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

How Good Are Those Young-Earth Arguments?

A Close Look at Dr. Hovind's List of Young-Earth Arguments and Other Claims

by Dave E. Matson
Copyright © 1994-2002

Young-earth "proof" #16: Topsoil takes only a few thousand years to form. The present thickness of topsoil indicates a young earth.

16. Those "scientific" creationists who trot this plum about must be delirious! Do they really believe that we should wind up with x miles of topsoil (or some such nonsense) after billions of years?

Geologically speaking, any given patch of land is seldom in equilibrium for long. Either it is collecting sediment or being eroded away, usually the latter. Suppose it collects sediment. Water-borne sediment will be washed in from higher ground, perhaps hills and mountains hundreds of miles away. Such sediment, even if from nearby hills, would normally carry very little organic material as the weathering slopes, themselves, would not have much to begin with. Sediment, in the form of dust, would normally come from very dry areas where organic material would be quickly oxidized. The sediment added to our patch of land may be great for building new soil, but if it accumulates too quickly it will merely bury the existing soil. The soil-making process would have to start over. In any case, the old topsoil, now compressed and deeply buried by sediment and soil, is no longer turned over by earthworms or small animals. It is deprived of oxygen and fresh organic material, such as rotting leaves. It is no longer a paradise for bacteria, and fungi. What organic material it did have is often lost by decay and slow oxidation. (Peat bogs and coal-forming swamps are an exception, but we would not count them as topsoils. Under unusual conditions a layer of topsoil can be "fossilized," even to the point of preserving the three-dimensional shape of tree leaves, as is the case at Yellowstone National Park.) In the long run, buried sediments are usually cemented into sedimentary rock, which brings us back to the beginning of this cycle. Thus, topsoil does not accumulate like most sediment, by simply piling up.

In the case of erosion, the topsoil, of course, is removed. This is usually the fate of every plot of land which remains above sea level long enough. Large areas of Canada, for instance, have been eroded down to the Precambrian basement rock! The geologic history of the strata making up the Grand Canyon is as much a history of erosion as it is of deposition! Consequently, a patch of soil cannot be older than the last local erosion--whenever that might have been. Forget about billions of years of soil accumulation!

Where sediment is neither being collected nor eroded, soils necessarily take their mineral components from the underlying parent rock. As more and more of that rock is weathered by the mechanical effects of freezing and thawing, the chemical and mechanical action of roots, or by other means, the soil is deepened. However, the deeper that soil gets, the more insulated the parent rock becomes to weathering. Fewer roots now reach the parent rock, and, in the bottom layers, the organic content of the soil is greatly reduced. That means less chemical weathering from bacteria and fungi. Sudden changes in temperature will have a smaller effect on the deeper parent rock. With the exception of the organic content, drawn mostly from the atmosphere, and the larger volume that broken rock takes up (which may raise the soil some distance above the original surface), in situ soils build downwards. Consequently, there is a practical limit to how deep the soil can get even if erosion never occurs. The accumulating humus will also reach an equilibrium, when new material balances that lost by decay and oxidation. (Topsoil is full of microbes that love to munch away on organic material, and don't forget the earthworms. Those earthworms don't get their calories from rock and clay!)

Just because a patch of topsoil takes x centuries to build up doesn't mean that the land is x centuries old. Most likely, that topsoil began to build up only recently, geologically speaking, and has either reached a practical limit to its depth or has been subject to erosion. Take the soil in my mother's backyard, for example. After about 18 inches the soil grades into a two-foot matrix of solid, smooth clay mixed with boulders. At about the three-foot level (in the center of the yard) the red-brown clay is abruptly terminated by a reddish conglomerate we call hardpan. A few sickly-looking roots, long dead for all I can tell, do penetrate the clay, usually by hugging the surfaces of the boulders, before being stopped cold by the hardpan. I suspect that most of them belong to plants which were chopped down years ago. There's not much down there in that clay to completely rot them away. Whatever damage is done to the clay by the few penetrating roots may, for all I know, be patched up by clay particles sifting down through the soil. The yard is located, along with much of San Diego, on a plateau, and meandering streams over thousands or millions of years have brought rocks down from the hills and rounded them into boulders. The numerous boulders in the clay and soil testify to much erosion since the limestone or chalk (just beneath the hardpan) was laid down. Further erosion is evident in the deeply etched edges of the plateau. Given the geologically recent erosion of the area and the difficulty of weathering the hardpan, is there any wonder that the soil is not thicker?

In summary, we're dealing with a dynamic and continuing cycle of topsoil formation and destruction, including periods of equilibrium, not a one-way accumulation of topsoil. Is that really so difficult to figure out? The whole idea of using topsoil-formation rates to prove that the earth is young just boggles my mind!

Young-earth "proof" #17: Erosion rates limit Niagara Falls to an age of less than 10,000 years. Therefore, the earth is young.

17. If Dr. Hovind is right about Niagara Falls, then it is less than 10,000 years old. There is nothing particularly earth-shaking about his figure. Niagara Falls came into existence after the last glacial episode, the Wisconsinan, ended around 11,000 to 12,000 years ago. Glacial ice covered the entire area to a considerable depth. Now, let me ask a small question. What does the age of the Niagara Falls have to do with the age of the earth??

