Moon Dust as a Creationist Clock

By Matt Nipe

moonBack in the 1950's, a geophysicist by the name of Hans Pettersson tried to make an accurate estimate for the amount of moon dust which could be accumulated on the moon's surface. asteriod strikePettersson went about this by first giving an estimate of how much meteorite material falls to Earth's surface each year. He took nickel samples from Hawaii's Mauna Loa by passing bits of dust through dust filters. Knowing that meteorites contain 2.5 percent nickel, he estimated that 14 million tons of meteoritic material settles upon Earth each year. He used this figure along with the Moon's gravitational pull and surface area, to estimate around 35 feet of moon dust accumulated on the surface of a four-billion-year-old Moon. Dust is material defined as "fine, dry particles of matter regarded as the products of disintegration."

Soon after Pettersson's findings were made public, some creationists used this idea to construct a geologic clock that supported a young earth (Wise 1990). The "clock" was a basic accumulation clock, stating that as time went on, more dust would settle on the Moon's surface and would remain there. Therefore, a moon with little dust would be younger than a moon with much dust. Several creationists used this theory along with the knowledge of the moon landings, which showed that the Moon, in fact, does not have 35 feet of moon dust, but only a few inches, therefore it must be much younger than previously thought (God and Science 2005).

astronaut stepping on the moonIn making his observations, however, Pettersson assumed the amount of Earth nickel to be zero, which is wrong: Earth dust does contain nickel, just in much smaller concentrations than meteorite dust. Upon updating his figures with the correct numbers (in a 1993 experiment), Earth's dust accumulation is thought to be close to 40,000 tons per year, not 14 million tons. This also results in a severe decrease in the estimated dust accumulation on the Moon at around 3,000 tons per year. This would show a Moon aged around four billion years with only a few inches of dust (God and Science 2005).

Science has also given another piece of evidence for why the Moon only had a few inches of dust accumulation. This theory is a theory of geo-compaction, or that after great periods of time, the accumulated dust compacts into a more solid, rocky mass.

For many years, it was believed that NASA was greatly concerned with the lunar landing due to the possibility of a surface of deep dust. This has since been refuted; scientists believed in a Moon surface with only slight dust accumulation as early as 1965. Any concern for an Apollo lander sinking into moon dust was only brought up in trivial consideration (The Talk.Origins Archive 2000).

The idea that the Moon must be young because of a lack of significant dust accumulation has been disproven. It is also important to note that the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis, both major young earth Creationism advocates, have publicly stated the falseness of this argument (Answers in Genesis 1993). They have, however, also given their own explanation for decreased dust accumulation: they hypothesize that an incredible barrage of meteors, asteroids, etc. towards the Moon resulted in the cratering and small amount of dust accumulation found on the Moon's surface (in recent history) (Ross 2004: 188). This hypothesis is not substantiated, since there is no supporting evidence-Biblical or scientific.

  1. Wise, David. 1990. Moon Dust. Last Update: Feb 1, 2003. Accessed: Oct 18, 2005.
  2. Answers in Genesis. 1993. Moon-Dust Argument No Longer Useful. Creation. 15 (4): 22.
  3. God and Science. Not Enough Dust on the Earth or Moon Prove the Earth is Young. Last Update: Oct 15, 2005. Accessed: Oct 18, 2005.
  4. The Talk.Origins Archive. Claim CE101. Last Update: July 29, 2000. Accessed: Oct 18, 2005.
  5. Thompson, Tim. 1996. Meteorite Dust and the Age of the Earth. The Talk.Origins Archives. Last Update: Sept 5, 1996. Accessed: Oct 18, 2005.
  6. Ross, Hugh. 2004. A Matter of Days. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 300 p.