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The oldest living thing is younger than 4900 years (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (The oldest living thing is younger than 4900 years (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CG010:

The oldest living thing (a bristlecone pine) is younger than 4900 years, supporting a recent date for a worldwide cataclysm.


Morris, Henry M., 1974. Scientific Creationism, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, p. 193.

CreationWiki response: This is a fairly good statement of what Morris said, but he deals with a lot more, including a response to #2. (Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. The age of the oldest living thing doesn't indicate dates of events happening before it. It merely shows that no global cataclysm happened less than 4900 years ago.

It does however provide a way to check the validity of a theoretical date for an event. Specifically it shows that the age of living trees is consistent with the Biblical account of a global Flood. Morris also mentions the fact that trees can produce more than one ring per year. He points out that this could reduce this tree's age to 4000 years.

2. Tree rings give an unbroken record back more than 11,000 years. A worldwide cataclysm during that time would have broken the tree ring record.

The extension of tree rings beyond living trees is not as objective as often thought. It turns out that there are reasons why such extensions are questionable.

  • There is a good degree of subjectivity in matching tree rings.
  • Ring patterns are not unique to one set of rings even in the same tree.
  • The core of a tree is often off center, resulting from variations in the thickness of rings as they go around the tree.
  • Trees can have rings that don't go all the way around the tree.
  • Sometimes a tree's ring pattern can be sufficiently chaotic that there is no constant ring pattern. This chaos may not be evident in relatively small samples of the tree.

Reference: Tree ring dating (dendrochronology)

3. The King Clone creosote bush in the Mojave Desert is 11,700 years old.

The age of this bush is based on Carbon-14 dating. Carbon-14 levels fluctuate, so Carbon-14 dating needs to be calibrated with other methods. However, even such calibration becomes problematic past about 1000 B.C.

Furthermore, such dates assume that the Flood did not occur. There is evidence that suggests a rapid increase in Carbon-14 immediately following the Flood. Such a rapid increase would reduce these dates to within the estimated date for the Flood.