaffin is also a young-earth creationist and does not see the Oklo natural reactors as providing an appearance of 2 billion years of age.

        2. Jake says:

          I want to add something to Dr. Wile’s response (which is entirely correct): “scientific constants” are more complicated than you might think. First of all, the fine-structure constant (which is related to the charge of the electron) *changes* with the energy of the particle participating in the electromagnetic interaction – and would *diverge* at a particular energy if electromagnetism were an exact theory of nature. This has to do with what’s called renormalization group theory, which says that the values of some quantities we might consider constant are actually functions of the energy or length scale involved. The speed of light is a different kind of constant, but all of the things we call constants are really only constant so far as we’ve measured them and our theories make sense for them to be constant. We didn’t discover them written down in the manual for the universe; we came up with them ourselves. I do believe that God has decreed the fundamental laws of the universe, but the only way we can currently figure out what they are is by looking at the universe ourselves. And we won’t always think about the universe in the right ways, or even in the same ways as in the past.

  7. Rose White says:

    Worms prove Earth is young and Creation and also that The Flood was a worldwide catastrophe just 4,400 years ago – exactly as the Bible states.
    Also the fossil column – if there really is such a thing which there ain’t – also confirms the Bible account of God’s Creation.
    Worms is the key.