The Talk.Origins Archive: Exploring the Creation/Evolution Controversy

A Age of the Earth Debate
[Last Update: February 27, 1992]

Part One

This is the first of two postings generated by the debate. It contains Bob Bales's opening statement, Chris Stassen's rebuttal, and Bob Bales's closing remarks.

Bales Opening Statement In this argument, I'll stick to the evidence which indicates the earth has a young age. Any young-earth theory must also explain evidence that seems to indicate that the earth is millions of years old. I've discussed some of this in the newsgroup, but here I'll leave it for the rebuttal phase of the debate.

The arguments I use are of the same basic type as those of the old-earth proponents: extrapolation of present-day trends into the past to determine how long something could have been going on. These methods don't assign an exact age; the rates and initial conditions are not exactly known. However, since the "young" and "old" age ranges differ by 5 1/2 orders of magnitude, it is easy to say which pieces of evidence favor which theory. Also, the arguments I use here deal with the solar system, the earth, and man. They do not deal with the age of the universe as a whole.

A couple of notes: for most of the arguments, I provide a background in case you or someone who reads the record is not familiar with the subject area. I hope I don't tell you too much that you already know. Also, since there has been controversy on the net, unless otherwise indicated, all references and quotes are taken from works which I have personally examined. Any conclusions not specifically quoted are my own and may not agree with those who supply the facts on which I base them. The supporting details are based on study, briefer than I would like, done for this debate. Contrary to what is said about me on the net, I do understand the scientific method and can follow and evaluate the arguments. I do not claim to be an expert in the fields involved.

1. Short-period comets

Short period comets disinagrate rather quickly due to interaction with the sun while in the inner portion of the solar system. Several references gave conflicting values, from dozens to hundreds, of the number of orbits to be expected. Paul Joss, of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, gives a value of 70 as an average. ("On the Origin of Short-Period Comets," Astronomy and Astrophysics, 25:271-273, June, 1973). He also gives an average period for a class of short-period comets of 7 years, yielding an average lifetime of around 500 years. With the average number of this class which are visible any one time, a 4.5 billion year old universe requires that at least several hundred million coments existing away from the sun have been diverted into the solar system. If such a source of comets exists, observations are consistent with an old solar system. If not, then the existence of short-period comets indicates a young solar system.

About 1950, Jan Ort of the Netherlands postulated a cloud of comets orbiting the sun far outside the planets. Note that, although observed comet orbits are consistent with such a cloud, there is no direct evidence of its existence: the presence of the comet source is derived from the need for such a source in an old universe. Comets are supposedly diverted from the reservoir by the influence of passing stars. The question is whether or not enough comets will be supplied by this mechanism to agree with observations. Paul Joss, in the above cited reference, calculates "no," by a factor of 40,000. On the other hand, A.H Delsemme ("Origin of Short-Period Comets," Astronomy and Astrophysics, 29:377-381, December, 1973) calculates that the answer is "yes." Edger Everhart (University of Denver), who has reviewed both calulations and has contributed his own theories ("Evaluation of Long- and Short-periord Orbits," Comets, edited by Laurel L. Wilkening, University of Arizona Press, 1982), the answer is unknown. By my implication, this indicates that whether the old solar system theory adequately explains observations is also unknown.

2. Presence of small particles in the solar system

This is an astronomical observation consistent with a young solar system but which, as in the case of comets, requires extra assumptions if the solar system is old.

Because of the forward motion of an object in orbit around the sun, the sun's radition strikes it at an angle and exerts a backwards force. This is known as the Poynting-Robinson effect. In the case particles on the order of 1 mm or less in diameter, this force degrades the orbit, causing the particle to fall into the sun within thousands to a few million years. In Exploring the Universe (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969) -- my college astronomy text -- George Abell says: "The fact that we find small particles around the earth is evidence that they are either newly formed or have newly arrived in our part of the solar system." (page 365). Or, alternatively, evidence that the solar system is far younger than commonly thought.

There may be some disagreement on this point. Referring to the zodaical light, produced by reflection of sunlight from particles in space, Introduction to Astronomy, 2nd edition (Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin and Katherin Haramundanis, Smithsonian Astronmical Observatory, 1970) says: "The observed brightness of the zodaical light could be produced by a cloud of small bodies of the same albedo as the moon, 1 mm in diameter and 5 miles apart or 10 feet in diameter and 1000 miles apart." (page 272) Simply because the solar system is "known" to be old, small particles are then rejected in favor of those up to the size of baseballs. Yet, Stanley P. Waytt says, in Principals of Astronomy, 2nd edition (1971) that the particles responsible of the zodical light are on the order of 0.001 cm radius. He gives the likely source for these particles to be comets, since we know that comets can create meteors. This sounds plausible, but there are a few difficulties. First, of the three astronomy books mentioned, only this one mentioned comets as a source and another, as mentioned above, discountsd small particles almost entirely. This leads me to believe that the comet source theory might not be an agreed upon answer. Second, the distribution of meteors resulting from comets is highly non-uniform around the earth's orbit, while the particles which cause the zodical light must be uniformly distributed. Lastly, and most importantly, the theory that the particle supply is constantly being replenished must make another assumption: that the rates of supply and of destruction into the sun are roughly equal. There are no theoretical reasons to expect these rates to balance. Neither, apparently, are there calculations of the creation rate. The balencing is derived from, and stated as a fact because of the presumed age of the solar system. A young solar system does not need these extra assumptions and theories.

3. Radiocarbon balance in the atmosphere

Radiactive carbon-14 is formed in the atmosphere through the action of cosmic rays. The rate of formation depeneds on the cosmic-ray activity. The rate of decay (amount decayed in mass/unit time) depends on the amount present. Thus, the amount will increase until the decay rate balances the production rate. Equilibrium will be reached in approximately 30,000 years. Measurements of production and decay rates indicate that the amount has been increasing for some time. According to V.R. Switzer, a European conference reported two studies which showed the concentration has been increasing for at least 10,000 years ("Radioactive Dating and Low-level Counting, Science, 157:726, August 11, 1967). The paper mentions, without details, that this contradicts previous studies. However, there are other reports of increasing concentration which I have not seen: "Production of C-14 by Cosmic 8 Ray Neutrons," Richard E. Lingenfelter, Reviews of Geophysics, 1:51, February, 1963, and "Secular Variations in the Cosmic-Ray produced Carbon-14 in the Atmosphere and Their Interpretations," Hans E. Suess, Journal of Geophysical Research, 70:5947, December 1, 1965.

4. Erosion rate of the continents

For this, I cite an unusual (for me) reference: a creationist source. Stuart Nevins calculates ("Evolution: the ocean says No!,"Acts and Facts, Impact Series No 8 [published, I think, by the Creation Research Society] October, 1973.) I have a copy of this, which I read shortly after it came out, but which I cannot now find. My discussion is based on my recollections and on what Morris says in Scientific Creationism.

