Our young solar system
Accepted theories of evolutionary science say our Earth and our solar system formed about 4.6 billion years ago. On the other hand, the Bible implies Earth is only several thousand years old. Further, Genesis 1 and other passages such as Exodus 20:11 imply that everything in the physical universe was created in the six-day Creation week. Thus, like Earth, the solar system also is only thousands of years in age. Is there scientific evidence that our solar system is not billions of years old? Yes! And this evidence is posing a mystery for scientists who believe in billions of years.
Evolutionary theories propose that our solar system formed from a large spinning nebula in space.1
The nebula is believed to have flattened to a spinning disk of gas, dust, and ice known as the accretion disk. Over millions of years, gravity caused the planets and other objects to form from this disk, and then excess gas and dust dissipated and cleared away, leaving the solar system as we see it.
An important concept in this origins model is that all objects in our solar system, which are bound by gravity to our Sun, were made from the material in this original nebula. So, this nebula becomes the common source from which everything in our solar system formed.
However, this long-age view of our solar system involves many scientific problems, which can be listed in three categories, namely chemical change problems, heat problems, and dynamics problems.
Methane not missing
One of the chemical-change problems for long-age thinking is the presence of methane on Titan, a moon of Saturn. Titan has an atmosphere thicker than that of Earth, made up of nitrogen and a long list of organic gases, such as methane, ethane, acetylene, and others. After much study of Titan’s atmosphere and the recent Cassini mission probe landing on its surface, an interesting mystery remains.
Scientists modelling Titan’s atmosphere have calculated that it should contain no methane but should have been used up in tens of millions of years.2 That’s because many chemical reactions use up methane in Titan’s atmosphere.3 Although there is some replenishment with methane evaporating off Titan’s surface this is not enough to solve the problem. In fact, there is probably also methane escaping Titan’s atmosphere into space,4,5 which would mean that Titan’s calculated upper limit ‘age’ could be even younger than 10 million years. Clearly this is contrary to the billions-of-years age for the solar system. On the other hand, such evidences of youth are expected for a solar system of biblical age.
Another chemical problem, one involving the Sun, is summarized in a recent headline, “Sun and planets constructed differently than thought, NASA mission suggests.”6 In particular, the Sun has a different composition from Earth: much more oxygen-16 and much less nitrogen-14. A writer in Science, commented, “The principal conclusion from the studies … is that the Earth was not constructed from average solar system materials.”7
The young Sun was too cool
An example of a heat problem for long-age thinking that affects Earth and the Sun is usually known as the faint young Sun paradox. Evolutionists believe the first living cell formed from chemicals on the early Earth about 3.8 billion years ago. At that time in the Sun’s life cycle it would have given off about 30% less light energy than today,8,9 and the Earth would have been much colder. Earth would likely have looked like a ball of ice instead of how it looks today. Thus life would not be likely to survive or evolve.
But this problem disappears when we interpret the evidence from a biblical perspective. In this view, the Sun was created essentially as it is today, and would not have changed much in 6,000 years. Thus God created the Sun with properties well suited to our needs, and it has been a very stable source of energy for us and for all life on Earth.
Io is too hot
Jupiter’s moon Io
A different type of heat problem occurs on a moon of Jupiter called Io. Jupiter is about five times as far from the Sun as Earth is, and has a mass of over 300 Earths. Io has various forms of sulfur across its surface and many volcanoes that are much more active than Earth’s volcanoes. The quantity of heat given off by the volcanoes on Io is much more than on Earth per unit of surface area.
Though scientists expected Io to be volcanic, the amount of heat coming from Io has been surprising. Consequently they have tried to explain the interior of Io and the amount of heat generated by all the volcanoes.
Jupiter is at least part of the cause of Io’s heat. Because Io has an elliptical orbit around Jupiter, and Jupiter is so large, massive tidal forces due to gravity squeeze Io and cause its shape to oscillate, generating heat inside Io—a process scientists call ‘tidal dissipation’. However, the amount of heat that Io gives off, that scientists have observed with infrared telescopes and spacecraft, is about 10 times the amount of heat generated by all known sources of heat, including tidal dissipation.10 The heat problem remains for the billion-year explanation.
However, the geology of Io is easy to explain when we assume there is heat left over from its creation and that Io is young. The processes proposed by scientists to explain Io are implausible over long time scales because they cannot continue the same way for billions of years. However the processes work well if the heat present after Io’s creation is simply used up and dissipates over several thousand years.
An example of a dynamics problem for long-age thinking concerns short-period comets, which orbit the Sun in elliptical paths. As they come near the Sun, comets lose material into space and give off a ‘tail’ called a coma that makes them beautiful to see. Short-period comets make an entire orbit in less than 200 years but long-period comets take more than 200 years.
