May 31, 2011

Scientific Evidence for Day Four of Creation

In the old-earth interpretation of the Bible, the sun, moon, and stars are not created on Day Four but simply become clearly visible from earth in that epoch of time. Unfortunately, there is little scientific evidence to support the precise time when this happened. The little bit of evidence is only enough to allow for some speculation. Here are the basic scientific facts, as I see them:
  1. The earth at one point in time was covered with massive cloud cover that caused darkness from the perspective of the surface
  2. The atmosphere contained very high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) earlier in its history
  3. The CO2 dissipated over time, and oxygen filled the atmosphere in its place
  4. The thick cloud cover dissipated over time
  5. Plants 'breath' CO2 and expel oxygen.
It is generally believed that the carbon dioxide was removed from the atmosphere and replaced by oxygen by early photosynthesizing life[1]. Early life would have been initially cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae. This would obviously be plausible if there was enough vegetation early enough. My personal hypothesis based on evidence is that algae and other vegetation proliferated from around 600 to 350 Ma, which was a major cause of CO2 being removed from the atmosphere.

Why do I care about carbon dioxide, when the topic is cloud cover? Carbon dioxide is transparent most of the time, obviously. However, carbon dioxide is considered to be a greenhouse gas, which means that it causes the sun's energy to be trapped more in the atmosphere. This greenhouse effect is believed to cause global warming. Global warming, in turn, causes more evaporation, which increases cloud cover. Unrelated to Genesis 1, some scientists are quite sure that increased carbon dioxide levels would result in more cloud cover[2]. In fact, some scientists believe that today's rising carbon dioxide levels, which are relatively little compared to the ancient past, may be already increasing cloud cover, though tests to prove that have been inconclusive so far. So, indirectly, carbon dioxide can have an impact on the amount of cloud cover. (As a side note, cloud cover could possibly help counteract the increases in temperatures by reflecting back into space more of the sun's energy.) Therefore, it is reasonable that in the past, when there was 15 to 20 times as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the cloud cover would have been dramatically increased. Yes, it's speculative, for sure. I'll tell you in a minute why naturalistic evolutionists will never agree with this conclusion about cloud cover, even if it's logical.

(As an interesting aside, carbon dioxide clouds have been observed on Mars. So, carbon dioxide is not always transparent. Also, on Venus where there has been a massive runaway greenhouse, apparently the sun is not visible from the surface because of the murkiness of the atmosphere caused partly by the sulfur. Earth's early atmosphere could have been somewhat similar in that the sun was not visible.)

Sometime around 500 Ma, the carbon dioxide levels were perhaps 20 times as high as today's levels[3]. From about 450 to 350 Ma, the carbon dioxide levels dropped dramatically. Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally), the plant life on the land was proliferating during this time. It is my belief that it was during this period of time that the cloud cover was diminishing enough for the sun, moon, and stars to become visible.

That presents a problem. How did plants survive with so much shade before 450 Ma? The answer to this problem helps support the above hypothesis concerning cloud cover. The earliest vegetation apparently was shade-loving vegetation. First you had algae, which hates direct sunlight, then you had simple vegetation like liverworts that love shade, and then you had ferns and moss and other simple vegetation that also like shade. The earliest vegetation is as follows:
  1. Algae [<500 Ma]
  2. Liverworts [<470 Ma]
  3. Ferns [~400 Ma]
  4. Moss [~320 Ma]
  5. Cycads (type of tree) [~310 Ma]
  6. Conifers [~300 Ma]
The important thing to note here is that this order also approximately reflects how much the vegetation dislikes direct sunlight. Vegetation is generally well suited for its environment. The early vegetation did not prefer strong sunlight, thus strongly suggesting that there wasn't strong sunlight. Ferns and liverworts now live often in shady environments where there are lots of trees that block out a certain percentage of the sunlight. Early on before 400 Ma, there seem to have been no trees, which means the vegetation was likely out in the open. It is reasonable that the sunlight was weaker before 400 Ma based on the types of vegetation that were thriving.

The naturalistic evolutionists dislike this idea because they believe that strong sunlight was needed to drive the evolution of photosynthesizing organisms early on. They believe that radiation helps drive evolution. More sunlight means more radiation. More sunlight supposedly means life would be more likely to evolve mechanisms to utilize light as an energy source by using photosynthesis. So, don't expect typical evolutionists to easily accept the idea proposed in this post. Massive cloud cover is the enemy of naturalistic evolution.

To conclude with, for those who appreciate graphs and charts and visual aids as I do, here is a sketch of what may have been happening to the earth's atmosphere over the last 550 million years. (The basic information about carbon dioxide and temperatures comes from Wikipedia.) The numbers in parentheses are values from 0-9 that represent the approximate amount of shade that the 'plant' life prefers, with a 9 being semi-darkness and a 0 being plenty of direct sunlight.

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