The planets are young: 1
Mercury and Venus
In May and June 2019, the BBC TV showed British audiences a five-episode series about our solar system, narrated by Professor Brian Cox and titled The Planets. It was aired in Australia by ABC-Channel 2 in July–August 2019. Our response is titled “The planets are young”. We shall discuss Cox’s claimed long ages and evolutionary origin of these planets vs recent creation for them as described in the Bible, and see which scenario fits the evidence the best. We start with the first episode, A Moment in the Sun—The Terrestrial Planets: Mercury and Venus.
The terrestrial (from Latin, terra = earth) planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. They are the four planets nearer to the Sun than the gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, and the ice giants Uranus and Neptune. Concerning the formation of the terrestrials, Cox says:
“For the first few million years after the Sun formed there were no planets to see it rise. Just clouds of dust and gas, the leftovers from the birth of the Sun. Over tens of millions of years, the dust began to stick together and form the first rocks. Eventually, gravity assembled the rocks to create planetary embryos that in time formed the four planets closest to the Sun.”
This is the nebular hypothesis—the belief that our solar system formed from a nebula, or cloud of dust and gas that supposedly contracted or collapsed due to its own gravity. But it is not a property of gas to spontaneously condense into stars like our Sun, nor of dust to spontaneously form rocks. We all know from our experience with an aerosol spray that gas disperses. Cox offers no scientific evidence for his assertions. Rather, his aim is to tell viewers the evolutionary story. So, we shall evaluate his story according to the known laws of science, and in the process show that Mercury disproves the evolutionary nebular hypothesis for the origin of the solar system.
For a detailed critique of the nebular hypothesis revealing its many fatal flaws see:
- Planetary system formation: exposing naturalistic storytelling
- Solar system origin: Nebular hypothesis.
Concerning Mercury, Cox says: “More than any other planet it has endured the unflinching glare of the Sun for billions of years. Temperatures at midday can rise to 430º Celsius on the surface, but at night, because it’s got no atmosphere, temperatures fall to minus 170º.”
Mercury was investigated by NASA’s Messenger spacecraft, which orbited Mercury from March 2011 to April 2015. Cox tells viewers that the data revealed that “Mercury’s core extends out about 85% from the centre of the planet to the surface. It’s almost entirely an exposed planetary core.” And he continued:
“The discovery of relatively large concentrations of elements like sulphur and potassium on Mercury’s surface was a huge surprise … because they are so-called volatile elements—they boil away easily—so you will only find high concentrations further out, in the colder reaches of the solar system. So Mercury is an enigma, and discoveries like these have forced us to completely rethink our theories about the formation of the planets.”
Be alert for comments such as this. Whenever you hear scientists speak of an enigma, or a surprise, and of the need to rethink their theories, realise they are alluding to evidence that shows their theories do not work. But they do not say this because they do not want to abandon their naturalistic assumptions. To explain this enigma of the relatively large core, and the presence of volatiles on it, Cox says: “We now think Mercury was born perhaps 170 million kilometres further away, close to the orbit of Mars.” Note that by “we” he means ‘we evolutionists’.
“If Mercury began its life 170 million kilometres further away from the Sun, then it would have been in a region of space where young Mars was also forming. This region was full of scores of planetary embryos all fighting for position. Among the chaos, something large kicked Mercury inwards towards the Sun. Mercury collided with another embryo. A glancing blow saw much of its crust and mantle lost to space. If the theory is correct, then Mercury, now little more than a planetary core, continued towards the Sun and ended up in the peculiar elliptical orbit we see today.”
Cox offers no scientific evidence in favour of this anecdotal scenario, which evolutionists invented to rescue their nebular hypothesis. In fact, if the alleged impact was blistering enough to remove the crust containing the volatiles from Mercury but the volatiles are still there, then there was no large impact! So what is the reason for this impact story? Only that if it did not happen, Mercury would be a huge problem for the evolutionary theory for the origin of the solar system.
Cox appears to realize this. He admits:
“The theory does have problems. Any collision violent enough to do that, heats up the planet, and that boils away the volatiles. … So I think it’s fair to say that the precise nature of Mercury’s formation is still one of the great unsolved mysteries in planetary science.”
However, the problem is not a problem for the biblical account of how the solar system formed.
