The Faint Young Sun Paradox

If our Sun is, as we believe, a perfectly normal 4.5 billion-year-old main sequence star, we would expect that, say 3 billion years ago it would be largely the same as another main sequence star of that age. And, 3 billion years ago, we would thus expect that the sun would output around 70% of the energy it does today. Unfortunately, this is too little to sustain liquid water on the surface of the Earth. And yet, we know that there was.

This, then, is the faint young Sun paradox.

The Sun, through a telescope (a bad idea, but somebody managed it...)

As you can probably guess, this has the creationists jumping for joy. Never mind our very ability to predict this kind of thing being a testament to our models of stellar evolution. Hence, the DpSU for Wednesday: Can Solar ‘Belch’ Theory Solve Sun Paradox?

The notion that the earth and cosmos are billions of years old continues to present serious problems for evolutionary scientists. For instance, billions of years ago, the sun would only have glowed faintly, leaving nearby earth totally frozen. But with no liquid water on earth’s surface, how could life have evolved and become fossilized so long ago?

This conundrum has been called the “faint young sun paradox,” and after 25 years of research, it remains just as problematic as ever. Scientists have tinkered with models of what they thought were atmospheres that might have kept earth warm. But sunlight would have prevented an ammonia-caused greenhouse earth, and earth’s oldest rocks show that the atmosphere was not dominated by the mild greenhouse gas carbon dioxide either.

There are, it should be pointed out, other greenhouse gases. And the people who came determined that “earth’s oldest rocks show that the atmosphere was not dominated by the mild greenhouse gas carbon dioxide” – you’ll note that Mr Thomas forgot to add that they are ‘supposedly’ Earth’s oldest rocks – came up with their own solution to the paradox. And their results were disputed – I’m not sure of the outcome.

Since researchers have found no solutions to the faint young sun paradox through planetary geophysics, some now look to reconfigure the sun’s evolutionary history. A team of researchers funded by the NASA astrobiology program plans to test new models of a sun that may have been large enough and that also existed early enough to have heated the earth billions of years ago.

Penn State University’s Steinn Sigurdsson will lead the team using a powerful computer program to model the early sun. He told Astrobiology Magazine that “to provide enough planet warming without overstepping any solar constraints, the Sun had to lose the extra mass in roughly the first few hundred million years.…That implies a solar wind that is about 1,000 times faster than what we currently observe.” Sigurdsson and his team plan to look for “stretch marks” left by such a tremendous break in solar wind.

A testable hypothesis! The link is here.

In order to make the solar physics work out correctly, the team needed to invent a way for the sun to discharge incredible amounts of its own mass within a narrow time range. Otherwise, the question of why the early sun might have been too faint for life on earth would be replaced by the equally vexing question of why today’s sun does not scorch the earth.

Or, possibly, they could try a different mechanism to solve the paradox.

Of course, even if the researchers cobble together ancient events that fit with physics, that does not mean that the events actually happened.

I need to remember this quote next time Flood Geology comes up: it shall be my new “When do the differences enter the conversation?”

I mean seriously, pretty much every model that tries to resolve this paradox has better support than the weird ideas the creationists come up with to explain away the impossibility of their Flood. Indeed, judging by their standards of evidence they would all be correct, which would ironically itself present a paradox.

For example, if a mega solar “belch” could have enabled the early sun to heat up earth enough for ancient life to survive, that would still not solve the problem. It would merely change the question from “How could a young sun not have been so faint?” to “What could have forced a young sun to eject so much material so quickly?”

Hey, science! That’s how it works, Brian: each ‘answer’ raises more and more questions. Scientists have had centuries to come up with a way to keep themselves permanently gainfully employed: you must admit that they pulled it off.

But the biblical model of a young world suffers none of these conundrums. The faint young sun paradox remains unsolved for those who insist on a long-ages cosmology. And its solution, despite upgrades in scientific software, promises to evade the naturalistic view.

The idea that the earth and sun were both created during the creation week thousands of years ago, with the sun immediately able to provide life-supporting light as Genesis records, is perfectly consistent with scientific observations.

Er, no – again, creationists are always making up these borderline-possible (if at all) models with no evidence better than “you can’t say it’s impossible – at least, not in the time it’ll take for me to change the subject.”

So, tu quoque Brian. But there seems to be no good reason why science can’t eventually agree on the correct solution: perhaps, if they were all true to a degree, you wouldn’t need such high levels of greenhouse gasses; the solar wind wouldn’t have to have been as strong etc. But the creationists? Well, if it comes down to it, I need to ask the ICR some day which model of the Flood they support: as it stands B.T. is just jumping between those that suit him at a given moment.

