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The Age(s) of the Continents

The Hebrew phrase tohu wabohu provides the first description of Earth given in Genesis 1. Many English Bible translations render this description as “formless and void (or empty)”. The Hebrew words imply that Earth’s surface was a desolate, undistinguishable ruin. Genesis 1:3 through Genesis 2:3 delineates how God transformed this wasteland into a variety of habitats teeming with life.

One critical transformation involves breaking up the formless deep to form land upon which humans will live. On the third day of the creation week, Moses, the likely author of Genesis, declares that waters below the heavens were “gathered into one place” in order to “let the dry land appear”. In RTB’s creation model, this declaration means that scientists should find that the formation of a large, permanent continental landmass occurred within a definite time window (or burst) in Earth’s history. Additionally, that time window must close before the Cambrian explosion (which occurred around 540 million years ago), when complex multicellular life appeared on Earth.

Past research on zircons revealed that most continental land dated to either 1.2, 1.9, 2.7, or 3.3 billion years ago. The clustering around these dates indicates that continental growth did occur in bursts. However, such clustering would also result from preferential preservation of crust that grew uniformly.

More recent research adds further support to the idea that continental growth occurred in bursts. For continents to grow, regions of the mantle must melt and differentiate in order to provide the additional continental material. One particularly useful way to measure the melting of mantle material is the Rhenium-Osmium radioactive decay channel. A team of scientists using this decay channel discovered that mantle melting events also clustered around 1.2, 1.9, and 2.7 billion years ago. (No materials dating older than 3 billion years were used in the study.)

The clustering of the continental ages and the mantle melting events around the same ages is extremely unlikely. Therefore, taken together, these results argue that the bulk of continent formation occurred in a time window between 3.3 and 1.2 billion years ago. Thus, these discoveries demonstrate a way the Creator could have “let the dry land appear” and add to the body of evidence supporting RTB’s creation model.