When Did the Moon Get Craters? A Young Earth Problem
by Rich Deem


Lunar Craters

There are many large craters on the moon, which can even be seen with an average pair of binoculars. Young earth creationists say most of those craters happened during the flood. Is this what the Bible and science say?

Rich Deem

Young earth creationists say that all of earth's history (and the history of the universe) took place over a period of about 6,000 years. They also believe that human beings were created less than 150 hours after the creation of the earth and the universe. Accordingly, human beings have been witness to virtually the entire history of the universe (actually, about 99.9998%). One of the more perplexing mysteries for young earth creationists are the craters found on the moon and other solar system bodies. How, and when did they get there?

Lunar craters and the Bible

According to the Bible, the moon was created to help human beings tell the seasons.1 The Bible has absolutely nothing to say about the cratering of the moon. Despite the lack of any biblical information about the cratering of the moon, Answers in Genesis has produced an article entitled, "A Biblically-Based Cratering Theory," although no Bible verses were cited in support of a biblical timing of cratering.

Answers in Genesis came to the conclusion that craters were formed during two separate impact events, not based upon the Bible, but because of the physical evidence. Accordingly, the first cratering was "connected with Creation Week, or more likely the Fall shortly thereafter."2 However, since the young earth paradigm requires that God's original creation was "perfect," it would seem unlikely that God would have peppered the solar system with debris while making His "perfect" creation.3 Instead Answers in Genesis prefers to believe that God got so mad at Adam and Eve that He threw a temper tantrum of asteroids at the moon and other solar system bodies at the fall (although, Answers in Genesis never stated it quite that way). Accordingly, God's second temper tantrum happened during the flood, when He sent a second blast of larger asteroids at the moon, forming the mare. Large craters, dotting the mare after they had solidified, are completely unaccounted for by the young earth model.

Cratering—the evidence

The evidence for how God created the stars and planets is quite strong. New stars and planetary system are accreted through the action of gravity in regions of galaxies containing gases and remnants of exploded supernovae. The initial stars of the universe were composed of nearly 100% hydrogen and helium. It was only through some rather remarkable physical parameters that stars produce the heavy elements necessary for life. When those stars exploded, their ashes were scattered throughout the galaxies, providing the necessary elements to form planets and, ultimately, human beings. God formed the Sun and rest of the solar system in this manner, through a carefully selected choice of exquisitely designed parameters. During the initial accretion of the solar system planets (around 4.6 billion years ago), there were many collisions of large and small asteroids with all the newly formed planets and moons, which is why all geologically inactive planetary bodies show evidence of heavy cratering. At 3.9 billion years ago, destabilization of the asteroid belt led to the late heavy bombardment, resulting in intense bombardment of the inner solar system bodies, including the earth and moon. Evidence of this bombardment is mostly lacking on earth, since tectonic activity and weathering has erased it. However, the moon shows evidence of this cratering, primarily on the far side (see graphic, right).

How many craters?

There are literally thousands of craters on the moon. A 2010 survey revealed 5185 craters larger than 20 km in diameter.4 By comparison, Meteor Crater in Arizona is only 1.2 km across. The graph, right, shows the sizes of craters on the moon based on longitude and latitude. All craters larger than 100 km appear in red (over 300 craters). There are 70 craters larger than the Chicxulub Crater in Mexico (180 km diameter), whose impactor wiped out the dinosaurs. That impact event released the energy equivalent of 2 million of the largest hydrogen bombs ever tested (a total of 100 million megatons). Such an impact would have had global impacts. Here is a quote from a press release from the University of Colorado:

"'The kinetic energy of the ejected matter would have dissipated as heat in the upper atmosphere during re-entry, enough heat to make the normally blue sky turn red-hot for hours,' said Robertson. Scientists have speculated for more than a decade that the entire surface of the Earth below would have been baked by the equivalent of a global oven set on broil."5

Proof of the widespread nature of the impact event was the finding of markedly enhanced concentrations of asteroid-derived iridium worldwide (30 times more in Italy and 160 times more in Denmark) in geologic layers dated at 65.5 million years ago.6 The problem for young earth creationism is when this earth-altering event occurred. The evidence from creation shows that there are no dinosaur fossils in sedimentary layers formed after the impact event. However, young earth creationists say that dinosaurs were taken on Noah's ark. This means that the impact event had to have occurred after the flood. However, if humanity had existed at the time of the asteroid impact, broiling them would not have been a good thing. So, young earth creationists are at a loss to explain when the Chicxulub Crater was formed and why Noah's descendants never noticed the event that destroyed 75% of all species on earth.

A second problem for young earth creationists is to explain when all those asteroids produced craters on the moon. Answers in Genesis says that the late heavy bombardment happened at the flood and produced the mare on the moon. However, evidence from the moon shows the mare were formed much later (which explains why there are few craters in the mare). In addition, the mare were formed from volcanic flows, with the vents that produced such flows having been identified. However, even after the mare had solidified following the pyroclastic flows, large cratering events occurred, such as the crater Copernicus in the mare Oceanus Procellarum. Being a 93 km diameter crater, this impact event would have produced a spectacular show on earth. However, neither this event nor any of the other lunar cratering events were ever recorded in any historical records.

