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Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter

Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter

Chapter 12 - How Old is the Earth?

1. Haven't scientists proved that the earth is billions of years old?

Answer: As was shown in the first chapter where science was defined, the study of origins and earth prehistory is, strictly speaking, beyond the powers of the scientific method. No humans were present to observe the events, and the events which occurred are unknown and cannot be repeated experimentally. All of the evidence from the rocks is circumstantial and can be interpreted in various ways. Thus it is not possible to "prove" that the earth is billions of years old. A number of surveys of the subject from the biblical creation perspective have been published. They are essentially critiques of the methods used by the secular establishment to estimate the ages of minerals, rocks and other geological materials.1

2. What are the requirements for a clock which measures time correctly?


a. The clock must run at a known constant rate. Nothing must happen to speed it up or slow it down.

b. The clock must be set correctly at the beginning of the time period being measured.

c. The clock must not be disturbed by resetting the hands during the time period being measured.

3. How do the radiometric methods for estimating the ages of rocks work?

Answer: The radiometric dating methods rely upon radioactive elements contained in the rocks. An example is the uranium-238/lead-206 system. If a rock contains "parent" uranium-238 atoms, these continually decompose through a series of radioactive decompositions to produce, finally, "daughter" lead-206 atoms. It takes about 4.5 billion years (BY) for half of any quantity of U-238 atoms to decompose. This is called the "half-life" of U-238. If a sample of a rock is analyzed for its content of U-238 and Pb-206 atoms (Pb is the chemical symbol for lead), the ratio of lead to uranium atoms can be interpreted as a clock which tells how long ago the rock crystallized. The assumptions which must be made are:

a. the rate of radioactive decay has not varied,

b. the rock's content of daughter lead at time zero is known, and

c. no parent uranium or daughter lead was either added to or taken from the rock since time zero.

These assumptions correspond to the three requirements given above for a clock. Assuming these assumptions to be correct, if a sample of rock is found to contain the daughter and parent atoms in the ratio Pb-206/U-238=1/1, half of the uranium has decomposed to lead, so the rock is judged to have an age equal to one half-life or 4.5 BY. If the ratio Pb-206/U-238=3/1, three quarters of the uranium has decomposed, so the rock is judged to have an age equal to two half-lives or 9 BY.

4. Do the radiometric dating methods possess the three qualifications to measure time correctly?

Answer: The radiometric dating methods cannot be proved to fulfill all of the requirements for a reliable clock.

a. The evidence generally supports the constancy of radioactive decay rates within narrow limits. However, some research suggests that special conditions may, perhaps, appreciably alter some radioactive decay rates.2 It is also possible that exposure to neutrino, neutron, or cosmic radiation could have greatly changed isotopic ratios or the rates at some time in the past.3 In addition, according to a recently developed theory, the speed of light has varied since the Creation, and this would have affected radioactive decay rates drastically. (See answer 7c below.)

b. The daughter products of the various systems are all found widely distributed in the earth's crust, e.g., Pb-206, Pb-208, argon-40, and strontium-87. It is generally not possible to be sure that some daughter product atoms were not present in the rock at time zero.

c. Finally, all of the parent and daughter atoms can move through the rocks. Heating and deformation of rocks can cause these atoms to migrate, and water percolating through the rocks can transport these substances and redeposit them. These processes correspond to changing the setting of the clock hands. Not infrequently such resetting of the radiometric clocks is assumed in order to explain disagreements between different measurements of rock ages. The assumed resettings are referred to as "metamorphic events" or "second" or "third events."4

From the above facts it can be seen that the radiometric dating methods do not in general fulfill all of the requirements for a reliable clock.

5. If the earth is really young, only thousands of years old, why do the radiometric methods usually give such large ages, millions or billions of years?

Answer: The half-lives of the parent atoms used in dating the rocks are very long, from hundreds of millions to billions of years. Since the daughter product atoms are found everywhere in the rocks -- and they are equated to time -- it should not be surprising to find that these methods yield large values for the age of the earth.

