November 29, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

New Volley Cast into the Grand Canyon Age Wars

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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  • coreysan says:

    This is important. There was an expedition to Mt. Ararat where one photographer was determined to announce he saw the ark without confirmation (the Govt wouldn’t let anyone actually land and inspect). But this photographer was determined.

    Is it not true that we’ll see only what we want to see?

    My concern is that if non-believing researchers are determined to reject the Gospel, then how can they claim integrity in their research while simultaneously avoiding other truths? That one is a mystery to me!

  • Donald Holliday says:

    Actually there is even more evidence that there was a catastrophic event which bore this mammoth crack in the earth.

    Not long ago You had a piece here on the Salton Butte Mud Volcanoes. Very interesting BTW. I’m not sure if you are familiar to this area, but if you draw a straight line west from there, you’ll hit the Jct 86 & 78. Drive an hour west on Hwy 78, then turn south at Scissors crossing on S-2 heading southeast towards the community of Ocotillo. Half way there and past Agua Caliente is an area called the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves in the Anza Borrego Desert. While reading info on this interesting geology of this area, a monument to the area and some literature online mentioned that the material [and you can see this from personal observation] is not from the above coastal uplifted mountains to the west where Mount Laguna, Julian etc are located. No, clearly this material is similar to the sandstone & limestone sediments of the Grand Canyon brought down via the Colorado River and that is exactly what the information on this area said.

    Still as you stand there, it is clear this wasn’t any millions or billions of years of work. It was clearly a catastrophic event. Especially considering the higher elevation above the Salton Sink and mountains east of that sea which would have blocked any meandering river form dumping such depositions.

  • Donald Holliday says:

    Just a quick post here on a reference. This is a link to the Anza Borrego Foundation and their description of the possible origins which seems to agree with other literature and the Monument plaque I read while there last year.

    They admit that this material comes from the Colorado River Delta Flood Plains, but if you know this area, it is so far removed from geologically from where geographic features are today. There are also fossils of Mammoth, Saber Toothed Cat etc found there in the mud caves and among large amounts of Volcanic Ash deposits which leads me to believe is the result of massive volcanic Lahar mud flows. “Springs of the Watery Deep” ?

    Anyway erase this post. It was for your attention anyway.

    Thanks again for your articals

  • lux113 says:

    We’ve proven the Grand Canyon is young by a vast preponderance of evidence.

    The only reason it isn’t in every text book is the implication.

    (There… I’ve proven I can make a short comment)

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