Where Science and Faith Converge

Continental Landmass Growth and the Genesis 1 Chronology

By Hugh Ross - October 8, 2007

Thanks to a spectacular new discovery concerning the geophysical history of the earth, one more detail in biblical author Moses' chronology of Earth’s creation history has been scientifically verified.

The breakthrough yields yet more evidence for the divine inspiration of the Bible’s words and message. First, let me offer some personal background for this discovery.

I signed my name in the back of a Gideon Bible late one August night in 1964, thereby committing my life to Jesus Christ. This commitment was based "to a large extent" on the evidence I had accumulated for the truthfulness of the Bible’s content and message. Much of that evidence consisted of several dozen Bible passages wherein future scientific discoveries were accurately predicted thousands of years in advance of the discoveries.

There were two passages in the Genesis 1 creation account, however, that at the time I had to place in the unresolved anomaly category. Genesis 1:2 implied that islands and continents either did not exist on early Earth or they covered an insignificant fraction of Earth’s surface. Genesis 1:9-10 placed the period of most aggressive continental landmass growth within creation day three; that is, roughly halfway through God’s creative activity on Earth. The problem with these two passages was that in the early 1960s the prevailing view among geologists and geophysicists was that continental landmasses, though shifting in position and shape, had covered a large fraction of Earth’s surface throughout Earth’s history.

This view, though troublesome, did not disturb my faith in an inerrant Bible. I was aware that the view lacked physical evidence and that a detailed plate tectonic model for the history of Earth’s crust had been developed for only the past 0.25 billion years. Thus, I adopted a wait-and-see approach to the supposed anomaly.

During the 1980s and especially the 1990s geophysicists had determined most of the physical and chemical processes that operate through plate tectonic activity to transform ocean floor basalts into continental silicates. The researchers demonstrated that indeed virtually all of the silicates on Earth came from these processes. This meant that Earth must have begun as a water world in which water covered the entirety of its surface. Further, the rates at which these processes operate implied that it took a few billion years for the continents to build up to their present sizes.

These discoveries and analyses by geophysicists proved consistent with advances taking place in paleontology. These advances showed that Earth’s first life was strictly marine life and that terrestrial life appeared much later in the fossil record. The net result of these discoveries, analyses, and advances was to vindicate the bold statements made in Genesis 1 about the history of Earth’s oceans and continents, thereby providing yet one more piece of evidence for the Bible’s power to accurately and consistently predict future scientific discoveries thousands of years in advance of their time.

One detail about continental buildup remained to be put to a scientific test. Genesis 1:9-10 seems to imply that it was during creation day three that Earth experienced the most dramatic episodes of continental landmass growth. Now, a team of British geologists and geophysicists has demonstrated through osmium isotope measures that Earth’s continental crust didn't grow gradually and roughly linearly through time but rather it advanced through a series of pulses.1

Geologists have noted for some time that much of Earth’s continental crust dates to be one of four specific ages, namely, 1.2, 1.9, 2.7, and 3.3 billion years, with the first three dates being predominant. Since large upper mantle melting events are known to trigger the growth of continental crust formation, the British research team used measures of the rhenium-187 to osmium-187 ratios to track and date upper mantle melt events. They discovered that these upper mantle melt events cluster around three specific ages: 1.2, 1.9, and 2.7 billion years ago. The fact that these dates coincide with the ages for most of Earth’s continental crust provides strong evidence for (1) "the pulsed models of continental growth by means of large-scale mantle melting events,"2 and (2) dramatic growth of continental landmasses at approximately the halfway point during the history of life on Earth.

In confirming that the most dramatic growth of continental landmasses occurred at about the halfway point in life’s history on Earth, the British research team also vindicated Genesis author Moses. His chronology was correct in describing a past period of aggressive continental landmass growth and in dating that period as occurring on creation day three (out of the total of six creation days). Thus, the discoveries made by the British earth science research team illustrate how the more we learn about science the more reasons we uncover for belief in the Bible as the inspired error-free word of God.

  1. D. G. Pearson, S. W. Parman, and G. M. Nowell, "A Link Between Large Mantle Melting Events and Continent Growth Seen In Osmium Isotopes," Nature 449 (September 13, 2007): 202-05.
  2. Pearson, Parman, and Nowell, 202.

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