6. Are there special difficulties with some of the radiometric methods?

Answer: Yes. Dr. Henry Morris has pointed out that all of the radiometric methods involve difficulties because of assumptions which are not necessarily correct.5

a. In the lead-uranium systems both uranium and lead can migrate easily in some rocks, and lead volatilizes and escapes as a vapor at relatively low temperatures.6 It has been suggested that free neutrons could transform Pb-206 first to Pb-207 and then to Pb-208, thus tending to reset the clocks and throw thorium-lead and uranium-lead clocks completely off, even to the point of wiping out geological time.7 Furthermore, there is still disagreement of 15 percent between the two preferred values for the U-238 decay constant.8

b. In the potassium/argon system argon is a gas which can escape from or migrate through the rocks. Potassium volatilizes easily, is easily leached by water,9 and can migrate through the rocks under certain conditions. Furthermore, the value of the decay constant is still disputed, although the scientific community seems to be approaching agreement. Historically, the decay constants used for the various radiometric dating systems have been adjusted to obtain agreement between the results obtained.10 In the potassium/argon system another adjustable "constant" called the branching ratio is also not accurately known and is adjusted to give acceptable results.11

Argon-40, the daughter substance, makes up about one percent of the atmosphere, which is therefore a possible source of contamination. This is corrected for by comparing the ratio argon-40/argon-36 in the rock with that in the atmosphere. However, since it is possible for argon-36 to be formed in the rocks by cosmic radiation, the correction may also be in error. Argon from the environment may be trapped in magma by pressure and rapid cooling to give very high erroneous age results.12 In view of these and other problems it is hardly surprising that the potassium/argon method can yield highly variable results, even among different minerals in the same rock.13

c. In the strontium/rubidium system the strontium-87 daughter atoms are very plentiful in the earth's crust. Rubidium-87 parent atoms can be leached out of the rock by water or volatilized by heat.

All of these special problems as well as others can produce contradictory and erroneous results for the various radiometric dating systems.

7. Does any new information cast doubt on the alleged great age of the earth and of the universe?

Answer: Yes, much lead/uranium data can be accounted for without time, radioactive halos indicate instantaneous creation, and the theory of a decreasing speed of light, if it turns out to be correct, completely collapses the radiometric great age chronology.

a. Prof. Russell Arndts and William Overn have recently discovered that lead/uranium data can be explained without great spans of time.14 In explaining many discordant results obtained by the uranium/lead method, scientists often use a special graph called a "discordia curve." This is a graph of the ratio of Pb-206/U-238 versus Pb-207/U-235. Theoretically this should be a curved line, often it is a jumbled cloud of points, but sometimes it is a straight line. To explain the straight line, it is assumed that the rocks being dated suffered a second event or metamorphic event which heated and softened the rocks, allowing lead to migrate. This reset the radiometric clock, they say. The discordia curve, however, repairs the clock and yields an age for the rock and the date of the metamorphic event.

Arndts and Overn, however, have now established that the straight-line discordia curves may be explained by the simple mixing of two source rocks which had different ratios. And there is no way to prove that any alleged discordia curve used to infer hundreds of millions of years is not just a mixing curve produced when two source rocks were mixed a few thousand years ago.

Secular scientists interpret strontium/rubidium data by means of a graph called an "isochron." The ratio of Sr-87/Sr-86 is plotted versus the ratio of Rb-87/Sr-86. Often the graph is just a cloud of points, but sometimes a straight-line graph results. The slope of the straight-line isochron gives the "age" of the rock or mineral crystal. Arndts and Overn have shown that these isochrons can also be explained by the simple mixing of two source rocks having different ratios of the strontium and rubidium atoms. This mixing could have occurred just a few thousand years ago, and there is no way to prove that the straight-line graphs are true isochrons resulting from millions of years of radioactive decay.14

b. Dr. Robert Gentry has studied radioactive polonium halos which are found in the deep basement rocks of the earth's crust.15 These are produced in crystalline rocks by radioactive decay of very short-lived isotopes of the element polonium. The half-lives of these isotopes are measured in days, seconds and microseconds. But if the igneous rocks containing the halos were formed naturally, they crystallized very slowly from molten rock called magma. By the time they had solidified to the crystalline form, the polonium would all have disintegrated. There would be no polonium in the crystals to produce halos. Therefore, the existence of these polonium radio-halos indicates that the rocks were formed instantaneously. That is, the basement rocks of the earth's crust were created miraculously, very rapidly, in the beginning. Supporting this view is the fact that all efforts to produce granite rock experimentally have failed. Thus, unless the origin of polonium radio halos is successfully explained, the alleged 4.5 billion years of earth history vanishes.

