Review by Greg Neyman
© Old Earth Ministries
First Published 5 April 2010
A common claim by young earth creationists is that the sun of our solar system, when it was newly formed 4.5 billion years ago, was not capable of keeping the planet from freezing. This is the topic of discussion in the article "The young faint Sun paradox and the age of the solar system," by Danny Faulkner, from the Technical Journal.1
To summarize the problem of this paradox, the faint young Sun paradox or problem describes the apparent contradiction between observations of liquid water early in the Earth's history and the astrophysical expectation that the Sun's output would be only 70% as intense during that epoch as it is during the modern epoch. The issue was raised by astronomers Carl Sagan and George Mullen in 1972. Early in the Earth's history, the Sun's output would be only 70% as intense during that epoch as it is during the modern epoch. In the current environmental conditions, this solar output would be insufficient to maintain a liquid ocean. Astronomers Carl Sagan and George Mullen pointed out in 1972 that this is contrary to the geologic and paleontological evidence.2
According to the Standard Solar Model, stars similar to the Sun should gradually brighten over their main sequence life time.3 However, with the predicted solar luminosity 4 billion (4 × 109) years ago and with greenhouse gas concentrations the same as are current for the modern Earth, any liquid water exposed to the surface would freeze. However, the geological record shows a continually relatively warm surface in the full early temperature record of the Earth, with the exception of a cold phase about 2.4 billion years ago. Water-related sediments have been found that date to as early as 3.8 billion years ago.4 Hints of early life forms have been dated from as early as 3.5 billion years,4 and the basic carbon isotopy is very much in line with what is found today.5 A regular change between ice ages and warm periods is only to be found since one billion years
This problem has been unsolved since 1972. Because of this paradox, young earth creationists frequently use it as an argument against an old earth, as is the case in Faulkner's article in Technical Journal. In the past, many solutions have dealt with the topic of greenhouse gases. They are thought to have been higher at the beginning of earth's formation, so the planet would have been warmer.
In April 2010, the solution that had eluded scientists for 40 years was announced, and it is indeed a brilliant solution that perfectly fits with the evidence. Dr. Minik Rosing, from the Natural History Museum of Denmark, and Christian Bjerrum, from the Department of Geography and Geology at University of Copenhagen, together with American scholars at Stanford University, discovered the solution, which was published in the Journal Nature.6
While most previous explanations dealt with greenhouse gases, this explanation is not dependent upon gases. The cloud layer encircling the earth was much thinner than it was today, and the earth's surface was covered with water. This means the sun's rays could warm the oceans unobstructed by a thick atmosphere. How do we know there was a thin cloud layer over 4 billion years ago? Because the process of forming clouds requires chemical substances that are produced by algae and plants, which did not exist at the time. Without the chemical substances, there would have been a very thin cloud covering. The lack of clouds meant that the sun's weakened rays, some 25% less than today, would not be reflected back into space.
As part of the study, they scientifically measured rocks to examine the CO2 content of the early earth. While scientists had previously estimated that it was 30% of the atmosphere back then, the results of this analysis showed that it was only three to four times the amount we have today.
The solving of this paradox provides us with a clear answer that is easily understood, and should eliminate this paradox from being used as evidence of a young earth. Once again, science has prevailed over the claims of young earth creationism. However, these new findings do not contradict old earth creationism. You can be a Christian and have an old earth!
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1 Faulkner, Danny, The faint young sun paradox and the age of the solar system, TJ 15(2): August 2001. Available online at answersingenesis.org/tj/v15/i2/faintsun.asp. Also available from ICR at http://www.icr.org/article/429/
2 Sagan, C.; Mullen, G. (1972). "Earth and Mars: Evolution of Atmospheres and Surface Temperatures". Science 177: 52–56. doi:10.1126/science.177.4043.52. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/177/4043/52?ck=nck.
3 Gough, D. O. (1981). "Solar Interior Structure and Luminosity Variations". Solar Physics 74: 21–34. doi:10.1007/BF00151270. Bibcode: 1981SoPh...74...21G
5 Veizer, Jan (March 2005). "Celestial climate driver: a perspective from four billion years of the carbon cycle". Geoscience Canada 32 (1).
6 Minik T. Rosing, Dennis K. Bird, Norman H. Sleep, Christian J. Bjerrum. No climate paradox under the faint early Sun. Nature, 2010; 464 (7289): 744 DOI: 10.1038/nature08955. Reported from ScienceDaily.com.
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