In 1976, the journal Science published a paper titled “Variations in the Earth’s Orbit: Pacemaker of the Ice Ages.”1 This paper seemed to confirm a particular explanation for the dozens of ice ages which secular scientists claim to have occurred within the past 2.6 million years.2 Known as the Milankovitch (or astronomical) theory, this model is currently the dominant secular explanation for these supposed ice ages. For this reason, this paper is an icon in the field of paleoclimatology, the study of ancient climates. Furthermore, because the Milankovitch theory assumes millions of years, this paper has also become an iconic argument for an old Earth. But recent ICR research has yielded convincing evidence that the results of this paper have been largely invalid—even by secular scientists’ own reckoning—for the last 25 years.3,4,5Moreover, most climate and paleoclimate scientists seem to be completely unaware of this fact.

There is strong geological evidence for a single Ice Age in the recent past, which creation scientists have convincingly attributed to the aftermath of the Genesis Flood.6 However, uniformitarian scientists, who deny special creation and the Flood, generally hold to the Milankovitch theory, which claims that the earth has experienced slow, gradual changes in its orbital and rotational motions over millions of years. If one extrapolates these earth motions backward into the supposed prehistoric past, semi-periodic cycles having lengths of about 100, 41, and 23 thousand years are evident. The variations in the seasonal and latitudinal distribution of sunlight resulting from these orbital and rotational changes are thought to pace the ice ages. And this pacing aspect of the model influenced the nickname of the paper: the Pacemaker paper.

Although there are many problems with the Milankovitch theory, it is widely accepted today largely as a result of the Pacemaker paper.7,8 The paper’s authors analyzed variations in three quantities, thought to have climate-related significance, which were measured in two deep-sea Indian Ocean sediment cores. Their analysis showed evidence of climatic cycles having lengths of about 100, 41, and 23 thousand years. Because the lengths of the climate cycles agreed with Milankovitch expectations, the Pacemaker paper was seen as providing strong evidence for the Milankovitch ice age theory.

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