Planetary scientists believe that long-period comets come from a hypothetical region far from the Sun called the Oort Cloud. Shaped like a spherical shell, the region supposedly contains many comets, which are occasionally pulled out of the Oort Cloud and sent toward the Sun. However, due to the distance there is no observational evidence that the Oort Cloud exists, and it cannot be the source of short period comets.
It has long been known that comets can survive only a limited number of passes near the Sun because they lose some of their material every orbit. Short-period comets would eventually become invisible because they would eventually stop producing a coma—they would have no more material to lose.11
Estimates of the visible ‘lifetime’ of short-period comets are uncertain but are generally of the order of thousands of years. They could not last millions or billions of years. Thus, scientists who believe the solar system is billions of years old have proposed various means of supplying new short-period comets as the old ones ‘burn out’.
One popular view is that short-period comets come from the region beyond Neptune, known as the Kuiper Belt. A few hundred objects have been observed beyond the planet Neptune in roughly circular orbits. Though it is possible for Neptune or other planets to move these Kuiper Belt objects into short-period-comet orbits, this does not seem to occur frequently enough to resupply the short-period comets.12
Also, the Kuiper Belt objects we know of are actually much larger than comets.
Other models proposed to explain the presence of short-period comets in a billion-year solar system have difficulties also. For instance, scientists have looked into the possibility that short-period comets come from long-period comets.13 But there are a number of problems with this, including the low inclinations of the short-period comet orbits. Also, there should be more dust detected if so many comets ‘converted’ from long to short-period orbits.
It is simpler and more plausible that the solar system is young and that short-period comets are not being ‘resupplied’ at all. This avoids many difficulties with explaining where all the comets come from and what happened to them. Thus we can accept that the Earth and solar system are only several thousand years old.
Our solar system is young
These are a few examples of scientific evidence that pose problems for those who claim the solar system is billions of years old. This evidence suggests our solar system is young, and other evidences could be mentioned. There are always alternatives to the long-age naturalistic theories that are accepted by most of the scientific community. Biblically, the Earth and the universe are roughly 6,000 years old. As the exploration of our solar system continues, more and more evidence is discovered that points to a young solar system, consistent with the time scale recorded in the Bible. Our solar system is young.
- For problems with the model, aside from the age considerations in this article, see Sarfati, J., Solar system origin: Nebular hypothesis, Creation 32(3):34–35, 2010. Return to text.
- Mitri, G., Showman, A.P., Lunine, J.I. and Lorenz, R.D., Hydrocarbon lakes on Titan, Icarus 186:385–394, 2007. Return to text.
- The Missing Methane, Astrobiology Magazine, 17 March 2005; Saturnian surprises, Creation 27(3):7, 2005. Return to text.
- Michael, M., et al., Ejection of nitrogen from Titan’s atmosphere by magnetospheric ions and pick-up ions, Icarus 175:263–267, 2005. Return to text.
- Sillanpaa, I., et al., Hybrid simulation study of ion escape at Titan for different orbital positions, Advances in Space Research 38(4):799–805, 2006. Return to text.
- Science News, 24 June 2011; Coppedge, D., Wrong again: planetologists embarrassed, crev.info/content/110623-wrong_again_planetologists_embarrassed, 23 June 2011. Return to text.
- Clayton, R., Planetary Science: The Earth and the Sun, Science 332(6037):1509–10, 24 June 2011 | DOI: 10.1126/science.1206965. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., Our steady sun: a problem for billions of years, Creation 26(3):52–53, 2004, creation.com/faint_sun; Samec, R., The sun in time, Journal of Creation 18(3):8–9, 2004. Return to text.
- Faulkner, D., The young faint Sun paradox and the age of the solar system, Journal of Creation 15(2):3–4, 2001. Return to text.
- Spencer, W., Tidal dissipation and the age of Io, Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, Ivey, R.L. Jr., Ed., Creation Science Fellowship, pp 585–595, 2003. Return to text.
- Faulkner, D., Comets and the age of the solar system, Journal of Creation 11(3):264–273, 1997, creation.com/comet; Sarfati, J., Comets—portents of doom or indicators of youth? Creation 25(3):36–40, 2003; creation.com/comets. Return to text.
- Newton, R., The short-period comets ‘problem’ (for evolutionists): Have recent ‘Kuiper Belt’ discoveries solved the evolutionary/long-age dilemma? Journal of Creation 16(2):15–17, 2002. Return to text.
- Napier, W.M., Wickramasinghe, J.T. and Wickramasinghe, N.C., Extreme albedo comets and the impact hazard, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 355:191–195, 2004. Return to text.
Whether or not I agree with the substantive claims in the article, I would like to make a point about terminology that has frustrated me for some time. Evolutionary biology really has nothing to do with the origins of the universe, the solar system or Earth.
Jonathan Sarfati responds: This is not so, according to evolutionary physicist Lawrence Lerner:
What do we mean by evolution, and what is its place in the sciences? The universe is a dynamic place at every scale of space and time. Almost all science is the study of the evolution of one system or another—systems as large as the universe itself or as small as a neutrino; systems whose time scales are measured in billions of years or in attoseconds.