At the present rates at which sediments are being carried into the sea, the entire mass of the continents above sea level would be worn away in about 14 million years. This, of course, is only an average. Some rocks would be worn away more slowly and some faster.

The reply I have heard is that continuing uplift of the continents occurs so they are not worn away. This is true, but it does not answer the problems. The first is the resting place for the sediment. The amount of sediment in the ocean is about twice the mass of the continents above sea level, it could have been produced in 30 million years. 4.5 billion years would have produced 150 times as much sediment at the present rate. Some say that the sediment is carried by moving plates back into the mantle. However, Scientific Creationisms gives an unreferenced number thad only 10% of the sediment can be so accounted for.

The second problem is the age of the present continental rocks. It obviously must be less than the time since they were uplifed. Again, hard rocks would remain longer than softer rocks, but why do we see so many rocks which are supposedly so much older than the average rock "lifetime?" There should be a great preponderance of younger rocks. Very old rocks would have to be hard themselves, or would have had to have been protected by harder rocks. In the case of rocks dated old, is there evidence that this is the case?

A note on erosion rate: the above-cited reference indicates that rate would have been greater in the evolutionary past, presumably as a result of the lack of plant cover to retard erosion. Radioactivity in Geology (Eric M. Durrance, John Wiley, no earlier than 1977), when dealing with another subject, says the rate was lower in the past, but gives no details or number.

5. Radiogenic helium in the atmosphere

Helium is given off through the decay of uranium and thorium. Melvin Cook (a creationist) indicates in a letter to Nature ("Where is the Earth's Radiogenic Helium, 179:213, January 26, 1957) that the present amout of Helium-4 would have been generated in about 1 million years. (A reference in Scientific Creationism, which I did not verify, gave the actual rate as perhaps 100 times greater, which would change 1 million to 10,000.)

The assumption, as stated by Eric Durrance (see above), is that the helium is light enough to escape into space. However, Dr. Cook gives a formula for the escape rate as a function of temperature, and shows that, at a temperature which I assume is the temperature of the upper atmosphere, only 600 grams/year would escape.

I looked in in the index for Nature for the remainer of the year and found no answer or rebuttal.

6. Polonium halos

Polonium halos are not per se indications of a young earth, but of rapid formation of rock, a process that would contradict assumption about the earth's formation. (One paper by Gentry, which I have not seen, is "Time: measured responses, EOS, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, May 29, 1979.)

Halos have been discussed in this and although I have read the positions on both sides, I am not completely familiar with the arguments on possible alternate explanations, so I won't say much about it. My purpose in bringing it up is to comment on something that has been said in the group. It has been said that if an alternate explanation can be developed, the usefulness of halos to young earth theories would be destroyed. This is so! This would be true only if the alternate explanation were shown to be correct. If someone shows that Gentry could be wrong, then he has shown that the rocks in question could have formed over long periods, not that they did.

7. Human population growth

This factor, of course, only pertains to the length of time man has been around and not to the age of the earth. Since this is outside the scope of the original debate proposal, you may ignore it if you wish.

Basically, the present rate of population growth would have have populated the earth in less than half of recorded history. By using lower rates of growth and allowing for historic events that killed many people (e.g. the plague) a model that humans have been around somewhat longer than recorded history fits the present observed population. (Since present rates could vastly overpopulate the earth, the charge that this model ignores eevents such as the plague is unfounded.) It requires quite radical assumptions, however, to make a supposed 500,000 to 1 million year human history "fit."

According to the 1988 World Almanac, the present rate of world population growth is 1.7%. The rate in less-developed regions is higher, 2.0%. (Note that most of the earth over most of history would be classed as "less developed.") As recently as 1970-1975, the figures were 2.0% and 2.4% respectively. Using the 2% figure gives a population of 10^22 in 3000 years. Since unless one argues some form of "Last Wednesdayism," people have been around at least as long as recorded history, the actual rate must have been lower: an average growth rate of 0.36% (about 1/5 the present rate) would produce approximately the present population in 6000 years.

Much more severe assumptions are necessary to support a longer history. The Word Almanac also has has a chart (derivation not given) showing the population's increasing from 10,000,000 in 10,000 BC. I did not try to match the shape of the curve, but the average growth rate from 10,000 BC would have had to be only 0.05% -- 1/40 of the 1970-1975 rate. And the problem gets worse: starting with a population of 2 in 500,000 BC demands a growth rate of only 0.003% -- 1/600 the present rate -- from then to 10000 BC.

To look at it a slightly different way: if we take the average rate of growth over 500,000 years to be a quite conservative 0.1%, it additionally requires that 99% of the population be eliminated every 4000-5000 years to arrive at the existing population. (The above growth numbers were calculated by programs I wrote.)

The assumptions of the "young" model are much more realistic than those of the "old" model.

I do not have the data needed for the calculations, but I suspect that the growth of animal populations, even allowing for preditation, would also be inconsistent with their being on earth for as long as evolution says. Another factor is the total number of individuals, both human and animkal, that would have lived over millions of years even if total population did not increase rapidly. Had this number actually lived, we would undoubtedly find more remains than we do.

In summary, does the evidence cited above prove the earth is young? No, I don't claim that it does. As I've discussed above, there are assumption which can be made to reconcile this evidence with an old earth. In many, if not most, cases, the assumptions are made because the earth is considered old. The evidence I have presented fits more simply and more directly with a young earth model.

Stassen Rebuttal I'd like to start by saying that I'm quite pleased Bob has presented some positive evidence for a young earth. His detractors ought to take note; here he has presented seven methods which give a young age for the earth.

In my opening statement, I examined in detail Bob's one previously proposed method - and it took over 100 lines. Since I am limited to 200 lines here, the examinations will necessarily be more brief. But I will later expand on any of them in at Bob's request - so that I can't be accused of unfairly dismissing any of the methods.

I would like to make a few comments in general about the methods Bob has proposed, before I examine each of them:

I will now briefly examine each of Bob's proposed methods:

1. Short-period comets

First off, the Oort hypothesis was proposed to explain the origin of long- period comets, not short-period ones as Bob has claimed. That it explains both is merely a "fringe benefit" (and maybe a point in its favor).

The capture of long-period comets into short-period orbits is the process working in reverse of Bob's dating process.

Astronomers can calculate the "age" of a comet (estimate of the time it has spent near the Sun by the gases it gives off). Short-period comets have a wide range of ages, from "new" first-time-around ones to "dead" ones that are barely detectable. This arrangement of data does not make sense unless there is some mechanism which regularly injects "new" short-period comets into the solar system. (If all short-period comets were originally created 10k years ago, they should all be nearly "dead.")

The comet capture model is a better explanation than recent creation, as recent creation "in situ" cannot account for the "youth" of s-p comets.

