It was James Hutton, the Scottish physician-turned-geologist, who suggested in 1785 that the earth was immensely old. His famous assertion that there was ‘no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end’ paved the way for Darwin’s theory of evolution.1 Today most geologists take Hutton’s views for granted. Evolutionists generally accept that the continents formed at least 2.5 billion years ago.2 The published ages of parts of Australia are greater than 3.0 billion years. Much of the rest of the continent is said to be 3.0 to 0.6 billion years old.3 A similar story is told for other continents—the age of their basement rocks is in the billion-year range.

These ideas are found to be wholly unconvincing once we take a closer look. We find that there are many geological processes that indicate the continents are not as old as evolutionists say.4 One such problem for the old-age idea is erosion. The continents cannot be billions of years old because they would have eroded away long ago. There should be nothing left.

Measuring erosion

Water is the main culprit that dissolves many minerals, and loosens soil and rock from the landscape, transporting them to the ocean. Day after day, year after year, like an endless procession of freight trains, the rivers of the world cart tonnes of decomposed rock across the continents and dump it in the ocean. By comparison, the amount removed by winds, glaciers and ocean waves pounding the coastline is small.

Water can do its eroding work once it falls as rain. It collects into regions called drainage basins—areas easily identified on a topographic map. By sampling the mouth of the river, we can measure the volume of water discharged from the basin and the amount of sediment it carries. It is difficult to be exact because some sediment is rolled or pushed along the bottom of the river. ‘Bed load’, as it is called, is not easily observed. Sometimes an arbitrary allowance is included to account for it.

Another problem is how to handle rare catastrophic events. Although these can transport huge quantities of sediment in a very short time, they are almost impossible to measure. Bed load and catastrophe both transport more sediment than is measured directly.

Nevertheless, sedimentologists have researched many of the world’s rivers and calculated how fast the land is disappearing. The measurements show that some rivers are excavating their basins by more than 1,000 mm (39 inches) of height in 1,000 years, while others move only 1 mm (0.04 inches) in 1,000 years. The average height reduction for all the continents of the world is about 60 mm (2.4 inches) per 1,000 years, which equates to some 24 billion tonnes of sediment per year (Table 1).5 That is a lot of top dressing!….

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