Friday, August 10, 2007

The Continents Appeared In A Sudden Burst

New evidence Indicates that the continents are Fine Tuned for Life

Genesis 1:9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place and let the dry ground appear.”…. the third day.

First physicists discovered that there was a single Creation Event now called the Big Bang through which the universe emerged. Then biologists discovered their own big bang, labeled the “Cambrian Explosion”. This biological big bang gave rise to almost all the modern phyla of life. Now it appears that the continental crust of the Earth also had a "Big Bang" of its own. New research indicates that the Earth’s crust appeared rather suddenly in a single burst of creation. This is the conclusion of two prominent geological researchers, Samuel Browning of MIT and Ian Williams of the Australian National University in Canberra as reported in several sources, including the February 1998 special issue of "Earth".
Browning and Williams have been studying the oldest rocks known on Earth. These rocks appear to be at least 4 billion years old and are found in West Greenland. It is not the age of the rocks that make them so important, for it is generally believed that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, it is the composition of these rocks that makes them so intriguing. Most geologists believe that the Earth's continents formed gradually over a long period of time. This standard model also postulates that continent formation did not begin until 500 million years after the planet had formed. They believe that the continents then began to grow in a series of slow pulses as the result of plate tectonics. This process is still supposed to be in operation today.
Browning and Williams argue instead that continent formation actually began almost at the planet's birth. The continents then proceeded to grow in one continuous process so that by 3.8 billion years ago there was actually about a third more continental crust on the planet then there is today.
This conclusion is based on a comparison of the ratio of two of the elements found in the ancient rocks studied by the team. Browning, Williams and others at the Australian National University examined the ratio of the element neodymium to the element samarium found in these rocks. Radioactive samarium decays to form neodymium. The Australian team found that the rocks had an unexpectedly small amount of neodymium compared to the amount of samarium. The big question was where had all of the neodymium in these early rocks gone? The answer appears to be that it has gone down into the mantle underneath the crust. This indicates that by 3.8 billion years ago the continental crust had already separated from the mantle and was floating on top of the mantle where it still is today.
It was initially argued that this rather surprising finding could be the result of sampling error because the material tested all came from Western Greenland. Two subsequent tests, however, conducted on rocks from Northern Canada and Labrador also show similar neodymium depletion. Therefore the best current evidence supports the idea that this process was global and not a local phenomenon.
These findings have set off a bitter and acrimonious debate among geologists, particularly between Steven Moorbath of Oxford University and the Australians.

Why This Is Important!

In the mid nineteenth century Charles Lyle, a British lawyer, put forth the idea of gradualism in geology. Lyle argued that the Earth had been formed slowly over a long period of time by a series of processes that could still be observed going on today. This theory known as uniformaterianism is still predominant today. (This idea was later picked up by Charles Darwin and applied to biology). Up until that time most Christian and Jewish theologians had maintained, based on their study of the Bible, that the Earth had been formed primarily by a series of unique creative steps, many of which occurred in a catastrophic or very rapid process. They argued that these formative processes were not observable in the normal, gradual changes taking place now on the Earth on a day- to-day basis. Many mainline Christian theologians of that time and earlier times had in general believed that the Earth had considerable antiquity, at least on the order of hundreds of thousands of years, so the main debate was not just over the Earth's age, but also over its method of formation.
It is interesting to note that the idea that the Earth is 6,000 years old only gained prominence in the nineteenth century. It had generally not been a major issue in the thinking of church leaders historically. The antiquity of the Earth had been assumed to be at least on the order of hundreds of thousands of years by the many theologians as early as the fifth century AD. Consequently, when evidence of great age for the Earth was found in the nineteenth century, it was generally accepted by the majority of theologians Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Jewish.
It is still too early to see what the long-range outcome of the research by the team from the Australian National University will be. However, numerous geological findings in subsequent years points toward the occurrence of single catastrophic or sudden event that shaped the course of the Earth's development. Such findings include the discovery that many geological eras ended with a major asteroidal impact. These discoveries tend to support the claims of earlier Christian theologians that catastrophes did indeed play a major part in the Earth's history. It is also of great interest that the above discoveries about the early and rapid appearance of the Earth’s crust tend to support their claim that all of the processes that formed the Earth’s surface are not observable today.
There is also a second major mystery reported in this research, which has even more interesting implications. This comes from the argument made by some scientists who believe that the universe has been deliberately fine tuned to support life here on Earth. They believe that the universe was intelligently designed and is not the result of purposeless natural processes. Life on Earth requires that the Earth's crust be continuously recycled. New crust comes out of volcanoes while old crust is pulled down into the mantle along subduction zones located on plate boundaries. The ejecta from volcanoes return minerals to the surface that are needed by biological organisms. Without this recycling life above the bacterial level would gradually die out.
Terry Plank of the University of Kansas studies ocean sediments. She has found that the rate of sediment subduction into the mantle is about the same as the rate at which new crust is built. She noted that, "It is pretty remarkable that the two processes are in balance,” The geological gradualists believe that the Earth's crustal recycling balance simply “developed” as a natural out growth of a continuous slow formative process. If it turns out that the crust appeared all at once, how could such a fine homeostasis between crust and mantle have “developed”? One possible answer is that it was deliberately designed that way.

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