c. Two Australian scientists, Dr. Trevor Norman, a mathematician, and Dr. Barry Setterfield, a physicist, have analyzed the values of the speed of light measured during the past three centuries.16 They have strong evidence that the speed of light has changed with time. They conclude that at the instant of creation it probably was 10,000,000 times the modern value, decreased rapidly at first, and has finally reached a constant value over the past several decades. This conclusion, if correct, solves the old problem of why we can observe light from galaxies billions of light years away if the universe is only thousands of years old.

Another very important consequence of Norman and Setterfield's work stems from the fact that a number of physical constants vary with the speed of light. In particular, rates of radioactive decay depend mathematically upon the speed of light. The mathematical relationship requires radioactive decay rates to increase as the speed of light increases, and vice-versa. Thus, if the speed of light thousands of years ago was vastly greater than at present, so were the rates of decay of the various radioactive elements which are now used to estimate the ages of rocks. Therefore, the ages now calculated assuming a constant speed of light are very much too large. Perhaps the ages of the earth, the solar system, and the universe can all be collapsed to values within the biblical time frame of thousands of years.

Setterfield's theory has been strongly criticized by other active creation scientists. The theory does have problems, one being that it seems to require violation of the law of conservation of energy. Norman and Setterfield's statistical analysis of the measurements of the speed of light has been criticized. Critics hold that the data do not show a decrease. However, Setterfield's analysis has been strongly confirmed by a professional statistician, Alan Montgomery.17 At present the theory of decreasing speed of light has largely been discounted in creation circles, as well as by the secular establishment. Perhaps future developments will bring it back into serious consideration.

8. Do the radiometric dating methods give consistent results?

Answer: Often they do not. Consider a few examples.18

a. Volcanic rocks on Reunión Island in the Indian Ocean yielded lead/lead and uranium/lead ages from 2.2 to 4.5BY, but potassium/argon ages of only 100,000 to 2 million years.19 Secular scientists respond that the time-zero contents of these rocks are not available to make the lead/lead and lead/uranium methods applicable. This is, however, based upon their assumption that these rocks were formed billions of years after the earth. In fact, they cannot be sure that they ever have the correct time-zero data needed for using the lead/uranium dating methods on any rocks.

b. Lunar soil from Apollo 11 gave ages by four different lead methods varying from 4.67 to 8.2BY and nearby rocks gave potassium/argon ages of around 2.3BY.20 Certain Apollo 2 rocks gave strontium/rubidium and lead ages ranging from 2.3 to 4.9BY.21 A certain rock from Apollo 16 gave lead ages from 7 to 18BY but was chemically treated until it yielded an acceptable "corrected" age of 3.8BY.22

c. Granite from the Black Hills gave strontium/rubidium and various lead system ages varying from 1.16 to 2.55BY.23

d. Certain Russian volcanic rocks gave ages from 50 million to 14.6BY., although they are considered to be only thousands of years old.24

e. Volcanic rocks from Hawaii extruded under water only 170 years ago gave potassium/argon ages from 160 million years to 3BY.12 Secular scientists explain that water pressure trapped argon gas in the rapidly cooled volcanic lava. Perhaps, but on one island the potassium/argon method is supposed to be correct and the lead/uranium method wrong(see example a above), but in the Hawaiian Islands the reverse is alleged to be true. How can we ever be sure which method is correct? Maybe they are all wrong.