G. K. Gilbert estimated that it took 7000 years for the Niagara Falls to retreat to its present position (Dalrymple, 1991, p.67). Thus, we have at least 7000 years sitting between the end of the last glacial episode, sometime after which the Niagara Falls was formed, and the present. Obviously, the earth is far older than the 6000 years or so deduced from the biblical list of patriarchs. Needless to say, the Niagara Falls couldn't possibly have existed had it flowed over freshly laid sediments. (In that case it would have become the Niagara Canyon!) The retreat of the Niagara Falls is a result of erosion undercutting the base of the falls and the subsequent cave-in of the upper portions of the rocky ledge. Only a geological moron could imagine that the falls quickly retreated through soft flood sediments until nearing its present position when, all of a sudden, the remaining sediments decided to turn into hard rock!

Gilbert's estimate was in the same ball park as several other estimates of the time elapsed since the last glacial episode. N. H. Winchell estimated that it took 8000 years to account for the erosion of the gorge and falls of St. Anthony. E. Andrews arrived at 7,500 years from a study of wave erosion on the shores of Lake Michigan. B. K. Emmerson calculated from his study of the glacial valleys in Massachusetts that 10,000 years had been at work. D. Mackintosh deduced that the erosion of limestone beneath glacial boulders required 6000 years. Taken together, these early estimates indicated that the ice sheets had disappeared 6,000-10,000 years ago (Dalrymple, 1991, pp.66-67).

Modern values for the end of the last glacial episode, the Wisconsinan Glaciation, are around 11,000-12,000 years. The more northerly sites, of course, would have been freed of ice more recently. Thus, the early estimates above are actually quite good. Technically, we are living in an interglaciation period of the present Ice Age. The Wisconsinan was the most recent glacial episode, one which was preceded by others and which, in all probability, will be succeeded by others.

Far from proving that the earth is a mere 6-10 thousand years old, Dr. Hovind has put his finger on a small fragment of Earth's history which already exceeds that biblical limit!

Young-earth "proof" #18: The incredible pressure found in oil and gas wells indicates they have been there less than 15,000 years. (Presumably, the oil or gas would have escaped long before then.)

18. The incredible pressure found in oil and gas wells indicates that the oil and gas have been effectively trapped. The initial, slow accumulation of oil and gas from the source area (primary migration) would hardly have had a chance to build up great pressure if the trapping rock were leaking like a sieve!

Oil and gas do a lot of migrating, and the oil accumulated in a given reservoir may have recently migrated there from another reservoir. Thus, a given pool of oil may or may not have been there for millions and millions of years. A recent geological shift in the rocks might also increase the leakage of the primary oil pool, which had been hitherto sealed for millions of years. Thus, the mere existence of leaky trapping rocks does not prove that a pool of oil and gas was recently created.

The primary migration of oil from 1 to 5 kilometers deep in the earth, where it is produced under a combination of pressure and heat acting on organic matter, probably goes hand in hand with water migration. Certainly, oil and water are often found together, the oil floating on top of the water within permeable rock. The water is squeezed out as the source sediment experiences more and more pressure. Thus, it may interest you to know how fast water migrates down there.

Some idea of the extremely slow speed of fluid motion to be expected can be gained by considering the movement of ground water at shallow depths in dense clays, classed as "impermeable." Under a moderate hydraulic gradient and a reasonable value of permeability for clay, we come up with flow speeds of ground water on the order of 2 to 3 million years per kilometer [3.2 to 4.8 million years per mile]. Yet the permeability of source shales of petroleum is rated at only one-thousandth as great as for clays tested in the surface environment (Wszolek and Burlingame, 1978, p. 573).

(Strahler, 1987, p.237)

Thus, the primary migration of oil from its place of origin will take far longer than the mere 6000 years or so creationists allow for the age of the earth. Creationists have tried to dance around that figure by quoting special cases of secondary migration or by simple smoke screen tactics, but the problem remains (Strahler, 1987, pp.237-238).

Young-earth "proof" #19: The size of the Mississippi River delta divided by the sediment accumulation rate gives an age of less than 30,000 years.

19. Since when does the age of the earth have anything to do with the Mississippi delta? If the Mississippi delta is, in fact, 30,000 years old, what of it?

Because of oil exploration, geologists know that the sediment in regions around the Mississippi River delta is 7 miles thick! (Hayward, 1985, p.83). Did you ever wonder how Noah's flood, which was quite shallow according to Dr. Hovind, perhaps less than a quarter of a mile deep, managed to stack up 7 miles of sediment?

It is stretching the long arm of coincidence much too far, to suggest that there just happened to be a vast hole in the ocean bed seven miles deep near the mouth of the Mississippi, and that the Flood just happened to fill that hole with sediment, while leaving nearby areas of the Atlantic unfilled; and that similar coincidences just happened to occur around the mouths of all the world's great rivers.