2. Presence of small particles in the solar system

There are three processes working against this proposed dating method:

Bob mentioned three astronomy texts (1969-1971), inconclusive on comets as a source of dust. In 1973, comet Kohutek was estimated to be giving off 30 tons of gas and dust per second when it was near the Sun. Encke's Comet gave off 9 million tons of gas and dust (90% of its mass) before dying. Astronomers have good reason to think that comets are a major source of small particles in the inner parts of the solar system.

This "more simple" model simply ignores processes known to be operating in the opposite direction. That hardly can make it more accurate.

3. Radiocarbon balance in the atmosphere

The [14]C/[12]C ratio depends on a number of factors including:

All of these factors vary; it is unjustified to assume that a non- uniform level means non-equilibrium. The concentration of [14]C in the atmosphere is calculated by performing [14]C dating on an object of known age (and calculating the difference between the dating age and the real age). The evidence indicates that it has been as high as 10% above its current value, and as low as 10% below its current value at various times in the past. It does not look like a process just now reaching equilibrium.

The "recent creation model" (with [14]C starting near but not at equilibrium) does not account for samples which give [14]C dates older than 10,000 years. Samples give ages to 50k years, which favors the "equilibrium, varying [14]C/[12]C ratio" model.

4. Erosion rate of the continents

The processes which work against Bob's proposed dating method:

The amount of sediment on the ocean floor is not surprising or unexpected. Sediments increase in thickness from near zero at the mid-Atlantic ridge, to several million years' worth near America and Europe. This data supports plate tectonics, but not a ten thousand year old earth.

Rocks older than the "average" age are protected by having younger (not "harder") rocks deposited on top of them. The 'column clearly shows periods of deposition alternated with periods of erosion (recall recent discussions on the Grand Canyon).

The "recent creation" model does not explain the sediment pattern on the ocean floor, nor the accumulation of the geologic column. The "erosion/accretion" model nicely explains many geologic features.

5.Radiogenic helium in the atmosphere

There are at least two processes working against this method:

Cook has messed up the thermodynamics somehow, for proper calculations show that process (1) accounts for the escape of 50% of the [3]He and 2% of [4]He from the atmosphere (percentages are of rate of production). I'm not surprised; Cook has screwed up calculations like this before.

The rate for process (2) depends on the strength of the magnetic field of the earth, but calculations referenced in Dalrymple's paper show an escape rate which balances the production rate. Although process (2) is complex and not well understood, it shows that there is reason to suspect that the system is at equilibrium and therefore no actual upper limit for the age of the earth may be derived from it.

6. Polonium halos

I'm not sure why Bob included these, for they really have nothing at all to do with "dating." Gentry claims they are evidence for instantaneous formation, but the halos don't tell when. In addition, Gentry's halos are found in "flood deposits," rather than "originally created rocks."

Finally, there are natural explanations which can account for the halos as not being radiation-induced. There are halos whose size does not correspond to any alpha-particle energy. Even those proposing instantaneous creation will have to appeal to natural processes to explain the odd-sized halos. Is it "simpler" to posit a separate explanation for the "Po" ones?

7. Human population growth

Many species have had their populations measured over time. While the short-term growth rate can vary wildly (due to environmental factors), the long-term growth rate is always very close to zero. Usually a limited food supply keeps populations at equilibrium. Until humans invented agriculture (which breaks that constraint), there is reason to expect that we were subject to the same limiting forces as other animals. Still, let's check the implications of Bob's 6000 years @ 0.36% growth:

Start with 2 people at 4000 BC. By 2500 BC, the population is 440. Let's place half the earth's population in Egypt, and discount the elderly, women, and children. The Great Pyramid must have been built by about 40 men, who quarried and moved 2,300,000 blocks (up to 50 tons in weight) in under 40 years' time. (4 blocks/man-day. Must be non-union labor.)

About 20 men must have built the first pyramid some 200 years earlier, while the other 20 able-bodied men on Earth were constructing fortified cities in Mesopotamia. In 3700 BC, both able-bodied men on Earth must have been quite busy constructing impressive civilizations in Crete, Mesopotamia, the Indus River valley, and other sites.

Obviously, Bob's uniform approximation doesn't work. To account for the population in 3700 BC, he will have to drop his rate to 0.16%. The rate from 3700 BC to 1 AD will be about 0.06%. Bob will have to admit to a rate over 2/3 of recorded history that is 96% of the way to equilibrium from the measured 1971-1975 values. I don't understand how he can find equilibrium to be "unjustified" when he is suggesting rates about the same distance from the measured ones for his own scenario.

The growth rate is known to vary greatly over short periods of time; it is noticeably influenced by factors missing from Bob's oversimplification; and it is not that far from equilibrium. Bob should have known this method was unreliable when he plugged in current growth rates and "proved" Last Wednesdayism. I don't understand why he felt justified in pulling a lower rate out of a hat; I'd have discarded the method as unreliable.

Bob thought this method wouldn't support long histories when applied to other creatures. I approximated houseflies, and calculated their origin to be in 1982 with similar growth rates (probably too low). Bacteria must have been created no earlier than 1988. Clearly, these "simple" assumptions can vastly underestimate how long a species has been around. The claim that it does so for humans as well is reasonable.

In summary, recall the results of my examination of the dating methods: The first five "process-based" methods ignored processes known to operate in the opposite direction. Bob's simplified "recent creation" model cannot account for many features easily explained by interaction between these processes and the reverse ones. We don't know these processes to be at equilibrium, but that is certainly within range of measurement uncertainty.

The halos are something of a mystery, but they are just as much a mystery to the creationists who must account for Polonium in The Flood. The final method, population growth, is to me an example of the worst of creationist dating methods. It depends on an unjustified over-simplified extrapolation on a rate which is known to vary significantly.

None of the methods are similar to the quantitative methods I proposed which give an old age for the earth. I again request Bob to present a definite age (as in, "X years") and tell me how he derived it.

Bales Closing Remarks To start: Chris asked that I give a definite date for the earth. Because of the nature of the evidence, I can't. The lower limit is the length of recorded history. The upper limit, for most of the indications I cited is less than 50,000 years.

Chris's general objection to my methods is that there are processes operating in the opposite direction, at least theoretically. I pointed out most of these in my opening statement. The point is, however, that it is not known whether these processes do explain the data. Chris admits this by saying that the processes are "not well understood, or not likely uniform, or not measured accurately (yet)." In other words, the evidence to say whether or not my statements are wrong is not there. So Chris's statements that the young earth position is wrong, and furthermore that the major proponents of a young earth know they are wrong, are not supported by that evidence.

The same standard must apply to all evidence. Chris says that if there were a process that turned uranium to lead at a significant rate that I would be justified in ignoring uranium-lead dates. There is not such a process, but there are known processes that influence the accuracy of such dates. And one of the main methods which Chris uses to date the earth, when applied to samples of known ages, has been in error by as much as seven orders of magnitude. Thus, while I do no say to ignore the dates, in the sense of not talking about them, I feel that I am justified in not treating them as established fact.