f. Recent studies of radiometric age measurements in the Grand Canyon area have raised serious problems for the great age chronology. Dr. Steve Austin of the Institute for Creation Research reports the results of his work in Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe.25 The most striking contradiction between age measurements in the Grand Canyon is seen in the basalt lava flows that poured from a volcano on the high Uinkaret Plateau over the brink of the canyon and down into the deep canyon. These lava flows are obviously some of the youngest rocks in the area, yet sitting on the top of some of the oldest rocks in the bottom of the canyon. The radiometric "ages" of these lava flow rocks are as much a 500 million years greater than the "ages" for rock strata that lie beneath them. None of the excuses offered for these and other radiometric age contradictions in the Grand Canyon appear to be satisfactory. Dr. Austin also cites a potassium/argon "age" of 6 billion years obtained for a collection of ten diamonds mined in the African nation of Zaire.26 The Cretaceous rocks in which they were found are supposedly only about 100 million years old, and the earth itself is supposed to be only 4.5 billion years old. The excuse offered by secular scientists is that the diamonds retained excess argon from the magma in which they crystallized. But then, how can one be sure that any potassium/argon age is valid?

9. How ancient is life on earth according to the carbon-14 dating method?

Answer: A survey of the 15,000 radiocarbon dates published through the year 1969 in the publication, Radiocarbon, revealed the following significant facts:27

a. Of the dates of 9671 specimens of trees, animals, and man, only 1146 or about 12 percent have radiocarbon ages greater than 12,530 years.

b. Only three of the 15,000 reported ages are listed as "infinite."

c. Some samples of coal, oil, and natural gas, all supposedly many millions of years old, have radiocarbon ages of less than 50,000 years.

d. Deep ocean deposits supposed to contain remains of the most primitive life forms are dated within 40,000 years.

If the earth and life on earth were really as ancient as evolutionary theory requires, a great proportion of radiocarbon ages should be infinite. This is because, with a half-life of only 5730 years, initial radiocarbon in a fossil decreases in about ten half-lives to a level too low to be measured.

10. Is there scientific evidence to indicate that radiocarbon dates are in need of correction?

Answer: As we have seen, the large majority of carbon-14 ages are either within the range of biblical chronology or not far beyond it. There is evidence that radiocarbon dates should include a correction factor, and that the resulting corrections would bring them into line with the Bible.

The basic assumption of the radiocarbon method is that the rate at which carbon-14 (radiocarbon) is produced in the upper atmosphere has been constant for well over 50,000 years. This radiocarbon has supposedly become well mixed in the earth's circulating or exchangeable carbon supply and has built up to its maximum or equlibrium concentration. Taken in by plants and animals, it has been assumed to have been at its equilibrium concentration in living things throughout all of this time. Therefore, whenever a plant or animal has died and stopped taking radiocarbon into its tissues, the radiocarbon started to decrease by radioactive decomposition. Thus the amount of radiocarbon remaining in a fossil plant or animal can be measured and used as a clock to determine the time since the creature died. If the assumptions are correct, carbon-14 should provide a pretty good clock.

However, several kinds of difficulties with radiocarbon dating have come to light. Research on the radiocarbon content of tree growth rings indicates that the rate of radiocarbon production has varied considerably in the past.28 It seems clear that the concentration of radiocarbon in the earth's exchangeable carbon inventory has not been constant. In addition some radiocarbon age estimates are obviously incorrect:

a. Age determinations of materials from a prehistoric village site that was occupied for only about 500 years showed a spread of 6,000 years.29

b. The shells of living mollusks have been dated at up to 2,300 years.30

c. Mortar from an English castle only 785 years old has yielded an age of 7,370 years.31

d. Seals freshly killed have yielded an age of 1,300 years and mummified seals dead only about 30 years were dated at 4,600 years.32

It does appear that radiocarbon dates should be considered with caution. In particular some correction formula is needed to rectify radiocarbon ages greater than about 3,500 years in order to obtain true ages.

11. What would be the basis for a correction formula for radiocarbon ages?

Answer: An estimate of the possible range of corrections has been worked out based upon possible variation in the rate of carbon-14 production, but principally on a change in the size of the exchangeable carbon inventory.