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4 thoughts on “The Faint Young Sun Paradox

  1. “Of course, even if the researchers* cobble together ancient events that fit with physics, that does not mean that the events actually happened.”

    *replace with “creationists”

    Then just post in response to every DpSU

    • Seems like a pretty blatant example of self-contradiction there. It is unfortunate that these types of things are perpetuated in YEC literature.

  2. http://www.icr.org/article/6742/
    “For instance, billions of years ago, the sun would only have glowed faintly, leaving nearby earth totally frozen. But with no liquid water on earth’s surface, how could life have evolved …”.

    Help is at hand. From the article at footnote 1: “Evidence in the oldest rocks suggests that Earth had liquid oceans as far back as 4.4 billion years ago”. It’s those troublesome zircons once again: http://www.astrobio.net/exclusive/2806/signals-from-an-infant-earth “Zircons are natural timekeepers because, during crystallization, they incorporate radioactive uranium and thorium, but exclude lead. As the uranium and thorium decay, they produce lead isotopes that get trapped within the zircons. By knowing the half-lives of the decay of uranium and thorium to lead, and the amount of these elements and their isotopes in the mineral, it’s possible to calculate how much time has elapsed since the zircon crystallized”.

    “But the biblical model of a young world suffers none of these conundrums”. JUST THE ONE ABOUT HOW THE EARTH COULD HAVE BEEN CREATED EARLIER THAN THE SUN.

    I’ve also offered my opinions on recent ICR pieces by John Morris (son of Henry):

    http://www.icr.org/article/6631/
    “But scientists have discovered that geologic layers are not always laid down one after another.” Excuse me? Oh – you really mean that they might sometimes have all been laid down in a short space of time because of one single ‘big’ event involving liquid water.
    “All geologists recognize that major geologic events accomplished much of the deposition of the rocks we see. Tsunamis, underwater mudflows, gravity slides, turbidity currents, etc…”. LIAR.
    You deliberately ignore slow deposition of sediment at the bottom of shallow seas and lakes, as well as sediment deposited by wind in arid regions. WHY? Major geologic events do NOT have to be ‘rapid’ (or locally or regionally catastrophic). Many known past events and processes need NOT have produced the ‘lateral layering’ that might result from a local tsunami, a flood like the Queensland ‘inland tsunami’ or a large inundation of water following failure of an ice-dam.
    How many separate horizontal ‘layer cake’ layers are found at the Grand Canyon (even if some are missing, which YECs dispute)?
    http://www.icr.org/article/gaps-geologic-column (linked article)
    “While many incorrect notions are imbedded in this diagram (most particularly the “absolute” ages given)…”. LIAR
    “But the rock layers are frequently dated by their fossil content, arranged in the erroneous evolutionary order”. LIAR.
    Although sedimentary rocks cannot be radiometrically dated, geologists see similar patterns of layering of such rock types around the world, and similar apparent time sequences of the kinds of fossilised creatures often found within them. Thus relative ages can be ascertained. Normally, any adjacent igneous rocks – ones which rarely bear fossils – are radiometrically dated. This includes any igneous rocks directly above or below the fossil bearing layer(s). This helps narrow down the age of the sedimentary rock and the fossil. If need be, an igneous rock from another location where an identifiably corresponding sedimentary layer is also present (perhaps with similar fossils), could be dated instead.
    Any allegations of ‘circular reasoning’ would be wide of the mark because rocks are NOT merely dated by assumed ages of fossils. And despite Morris BOTH misleadingly AND dishonestly using the word ‘erroneous’, YECs do NOT dispute the recognisable fossil order or sequence found as one moves higher in the geological column; they merely deny both the large timescales involved and the possible evolutionary process that all this might bear witness to. ‘The Greatest Hoax on Earth’ did not dispute what was explained on pages 98-100 of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ concerning the ordering of fossils in the geologic column. But the ICR wish to confuse people about the RELATIVE ages of rocks (and fossils) in order to help them further doubt the ABSOLUTE ages of rocks estimated by radiometric dating.
    “The geologic column as normally presented should not be considered accurate history and should be recognized as a statement of evolutionary old-earth dogma. There is some truth contained in the geologic column, but not as it is normally taught”. LIAR
    “Its implications can never justify doubting God’s truth as recorded in Scripture”. THAT’S why you lie about geology (substituting a faith position for peer-reviewed science and common sense) – because you want people to be able to believe the Bible (not just the Gospel but Genesis too) and not to be put off Genesis by science.

    Dr Morris – a chip off the old block (NB the block hasn’t been dated)?

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