On to some of Chris's specific objections. The length of this statement prevents me from dealing with them all. I pointed out most of the processes to which Chris refers in my opening statement. I also pointed out why they are not good explanations.

The comet capture model is a better explanation than recent creation as recent creation "in situ" cannot account for the "youth" of s-p comets.
The average lifetime of a short period comet has been calculated as about 500 years. If all comets were created as they are, this figure is obviously low. Adjusting it by a factor of 40 would lead to the presence of short-period comets up to 20,000 years after creation. One researcher into the theory Chris calls "better" would have to adjust his results by a factor of 40,000 to get agreement with what we see.

In carbon-14 dating, Chris seems to restrict the carbon-14 concentration to start near equilibrium and says that the creation model does not account for dates older than 10,000 years. But immediately after creation, there may very well have been little carbon 14. Material from that time, whenever it was, would date quite old, if the dating assumed near-equilibrium conditions.

The main point of the "erosion rate of the continents" appears to have been missed. Methods of moving sediment off of the ocean floor do not answer the problem, since they do not increase the age of continental rocks. However old the earth is, the average age of continental rocks should be less than the time it would take to wear down the continents. And, contrary to Chris's claim, younger rocks which are not harder will not protect old rocks, since there is time in the standard chronology for both the "protecting" and "original" rocks to have worn away many times.

Chris claims that Melvin Cook's calculations of He escape are wrong. I would like to see a reference to the "proper" calculations, so as to judge if the claim is correct. I point out, however, that in the 10 months following the publication of the data, no one pointed out the alleged error of orders of magnitude.

Chris attempts to show my growth projections are off by using the average rate to get very low populations in the past. However, there is no reason to assume the rate is constant; history shows it isn't. Chris apparently guessed on the rates of housefly population growth. Unless there is some evidence to support the figure used, the fact that the calculation gave ridiculous dates shows nothing about my calculations. Also stated is that is reasonable to believe that the human population is near equilibrium. However, this is not what we see now. The point, as in the case of comets, is that only small adjustments are needed in the simple young earth model to obtain agreement with observed data, while adjustments orders of magnitude greater are needed in the simple old earth model. Thus, I disagree with the claim that the latter model is better (in these cases.)

Finally, Chris says that the methods yielding old ages are more quantitative and different than those yielding young ages. I disagree. Measurements can give quantitative figures for the amount of isotopes in a rock. But going from those figures to the age of the rock is, as I showed in my rebuttal statement, subject to the same number of errors and assumptions as are the methods I propose.

To close, I'll restate what I'm trying to show:

There is evidence that points to a recent origin for the earth, as well as evidence that points to an ancient origin. For each class of evidence, there are alternate explanations that interpret it in terms of the alternate view. We do not know for certain which view is correct. I cannot prove the young earth theory; I can only show that it is consistent with the evidence.
While I present the young earth theory as as possibility, to be considered along with the old earth theory, Chris presents the old earth theory as the only possibility to be considered. In support, I have needed to -- and I have -- presented indications of a young earth and alternate explanations for contrary evidence. Chris, by contrast, has needed to show not only the corresponding indications and explanations for an old earth -- which has been done -- but also to show that they are correct -- which has not been.

Part Two

This is the second of two postings generated by the debate. It contains Chris Stassen's opening statement, Bob Bales's rebuttal, and Chris Stassen's closing remarks.

Stassen Opening Statement One quick announcement: I have heavily used Dr. Dalrymple's paper here (USGS Open-File Report 86-110). I have permission to copy and distribute it, so Email me your postal address if you want a copy ($5 for copying and postage). You can also order it from the Government Printing Office for $14.

I am rather pleased and quite surprised that Bob Bales agreed to this debate. Not many "scientific" creationists would be willing to do so.

In 1986, the International Conference on Creationism set up a debate between Ken Miller and Duane Gish. At Miller's suggestion, the organizers agreed that the topic was to be the age of the earth. Gish refused to debate that topic (even though at a creation conference, he would have had a favorable audience), and demanded it be changed. Miller refused to agree to a change of the agreed topic, and was "disinvited" from participation in favor of someone willing to deal with Gish's standard presentation. Perhaps Bob and I will discover whether or not Gish's fear of the subject is warranted.

The remainder of my opening statement will be divided up into:

(A) Methods creationists use to give an age for the earth
(B) Methods scientists use to give an age for the earth
(C) Creationist criticisms of radiometric dating

(A) Methods creationists use to give an age for the earth

"Scientific" creationists already "know" the age of the earth and it is not from the evidence. Henry Morris - "the father of scientific creationism" - admits that Genesis takes precedence over the evidence, as he says:

"No geological difficulties, real or imagined, can be allowed to take precedence over the clear statements and necessary inferences of Scripture." (Biblical Cosmology, quoted in Science and Creationism)

It would have been nice to talk about several "dating" methods which Bob has discussed that give a young age for the earth. Unfortunately, Bob has only ever mentioned one method in, and that was several years ago. Perhaps I will have more methods to talk about in my rebuttal, but I will begin by discussing Bob's only publicly proposed method (to date).

In 1965, Chemical Oceanography published a list of some metals' "residency times" in the ocean. This calculation was performed by dividing the amount of various metals in the oceans by the rate at which rivers bring the metals into the oceans.

In late 1986 Bob posted <610@tekfdi.UUCP> to, claiming that these numbers gave "upper limits" for the age of the oceans (therefore the earth) because the numbers represented the amount of time that it would take for the oceans to "fill up" to their present level of these various metals from zero. (It was one of Bob's first postings to the group.)

First, let us examine the results of this "dating method." The book that Bob was probably using only lists some of the results. The following list is more complete (residency times, in years):

	Al -  100	Pb -  2k	Ba -  84k	Ag -   2.1M
	Fe -  140	Si -  8k	Sn - 100k	K  -  11M
	Ti -  160	Ni -  9k	Zn - 180k	Sr -  19M
	Cr -  350	Co - 18k	Rb - 270k	Li -  20M
	Th -  350	Hg - 42k	Sb - 350k	Mg -  45M
	W  - 1000	Bi - 45k	Mo - 500k	Na - 260M
	Mn - 1400	Cu - 50k	Au - 560k

Now, let us critically examine this method as a method of finding an age for the earth. There are many problems which I would like to hear Bob address (or alternately, he can concede the method's lack of merit):

  1. The method ignores known mechanisms which remove metals from the oceans:
  2. The method simply does not work. Ignoring the three problems above, the results are scattered randomly (5 < 1k years, 5 in 1k-9k years, 5 in 10k- 99k years, 6 in 100k-999k years, 6 > 1M years). Also, the only two results that agree are 350 years, and Aluminum gives 100 years. If this is a valid method, then the Last Wednesdayists have just won this debate by proxy.
  3. These "dating methods" do not actually date anything, which prevents independent confirmation. (Is a 19M year "limit" [Sr] a confirmation of a 42k year "limit" [Hg]? No!) We will see later that independent confirmation is very important. Scientists try to date objects or events, by multiple means. They do not accept a date with confidence unless more than one independent method confirms it.
  4. These methods depend on uniformity of a process which is almost certainly not uniform. There is no reason to believe that these rates have been constant throughout time. I would expect that man, by mining metals and bringing them to the surface, has added noticeably to the amount of metals which are "in the loop."
  5. There is no "check" built into these methods. There is no way to tell if the calculated result is good or not. We will later see that the best methods used by geologists to perform dating have a built-in check which identifies undateable samples. The only way Bob can "tell" which of these methods produce bad values is to throw out the results that he doesn't like. He would do this by comparing them to another age arrived at by other means (which he has never talked about in

    If Bob wishes to present a "dating method," he should instead be presenting the "other means" by which he arrived at a judging date for this method's accuracy.