Dr. Robert H. Brown of Geoscience Research Institute has shown from radiocarbon dates of ancient peat deposits that the concentration of radiocarbon in living organisms has followed an increasing trend. He suggests two most probable causes.33 First, the production of radiocarbon before the Flood may have been reduced by a geomagnetic field stronger than the modern field. Dr. Brown's analysis shows that the pre-flood geomagnetic field could have been greater than the modern value by a factor of four. This stronger field would have deflected more of the incoming cosmic radiation which produces the radiocarbon in the upper atmosphere. The effect would have been to increase the radiocarbon ages of pre-flood fossils by 6,000 years.

Second, the huge deposits of coal, petroleum and other organic carbon in the earth's crust are evidence that the global Flood removed a very large amount of carbon from the exchangeable inventory. As a consequence the radiocarbon produced each year before the Flood was mixed in a much larger carbon inventory and was therefore highly diluted. Dr. Brown estimates that this factor could add 34,000 years to the radiocarbon ages of pre-flood or flood fossils. In addition, there is evidence of the formation of large carbonate rock deposits which immobilized much circulating carbon. Dr. Brown estimates that this could have added another 6,000 years to the radiocarbon ages of fossils dating from the time of the Flood or before.

The maximum correction forseen in Dr. Brown's analysis of radiocarbon age estimates is, therefore, 51,000 years. With this range of possible corrections, it is entirely possible that all radiocarbon dates could be corrected to fall within a plausible biblical time frame. The information required to make the actual corrections is not yet in hand, however.

12. Do the radiometric dating systems offer a serious challenge to the biblical chronology?

Answer: There is no question that a large body of radiometric age data has been organized to give strong apparent support to the view that the earth is billions of years old. On the other hand, questionable assumptions, discordances and anomalies such as those we have cited suggest that another interpretation of the data is possible. In applying the radiometric methods to earth rocks, the time schedule currently accepted for the theory of evolutionary history controls which results are accepted and which are adjusted or discarded.34 This in itself indicates that radiometric age estimates are far from absolute.

On the other hand, while believers in creation have scientific evidence for a young earth(See Chapter 14), it must be admitted that we do not have all of the answers we would like to have. Furthermore, some sincere believers in creation accept the great-age earth chronology, believing that it can be reconciled with the biblical data in Genesis. Thus the time issue is a tough one which should be sprinkled with much grace. We should always be aware of and ready to admit our ignorance. Also, it should be recognized that, while belief in creation does not rely on either a young earth or an old earth, evolution must have an old earth to maintain any credibility at all.

Finally, as we have indicated in Answer 7 above, scientists who believe in creation are making important progress, both experimentally and theoretically, in the defense of the young earth view. We need more trained and committed Christian thinkers and researchers in science to pursue science for the glory of God. Who knows what the results of their work will be? After all, much of scientific progress has started with criticism of old, long-accepted ideas.

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1 Kofahl, Robert E. and Kelly L. Segraves, The Creation Explanation (Harold Shaw Publishers, Wheaton, IL, 1975), pp. 181-213; Morris, Henry M., Editor, Scientific Creationism (Creation-Life Publishers, San Diego, 1974), pp. 137-149; Morris, Henry M. and Gary E. Parker, What Is Creation Science? (Creation-Life Pub., Inc., San Diego, 1982), pp. 219-259; Wysong, R.L., The Creation-Evolution Controversy (Inquiry Press, East lansing, MI, 1976), pp. 145-158; Cook, Melvin A., Prehistory and Earth Models (Max Parrish, London, 1966), pp. 1-89.

2 Anderson, J.L. and G.W. Spangler, Journal of Physical Chemistry, 77, 1966, p. 3114; Bull. of the American Physical Soc., 10, 1971, p. 1180; Pensee, 4, Fall, 1974, pp. 31-32.