(Hayward, 1985, p.84)

There is no quick way to get that 7 miles of sediment. It takes time for the earth to sink under a load. Suppose you went down to the Gulf of Mexico one fine day, say just off the Texas coast, and dumped a pile of sediment there 7 miles high! I haven't the foggiest idea how long that mountain of sediment would sit there before sinking down to sea level, but I can assure you that it would not disappear overnight. Parts of that heap would probably still be there centuries later.

A super-charged Mississippi River isn't even going to build mountains of sediment to begin with. The onrushing, sediment-loaded water would just be pushed further into the gulf. You would get a "delta" vastly more spread out than the one we have -- and nowhere near 7 miles thick. Think about it.

Young-earth "proof" #20: The earth's rotation is slowing down, meaning that the earth can't be older than a few million years.

20. Presently, the earth's rotation is slowing down 0.005 seconds per year per year (Thwaites and Awbrey, 1982, p.19). At least Dr. Hovind doesn't use the horrendous rate of 1 second per year which Dr. Walter Brown employed as a result of a total misunderstanding of time keeping. I believe that Dr. Brown discarded that argument upon realizing his error, but don't expect it to disappear from the creationist literature. Only a towering optimist could expect that!

The actual rate of 0.005 seconds per year per year yields, if rolled back 4.6 billion years, a 14-hour day. The subject is a bit tricky the first time around, and I'm indebted to Thwaites and Awbrey (1982) whose fine article cleared away the cobwebs.

Let's do the calculation for 370 million years ago:

((0.005 sec/yr) x (370 million yr))/Year = (1,850,000 sec)/Year
= (21.4 days)/Year

Thus, at 370 million years ago, the earth had 21.4 extra days per year.

The total days then per year were: (365.25 + 21.4)days/Year = 386.65 days/Year.

(8766 hrs/Year)/(386.65 days/Year) = 22.7 hrs/day

If you do the same calculations for 4.6 billion years ago, you'll get the 14 hrs/day given by Drs. Thwaites and Awbrey. Thus, there is no problem here for mainstream science. Indeed, the present rate may be too high:

...the correct present rate of slowing of the earth's rotation is excessively high, because the present rate of spin is in a resonance mode with the back-and-forth

motion of the oceans' waters in the ocean basins. In past ages when the rotation rate was faster, the resonance was much less or nonexistent, resulting in a much more gradual slowing of the rotation rate. The most recent calculations indicate that the earth could be 4 to 5 billion years old and not have been spinning excessively fast or requiring the moon to be any closer to the earth than 225,000 kilometers (140,000 miles).

(Sonleitner, 1991, file=MOVIE2.WP)

A study of rugose corals from the Devonian (370 million years ago), initiated by John W. Wells of Cornell University in 1963, indicated that the year then had 400 days of about 22 hours each. For a discussion of coral clocks see Dott & Batten (1976, pp.248-249). Subsequent work with corals of Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and modern origin have produced highly revealing, if approximate, results.

Determinations of the same kind were made for algal deposits (stromatolites) of the Upper Cambrian (-510 m.y.) (Pannella et al., 1968). Plots of the collected data for the entire time span from Recent back through the Paleozoic Era showed a nonuniform increase in days per month going back in time, and from this it is inferred that tidal friction has not been uniform in that period.

(Strahler, 1987, p.147)

Studies of the chambered nautilus, for a time, was also proposed as a geologic clock by Kahn and Pompea. However, that effort ran into problems. Creationists still cite it in their efforts to discredit the coral clocks. Each case, of course, has to be judged on its own merits. The nautilus is not a coral, and the coral clocks are good enough to destroy the young-earth claims.

From the present slowing down of the earth's spin we get a day of 22.7 hours 370 million years ago; 370 million years ago is the approximate radiometric date of those rugose corals. And, a study of the rugose corals confirms that the day then was about 22 hours long. In this example we have a remarkable, if rough, agreement between two, diverse dating methods.

These facts spell "Old Earth."

Young-earth "proof" #21: Given the rate of sediment transport into the ocean by the world's rivers, the ocean basins should have a much thicker layer of sediment than they actually have. Only a small amount of sediment is on the ocean floor, indicating a few thousand years of accumulation. This embarrassing fact explains why the continental drift theory is vitally important to those who worship evolution. (The present influx of sediment into the oceans is 27.5 x 109 tons per year; the present mass of sediment in the oceans is 820 x 1015 tons. That yields 30 million years.)

21. This is the other half of Nevins' argument (see point #15). Dr. Hovind has botched it further by asserting that only a few thousand year's worth of sediment is on the ocean floor! In the case of the Atlantic Ocean, the sediment varies in thickness. The thinnest sediment is near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where new sea floor is currently being generated. That is to say, sediment thickness there is zero. The thickest sediment hugs the continental margins, which certainly have more than a few thousand years of accumulation. Try around 150 million year's worth! Funny, that the measured rate of sea floor spreading, when extrapolated backwards in time, gives the same age for the Atlantic sea floor as does radiometric dating. Funny, how the sediment gets thicker and thicker as one moves away from the sea floor spreading zone! That is, the farther we get from the Mid-Atlantic ridge the thicker the sediment tends to get; that thickness correlates with increased age of the sea floor as determined by radiometric dating as well as the known rate at which the Atlantic is widening. (Funny, how Dr. Hovind always comes up with "a few thousand years" no matter what we are looking at!)