Clearly, Bob's one method is neither convincing nor reliable. One might wonder why he found it worthy of publishing. Yet Bob is not alone in this. There are many creationists who have published this method. In my own library, every creationist text which provides evidence for a young earth uses this argument. Here are the more popular ones from that set:

    Henry Morris,    Scientific Creationism,	  1974;  pp. 153-6
    Walter T. Brown, In The Beginning,  	  1989;  p. 16
    R. L. Wysong,    Creation-Evolution,	  1976;  pp. 162, 163
    Morris & Parker, What Is Creation Science?,   1987;  pp. 283-4, 290-1
Obviously, these are a pretty popular set of "dating" mechanisms. A curious and unbiased observer could quite reasonably refuse to even listen to the creationists until they "clean house" and stop pushing nonsense arguments.

If I found "Piltdown Man" in a modern biology text as evidence for human evolution, I'd throw the book away. (If I applied the same standards to creationist materials that I own, I wouldn't have any left.)

(B) Methods scientists use to give an age for the earth/universe.

I will present three ways to derive an age for the earth:

  1. We can try to find the oldest rocks on the earth. While this doesn't guarantee an absolute age (for the original rocks need not be available), it can at least give a lower limit for the age of the earth. (Unlike Bob's limits, these are derived by dating a specific object.)

    The oldest rocks exposed on the surface of the earth are 3.5 to 3.8 billion years in age. Consider the various dating methods applied to the Greenland Amitsoq Gneiss:

    	  Rb-Sr isochron	3.70  +-  0.14 billion years
    	  Pb-Pb isochron	3.80  +-  0.12 billion years
    	  U-Pb discordia	3.65  +-  0.05 billion years
    	  Th-Pb discordia	3.65  +-  0.08 billion years
    	  Lu-Hf isochron	3.55  +-  0.22 billion years
    Note that all of the methods agree (3.68-3.70 is within all of their ranges of error). Isochron and discordia methods also have an internal check which identifies undateable samples. Similar formations which give similar ages can be found as well in North America, India, Russia, Australia, and Africa. This date therefore merits some confidence.

    If Bob wishes to object to these dates, he will have to explain why a 10,000-year-old rock was "created" so that five independent dating methods would all yield the same fictitious age.

  2. We can try to date other objects in the solar system. Both sides of the debate believe that other objects in the solar system formed at about the same time as the earth, and therefore an age for one of those objects is an age for the earth.

    The moon is not as geologically active (dating should be more reliable, as rocks have less complex "histories"). Again, the original rocks need not be available, so the age will only be a lower limit; the moon must be at least as old as the oldest rocks we've found on it.

    Lunar basalts were collected by six different Apollo expeditions, from six different sites. These samples all give ages ranging from 3.16 to 3.96 billion years, by both Rb-Sr isochron and Ar-Ar dating methods. When both methods are applied to one sample, the results agree to within 3%.

    Meteorites are not geologically active at all; there is good reason to expect that most are undisturbed since their formation with the rest of the solar system. Faure has a chapter on meteorite dating in Principles of Isotope Geology (this book is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand radiometric dating).

    Chondritic meteorites consistently give an Rb-Sr isochron age of 4.49 +- 0.07 billion years. Achondritic meteorites consistently give an Rb-Sr isochron age of 4.36 +- 0.11 billion years. A combined method using samples of minerals from many different meteorites gives an Rb-Sr isochron age of 4.46 +- 0.08 billion years.

    Note that a small percentage of meteorites give ages younger than 4.5 billion years. This is to be expected when events such as collisions cause melting and recrystallization, which would "reset" the radiometric "clocks." Still, most meteorites give the same age, and none give ages older than that.

    This arrangement of data is expected if the solar system is indeed 4.5 billion years old. I can't imagine how to explain it if the actual age is 10,000 years. But that is Bob's task - not mine.

    Again, if Bob wishes to disagree with the methods, he will have to give specific objections. He will have to explain why meteorites were created to give isochron ages of 4.5 billion years rather than, say, 91 billion years. He ought to have a reason why a 10,000-year-old sample could be expected to give an isochron at all.

  3. Finally, since we figure all of the objects in the solar system formed at about the same time (as do the creationists), we can construct a "model lead" age. This is a calculation which is performed on various Pb isotopes (some of which are the result of uranium decay, and others which are not). We will plot [207]Pb/[204]Pb vs. [206]Pb/[204]Pb of samples from several different objects (meteorites and earth sites).

    If these objects were all formed at the same time from a shared pool of materials, these points should lie on a straight line, and the slope of the line should give the age at which these objects became separated.

    If these objects instead had separate origins (for example if they were created out of nothing), then there is no reason to expect the data points to lie on a straight line. Since the age is determined from the slope of the line, a scattering of points prevents any age from being determined at all.

    In addition, if some of the samples were contaminated after the separation event, then those points should be moved away from the straight line, and again a meaningful age could not be determined. The fact that the samples do indeed lie on a straight line provides evidence that the resulting date is accurate, and that the samples have not been contaminated.

    Below is my best ASCII attempt at drawing the diagram:

       |								  7	 |
       |									 |
    30 +									 |
       |									 |
       |						6			 |
       |									 |
       |									 |
    20 +									 |
       |									 |
       |		     4	  5						 |
       |		    3							 |
       |	      2 							 |
    10 +	  1								 |
       |									 |
       |									 |
    	 10	       20	     30 	   40		 50
       Y-axis: ratio of Pb[207]/Pb[204];  X-axis: ratio of Pb[206]/Pb[204].  Data
       points: (1) Iron Meteorites; (2) Beardsley; (3) Modern sediments and young
       Galenas; (4) Saratov; (5) Elenovka; (6) Richardton; (7) Nuevo Laredo.
    I can't really do it justice in ASCII, I recommend interested parties to get the original. All of the points lie on (or very near) a straight line. The slope of the line represents an age of 4.55 billion years. The only reasonable explanation for this arrangement of the data is that (1) the objects in the solar system all formed from a common pool of matter, and (2) they became isolated from each other about 4.55 billion years ago.

