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Last Updated: 6/16/09

Measuring the Age of the Earth

Introduction: In reality, the age of the earth cannot be measured. There are no clocks that started ticking thousands or billions of years ago that we can now look at and read the elapsed time. We can, however, infer the age of the earth based on scientific measurements and empirical studies. Below we look at the evidence for a young earth (and the evidence for an old earth)

There are well over 100 ways to infer the age of the earth. Scientists look at the evidence as it is today, apply standards of scientific investigation, and infer how old something is. In some cases, we can consider pieces of evidence as clocks of a sort. In other cases, we have to ask the question, "How can this be?" and then determine how things got the way they are.

Examples of pseudo-clocks include radiometric dating, presence of DNA and soft tissue in fossils, mutation rates, and many other pieces of evidence.

Examples of "How can this be?" include folded strata, oil well pressure, living fossils, polystrata fossils, palio magnetism and many other pieces of evidence.

All of these examples must be interpreted. For nearly two hundred years, the interpretation was based on assumption. The assumption is that the earth is old and the processes we see today, slow and steady, are the only processes that can be considered. That has changed. We now have experiments, observations and testing that can help us determine explanations empirically (experiments, not assumption). For example, in 1975, when I first visited the Grand Canyon, all the explanatory information told why it took the Colorado River 30 million years to slowly and steadily carve the canyon. Now we know that the bottom of the Colorado River is actually covered in lose debris up to 75 feet thick and no slow carving can occur. The vast majority of geologists who specialize in studying the Grand Canyon now believe it had to be carved rapidly, either in one mighty catastrophe or a few smaller yet still huge catastrophes.

Of the 100+ inferences of age, only one class indicates the earth is old. That class of inference is radiometric dating. Though it can readily be shown that radiometric dating gives inconsistent results, there is no doubt that it does always results in old ages... tens of millions to several billions of years. But radiometric dating is based on assumptions about the starting conditions, processes that may have altered the starting conditions and the idea that the decay rate has never changed.

We are believers in using good work that has already been completed rather than reinventing the wheel. Therefore, we direct your attention to a web page that covers many of the "clocks" used to date the earth. The page has short summary statements with links to detailed information. We encourage you to follow the links to see the science behind the summary statements.

The web page is here.