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Bringing the Real World to Genesis—The Age of the Earth: How it Changed from Thousands to Billions of Years


The following article, part of the current series, “Bringing the Real World to Genesis” was authored by Dr. Peter E. Hare, and first appeared in Spectrum in 1974. He was a noted scientist with the Carnegie Institution, and died in 2006. He was born in Burma, the son of the well-known missionary Eric B. Hare.  He received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Pacific Union College in Angwin, Calif., in 1954 and earned a master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley, in 1955. For the next three years, Peter worked as a chemistry instructor at Pacific Union College.

He then studied at the California Institute of Technology and graduated with a doctorate in organic geochemistry in 1962. His dissertation, on the amino acids and proteins from carbonate minerals found in the shells of modern and fossil mussels, was published in Science in 1963. He was connected for a period of time to the Geoscience Research Institute, located at that time at Andrews University. Over a period of time, Peter’s work attracted the attention of Phillip H. Abelson, who was then the director of the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory. The two scientists corresponded for several years until Dr. Hare was invited to join the laboratory’s scientific staff in 1963.

During his early years at the laboratory, Dr. Hare set up a new instrument to measure amino acids. His first paper on the development of new methodology for amino acid analysis appeared in 1966 in a publication of the Federation of the American Society for Experimental Biology. In 1968, Hare and Abelson published the first paper on the discovery of left and right-handed amino acids in fossil shells. Dr. Hare used this information to develop a process for accurately dating ancient shells and bones.

For the rest of his career, Dr. Hare focused on studying the conversion of amino acids from left to right-handed and using the amino acid age-dating technique to date early man in North America, early human evolution in Africa and the geological progression of Arctic climates.

Dr. Hare, whose laboratory became the training ground for many young scientists, also was involved in searching for signs of life on the first rocks that came from the moon. He found some evidence for amino acids in lunar samples and published his findings in Science in 1971.

In 1979, Dr. Hare co-authored a landmark paper on new techniques for measuring left and right-handed amino acids. He and fellow author Emanuel-Av from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel then obtained a patent on their invention. Dr. Hare, who taught a Sabbath School class at the Sligo Seventh-day Adventist church, was one of the two developers of amino acid dating (sometimes referred to as amino acid racemization dating). Internet searches now returns more than a million hits for ‘amino acid dating’. That is likely the biggest splash that an Adventist scientist has ever made in mainstream science. —Jan Long

The Age of the Earth: How it Changed from Thousands to Billions of Years

Image: Francesca Berrini

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