    I doubt Bob has a convincing explanation for how young, "independently created" objects from all over the solar system could have their lead contents form an isochron. I wonder how he will account for the fact that the resulting age matches other dating methods' results for the solar system.

(C) Creationist criticisms of the scientific methods

I would like to deal with Bob's objections to methods which give an old age for the earth. However, he has not yet given any which are specific enough to examine in detail. The objections Bob posts in usually amount to asking, "but how do you KNOW it gives the right age?" This "objection" does not attempt to explain how the methods could be in error, and therefore is not open to examination. Bob will have to do better than that here.

Luckily, there is no shortage of creationist criticisms of radiometric dating methods. Bob will have some big-name stand-ins until rebuttal time. The contortions (and distortions) that creationists will go through in order to discredit radiometric dating are almost amusing:

  1. (Slusher) "The radioactivity of carbon-14 is very weak and even with all of its dubious assumptions the method is not applicable to samples that supposedly go back 10,000 to 15,000 years."

    This was written in 1973. Laboratories were then performing [14]C dating to either 35,000 years or 50,000 years (the latter required cosmic ray shielding). Today, new experimental methods can reach 80,000 years, and 100,000 years may soon be reached.

  2. (Slusher) "The decay rate of [57]Fe has been changed by up to 3% by electric fields."

    [57]Fe is a stable isotope which does not undergo radioactive decay.

    When [57]Fe is produced from the decay of [57]Co (an isotope which does not occur naturally), there is excess energy remaining in the nucleus. The nucleus then undergoes an "Internal Conversion" which releases this energy, but it remains the same isotope. The IC rate may be changed, but this has no bearing on the types of radioactive decay used in radiometric dating.

    Slusher requires (roughly) a 75,000,000% upward change in decay rates - on the average - in order to move the dates into his time scale of 6,000 years. There is no evidence that the decay rates relevant to radiometric dating can be changed by even 1%. These decay rates are the same at -186C to 2000C. They are the same in a vacuum to thousands of atmospheres. They are the same under varying magnetic and gravitational fields.

  3. (Morris) "Another [thing which could change uranium decay rates] would be the free neutrons discussed above."

    The density of free neutrons in nature (even in radioactive ores) is six orders of magnitude too small to have any effect at all. Such a large flux of neutrons would be quite noticeable - in more than rocks. Also, free neutrons do not directly alter decay rates and cannot produce the same results as uranium's normal alpha or beta decay.

    Uranium decays into lead. Lead can capture free neutrons, which would change U/Pb and Pb/Pb dates. Unfortunately, this process works in the opposite direction from Morris' needs. The effect would be very slight and would cause the corupted date to read younger than the actual age of the sample. (Morris claims that the dates read orders of magnitude older than the actual age of the sample.)

  4. (Morris) "The so-called 'branching ratio,' which determines the amount of the decay product that becomes argon (instead of calcium) is unknown by a factor of up to 50 percent."

    It was known to within 5% in 1958. It was known to within "a few" percent by the time Morris wrote that sentence. It is known to within a fraction of one percent today.

  5. (Moore) "The method involving decay of rubidium 87 into strontium 87 is considered so unreliable that it has been discarded."

    Actually, it is one of the most accurate and widely used methods available. Many of the data points given above for the earth, moon, and meteorites were calculated by that method.

  6. (Kofahl and Segraves) "A series of rocks from Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean gives K/Ar ages ranging from 100k to 2M years, whereas U/Pb and Pb/Pb ages range from 2.2b to 4.4b years."

    The paper cited by Kofahl and Segraves does not contain any U/Pb or Pb/Pb ages. It does contain some Pb measurements, but is missing measurement of one Pb isotope required for U/Pb or Pb/Pb dating. K & S have apparently decided to perform some calculations of their own. They have therefore only succeeded in casting doubt upon a dating method of their own invention. This should be no surprise to them; dating methods invented by creationists never work. :-)


We have examined Bob's method for dating the earth. The method has many insurmountable problems, yet it is repeated in several creationist books which argue for a young earth. We have also examined some creationist complaints about the validity of the scientific methods for finding an age for the earth. All are either irrelevant or simply wrong. These are not the hallmarks of an enterprise which has reached its conclusions on careful study of the evidence. These are not the hallmarks of an enterprise which even understands the evidence.

Some accuse "scientific" creationists of ignorance or dishonesty. That may be true in some cases (e.g. Morris trying to palm off wildly inaccurate dust influx rates as reasonable values). A more reasonable explanation is that most of these mistakes are born out of desperation to support a view that the evidence flatly contradicts.

Perhaps Bob can do better than the leaders of the movement. Since Bob usually seems content to work directly and trustingly from their books, I do not expect it. Bob may surprise me and produce a reasonably convincing method which gives a young age for the earth. But if he manages to do so, it will not be a method found in popular creationist literature.

Bob's age for the earth differs by about six orders of magnitude from the value that scientists propose. This is not a minor difference. One of our two positions is like arguing that Alpha Centauri is closer to the Earth than the Sun is, or that one can buy a nice house in California for a quarter. The positions are so far apart that it should be trivial to choose the one that the evidence supports. It is. I have presented some solid pieces of this evidence. Bob needs to propose some evidence of his own, but he must also have testable explanations for how my evidence fits into his position.

Bob will have to offer an explanation for how a collection of young rocks from different parts of the solar system could form an isochron giving an age of 4.5 billion years. He will also have to offer an explanation for how the Amsitoq Gneiss could give the same (incorrect) date by 5 independent methods, all of which passed internal checks.

No matter how many "rocks" Bob throws at radiometric dating, he will need to present an explanation for the curious agreement of all of the varying methods. Proposing a deceptive creator is an admission of failure to do so.

In short, the "scientific" creationists are simply wrong about the age of the earth; the leaders of the movement KNOW IT (even if Bob doesn't). In their books, a young earth is treated as if it were an obvious conclusion from the evidence. In a debate, Duane Gish refuses to discuss it. Gish KNOWS that a young earth is no more supported than a flat earth. He can't afford to be destroyed in a debate, so he cannot afford to discuss the age of the earth.

I am impressed with Bob's faith in his position, venturing where the leaders of his movement fear to tread. I also believe that Bob is quite honest about his beliefs (though the evidence stands against him). I don't expect to convert Bob; he was sure of his position long before he studied the evidence for the alternative. But if he is convinced to obtain and read the Dalrymple paper, I will consider this debate to be a success.

Bales Rebuttal Chris contrasts: (A) Methods creationists use to give an age for the earth, and (B) Methods scientists use to give an age for the earth

I must protest what appears to me to be an attampt to "prejudice the jury." As I see it, this is supposed to be a debate on the scientific evidence on the age of the earth. All arguments used by both sides should fall into (B).

