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Erosion of Niagara Falls

How Good Are Those Young-Earth Arguments?
A Close Look at Dr. Hovind's List of Young-Earth Arguments and Other Claims
by Dave E. Matson
Copyright © 1994-2002


Young-earth "proof" #17: Erosion rates limit Niagara Falls to an age of less than 10,000 years. Therefore, the earth is young.

If Dr. Hovind is right about Niagara Falls, then it is less than 10,000 years old. There is nothing particularly earth-shaking about his figure. Niagara Falls came into existence after the last glacial episode, the Wisconsinan, ended around 11,000 to 12,000 years ago. Glacial ice covered the entire area to a considerable depth. Now, let me ask a small question. What does the age of the Niagara Falls have to do with the age of the earth??


G. K. Gilbert estimated that it took 7000 years for the Niagara Falls to retreat to its present position (Dalrymple, 1991, p.67). Thus, we have at least 7000 years sitting between the end of the last glacial episode, sometime after which the Niagara Falls was formed, and the present. Obviously, the earth is far older than the 6000 years or so deduced from the biblical list of patriarchs. Needless to say, the Niagara Falls couldn't possibly have existed had it flowed over freshly laid sediments. (In that case it would have become the Niagara Canyon!) The retreat of the Niagara Falls is a result of erosion undercutting the base of the falls and the subsequent cave-in of the upper portions of the rocky ledge. Only a geological moron could imagine that the falls quickly retreated through soft flood sediments until nearing its present position when, all of a sudden, the remaining sediments decided to turn into hard rock!


Gilbert's estimate was in the same ball park as several other estimates of the time elapsed since the last glacial episode. N. H. Winchell estimated that it took 8000 years to account for the erosion of the gorge and falls of St. Anthony. E. Andrews arrived at 7,500 years from a study of wave erosion on the shores of Lake Michigan. B. K. Emmerson calculated from his study of the glacial valleys in Massachusetts that 10,000 years had been at work. D. Mackintosh deduced that the erosion of limestone beneath glacial boulders required 6000 years. Taken together, these early estimates indicated that the ice sheets had disappeared 6,000-10,000 years ago (Dalrymple, 1991, pp.66-67).


Modern values for the end of the last glacial episode, the Wisconsinan Glaciation, are around 11,000-12,000 years. The more northerly sites, of course, would have been freed of ice more recently. Thus, the early estimates above are actually quite good. Technically, we are living in an interglaciation period of the present Ice Age. The Wisconsinan was the most recent glacial episode, one which was preceded by others and which, in all probability, will be succeeded by others.


Far from proving that the earth is a mere 6-10 thousand years old, Dr. Hovind has put his finger on a small fragment of Earth's history which already exceeds that biblical limit!


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