LS: (In fact, the study of the origins of life are a separate discipline within science, sometimes called “synthetic biology”.)
JS: It’s also called chemical evolution—see Natural selection cannot explain the origin of life.
LS: Evolution is an explanation for the diversity of species and why they fit their environment so well.
JS: Special creation of distinct kinds with the capacity for variation is an explanation for the diversity of species and why they fit their environment so well. See Variation and natural selection versus evolution.
LS:Granted, there is a lot of overlap between the people who accept evolution and people who accept the prevailing scientific view of cosmology, but the scientific disciplines are entirely separate.
JS: Of course, and we have said so too. E.g. Ph.D. astronomy full professor Danny Faulkner said:
Stars are not very complex, and so-called ‘stellar evolution’ (though I don’t necessarily accept all of it) is a different critter from biological evolution.
LS: I’m sure everyone on both sides of the discussion would prefer clarity of terminology.
JS: Indeed, see also Don’t fall for the bait and switch.
LS: Rather than attributing these claims about the origins and age of celestial bodies to “evolutionary science”, perhaps you could consider terms like “cosmology” or “astrophysics”. There’s no agreed-upon term for the study of the origin of life, but astrobiology and synthetic biology are closely related. (Terms like “stellar evolution” are evocative, but they are analogies to biological evolution and have entirely different meanings and processes.) The specific process of life coming from non-life (whether scientific or otherwise) could be called either “abiogenesis” or “biopoesis”, but it is definitely not the same as “evolution”.
JS: As above, it is frequently called chemical evolution or prebiotic evolution. The General Theory of Evolution is a theory “that all the living forms in the world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic form.”
LS:Thanks for your time, and I look forward to seeing this addressed in the future.
JS: You’re welcome. In return for my time, would you please spend some time searching our site with our search button on the top right and our Q&A pages? We have about 9,000 articles on this site and, as demonstrated above, most likely the answers to your questions already. ;)
In the last part of your post, you mention how the universe is only about 6,000 years old.
Dr Jonathan Sarfati responds: Indeed we do. See How does the Bible teach 6,000 years? But really, you should have searched the site first, not only because that is what you affirmed you did before posting, but also because it is normal courtesy to find out what and why someone believes something before criticizing.
SK: How is that the case when the telescopes pick up light from objects millions and billions of lightyears away? The fact that the light it reaching us is proving that the universe is at least as old as the distance is long that the light crosses.
JS: No it doesn’t. Big bangers likewise have too many light years per year, and recognize this as the Horizon Problem. See Light-travel time: a problem for the big bang.
SK: If there is some info you have to dispute that, please let me know.
- How can we see distant stars in a young universe?
- If the universe is young and it takes millions of years for light to get to us from many stars, how can we see them?
- Did God create light in transit?
- Was the speed of light faster in the past?
- Does this have anything to do with the ‘big bang’?
SK: I also don’t understand why it is so hard to imagine that the “days” in the bible are different in length from the “days” we experience.
JS: I do: because Exodus 20:8–11 makes it clear that creation days are the same length of days as those of our working week, and the grammar and related Scriptural context supports this. See The numbering pattern of Genesis and Chapter 2 of the Creation Answers Book, which covers:
- Six days? Really?
- Are the days of creation ordinary days? Could they be long periods of time?
- Why six days? Is Genesis Poetry?
- Does the length of the days really affect the Gospel?
- How can there be ‘days’ without the sun on the first three days?
- Does Genesis 2 contradict Genesis 1?
- What about the framework hypothesis?
SK: There are a great many things that we as humans cannot comprehend about God.
JS: Indeed, but even more, it’s hard to comprehend that some humans think they know better than what God actually said he did!
SK: One of which may be the time it took God to make everything. God, who is infinite, could count a day as a hundred million of our days or more or less.
JS: The point is that Scripture is God’s revelation to man, so what God means must be what man means, and God’s logic must be man’s logic, or there is no revelation! See Why is CMI so dogmatic on 24-hour creation days? and especially the section The days were ‘God’s days’ not ‘man’s days’.
SK: God, as an infinite being can be anywhere, everywhere, anywhen, and everywhen.
JS: Indeed He can. You might be interested in this feedback response to a critic about God's “omni–” attributes.
SK: In that sense what right do any of us have to say that anything is exactly this way in what God meant?
JS: Because no one in CMI is questioning what God could do, but believing what He said He did. But apparently you believe that God is incapable of communicating historical truth.
SK: Just questions that have been on my mind. Thank you for your time.
JS: You’re welcome, but in future it would be good if you could spend some time using our search button on the top right (we have almost 9,000 articles) and our Q&A pages. I.e. it’s better that I teach you how to fish than give you a fish ;)