Furthermore, the implication is that young-earth dates (which is what I suspect Chris means, although not all creationists believe in a young earth) are distinct from scientific methods. That this is false is shown by Chris's claims that creationists misinterpret or misuse scientific data. An age based on misinterpretation of data is still a scientific claim.

"Scientific" creationists already "know" the age of the earth and it is not from the evidence.

But what creationists know or don't know has no bearing on what the evidence shows. Many creationists do believe for reasons in addition to the physical evidence that the earth is young. Those reasons do not provide scientific support for my position, so I do not use them here. However, neither do they provide support for Chris's position, so they add nothing to the debate.

It would have been nice to talk about several "dating" methods which Bob has discussed that give a young age for the earth. Unfortunately, Bob has only ever mentioned one method in, and that was several years ago.

What follows is a discussion of age determination from looking at the amount of metal dissolved in ocean water. Note that (although Chris obviously did not know this) I did not use this method in my statement. Objections similiar to those raised here were raised when I first proposed the method. It appears to me that the objections may be valid. I don't think the method is worthless, as Chris seems to believe, but I need to study it more in order to defend it.

Turning to the methods Chris uses:

1. We can try to find the oldest rocks on the earth. While this doesn't guarantee an absolute age (for the original rocks need not be available), it can at least give a lower limit for the age of the earth.

The oldest rocks exposed on the surface of the earth are 3.5 to 3.8 billion years in age.

Rocks are not stamped "age: 3 billion years." The dates are found indirectly, in this case, by measuring the radioactive isotopes in the rock.

As I have pointed out before, there are cases in which 3-billion year "dates" found by similar radioactive measures corresponded to an actual age of less than 200 years.

Whenever I mention this example, I am greeted with a storm of "misuse" cries. But consider exactly what I am saying. I am saying that the results measured on the Hawaiian rocks indicate a 3 billion year radioactive date does not necessarily correspond to a 3 billion year actual date. This is not a misuse.

There is one other response I'd like to comment on. The claim was made that, since the rocks were predicted to give inaccurate dates, the case has no implications for dating. It even seemed to be implied that since this prediction was true, predictions of accuracy will be true also. But this is not the case. In order to be judged accurate, a method must show accuracy. Inaccuracies of 6-7 orders of magnitude, however predicted or however explained, do nothing whatsoever to support an accuracy claim.

Consider the situation as follows: We have two rock samples, which both give radioactive dates in excess of 3 billion years. For one sample, we know the date independently. For the other, we don't. If the known sample is less than 200 years old, why should I believe the unknown sample is in excess of 3 billion? Chris gives one answer, which I will address below.

Consider the various dating methods applied to the Greenland Amsitoq Gneiss:

[Chris gives 5 dates.]

Note that all of the methods agree (3.68-3.70 is within all of their ranges of error).

The "ranges of error" are not that, but are ranges of uncertainty, given that the basic assumptions which went into the dating are correct. If the assumptions are not right, the error range shown is not the actual error.

Isochron and discordia methods also have an internal check which identifies undateable samples.

Having multiple points which should, and do, fall on a line (in the case of isochrons) increases confidence in the date, but does not establish it to be correct. If the theory behind the derivation of the isochron is not correct, the points can lie anywhere, including on a line. It might be argued that points would be very unlikely to form a line if the theory was wrong. This may very well be true -- as I said, the internal checks do support the theory. But I would be interested in a probability estimate.

In this paragraph, I am asking a question, not raising a definite objection. As I will describe below, there are a number of things which can influence radiometric dating, and a number of corrections which may be made. What corrections, if any, were made to arrive at the results given, and what effect might that have on the points' lining up?

Similar formations which give similar ages can be found as well in North America, India, Russia, Australia, and Africa. This date therefore merits some confidence.

Accuracy implies consistancy, but consistancy does not imply accurracy. If, for example, dates obtained from one formation are inaccurate, dates obtained from similiar formations might also be expected to be similarly inaccurate.

If Bob wishes to object to these dates, he will have to explain why a 10,000-year-old rock was "created" so that five independent dating methods would all yield the same fictitious age.

There are two possible meanings of "why." If Chris is asking why there might be a reason to believe the dates are wrong, the answer lies in the evidence mentioned above and to be discussed below. If, on the other hand, the question is why a Creator would "fool" us, I see the answer as not being difficult: There is no evidence of fooling. The Creator did not instruct us in which dating methods to use. Those who do the dating are totally responsible for developing the methods and interpreting the results. If the dates are wrong, it is because the the evidence was misinterpreted, not because it is deceptive.

Chris mentions other datintg methods: dating objects in the solar system and construct a lead isochron from readings on various materials. These methods use the same basic principles as the radioactive dating of materials on earth. I take it, then, that Chris claims radioactive dating is the method which leads to the conclusion of an old earth.

Which leads to the question: Are radioactive dating methods accurate? Or are there know problems with them. When in the discussion of the incorrect Hawaiian dates, I claimed that the history of the rock could affect the dates, I was severely criticized. In research for this debate, I found out I was more right than I knew. (Chris discussed some creationist criticisms of radioactive dating. Since they are not the criticism I use below, I'll let threm lie.)

I don't have an exact quote, but in Mammal-Like Reptiles and the Origin of Mammals (1982), T.S. Kemmp refers to the known problems of uranium dating.

However, I wish to discuss mainly Potassium-Argon dating. This is one of the most often used methots, and in this group it has been referred to as the most accurate radioactive method. My reference for this is Radioactivity in Geology: Principles and Applications, by Eric Durrance of the University of Exeter. Based on its references, it was published in 1980 or later.

Quoting: "Thirdly, to obtain the age of formation of a rock or mineral, the material must have remained a close chemical system since its formation, with neither gain nor loss of radioactive parent or daughter atoms. . . . Unfortunately, geologic materials and environments do not often meet this requirement. In decay schemes in which gaseous daughters are produced, such as. . .[Potassium-Argon and Uranium-Lead]. . .for example, the loss of the daughter by diffusion, even through compact materials, can be considerable." (page 287)

The book goes on to discuss methods by which inaccuracies can occur: material movement caused by groundwater, identity of daughter products with non- decay isotopes in the rock, the proportion of total potassium which is radioactive or contamination by atmospheric argon when the rock was formed, when the sample was prepared, or when the measurement was made.

Argon can also be lost from a rock by diffusion as the sample is heated (with the degree depending on the mineral making up the rock, and the lattice defects in the crystal), through weathering, as a result of the physical processes involved in collecting and measuring the sample, and a result of damage to crystal structure due to radiation from nearby sources. Argon can enter a rock at or after the time of formation.

With all of these possible sources of errror, the often-heard statement that "radioactive dating is acccurate since decay rates are constant" does not tell the entire story, or even a major portion of it. To be fair, the book I reference mentions that there are corrections for some of these factors. But if the errors are not recognized in some cases, the corrections will not be done. Also, the corrections require assumptions of what happened and how to correct.