What are the odds of such a triple "coincidence" occurring? It boggles the mind! It's easy to see why scientists "bet" on an old-earth. And what about those magnetic stripes on the Atlantic sea floor? If that ocean floor is indeed spreading, then the thickness of those stripes and their distance from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge preserve a chronological record of magnetic field reversals. When those distances and widths are divided by the sea floor spreading rate, do we get a match with the magnetic reversal chronology based on the radiometric dating of continental rocks? Yes, we do!

Here is another interesting but little known fact. Mathematical calculations done by Dan McKenzie in 1967 indicated that an ocean floor, spreading at a few inches per year from a rift which adds new material, would cool and contract. It would sink deeper into the mantle as it contracted. "The process is so undeviating that there is a striking relationship between the age of the sea floor and the depth of water covering it." (Miller, 1983, p.122)

John Sclater and his students at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, put McKenzie's theory to the test in 1971. They gathered up every scrap of data on the age and depth of the Pacific sea floor. McKenzie's theory was confirmed! The increasing depths of the older portions of the Pacific floor were a result of thermal contraction. Plate tectonics even explains the basic facts about the depth of the Pacific!

That's bad news for those creationists who believe that the earth's plates did some dancing after Noah's flood. In the few thousand years that creationists have to play around with, there is not enough time for a growing ocean plate to cool down. That means the plate would not sink as a result of greater density due to cooling and contraction, meaning that the Western Pacific would not be any deeper than the Eastern Pacific. Isn't that amazing! Instant-drift creationists have another problem. (Actually they have bushels of problems, but we don't have yards of space.) Like Silly Putty (remember that?) the earth's mantle will flow like a liquid if enough time is allowed, but it will act like a solid if you try to rush things. A stick of old-fashioned Silly Putty will, if left to own sweet time, melt into a puddle -- and even into the sofa! However, if you try to bend that stick quickly it will snap in two as though it were a piece of glass! For similar reasons, there is absolutely no way to greatly speed up the drift of continents or the spreading of ocean floors. It would be like driving through solid rock! Dr. Hovind's bizarre suggestion that plate tectonics is an evolutionist's means for escaping an embarrassing dilemma doesn't merit any comment, since there is no dilemma. Strange, that the theory of continental drift was fiercely opposed by most "evolutionary" geologists at first! Stranger still, how some discoveries in the late sixties brought them all around! It looks like a case of follow-the-evidence rather than a conspiracy! We might note, in passing, that plate tectonics became an observed fact in 1985! The Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) technique, in combination with laser ranging techniques, have successfully measured the movement of the earth's plates relative to one another (Strahler, 1987, p.212). Since 1979, such measurements have continually been taken by NASA's Crustal Dynamics Project, which has removed any doubt that the continents are indeed "drifting." (Note: the continents don't "drift" by any efforts of their own, they just hitch a ride on the earth's mantle material as it moves away from oceanic ridges.)

Young-earth "proof" #22: The largest stalactites and flowstones could have formed in about 4400 years.

22. Since when is the age of the earth related to the age of a stalactite? If, in fact, a fat stalactite can form in 4400 years, so what? However, it does seems a bit suspicious that the minimum age given by Dr. Hovind is exactly that allotted to the post-flood period. Such a figure begs investigation, but let's take first things first.

Did you ever wonder how a cave, like Carlsbad Caverns, formed? It wasn't dissolved out by rushing flood waters, being that calcium carbonate (the substance of limestone) is less soluble in water than granite! (Loftin, 1988, p.22). How many gorgeous caves have you seen carved out of granite by rushing flood waters? Nor was it carved out of soft sediment. The whole thing would have caved in like a cold soufflé long before the job was finished. Nor was it eroded out by rapid, underground rivers and streams. Vadose caves are formed in that manner, but their shape is very unlike the phreatic (solution) caves such as Carlsbad Caverns and Mammoth Cave. Diagrams of phreatic caves often resemble city maps with lots of streets intersecting at right angles. Hamilton Cave, in West Virginia, is an excellent example. You don't get that kind of pattern with river or stream erosion. "Streams often flow through caves and contribute very slightly to the process, but this is almost always a later, secondary development." (Loftin, 1988, p.22).

Carlsbad Caverns was eaten out, cubic inch by cubic inch, by carbonic acid which turned the calcium carbonate to calcium bicarbonate. (The Caverns are unusual in that sulfuric acid has also played a leading role.) Calcium bicarbonate dissolves easily in water and is carried away. Carbonic acid is a weak acid produced when carbon dioxide combines with water. Almost all the carbon dioxide involved in this cave-making process comes from "...the activity of plants and animals in the soil rather than from the air (Moore and Nicholas, 1964, p.7)." (Loftin, 1988, p.22). The atmospheric concentration is way too low to be of much use. It is the metabolism of plants and soil organisms which build up the carbon dioxide concentration to a point where it can do some good.

