This article is from
Creation 14(1):26–27, December 1991

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Sea salt loses its savour for evolutionists


How old (or young) is the sea? For hundreds of years, scientists have been aware that common salt (specifically the extremely soluble sodium ion Na+) is being delivered to the sea in large quantities by rivers, yet it cannot so easily leave it again.

In 1899, John Joly estimated (on the basis of measurements) the amount of Na+ coming in each year, a result which is still regarded as extraordinarily accurate. He used it to estimate the age of the earth, as follows.

If the oceans began with fresh water, and the average inflow was basically unchanged, they would have reached their present salt level in 80-90 million years. Many scientists accepted this as the age of the earth. Notice, of course, that if marine creatures were created as Genesis teaches, the sea would already have to have had salt in it. Joly’s results can therefore fit a young-age creation model, but seem to give an age far too young for evolutionists.

Creationists have used such methods to support recent creation. Some other substances give much shorter times.

Joly’s age of the earth using Na+ began to contradict evolutionary timespans of billions of years. His ‘age’ for the earth came to be regarded as ‘spuriously low’. It was therefore believed that somehow salt must leave the ocean as quickly as it enters it. In other words, the sea must have reached such a ‘steady state’ a very long time ago. Therefore, it has been assumed, the age given by Joly’s measurement is not an actual age at all, but merely the ‘residence time’—that is, the average time an ion of a particular element remains in the sea before it is removed

Some processes have been found which remove salt from the sea. For instance, sea spray contains small amounts of salt which can be deposited back on the continents.

A book published in 1988 by three theistic evolutionist lecturers at America’s Calvin College1 devotes many chapters to attacking and attempting to undermine biblical creationist arguments.

One whole chapter is given over to the sea-salt issue. As their foundation, they adopt, without questioning, the evolutionists’ assumption that the ocean’s salt is in a ‘steady state’. Indeed, given the known amount of Na+ being supplied each year, everyone who wishes to maintain belief in an earth billions of years old (as must all evolutionists) must assume that steady state has been reached. The amount being removed must be roughly equal to the amount coming in, or else the sea would be vastly saltier.

What are the facts?

A major research paper by two scientists from the Institute for Creation Research shows this steady state belief to be plainly false. Geologist Dr. Steve Austin and physicist Dr. D. Russell Humphreys presented their joint paper in August 1990 to an international creationist conference.2

In it, they carefully assessed and inventoried all known and conjectured processes by which salt (Na+) is entering the sea, and all by which it could possibly be leaving it, such as sea spray, burial of pore water, and alteration of basalt.

They consider the models of earth history given by evolutionists—for example, for the so-called ‘Cretaceous Period’ to explore the possible limits of the variation of these processes.

Where is all the missing salt?

The results overwhelmingly show that the ‘steady state’ belief is mythical. The sea salt shows a massive imbalance, even using assumptions which are very generous for the long-age model. Of the amount pouring in each year, only 27 per cent (not 100 per cent, as evolutionary belief insists) is removed. Even if we allow the sea to have started as fresh water, this gives a maximum age of 62 million years, not the 3,000 million years or more that evolution requires. So where is all the salt with which the sea should be choked by now?

Geologists once said that the missing salt could be accounted for as rock salt (halite) buried in the geologic strata record. A world-wide inventory of rock salt has shown this ‘sink’ to be insufficient for the ocean’s missing sodium. The sea is not salty enough for evolutionary taste.

These results fit very comfortably with a recent age for all things, including a sea created salty to begin with. Unless a way can be found to somehow explain the sea’s missing salt, this evidence speaks strongly against the evolutionary belief system, and is instead strongly supportive of biblical creation.

US readers please note: ICR scientists such as Drs Humphreys and Austin do not, of course, have access to government funding to conduct such vital research. The Institute for Creation Research relies on donations (which are tax-deductible in the US) to support their work and that of other highly skilled members of their staff. If you can help, ICR’s address is: P.O. Box 2667, El Cajon, CA. 92021.


  1. HJ. Van Till, D.A. Young, C. Menninga, Science Held Hostage, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1988. Return to text.
  2. S.A. Austin, D.R. Humphreys, ‘The Sea’s Missing Salt: A Dilemma for Evolutionists’, Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism, Pittsburgh PA, August, 1990, Vol. 2, p. 17-33. (Available from Creation Science Fellowship, 362 Ashland Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15228, USA.) Return to text.