The problem of Mercury’s magnetic field
Another problem for evolutionists is that Mercury has a magnetic field, which evolutionists say originates from the dynamo effect created by the rotation of its liquid iron-nickel core. Evolutionists claim that Mercury is so small its core should have frozen solid eons ago, i.e. it can’t have a liquid core. So, according to evolutionists, it can’t have a magnetic field—but it does have a magnetic field.
NASA’s Messenger spacecraft found that Mercury’s magnetic field is decaying, with a half-life of ~320 years. This is strong evidence of an origin for Mercury of just a few thousand years ago, not billions of years ago, as its magnetic field would have been impossibly strong just a million years ago.
Mercury’s north-pole water-ice
Towards the end of this episode, Cox tells viewers that the Messenger spacecraft detected “hundreds of billions of tonnes of frozen water-ice scattered in the permanent shadows of the polar craters” of Mercury. And he says that “ice could be stable in those polar regions that are permanently shadowed for billions of years”.
We suggest that the shorter biblical time frame of a few thousand years is a much more plausible time frame for this ice to have continually existed than the evolutionary time frame of billions of years.
Conclusion re Mercury
Mercury’s formation and content is not a mystery to Bible-believing scientists. It, and the other planets, were formed by God on Day 4 of Creation Week as asserted in God’s Word, the Bible (Genesis 1:14–19). It is only a problem, and an enormous one, for evolutionists who deny the Creator and claim it formed by natural processes.
The Apostle Paul’s comment on the ‘wisdom of the world’ of his day, certainly applies here also: “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27)
For more on Mercury see:
- Mercury—the tiny planet that causes big problems for evolution
- Mercury: more marks of youth
- Mercury’s magnetic field is fading fast—latest spacecraft data confirm evidence for a young solar system
Cox introduces Venus as a planet which “at first sight has the potential to be far more Earth-like [than Mercury]”, and he poses the question, “Where did it all go wrong for Venus?” By way of answer, he tells viewers: “3.5 to 4 billion years ago, the Sun was fainter” than now, and he continued:
“Within a few million years of its formation, the surface of Venus had cooled. The planet now found itself at just the right distance from the faint young Sun for Venus to experience a sight familiar to us here on Earth. The heavens opened. Great torrents flooded the surface. Rivers of water flowed. Venus became an ocean world. The planet’s atmosphere allowed it to hold on to the oceans by acting as a blanket, keeping the surface temperate, thanks to the greenhouse effect.”
Then, “Gradually, over 2 billion years, the young Sun grew brighter, temperatures began to rise … Venus’s moment in the Sun was over. Its cracked surface today is even hotter than Mercury’s, making Venus the hottest of all the planets.”
So what should we make of all this?
The cooler Sun is called the ‘faint young Sun’ from the evolutionary idea that, over millions of years, as the Sun gets older, it ‘burns’ hotter and hotter as it shrinks, and so shines more brightly as it ages. However, there is no evidence that the Sun was fainter at any time in Earth’s history. Astronomers call this the ‘faint young sun paradox’, but it is no paradox at all if the Sun is only as old as the Bible says—about 6,000 years.
- The young faint Sun paradox and the age of the solar system
- Our steady sun: a problem for billions of years
Venus is a planet of extremes. Its surface is covered in lava flows, but these appear to be fresh with no evidence of erosion over billions of years. The best explanation for them is that Venus is as young as the Bible says—about 6,000 years.
Venus’ retrograde rotation
We suggest that Cox could have used his TV time better to discuss the huge problem Venus poses for the nebular hypothesis. To an observer on Venus, the sun would rise in the west and set in the east. This contradicts the nebular hypothesis, which predicts that as the nebula spiralled inwards all the resulting planets would rotate on their axes in the same direction, i.e. anti-clockwise, called prograde. However, Venus rotates on its axis in the opposite direction, i.e. clockwise, called retrograde. Hence the anomalous sunrise and sunset. See: Venus: cauldron of fire.
Conclusion re Venus
We suggest that many of the problems that confound the long-age evolutionary theories for a naturalistic origin of Venus would disappear if scientists would work with a biblical perspective. Mostly, Venus is the way it is because that’s the way God made Venus during the Creation Week, but it has been modified by subsequent solar system catastrophes connected with the global Noachian Flood.