As rainwater percolates through the soil it combines with the carbon dioxide to form the weak, carbonic acid which becomes part of the general flow of water through the limestone. Cracks deep within the limestone are widened over the ages, and underwater caverns are eventually formed. Most of the etching action apparently goes on just below the water level, thus the tendency for phreatic caves to have distinct levels.

Before any stalactites, stalagmites, or flowstones can form, the water must be drained out of that portion of the cave. In allowing 4400 years for the largest stalactites and flowstones, Dr. Hovind has neglected to allot any time at all to the cave-making process! In his scenario the oldest stalactites start forming right after Noah's flood drains away. Sorry, but I don't buy the implied claim that Carlsbad Caverns was deposited by that flood! I know that Noah's flood can perform miracles in the hands of scientific creationists, but I absolutely draw the line there! The cave-making process requires a whole lot more time than the stalactite-making process.

The [stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstones] are formed when calcium carbonate in solution in the water is deposited out, but this process is not one of simple evaporation. The air in most caves, even in the most arid regions, is highly moist; therefore, when water soaking down from above reaches the air of the open cave, it does not lose water to the air and leave minerals behind. This is clearly shown by the composition of the deposits, which consists of almost pure calcium carbonate. When the slightly acid water with its dissolved minerals meets the moist air of the cave, a minute amount of the carbon dioxide leaves the water and goes into the air. This process is almost exactly the reverse of the major process of cave formation, for, when carbon dioxide goes into the air, the solution becomes supersaturated and a small amount of calcium carbonate is precipitated out (Moore and Nicholas, 1964).

(Loftin, 1988, p.23)

Needless to say, this is not the kind of operation you can turn up the spigot on. A rapid flow of water would simply carry the minerals with it, not to mention diluting the carbonic acid which is produced in limited quantities. We're dealing with a drip-by-drip scenario.

Creationists sometimes point to some very rapid accumulations which superficially resemble the calcium carbonate formations in caves.

For example, on the mortared brickwork of old forts and places of that sort, formations which look to the naked eye like stalactites and stalagmites sometimes form in less than one hundred years. However, those formations are composed of gypsum, which is a salt of calcium sulfate. Unlike calcium carbonate, gypsum is moderately soluble in water, which means that transport and recrystallization can take place much more rapidly (White, 1976, p.304). There is a whole class of cave deposits called evaporite minerals which consist of those minerals which dissolve readily in water. As might be expected, these formations are ephemeral when compared to the carbonates which form all the really large and impressive cave formations. The chemistry of all this is not particularly complex and is very well understood.

(Loftin, 1988, p.23)

Here's some more information. This point is particularly important since creationists love to point out such examples.

Many people have found that stalactites forming on concrete or mortar outdoors may grow several centimeters each year. Stalactite growth in these environments, however, bears little relation to that in caves, because it does not proceed by the same chemical reaction. Although cement and mortar are made from limestone, the same rock in which the caves form, the carbon dioxide has been driven off by heating. When water is added to these materials, one product is calcium hydroxide, which is about 100 times as soluble in water as calcite is. A calcium hydroxide solution absorbs carbon dioxide rapidly from the atmosphere to reconstitute calcium carbonate, and produce stalactites. This is why stalactites formed by solution from cement and mortar grow much faster than those in caves. To illustrate, in 1925, a concrete bridge was constructed inside Postojna Cave, Yugoslavia, and adjacent to it an artificial tunnel was opened. By 1956, tubular stalactites 45 centimeters long were growing from the bridge, while stalactites of the same age in the tunnel were less than 1 centimeter long.

(Moore and Sullivan, 1978, p.47)

By the way, geologic opinion holds that the Carlsbad Caverns began to be etched out 60 million years ago. The present chambers were excavated from 1 to 8 million years ago, depending on their depth. As for stalactites, the Bulletin of the National Speleological Society (37: p.21, 1975) gave their observed growth rates as ranging from 0.1 to 10 centimeters per thousand years. An exceptional spurt of growth might exceed the higher rate for short periods of time, but it could no more be maintained than a winning streak at the Las Vegas poker tables. Moore and Sullivan (1978, p.47) give an upper average rate of "only a little more" than 0.1 mm/year [10 centimeters or 2.5 inches per thousand years]. Stalagmites grow at a similar rate. Areas with a lot of overgrowth and tropical

temperatures would have the higher rates. Thus, a 60-foot giant, as might be found in Carlsbad Caverns, would have a minimum estimated age of about 180,000 years.

Fornaca and Rinaldi (1968) used the Th-230/Th-232 ratio method to date an old stalagmite, probably in Europe, and got an age of 180,000 years for its formation. That stalagmite had stopped growing 90,000 years ago, as indicated by the radiometric dating method, so its true age is 270,000 years. A flowstone in the famous Romanelli cave of Apulia was dated at 40,000 years. Thus, an extrapolation of the observed rates of stalactite formation and the radiometric dating method (using thorium) put us in the same ball park for large cave formations. Dr. Hovind's figure of 4400 years for the oldest stalactites is much too modest!

