New Volley Cast into the Grand Canyon Age Wars

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Posted on November 29, 2012 in Dating Methods, Dinosaurs, Geology

Age estimates for the Grand Canyon by secular geologists differ between 100,000 years to 70 million years.  Who are you going to believe?

The latest applecart-upsetting estimate, published in Science by Rebecca. M. Flowers of the University of Colorado and K. A. Farley of Caltech, puts it at 70 million years – 12 times older than what they called the “prevailing view” of 5–6 million years (although another estimate of 17 million was proposed in 2008; see 4/10/2008, and even ages less than a million had been proposed earlier – see 11/30/2007, 7/22/2002, 5/31/2002).  Flowers and Farley based their estimate on helium content of apatite in the western Grand Canyon, an alleged proxy for temperature and exposure to air.  They recognized, though, the “puzzling array of data” that make dating difficult.

While Science Daily seemed excited to announce that Grand Canyon is “old as the dinosaurs,”  the AAS news service Science Now says the new estimate is not likely to settle the controversy: “many researchers are skeptical, noting that it’s not clear whether these findings radically change current scenarios of how and when the iconic gorge was carved.”

According to Science Now, Flowers realizes that the debate over the age of the canyon has raged for over 150 years: “If history were as simple as the popular view, the canyon’s origins wouldn’t continue to be a topic of hot debate,” she said.  Skeptics counter that the one measurement from apatite helium content “hardly closes the debate on the canyon’s age.”  There’s “a lot of evidence for a young Grand Canyon,” one said (thinking in terms of 6 million years or less).  Another critic who collected the same kind of data a couple of kilometers away and got far younger results calls the 70-million-year date “out in left field.”  The 2008 estimate of 17 million based on speleothems is also controversial.

Becky Oskin at Live Science focused on the controversy, admitting that from the rim the canyon “looks young” (still assuming a few million years).  She quoted geologist Richard Young:

It really looks like they’re onto something, but it’s hard to make sense out of it,” said Young, a professor at the State University of New York in Geneseo. “It’s really good work and it’s really interesting, so obviously there’s something we’re missing in the story. I’m sure we’re going to be talking about it forever,” he said.

Science Daily, though, echoing the U Colorado press release featuring home girl Rebecca Flowers, made the new (old) date look as good as possible.  Even so, the press release recognized the controversy, and hinted that Flowers might be partly right:

Flowers said there is significant controversy among scientists over the age and evolution of the Grand Canyon.  A variety of data suggest that the Grand Canyon had a complicated history, and the entire modern canyon may not have been carved all at the same time. Different canyon segments may have evolved separately before coalescing into what visitors see today.

Even so, there’s a huge time difference between 70 million and even 17 million years – a period during which mass extinctions and the rise of the Rocky Mountains are said to have occurred.  “I expect that our interpretation that the Grand Canyon formed some 70 million years ago is going to generate a fair amount of controversy, and I hope it will motivate more research to help solve this problem,” Flowers said, hinting that her study with Farley was almost intentionally put out as a challenge.

New Scientist went over the top in its headline, “Dinosaurs might have once gazed into the Grand Canyon.”  Then again, they might not have.  Or, they might have just a few thousand years ago, if the creationists are right.  Reporter Joanna Carver appealed to readers’ imaginations: “Picture the scene. It’s late in the Cretaceous period, 70 million years ago. A group of dinosaurs have gathered at the rim of what will become known as the Grand Canyon. They’re gawping over the edge, just as humans will in millennia to come,” she limned. “That might not be complete fantasy.”  Then again, it might.

This is why you should treat dates from geologists with a huge serving of laughing gas.  The colossal extremes of their estimates for this most famous earth feature clearly shows that they do not know what they are talking about.  They are the blind men and the elephant, looking at a tail and calling the elephant a rope, or looking at the tusk and calling the elephant a spear.  These same geologists consistently ignore evidence for a very recent, catastrophic carving of the canyon.

There are two separate dating problems with Grand Canyon: the date the sediments were laid down, and the date the canyon was carved.  Creation geologists have given ample evidence why the canyon and its sediments are far younger than secular estimates.  Examples include the vast extent of strata, their flatness, the lack of fault lines extending part way up, entire epochs missing between strata with no sign of erosion, soft-sediment deformation extending through multiple sequences, and more (see 6/24/2009 commentary).  Why are these evidences completely ignored in the dating game?  Answer: they give young ages that support a catastrophic global flood.  Geologists shudder to give aid and comfort to creationists.

Even if you are not ready to entertain a drastic reduction in the age of the earth, it’s enough for now to recognize from these articles that secular geologists are clueless about the age of the Grand Canyon.  Actually, they have clues, but are clueless about reading them.  Why trust what they conclude, when one of them said he’s sure they’ll be talking about this forever?  Do they deserve that kind of job security?

 

 


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