©1986 by Paul D. Ackerman    http://www.creationism.org/books/ackerman/ 

 1 - Moon Dust and 
 the Question of Time


. . . Blessed of the Lord be his land. . . 
for the precious fruits brought forth 
by the sun, and for the precious things
put forth by the moon. Deut.  33:13—14

The most famous argument that creationists have raised for a recent creation has to do with the amount of dust on the moon's surface—the so-called moon-dust evidence. It is also the age argument that has been most sharply challenged by evolutionists.1 Although the status of the evidence related to this argument is currently in dispute, it is nevertheless a good place to start, since the logic behind it is easy to understand and communicate. Many of the arguments get very technical and are hard both to explain and understand. A grasp of the moon-dust argument will not only provide the basis for a suspicion that things may not be so old after all, but will also prepare the reader to more readily understand the more technical evidences and arguments to follow. In a historical sense the moon-dust argument is important because it opened up the issue of the time of creation for many Bible-believing scientists and scholars. Many were persuaded to take a new look at possible scientific evidences for recent creation on the basis of this argument.

The Argument: An Analogy

Suppose a friend comes to visit your house and, while he thinks you are not looking, pulls his finger across the top of your coffee table and looks at it suspiciously. What is he doing? He is trying to find out how long it has been since the coffee table was dusted. He is treating the accumulated dust on the table as a kind of clock, a device that measures the time that passes between dustings. If the time since the last dusting has been short, there should be very little buildup of dust or none at all. If, on the other hand, you are not much of a housekeeper, and it has been a long time since your last dusting, then the amount of dust on the coffee table will be considerable. The method is all very simple and logical, and it can provide a very good clock for measuring the time since the last dusting. What if your friend finds an eighth of an inch of dust on your table? What if he finds a whole inch of dust? What if there is a foot of dust on your table?

The accumulation of dust on your coffee table serves as a pretty good clock, but there are some important limitations that need to be considered. These limitations have to do with what scientists call "assumptions," or conditions that must be known to read our dust clock properly, but which cannot be observed or tested. The dust on the table is an accurate clock only if these assumptions are actually true. There are three assumptions needed to make our dust clock valid—and, in fact, to make all scientific clocks work. First, the starting conditions must be assumed (How much dust is on the table right after dusting?). Second, the rate of change from the beginning until now must be assumed (How fast is dust building up on the coffee table, and has this rate of accumulation been constant over time?). And third, it must be assumed that the clock has been free of outside tampering over the time span in question (Has someone sneaked into the house and removed some of the dust in some other way?).

One can easily see the importance of these assumptions. Suppose a person is an odd sort who actually likes dust on the coffee table. Every few days the old dust may be carefully wiped away and a fresh batch carefully laid down. Somewhat more realistically, a person might be doing some remodeling work in the basement that resulted in the production of an excessive amount of dust. The point is simple. A clock is only as good as the assumptions behind it.

The Moon and Cosmic Dust

If a clock is only as good as the assumptions behind it, let us try to make some reasonable assumptions about the moon. Scientists know that outer space contains an abundance of tiny specks of material known as cosmic dust. This cosmic dust is constantly falling into our atmosphere, collecting on the earth's surface and mixing with all sorts of other material by the action of wind and water. Such cosmic dust will, in fact, collect on all sizable space bodies such as the moon and planets.

On the basis of various methods such as high-altitude balloons and rockets, scientists over the years have attempted to estimate the amount of cosmic dust in the vicinity of the earth and moon and thus the amount that is currently falling onto the moon's surface. If it is assumed that "in the beginning" the moon's surface was clean of any cosmic dust, that the cosmic dust has been settling on its surface at today's rate ever since, and that no unknown factor has interfered with the accumulating dust in the meantime, one has the basis for a simple clock for estimating the age of the moon and, by implication, the earth and the rest of the solar system.

Long before man ever set foot on the moon, some scientists had argued that there did not appear to be enough cosmic dust in the surface layers of the earth to account for the supposed billions of years of earth's history. However, proponents of "long ages" argued that extensive wind and water erosion had masked the assumed presence. It was felt that the missing cosmic dust would turn up somewhere, perhaps in the deep sediment layers of the oceans. So far it has not.

A Trip to the Moon

In the mid-1960s man was approaching the attainment of an age-old dream, to make a space voyage to the moon. As the long-awaited time drew near, intense excitement (as well as apprehension) grew about what might be found there. Among the most frightening aspects was our old friend— cosmic dust. Although the earth is a living planet with constant wind and water action to mix and erode surface materials, the moon is dead and sterile. As the dust from space slowly filters down onto the moon's surface, there is no erosion to wash or blow it away, so it just sits there collecting deeper and deeper. Since the scientists were convinced that the moon was at least 4.5 billion years old, this prospect of a slow but steady "snow" of space dust over that span of time gave them justifiable cause for alarm.

On the basis of certain measurements, it seemed possible that there might be anywhere from 50 to 180 feet of loosely packed cosmic dust on the moon's surface. The threat was that our manned Lunar Lander would sink down into this loose layer and never be able to blast off for the return trip to earth. Of course, all the prospects were not so grim in nature. We also wanted the first astronauts to plant the American flag on the moon. This was expected to be no problem, since it could be easily tapped down into the cosmic dust layer.