As it turns out, a careful study of the ratios of Oxygen-18 and Oxygen-16 allows us to estimate the temperature at the time a particular layer was added to a stalactite or stalagmite. Studies of this type have built up an interesting picture:

As we go to press, research is very active in this field. In the latest results, speleothems indicate that the average surface temperature in mid-latitude cave regions reached a peak 3 degrees C above the present about 8000 years ago, that it was as much as 10 degrees C colder than at present from 15,000 to 80,000 years ago, warmer than now from 80,000 to 120,000 years ago, colder from 120,000 to 170,000 years ago, warmer from 170,000 to 200,000 years ago, and colder for an undetermined period before that.

(Moore and Sullivan, 1978, p.65)

What we have here is a remarkable record of the last three advances of the present Ice Age! The warm period of 80,000-120,000 years is centered on the Last Interglacial (Ipswichian) interlude; the warm period of 170,000-200,000 years ago takes in the Penultimate Interglaciation (Hoxnian) interlude. The cold period of 15,000-80,000 years starts near the known beginning of the last ice advance, which corresponds to our Main Wisconsinan glaciation. Is that just a coincidence? This data is also beautifully reflected in the study of foraminifera in deep-sea cores (Strahler, 1987, p.252). Another coincidence?

Dr. Hovind claims that there was only one glacial episode which began after the earth had a collision with an ice-packed comet. Overlooking the numerous impossibilities involved in that scenario, we might ask if there is any direct evidence for more than one glacial advance. The answer is a resounding "Yes!"

But as the study of the glacial deposits was carried westward into Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, two distinct sheets of drift were found at many places to be separated by old soil, beds of peat, or layers of till that had been leached and decayed (Fig. 18-10). Here the uppermost drift, like that in New England, appeared fresh, but the buried drift sheet showed the effect of chemical decay and was obviously much the older. Moreover, in places, the soil and peat, or gravels, between two such sheets of till included fossil wood, leaves, or bones, recording the existence of animals and plants of temperate climate. Thus it came to be realized, about 1870, that a continental ice sheet had developed more than once, and that warm interglacial ages had intervened.

(Dunbar & Waage, 1969, pp.434-435)

In time it was found that there were several major advances of the present Ice Age, and that major fluctuations within these advances had occurred. The following table lists the approximate times of the glaciations in North America during the last two million years. These periods match a study of ocean-water temperatures interpreted from data of foraminifera in deep-sea cores (Strahler, 1987, p.252).

As you can see, various evidences for an old Earth tie together. From a study of oxygen isotopes in stalactites we got the last few periods of glacial advance. Studies of the foraminifera of deep-sea cores support the findings gleaned from stalactites. The study of foraminifera also supply information to flesh out the periods of the last three major glacial episodes. That there is more than one major glacial episode is, in turn, supported by the remains of temperate forests and animal fossils found between some of the sheets of drift, the bottom sheet showing a sharp increase in age as indicated by chemical weathering and other observations.

In passing, let me point out that clear evidence for glaciation exists as far back as the Precambrian. Great eras of glaciation have come and gone long before the present polar caps were ever established! (See Topic A5).

We can forget about Dr. Hovind's simple snowball theory of the Ice Age. It can't begin to explain the facts that we now have.

Table of Glaciation Episodes for North America (Based on D. B. Ericson and G. Wollin, 1968, Science, vol.162, p.233)
        0 -    15,000 warm Postglacial
   15,000 -    80,000 cold Main Wisconsinan glaciation
   80,000 -   120,000 warm
  120,000 -   170,000 cold Early Wisconsinan
  170,000 -   200,000 warm Sangamonian Interglaciation
  200,000 -   250,000 cool
  250,000 -   270,000 warm
  270,000 -   320,000 cool
  320,000 -   360,000 warm
  360,000 -   540,000 cold Illinoian glaciation
  540,000 -   850,000 cool Yarmouthian interglaciation
  850,000 -   880,000 warm
  880,000 -   900,000 cold
  900,000 - 1,390,000 cold Kansan glaciation
1,390,000 - 1,450,000 warm Aftonian interglaciation
1,450,000 - 1,500,000 cool
1,500,000 - 1,530,000 warm
1,530,000 - 1,580,000 cool
1,580,000 - 1,630,000 warm
1,630,000 - 1,670,000 cool
1,670,000 - 1,715,000 warm
1,715,000 - 2,000,000 cold Nebraskan glaciation
Young-earth "proof" #23: The Sahara desert is expanding; it can only be a few thousand years old.

23.The present Sahara Desert really is only a few thousand years old. About 7 or 8 thousand years ago the area underwent a pronounced wet phase and portions of it were habitable parkland where cattle could be grazed (The Times Atlas of World History, 1978). More than 10,000 years ago, during the last glaciation, lakes and streams were present in the Sahara, and elephants, giraffes, and other animals roamed the grasslands and forests which covered much of the region. Not long ago radar was used to discover a fossil river which once flowed across the Sahara; the river bed is now buried beneath the desert sands. By the way, what does any of this have to do with the age of the earth?

Young-earth "proof" #24: Given the rate of salt influx to the oceans, they should be much saltier than they are if the earth were billions of years old.

