Creation Science

Creation Science

Cratering in the Solar System


By Mike Hore

First Published 16 June 2014


In an earlier article (Distant Starlight), I showed that recent YEC thinking on the “distant starlight” problem actually admits that billions of years have passed in the remote universe, but that due to massive time dilation this only took a few days of earth time.  However as this time dilation also involves colossal “stretching” of the fabric of the universe, they don’t apply this argument to the solar system itself, for which there’s of course no evidence whatsoever for “stretching”.   (For one thing, the solar system wouldn’t be here at all if it had been “stretched” to the tune of millions of times!)  So it might be helpful to look at evidence from within the solar system itself for an old solar system. 


This isn’t hard to find.  One obvious fact is that most of the solar system bodies without atmospheres show very extensive cratering.  This has surely resulted from massive bombardment from other space objects, and YECs agree with this.  The only disagreement is about when, and how intense this bombardment was.  Kevin Henke’s article (Recent Impacts on the Moon) gives a good introduction to this subject, in the context of dating a comparatively recent crater on the moon.


Now, the mainstream theory of the solar system formation is the accretion disk theory.  I recommend the Wikipedia article ”Formation and evolution of the solar system”.  Under this theory, the Sun formed by gravitational collapse of part of a gas cloud consisting mainly of molecular hydrogen but with heavier elements as well, resulting from earlier supernova explosions.  As the Sun was forming, the leftover material gradually formed into a disk, rotating around the Sun.  Eventually particles in this disk aggregated and formed small bodies (called “planetesimals”) which under their mutual gravitational influence aggregated into larger and larger bodies.   There would have been a colossal number of collisions.  As well as the planetesimals interacting with each other gravitationally, there was drag from the remaining gas, which at any particular distance from the Sun wouldn’t rotate as fast around the Sun as the planetesimals (because of outward radiation pressure from the Sun).  This drag would cause the growing planets to migrate inwards, closer to the Sun.  The whole process would have been chaotic, so an analytical solution is out of the question.  Even without factors such as gas drag, the problem of the motion of N bodies under mutual gravitation becomes chaotic for N > 2.  Here we have potentially billions of bodies and also gas drag where we can’t now be certain of the gas density at any time or position.  So computer simulation is the only way to come to grips with this, and only in recent years has computer power become sufficient to make much progress.  And as with any chaotic system, the minutest change in initial conditions or assumptions can result it very different final results.  In practice many simulations have to be run with slightly different assumptions, and as this progresses we are getting a better idea of what factors are at work and what the different probabilities might be for different outcomes.  As well as this, we are now continually finding planetary systems outside our solar system, and this is giving further insight.  However as this field is still so young, there are many competing versions of the accretion theory, and the whole field is rapidly developing.


So the main take-home points are:


1.  There must inevitably have been a colossal number of collisions between bodies as the young solar system formed, so massive cratering is to be expected.


2.  The whole study of the formation of the solar system is still a comparatively young field of study, with all the rapid change and competing sub-theories this involves.


You will sometimes hear arguments from YECs that some feature of the solar system could not have formed naturalistically.  This amounts to a “god-of-the-gaps” argument, and is really a cheap shot exactly because this whole field of study is so young.  On the other hand, it’s the YECs who have the problem, precisely because of the cratering.  Under the accretion disk theory, cratering would be absolutely inevitable.  However, if God simply created the Sun, Moon and stars (and presumable all the solar system bodies) fully formed on Day 4, what conceivable reason could there be for an intense bombardment of the newly created bodies, from other space objects?


Many YECs also suggest that there was another bombardment at the time of the Flood, and some speculate that the bombardment actually caused the Flood.  This would correspond to the “Late Heavy Bombardment” which is still a tentative theory, but is advanced to explain the large dark areas (maria) on the Moon.   These are solidified lava flows which appear to have been caused by a particularly large series of impacts from very large objects, over a comparatively short timescale.  The impacting objects may have been up to several kilometers across.  Such impacts created huge basins, and subsequently underlying lava flowed into the basins.  This lava was perhaps preexisting liquid under the crust which hadn’t yet solidified, or was liquefied material caused by the impact itself.  The connection with the Flood is ingenious, but as with so many YEC theories, throws up more problems than it solves, and these get conveniently ignored.  Remember that one large impactor appears to have led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.  What would several large impactors do?  This would have been a bigger catastrophe than the Flood itself!  It would surely have been mentioned somehow in the Flood narrative, if the YECs are right, and how could the Ark have survived?  But of course no such event is mentioned.  And not only that, but such a catastrophe only 4,500 years ago would leave a huge amount of geological evidence today, which is lacking.  There is no argument that the events which led to the maria on the Moon would have involved many large impacts on the Earth as well, but as this would have been more than 3 billion years ago the evidence would be much harder to find.


Another issue that YECs love to raise in the area of lunar craters and maria, is the question of “ghost craters” — see "Ghost Craters-Evidence of a Young Moon."  “Ghost craters” are faint outlines of craters in the maria surface, apparently older craters that were nearly covered over when the maria material flowed over them.  The issue raised by YECs is that these craters (and there are many of them) were clearly formed after the impact that formed the maria basin, but before the underlying lava flowed into the basin.  This process could hardly have taken more than a few months, so YECs gleefully talk about the “uniformitarian assumptions” of a slow cratering rate over long ages, and point out that the number of ghost craters is much higher than expected.  They conveniently ignore the fact that colossal impacts such as these would eject a huge quantity of debris, which would then create numerous secondary impacts as they fell back to the lunar surface, in a short time.  The only “ghosts” here are the “phantom problems” that the YECs claim mainstream astronomers have!  And this is just an example of the kind of red herrings that get raised by YECs.


So, we see that YECs have a huge problem with the cratering of solar system objects.  Why would God want to bombard his new creation with space debris?  YECs have been ingenious and quite fanciful in coming up with ideas.  Sometimes they invoke the Fall and judgment.  However Genesis 3 is very clear that the judgment on creation was linked to human sin, and has the purpose of making life more difficult for humans.  Bombardment of the Moon, Mars, Mercury etc. etc. wouldn’t seem to have any connection at all with this.   And moreover, there is the obvious problem that the Bible makes no mention of anything that could be interpreted as a bombardment from space, either at the time of creation or the Flood.  So here we have another example of how YECs, in an attempt to be true to their interpretation of the Bible, are simply tying themselves in knots and departing entirely from the Bible which they claim to uphold. 


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