Review by Greg Neyman
© Old Earth Ministries
On 6 May 2006 Answers in Genesis reported a story about the release of some pictures of a breakup of a comet.1 The pictures were of comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, or S-W3. Taken by the Hubble telescope, the pictures are far superior to any we could obtain via a ground-based telescope.
In the article, young earth creation theorist Mark Looy explains to young earth creationists that comets prove the earth is young. He reports that Jason Lisle, resident astronomer with Answers in Genesis, says that since S-W3 went around the sun every 5.4 years, "it could not have lasted billions of years." Old earth creationists, and secular astronomers, agree that if it had been orbiting for billions of years, it could not have lasted. However, Lisle is assuming that it has orbited for a long time. He claims that "the disintegration of comets indicates the universe is very young."
This is a silly claim, as there is no way to date the universe based on comets. Lisle must make unfounded assumptions for his theory to work. He must assume the universe is young, he must assume that comets are young also. He must also assume that the old earth theory of the origin of comets is wrong, which he addresses in the next paragraph. Unfortunately for Lisle and Looy, none of these assumptions are correct.
Lisle says that secular astronomers have proposed an "Oort Cloud" which is the source of the comets. He mentions this hypothesis, and then claims that "no one has seen this cloud." This is true, there are no direct observations, but there is indirect evidence, which Lisle and Looy fail to address. The orbits of comets indicate their origin in this area of space known as the Oort Cloud. Thus, the comet's origins can be inferred to be from the Oort Cloud region.
He also fails to tell readers another extremely important part of the puzzle. Long period comets are those comets whose orbits exceed 200 years per revolution. It is only these long period comets that are thought to come from the Oort Cloud. The S-W3 was a short period comet, with an orbit of 5.4 years, thus it is not thought to be an Oord Cloud object. Instead, short period comets originate from the Kuiper Belt. This belt of comet-like material (ice-dust balls) is located past the orbit of Neptune. In fact, Pluto is considered a large Kuiper Belt object. To date, over 800 Kuiper Belt objects have been discovered, although good estimates put the number of objects of greater than 100 kilometers in diameter in excess of 70,000. A number of smaller objects have been detected, ranging down to about 20 kilometers in size. These smaller objects number over 100 million...a ready-made source for short-term comets! And that doesn't even include objects less than 20 km in size, which probably number in the trillions. And, the best part is that we know they are there, since we have observed them. Lisle and Looy cannot claim that the Kuiper Belt is only a theory.
Why did Lisle and Looy not mention the Kuiper Belt? Surely, they would want young earth creationists to know everything there is to know about comets. Of course, if they had mentioned it, it would have ruined their argument for a young earth. They must omit data to show that the earth is young. This underhanded trick gives you an idea of the reliability of young earth arguments, and young earth tactics.
Sources / For More Reading
The Kuiper Belt - Wikipedia
The Oort Cloud - Wikipedia
The Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud - U. of Arizona
The Kuiper Belt - U. of Hawaii
1 "The Tale of a Comet", published at answersingenesis.org/docs2006/0506comet.asp
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