24. Dr. Hovind is assuming that salt cannot be removed from the oceans. The more sophisticated creationists, such as Melvin Cook, know better than to make that assumption. Here's what Cook had to say:

The validity of the application of total salt in the ocean in the determination of age turned out to have a very simple answer in the fact shown by Goldschmidt (1954) that it is in steady state and therefore useless as a means of determining the age of the oceans. [Cook, 1966, p.73]

(Dalrymple, 1984, pp.115-116)

Thus, salt is being removed from the oceans as quickly as it is being added by the world's rivers. Consequently, no age can be calculated, save a minimum age based upon an assumption of initial salt content. There is no comfort here for the young-earth creationist.

Young-earth "proof" #25: The current population of Earth (5.5 billion) could easily be generated from 8 people in less than 4000 years. If the earth were really billions of years old, the human population would have gone through the roof!

25. Yes, and by the same reasoning 8 germs could populate every cubic inch of available living space on Earth to the tune of 1 million strong in less than a week! That is, if we allow for a generous die-off rate such that the fourth generation has about 40 germs instead of 128, and if we assume that the population divides every hour, each and every cubic inch of living space on the earth (from 100 feet below ground to a mile above) would have 1 million germs after 158 generations. I guess, by creationist reckoning, the earth must be a week old! If it were a few thousand years old, the germ population would have gone through the roof!

Yes, given unlimited living space, an inexhaustible supply of food, a good deal of luck in the early stages, and a high motivation to travel while having more kids than is practical, eight people

could probably populate the earth in a few thousand years. Eight germs could do it in less than a week. Eight bunny rabbits would fall somewhere in between. Eight cats would give us yet another figure. What do any of these figures have to do with the age of the earth? Nothing! What do these figures have to do with actual growth rates? Absolutely nothing!

The human exponential growth rate of the last few hundred years is possible only because of technology. When our ability to stay one jump ahead of starvation and disease fails, when our resources are finally squandered, then you'll see a dramatic change in that growth rate! It will no longer be exponential; it will be disastrous!

When man lived in scattered tribal groups, which is what he did for 99% of his history, the net human population growth was zero most of the time, just as it is for animals today. Animal populations, especially small animals such as rabbits or mice, often undergo cycles of boom and bust but their net growth is zero. No permanent increase in population can be sustained unless it is supported by a permanent change in the environment. Such a change might include the loss of a predator due to the colonization of new territory, a permanent increase in the food supply due to climatic change or a change in dietary habits, or a variety of other factors. In the case of man, hunting technology, the development of agriculture, and the use of fossil fuels have played major roles. After a favorable change in the environment, a population of animals (or people) may record a permanent jump before leveling off at a zero net growth again. Thus, the growth rate, before technology intervened in a major way, necessarily involved a series of plateaus where the population was in approximate equilibrium with the environment. No doubt, many tribal groups died out. Anthropologists can cite several examples of early human or near-human species, side branches on our evolutionary tree, which left no descendants. There was no assurance that early man would even survive. When favorable changes did occur, large jumps between plateau levels would likely have been exponential. Indeed, the human exponential growth rate of the last 300 years or so can be thought of as one long jump to a new plateau, which has been raised artificially high by technology. Those who imagine that eight people gave rise to everyone living today according to a simple exponential growth curve have demonstrated an inability to think things through. Let's look at the equation involved in these growth rate calculations.

P(n) = P(1 + r)n

P(n), called the function P of n, is the population generated after n years. (With the proper adjustment of r, n could be months or generations, etc. For our purposes, years will do nicely and r will be adjusted accordingly.) P (the multiplied factor on the right-hand side of the equation) is the initial population which, in our case, is eight. The growth rate is r which would be close to zero for humanity per year. A negative value would indicate a population decline. Henry Morris used a value for r of 0.0033 [0.33%] in a similar calculation which started with Adam and Eve. However, since the flood supposedly reduced the population to eight people 1656 years after creation, a figure Dr. Hovind gives based on patriarchal ages, we should start our exponential curve at the latter date. If we assume, for the sake of this argument, that the earth is 6000 years old, then we start our calculation with 8 people 4344 years ago. We must wind up with the present population of 5.5 billion people.

It turns out that if r = 0.0047 then after 4344 years we would wind up with about 5.6 billion people (1995), which is close enough. After substituting the values for P and r into the above equation we are at liberty to try out different values for n to obtain the population at different times. At the time the Israelites entered Canaan, for instance, we get a world population of 2024! By the time you divide that up between Egypt, Canaan, the rest of the world, and Israel, that leaves maybe 6 or 7 people for the Israeli army! If we go back to the time that the Hykos were expelled from Egypt, in 1560 BC, we get a world population of 325 people!

We can't calculate the population at the time the Great Pyramid of Cheops was built, around 2500 BC, because it was supposedly washed away by Noah's flood!! Being an antediluvian structure, many people might have been available to work on it. Odd, that the Great Pyramid of Cheops shows no water marks. Stranger still, that the Egyptians should be unaware of Noah's flood! I would think that Noah's flood, coming a mere century or thereabouts after the Great Pyramid of Cheops was built, would have found a prominent place in the Egyptian annals.

