A number of popular articles are claiming the moon’s age is all but solved, until one reads below the headlines.
When Nature published a new paper that added a piece of evidence to models that the moon formed by impact, and when John Chambers in Nature suggested that the new piece of evidence provides a “chronometer,” popular media took this to mean that the moon’s age has been “revealed” and a lunar mystery has been “solved” (see Space.com and National Geographic). Apparently they didn’t take note of all the escape hatches in the original articles: abundant use of “probably,” “suggests” and “could be,” as well as mention of new puzzles the latest modeling creates.
Space.com provided some historical context: a gallery of “5 Wild Lunar Theories” for the moon’s formation that were believed strongly in the past but became untenable in light of further evidence. Charles Darwin’s son George, for instance, had championed the fission theory, Mike Wall says, but now, “Most scientists discount the fission hypothesis.” The fact that the current leading impact theory is one of Wall’s “5 wild lunar theories” implies something about the state of the art.
Exercise: Count the escape-clause words in the articles that allow future astronomers to prove that the current model is too “wild” to be credible. How did the moon arise? God made the lesser light. When was it formed? On the 4th day. But it’s a free country; you can take your pick of the “wild lunar theories” if you are unwilling to believe the Eyewitness.