As the time of the first manned landing approached, much concern and controversy over the moon-dust problem remained. In a recent television interview, Bob Hope asked Neil Armstrong what was his greatest fear when he set that first historic foot on the moon's surface. Without hesitation Armstrong responded that his greatest fear was the moon-dust layer that scientists had told the astronauts to expect. Many precautions had been taken. Additional expensive impact probes had been sent to check for safe landing sites, and, most important of all, one very crucial addition to the landing vehicle was made. Huge duck-feet landing pods were attached to the legs of the Lunar Lander so that it would safely settle down without sinking into the theorized dust layer.

The great day came. The space vehicle roared into orbit and then out into the void. Across thousands of miles of distance it flew, finally taking position in orbit around the moon. The lander detached and, as all of earth watched, the Eagle slowly descended. July 20, 1969. Mare Tranquillitatis. "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind," said Neil Armstrong.

Testimony of the Dust

A great witness spanned out across the heavens that day as Neil Armstrong stood on the moon and tried to plant the American flag by hammering it down into the supposed billions of years of accumulated cosmic dust. Neil Armstrong hammered, but the flag would not budge, because the anticipated dust layer was simply not there. Oh, of course, it was there, but if the calculations indicating the rate of dust accumulation were accurate, there was not a billion years' worth of dust, nor was there a million years' worth of dust. There was, in fact, only a few thousand years' worth of dust on the moon's surface.

The cosmic-dust evidence revealed an intriguing possibility. Was this issue of how old things are not settled after all? Perhaps the creation was younger than some proposed. Creationists began to take another look at the evidence relating to this age issue, and what they have discovered is simply astounding. It begins to appear that the creation is not vastly ancient, as we have been taught from earliest school days. In fact, it may be quite young.

Evolutionists' Counter-Arguments

Most evolutionists do not accept the conclusions of creationists regarding the moon-dust clock or any of the other clocks presented in this book. Some do, of course, but then they are no longer evolutionists, because the evolutionary scheme requires great lengths of time. An evolutionist must hypothesize vast eons for the process of evolution to work. Therefore, some other explanation of the small amount of dust needs to be found.

Old Evidence

The most frequent counter-argument to the creationists' moon-dust evidence has been the suggestion that prior to the Apollo moon mission the overwhelming majority of scientists did not believe there would be much dust and that only a minority fringe group thought otherwise. The evidence indicates that this is not the case, and estimates are that as much as an extra one billion dollars was spent prior to the first Apollo moon mission because of concern about the dust problem. The The Rand McNally New Concise Atlas of the Universe states, "The theory that the Maria were covered with deep layers of soft dust was current until well into the 1960s."2 As mentioned earlier, Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, confirmed on national television that this was his biggest concern at the time of his first moon walk.

The best source of documentation that evolutionists did believe in the deep dust layer is found in textbooks written prior to the rise of the creation-science movement. Evolutionists were much more candid when they did not know that there was significant opposition to the evolutionist world view. Thus, in 1971, astronomer Robert T. Dixon wrote in his textbook Dynamic Astronomy, "The moon was for many years characterized as having a thick layer of dust covering its surface, into which an object would sink if it landed on the moon."3

The most concrete evidence that there was genuine belief in the expected deep moon-dust layer is the fact of the modifications to the Lunar Lander. The duck feet that were added are an obvious witness to the serious apprehension concerning the calculations and measurements that led to the prediction of a deep moon-dust layer.

New Evidence

In recent years a more serious challenge to the creationists' claims regarding the moon dust has been raised by the evolutionists.4 Some of the data collected by orbiting satellites seem to indicate that the amount of cosmic dust in the vicinity of the earth and moon may be much less than earlier measurements indicated. If this is the case, it is argued that the small amount of dust on the moon's surface creates no problem for the view that it is billions of years old.

–   UPDATE 2002  -  Added for the Web Version   –

A recent review of the latest and best evidence by creation scientists Andrew A. Snelling and David E. Rush indicates that there is much less dust in the earth-moon vicinity that earlier estimated. As a result most creationists now believe that the moon-dust argument should not be used. For more information on the latest data check the link: <http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/1372.asp> . This author agrees with the position of Answers in Genesis and does not currently use the moon-dust argument. However we need to remember that the evolutionist conception of the solar system's origin assumes much more dust in the past than is currently present. Finally, there are many factors known to remove cosmic dust as time passes (see chapter 3).

Scientists are always discovering new evidence and re-evaluating old evidence. Therefore, arguments for various conclusions come and go with the advance of knowledge. This book was published in 1986 and the arguments it presents were those at the time judged to be the best and most easily communicated. Since 1986, great advances in creation research have occurred, and many new evidences have come to light. The new evidences are in many cases more powerful than those known in the mid-1980s and contained in this book. To access the best current evidences for recent creation go to <http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/faq/young.asp> . The case for recent creation is much stronger today than it was in 1986. We may, with more assurance than ever, proclaim, “It's a young world after all.”

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