I cannot prove that the old dates are wrong. But since there are uncertainties in the dates, both theoretical and actual, as evidenced by mate 7 orders of magnitude in error, I contend that those who believe in an old earth cannot know the dates are right. It has never been shown that a 3-billion date from these methods has been right. But it has been shown that such a date has been wrong.

Chris closes with a number of comments, a few of which are:

Bob's age for the earth differs by about six orders of magnitude from the value that scientists propose.

The range of dates I use differs from the more commonally accepted dates. However, since it is derived by scientists from scientific evidence, it differs NOT AT ALL from a value proposed by scientists. The young earth date is, as I showed in my first statement, derived from the same type of observations by the same deductive processes as is the old earth date. The former is as "scientific" as the latter. Why then claim that it isn't? I can't judge motive, I can only judge effect. Most people, myself included, will say that a scientific date is better than a non-scientific one. Thus, if one date is not-scientific, it can be discarded before examination. It's thus easier to ignore whether or not it meets the evidence.

In short, the "scientific" creationists are simply wrong about the age of the earth; the leaders of the movement KNOW IT (even if Bob doesn't).

We are still in a discussion of whether my quoting of someone's statement implied that he personally believe the view the statement supports. But here, Chris says what people know without quoting them. If the claim cannot be supported by what they have said, I think it should be withdrawn.

Stassen Closing Remarks Three quick points before I dive in:

  1. It seems Bob is unhappy that I divided opinions into "scientists" versus "creationists." I chose "scientists" because I am presenting the view held by mainstream science, and "evolutionists" has no applicability to categorization of geologists (except in the minds of conspiracy-theorists).

  2. Bob dismisses my Morris quote by saying that creationists have reasons "other than the evidence" to believe the Earth is young. Bob is badly misreading Morris' statement, for Morris says that Genesis is reason to believe in a young Earth in spite of the evidence (not "in addition to"). It "adds to the debate" because it explains why the evidence is only of secondary importance - even to "scientific" creationists. Does Bob agree?

  3. I already use Gish's actions (refusal of ICC debate and generic debate disclaimer) to support my claim that he knows the evidence does not support a young Earth. I don't see a need to produce a quote, too. If Bob can come up with a plausible alternate explanation for why Gish would betray his sworn position and his organization's position, I will reconsider.

In my opening statement, the dating methods I used were all radiometric. I used radiometric dating because it is the only quantitative method I know for giving an age. There are plenty of geological formations which I could discuss (e.g. varves, fossil reefs and stromatolites, limestone and chalk deposits) that are very difficult to explain as features of a young Earth. I mentioned a few in my rebuttal (e.g. ocean floor sediments). But these formations cannot be used to date the entire earth - which is our topic.

I am somewhat disappointed that Bob didn't provide better objections to the radiometric dating methods. He mostly reused materials that he had posted previously to (I was loaded for bear, but faced gnats. :-) )

I presented only isochron and discordia methods. Bob gave objections to K-Ar methods, which he incorrectly generalized to all methods. For K-Ar dating methods, there is an "assumption that no parent or daughter product has entered or left the system" (technically, the assumption is that it won't happen without leaving detectable evidence of contamination). There is no analogous assumption for isochron methods, as a systematic contamination is the only reasonable explanation for a bad date which keeps the points on a line. That sort of contamination ("the mixing model") is detectable, was tested for, and was found not to be present.

Bob makes the claim that "radiometric dating methods are known to give very inaccurate (6-7 orders of magnitude) results." But this is in a tiny minority of cases. If these methods are so wildly inaccurate, how do five of them agree on the same age? If the five methods gave results similar to the metals-in-the-oceans method (scattered randomly), I would be first in line to call the Amsitoq Gneiss sample "undateable." (By the way, I presented the "raw" results of the methods; no "corrections" necessary.)

Bob also objects that the dates "have never been shown to be correct." They show a strong correlation with each other, with position in the geologic column, and with dates derived by other means. The methods work practically all the time on samples of known ("historical") age which pass contamination tests. I don't know what more Bob expects. He argues we can't "know" the age, but lack of absolute certainty doesn't make 10k years a palatable alternative. (Bob would need to explain how the dates could consistently be so far out of whack. Without that explanation, such an argument is worthless.)

I also want to take issue with Bob's argument against deceptive creation, which was to say that "the Creator didn't design the dating methods." All radiometric dating methods I presented are straightforward mathematical equations derived directly from half-life and isotope measurements (yes, even isochron methods). Agreement of the five methods is "appearance of age" just as surely as if the rock were labeled "3.7 billion years old" (perhaps even more surely, as a label is easier to fake). Bob pleads "misinterpretation," but fails to present any intepretation at all which could account for the sample's actual age being nearly six orders of magnitude lower.

Bob is asking me to believe that the Creator (without deception - by accident?) "initialized" or an unidentified process (acting for <10,000 years) "changed" isotope levels in the Amsitoq Gneiss so that five self-checking methods would yield the same (wrong) age. If this is creationist "science," it's unteachable in public schools even without religious reference. Arguments like that would justifiably get laughed out of any respectable refereed journal. But one can find lots of arguments like that in creationist "scientific" journals. :-(

An old earth provides the best and simplest explanation for the Amsitoq Gneiss dates, the Solar System model Lead results, the pattern of ocean-floor sediments, and the youth of short-period comets (see my rebuttal for the last two). A 10,000-year-old earth does not explain any of these things easily. [Note that I can use Bob's own evidence to contradict his proposed age!]

If the Earth were young, and the Creator wanted us to believe it, then all five methods applied to the Amsitoq Gneiss would give an age of 10k years. Anyone examining the evidence independent of religious conviction cannot escape the conclusion that the Earth is very old (Harold Coffin, a creationist witness at the Arkansas trial, admitted that under cross-examination).

In summary, Bob dismisses radiometric dates mainly "because they are not known to be correct." This argument holds no water because he failed to explain how the dates could systematically be wrong. It is merely a naked handwave, without any "scientific" hypothesized mechanism to support it.

Furthermore, this dismissal (on the grounds of "lack of certainty") implies that Bob's belief in a young earth is based on something which will override "non-certain" - but solid - evidence. I wish Bob had discussed whatever it is he finds so convincing. His seven dating methods certainly don't merit such an investment of confidence; I bet he would still believe in a young Earth even if he were forced to admit his methods to be unreliable.

Bob has apparently neglected to present critical (to him) reasons why he believes in a young Earth. Why waste time with extremely low-quality dating methods or weak hand-waving dismissals of radiometric dating? Why didn't Bob "bring out the big guns" and discuss the most convincing and important (to him) reasons/evidence for belief in a young Earth?

I thank Bob for participating; I have enjoyed myself. I can't help but feel that Bob didn't make his strongest case here, and I hope that someday he will make up for that in Speaking of, I'd like to hear from anyone who managed to read this far; get in touch with me by Email.

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