Ancient Rivers on Mars | The Institute for Creation Research
Ancient Rivers on Mars
Geologists have used high-resolution images obtained by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to infer the existence of past rivers on the Martian surface. Geologist Francesco Salese of Ultrecht University in the Netherlands led the team that analyzed the images of a sedimentary outcrop in the northwest rim of Hellas Planitia, an impact basin in Mars’s southern hemisphere.1,2

Geologists and planetary scientists have long believed that liquid water existed on Mars in the past, and that Mars even shows evidence of catastrophic flooding.1,3 However, the team of scientists said this is the first time that they have been able to infer the date and duration for which this river system existed. They said this river system flowed for hundreds of thousands of years about 3.7 billion years ago.1

Of course, creation scientists reject this “deep time” age estimate. Relative dates are often inferred from the number of craters on a planetary surface.4 However, radioisotope dating methods for meteorite, Earth, and lunar rocks are used to translate these relative dates into absolute ones. Although uniformitarian scientists had already accepted the idea of “millions of years” before the invention of radioisotope dating methods,5 radioisotope dating is arguably the main “proof” for deep time.

But creation scientists have found good reasons to question the method’s underlying assumptions, including the assumption that radio-decay rates have always been slow. For instance, different radioisotope dating methods used on the same rock unit give different age estimates, even when analytical uncertainties are taken into account. Interestingly, creationists have noticed a pattern: the heavier the particular radioisotope being used for the dating process, the larger the age estimate. This discrepancy can be explained if something caused different radioisotopes to decay at different rates at some time or times in the past.6 Creation scientists are still working to resolve unanswered questions involving accelerated nuclear decay (mainly concerning the safe removal of the excess heat generated),7 but the evidence for past accelerated nuclear decay is strong, which invalidates the ages calculated from those nuclear decay rates.8,9

Creationists have long noted the irony in the fact that uniformitarian geologists have no problem with catastrophic flooding on Mars, a world which today has no liquid water on its surface,10 yet reject that possibility for Earth! Unlike Mars, the Earth is a watery world, with more than seventy percent of its surface still submerged. Most of the land surface is covered by water-deposited sedimentary rocks11 that contain the remains of billions of fossilized plants and animals. Moreover, many cultures throughout the world have recollections of a cataclysmic Flood like the one described in the Bible, precisely what one would expect if the Flood were a real historical event.12 Yet uniformitarian scientists say that there’s “no evidence” for a global Flood on this planet! It is even more ironic that secular geologists use words like “Noachian” to describe water-formed geological features on Mars,2 although they would balk at using that word to describe Earth’s Flood features!

It is also striking that uniformitarian geologists think canyons on Mars were carved extremely rapidly by water.3 Even though scientists have observed water rapidly carve canyons here on Earth,13 and even though the field evidence strongly favors a rapid origin for the Grand Canyon,14 secular scientists insist on claiming that the Grand Canyon was slowly carved out over millions of years!

If it weren’t for the fact that the Bible testifies of the global Flood in the days of Noah, would uniformitarian scientists have any objection to the idea of a global Flood here on Earth? Probably not. There is an old saying, “People will believe anything so long as it’s not in the Bible.”

Stage image: Topographic map of Hellas Planitia and its surroundings in the southern uplands, from the MOLA instrument of Mars Global Surveyor.
Stage image credit: 
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University. Copyright © 2020. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.

1. Weitereng, H. Mars orbiter finds evidence of ancient, long-lived rivers on the Red planet. Posted on May 12, 2020, accessed May 13, 2020.
2. Salese, F., et al. 2020. Sustained fluvial deposition recorded in Mars’ Noachian stratigraphic record. Nature Communications. 11 (2067).
3. Gohd, C. Catastrophic Floods Rapidly Carved the Surface of Mars. Discover. Posted on November 19, 2018, accessed May 13, 2020.
4. Coppedge, D. F. 2007. Crisis in Crater Count Dating. Acts & Facts. 36 (1).
5. Morris, J. D. 2011. The Failed History of Uniformitarianism. Acts & Facts. 40 (12): 15.
6. Snelling, A. A. 2005. Isochron Discordances and the Role of Inheritances and Mixing of Radioisotopes in the Mantle and Crust. In Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative, Volume 2. L. Vardiman, A. A. Snelling, and E. F. Chaffin, eds. El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research and Chino Valley, AZ: Creation Research Society, 393–524.
7. Vardiman, L. 2007. RATE in Review: Unresolved Problems. Acts & Facts. 36 (12): 6.
8. Humphreys, D. R. 2005. Young Helium Diffusion Age of Zircons Supports Accelerated Nuclear Decay. In Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative, Volume 2. L. Vardiman, A. A. Snelling, and E. F. Chaffin, eds. El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research and Chino Valley, AZ: Creation Research Society, 25-99.
9. Snelling, A. A. 2005. Polonium Radiohalos: The Model for Their Formation Tested and Verified. Acts & Facts. 34 (8).
10. Morris, H. M. 1997. Where has All the Water Gone? Acts & Facts. 26 (9).
11. Even uniformitarian geologists recognize that most sedimentary rocks are the result of lithification of water-deposited material. In fact, a uniformitarian geologist once told me, in a private conversation, that 90 to 95 percent of all sedimentary rocks result from watery deposition. Creation scientists think even this is an underestimate, as sedimentary rock units such as the Coconino Sandstone are misinterpreted by uniformitarian geologists as having formed by wind action.
12. Morris, J. D. 2014. Traditions of a Global Flood. Acts & Facts. 43 (11).
13. Thomas, B. 2010. Texas Canyons Highlight Geologic Evidence for Catastrophe. Creation Science Update. Posted on July 8, 2010, accessed May 13, 2020.
14. Clarey, T. 2018. Grand Canyon Carved by Flood Runoff. Acts & Facts. 47 (12).

*Dr. Jake Hebert is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.
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