Age of the Sun
Published: 13 November 2011 (GMT+10)
CMI supporter Joni from Finland asks about an old earth argument he encountered from a Finnish evolutionist. Dr Jonathan Sarfati (CMI–US (formerly Australia)) responds:
How do you respond to this?
The age of the sun can be calculated with accuracy nowadays. The fusion models of the sun can be calculated with computers and they give a compatible brightness compared with observations. In addition to this model, models give the ratio of helium and hydrogen (He/H) in a function of radius. So called helioseismology has been able to provide an accurate ratio of He/H and the internal composition of the sun, thus the sun’s age has been able to measure with accuracy.
Helioseismology is an phenomenon, where the sun’s surface undulates in a timescale of minutes and hours, this can be seen from the spectral-lines (part of the surface comes towards and some goes in the opposite direction and a Doppler-transition is seen ): (picture below)
These sound waves travel through the sun and are dependent on the internal structure and the ratioprofile of He/H, etc.
This internal undulation and its “spectral analysis” gives quite tight margin for models of the sun, for its internal structure and for the age of the sun so, that the age of the sun was calculated in 1999 to be 4.66±0.11 billion years. [W.A. Dziembowski, G. Fiorentini, B. Ricci, R. Sienkiewicz, Helioseismology and the solar age, Astron.Astrophys. 343 (1999) 990]
Actually, this question has already been addressed in my book Refuting Compromise, either directly or by logical implication. The relevant chapter (#5) was checked by a Ph.D. stellar astronomer, Danny Faulkner; and a Ph.D. solar astrophysicist, Jason Lisle.
Role of assumptions
First, let’s grant that they are right in everything they say about the current composition and internal structure of the sun, as well as fusion, which I believe is the primary energy source of the sun (see ‘Missing’ neutrinos found! No longer an ‘age’ indicator). But they can’t possibly deduce age from this unless they know the starting composition—see How dating methods work. Another article points out that certain features may have good design reasons, and are not there so people can work out ages while ignoring the eye-witness accounts: The Parable of the Candle. Many people don’t realize that we don’t observe ‘age’; rather it is inferred from interpreting data according to a paradigm (see Evolution & creation, science & religion, facts & bias and The earth: how old does it look?).
Reasons for helium content
In this case, evolutionists assume that the sun’s core has 4.5 billion years worth of helium, but this has not been directly observed. No, we merely observe a certain amount of helium. And it seems like a design feature so that the sun is hot enough. The reason is as follows. A helium nucleus (alpha particle) takes up less room than four hydrogen nuclei (protons). This makes the core contract, and the higher temperature and pressure increases the rate of nuclear fusion, hence energy output. It may also be responsible for the sun’s exceptional stability (see The Sun: Our special star).
Problems with assumptions
Any age calculations must make an assumption about the initial composition of the sun, assuming very little helium to begin with. Yet as shown above, this would make the sun colder. This is actually a severe problem for evolutionists. They believe that life appeared on the earth about 3.8 billion years ago. But if that were true, the sun would be 25% brighter today than it was back then. This implies that the earth would have been frozen at an average temperature of -3ºC. However, most paleontologists believe that, if anything, the earth was warmer in the past. This is called The young faint sun paradox—see Our steady sun: a problem for billions of years. There is no such problem over only 6,000 years of the biblical timescale—far too little time for this to make any difference.
In summary, this problem shows that the key unspoken assumption of the long-ager—low initial quantity of helium—is not only not supported, but is contradicted by the evidence.
There are other problems discussed in the book. For example, the Nebular Hypothesis for the sun’s formation is nebulous in the extreme.1 Also, directly touching on the problem of the sun’s initial composition: the big bang theory predicts that elements higher than helium (‘metals’) were not formed in the bang but in the cores of stars via fusion. This entails that the first stars lacked metals; yet there is no evidence that such ‘Population III’ stars exist or have ever existed—see Stellar evolution and the problem of the ‘first’ stars.
Photon travel time
Refuting Compromise refutes another solar long-age argument as follows:
Also, some argue for long ages on the basis that the calculated time for a photon to travel from the core to the surface (actually by absorption and reradiation) exceeds the biblical timescale. But this is explained if the main purpose of fusion is stability—producing enough energy to balance that lost from the surface. I.e. the sun was created in a steady state condition, with the outward pressure generated by fusion matching the inward gravitational pressure, maintaining a constant temperature profile.2 This means that it could immediately fulfil its function as the ‘greater light’, and keep shining at a constant rate. It is no different from believing that God created Adam with oxygen in his bloodstream in his extremities, even though it now takes some time for oxygen to diffuse through the alveoli in the lungs, then be transported by the blood.
I hope this helps
- See update: Sarfati, J., Solar system origin: Nebular hypothesis, Creation 32(3):34–35, 2010. Return to text.
- Lisle, J., Reply to Bernitt, R. on the sun’s energy source, J. Creation 17(1):64–65, 2003. Return to text.