3 Juneman, F.B., Industrial Research, 14, 1972, p. 15; Cook, Melvin A., ref. 1, pp. 41-62.

4 York, D. and R.M. Farquhar, The Earth's Age and Geochronology (Pergamon Press, New York, 1972), pp. 75-92; Hamilton, E.I., Applied Geochronology (Academic Press, New York, 1965), pp. 142-149.

5 Morris, Henry M., Scientific Creationism (Creation-Life Pub., San Diego, 1974), pp. 140-149.

6 Driscoll, Evelyn, Science News, 101, 1 Jan. 1972, p. 12.

7 Cook, Melvin A., ref. 1, pp. 53-62.

8 McDougall, I., Report: The Present Status of Decay Constants, Subcommission on Geochronology, Bern, Switzerland, 19 Sept. 1974, p. 3.

9 Rancitelli, L.A. and D.E. Fisher, Planetary Science Abstracts, American Geophysical Union, 1967, p. 154.

10 Armstrong, Richard Lee, "Proposal for Simultaneous Calculation of Radiometric Dates," unpublished paper, Dept. of Geological Sciences, Univ. of British Columbia, 1975; _________, "Report on Decay Constants," 10 May 1975.

11 Cook, Melvin A., ref. 1, pp. 65-66.

12 Funkhouser, J.G. and J.J. Naughton, Journal of Geophysical Research, 73, 15 July 1968, p. 4601; Laughlin, A.W., ibid., 74, 15 Dec. 1969, pp. 6684-6689.

13 Engles, Joan C., Journal of Geology, 79, Sept. 1971, p. 609.

14 Arndts, Russell and William Overn, Radiometric Dating Isochrons and the Mixing Model (Bible Science Assoc., Minneapolis, 1985); Austin, Steven A., Editor, Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe (Institute for Creation Research, Santee, CA, 1994), pp. 127-128.

15 Gentry, Robert V., Creation's Tiny Mystery (Earth Science Associates, Box 12067, Knoxville, TN, 1986).

16 Norman, Trevor and Barry Setterfield, The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time (Stanford Research Institute International, Menlo Park, CA, 1987).

17 Montgomery, Alan, "Statistical Analysis of C and Related Atomic Constants," Creation Research Society Quarterly, 26, 26 March 1990, pp. 138-142.

18 For other examples see Kofahl, Robert E. and Kelly L. Segraves, ref. 1, pp. 200-202.

19 Obersby, V.M., Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 36, Oct. 1972, p. 1167.

20 Wang, R.K., et al., Science, 167, 30 Jan. 1970, pp. 479-480.

21 Tera, F., et al., Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 14, 1972, pp. 281-303.

22 Nunes, P.D. and M. Tatsumoto, Science, 182, 30 Nov. 1973, p. 916.

23 Zartman, et al., Science, 145, 31 July 1964, pp. 479-481.

24 Cherdyntsev, V.V., et al., Geological Institute Academy of Sciences, USSR, Earth Science Section, 172, p. 178. The data is reproduced by Sidney P. Clementson in Creation Research Soc. Quarterly, 7, Dec. 1970, p. 140.

25 Austin, Steven A., Editor, Grand Canyon, Monument to Catastrophe (Institute for Creation Research, Santee, CA, 1994), pp. 111-131.

26 Ibid., p. 128.

27 Whitelaw, R.L., Creation Research Soc. Quarterly, 7, June 1970, pp. 56-71, 83.

28 Renfrew, Colin, Scientific American, 225, Oct. 1971, p. 67.

29 Reed, G.A., Science, 130, 11 Dec. 1959, p. 1630.

30 Kieth, M and G. Anderson, Science, 141, 16 Aug. 1963, p. 634.

31 Baxter, M.S. A. Walton, Nature, 225, 7 March 1970, pp. 937-938.

32 Dort, W., Antarctic Journal of the U.S., 6, 1971, p. 210.

33 Brown, R.H., "Interpretation of Carbon-14 Age Data," Geoscience Research Institute, Loma Linda Univ., Loma Linda, CA, unpublished paper, 1981.

34 Schindewolf, O., American Journal of Science, 255, June 1957, p. 394.

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