What really happened

The evidence from the creation clearly shows that the earth is 4.55 billion years old and was formed during the accretion of the solar system. All solar system bodies experienced numerous collision events early in their existence, being readily seen in the appearance of geologically inactive solar system bodies. Shortly thereafter was the late heavy bombardment,, which was "late" compared to the early accretion events, but still early in the history of the solar system. All these events occurred in Genesis 1:1, before the first "day" of the Bible's account of the creation of the earth. The biblical account of the earth's creation begins in Genesis 1:2, after the earth's late heavy bombardment, when the planet was still a waterworld. When God setup the water cycle (Genesis 1:6-8) most the evidence for impacts were erased over the next 4 billion years. Following the late heavy bombardment, volcanic activity on the nascent moon flowed into the larger impact basins, forming the moon's mare. A few large impactors collided with the moon after the mare had solidified, forming some large craters in those areas.

Conclusion Top of page

Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding CreationThe cratering of the moon and other solar system bodies presents an insurmountable obstacle to the young earth interpretation of creation. Young earth creationists are forced to try to fit billions of years of cratering into a few thousand years. With such violence in the solar system (and earth), it would be impossible for humanity to have survived. Here is a list of unbelievable events young earth creationists expect you to believe in order for the earth to be 6,000 years old:

Young Earth Old Earth
God pelted the moon and other solar system bodies with countless asteroids for no other reason than to coincide with His judgment of Adam and Eve's sin and the Genesis flood (God's temper tantrum?). The accretion of the solar system was carefully planned by God to create an extremely stable system of planets and moons for humanity's abode. All impact events occurred well before human beings were created
Although hundreds of these lunar impact events would have been spectacularly observable on earth, nobody ever recorded a single instance of these events. All the large lunar impact events occurred hundreds of millions to billions of years ago to protect humanity from the danger of these impact events.
The 10 km diameter asteroid that created the 180 km Chicxulub Crater in Mexico occurred after the flood, but was unnoticed, even though the physics of such an event demanded that the atmosphere of the entire earth be turned red hot for hours, killing 75% of all species living at the time. God created, destroyed, and replaced numerous species of bacteria, plants and animals (Psalms 104:24-30)7 over billions of years to prepare the earth for habitation by human beings, including an amazing array of mineral and biodeposits to hasten the proclaiming of His gospel message in these last days.

The young earth model for cratering lacks a purpose for such events from God's perspective. If pressed, Young earth creationists will attribute craters to Adam's sin (although it is unclear how those two things are tied together). Ultimately, young earth creationism relies upon a paradigm that creates contradictions in both scripture and the record of nature. However, when interpreted consistently, the Bible confirms what God's creation reveals.

Other Resources Top of page

A Matter of Days by Hugh RossA Matter of Days by Hugh Ross

Dr. Ross looks the creation date controversy from a biblical, historical, and scientific perspective. Most of the book deals with what the Bible has to say about the days of creation. Ross concludes that biblical models of creation should be tested through the whole of scripture and the revelations of nature.

Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Earth Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Earth by Mark S. Whorton, Ph.D.

This book, written for Christians, examines creation paradigms on the basis of what scripture says. Many Christians assume that the young earth "perfect paradise" paradigm is based upon what the Bible says. In reality, the "perfect paradise" paradigm fails in its lack of biblical support and also in its underlying assumptions that it forces upon a "Christian" worldview. Under the "perfect paradise" paradigm, God is relegated to the position of a poor designer, whose plans for the perfect creation are ruined by the disobedience of Adam and Eve. God is forced to come up with "plan B," in which He vindictively creates weeds, disease, carnivorous animals, and death to get back at humanity for their sin. Young earth creationists inadvertently buy into the atheistic worldview that suffering could not have been the original intent of God, stating that the earth was created "for our pleasure." However, the Bible says that God created carnivores, and that the death of animals and plants was part of God's original design for the earth.

A New Look at an Old EarthA New Look at an Old Earth by Don Stoner

Don Stoner looks at the age of the earth from a scientific and biblical perspective. He presents much more evidence that is not presented in Creation and Time.

The older version of A New Look at an Old Earth is available online

References Top of page

  1. Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; (Genesis 1:14)
    He made the moon for the seasons; The sun knows the place of its setting. (Psalms 104:19)
  2. Danny Faulkner. April 1, 1999. A Biblically-Based Cratering Theory. Answers in Genesis.
  3. Although young earth creationists claim God created the universe "perfect," the Bible describes it only as "good" and very good (Genesis 1). In fact, it says that part of the original creation was "not good" (Genesis 2:18).
  4. Head, J. W. III, C. I. Fassett, S. J. Kadish, D. E. Smith, M. T. Zuber, Gregory A. Neumann, and E. Mazarico. 2010. Report Global Distribution of Large Lunar Craters: Implications for Resurfacing and Impactor Populations. Science 329: 1504-1507.
  5. Study: Dinosaurs Died Within Hours After Asteroid Hit Earth 65 Million Years Ago. May 24, 2004. Source: University of Colorado at Boulder
  6. Alvarez, LW, Alvarez, W, Asaro, F, and Michel, HV. 1980. Extraterrestrial cause for the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction. Science 208: 1095–1108.
  7. ...the earth is full of your creatures...when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. (Psalms 104:24-30)

Last Modified March 27, 2013


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