As you can see, an exponential growth curve leads to absurdity when we assume that 8 people generated today's population. Creationists, of course, could jack the r value way up at the start, jack it way down in the middle, and jack it up again for modern times, but the ad hoc nature of such an argument becomes a little too obvious. Regarding the foolishness of this whole enterprise, Dr. Alan Hayward had this to say:

Nobody who has ever studied the population explosion would make such an unwise extrapolation. It is well known that growth rates have increased enormously in recent centuries. Population expert Paul Ehrlich gives world average yearly growth rates of 0.9 per cent between 1850 and 1930, 0.3 per cent between 1650 and 1850, and a mere 0.07 per cent in the thousand years prior to 1650. And in the fourteenth century the population increase must have been very small indeed, and it may even have been turned into a big decrease, because of the Black Death. Ehrlich's figures are not just guesses; they are based on historical records. These facts show how misguided it is to extrapolate present population trends into the remote past.

(Hayward, 1985, p.136)

The Times Atlas of World History (1978) estimated that the world population increased 16 times between 8000 BC and 4000 BC. That yields a growth rate (r = 0.069%) which is almost identical to the figure quoted above by Hayward for ancient times.

Try plugging in some real data! It does make a difference. If we assume a growth rate of 0.07% before 1650 (a rate already a bit high because of agriculture), a growth rate of 0.3% between 1650 and 1850, a growth rate of 0.9% between 1850 and 1930, and a growth rate of 2.0% between 1930 and 1994 you will find that Noah and his crew are the ancestors of a whopping 1740 people today!

On that note, I think we can move on to the next point.

Young-earth "proof" #26: The oldest coral reef is about 4200 years old.

26.What does the age of a coral reef have to do with the age of the earth? If, in fact, the oldest coral reef is 4200 years old, so what? There is no argument here for a young earth, but such a suspicious figure (which fits so conveniently into Hovind's flood chronology) requires investigation! During the Arkansas trial of Act 590 in 1981 the subject of coral growth came up:

Roth, [who was] not a member of the CRS [Creation Research Society], was presented as an expert on coral reefs whose thesis is that corals grow very rapidly and do not need millions of years to form massive reefs. He testified for 70 minutes, but the cross-examination was brief. Q: "What is the last sentence of your article on the growth of coral reefs?" A: "...this does not establish rapid growth of coral development." Q: "Is there any evidence that coral reefs were created in recent times?" A: "No." Q: "No further questions."

(Berra, 1990, pp.134-135)

I suspect that the super-rapid growth of corals is as much a part of creationist mythology as is the super-rapid growth of humanity in ancient times or the super-rapid growth of stalagmites. You have above an admission from someone who was handpicked by creationists as an expert on super-rapid coral growth. And, what did he say? He said that his work did not establish the super-rapid growth of coral. I doubt that things have changed that much since 1981. Here are a few facts on coral growth:

Under the best of circumstances ... individual corals can grow no faster than 0.5 - 1.0 inch per year. The coral reefs, formed from the breaking up and cementation of coral sand, grow much more slowly--perhaps less than a tenth as fast.

Weber reports [op. cit., pp. 29-31] that H.S. Ladd has drilled bore holes through the coral cap that crowns the volcano underlying Eniwetok atoll, in order to measure the thickness of coral that has grown there since the lava cone began to sink beneath the sea. At one point, Ladd had to drill 1380 meters (almost nine-tenths of a mile!) before reaching the lava lip of the volcano. It is inconceivable that that much reef could have formed in less than 130,000 years, let alone during the few dozen centuries since Noah's flood (2348 B.C.).

(Zindler, 1989, pp.20-21)

We're talking about a coral reef 54,330 inches thick! By popular creationist reckoning, that reef had to have formed after the flood. A flood that has reworked the surface of the earth, literally digging up miles of sediment, would certainly have destroyed any antediluvian reefs. Indeed, one wonders how the coral organisms survived! Since the Eniwetok coral reef was neither destroyed by Noah's flood nor covered with a thick layer of sedimentary rock, we may safely assume that, according to the creationist scenario, it grew after the flood. (If we use Dr. Hovind's figure of 4200 years for the age of that coral, then that reef had to grow 12.9 inches per year! )

Even if we ignore the time it took for the volcano beneath Eniwetok to form, and if we generously use the higher rate of individual coral growth under optimum conditions, we wind up with 54,000 years for that reef to form! Thus, we have plain evidence that at least one reef was much, much older than 4200 years or so.

Here are some more facts on coral growth:

Hoffmeister made careful observations on the growth rate of the most dominant reef-building coral in the Florida-Bahama area, Montastrea annularis, by marking many specimens in their under-water habitats, and then observing and measuring them over a period of years. ... The fastest growth rate of these corals which Hoffmeister and his associates found was 10.7 millimeters (about two-fifths of an inch) per year in height. This would produce one foot of coral rock in 28.5 years if its growth were not interrupted or slowed down. However, there are numerous influences which directly interfere with the growth processes of the coral animals. Some of these factors as observed by A. G. Mayor during a four-year Carnegie expedition to the Samoan Islands were: (a) silt and mud washing over and smothering coral colonies, (b) high temperatures due to hot sun during low tides, (c) drenching tropical rains which not only smothered and killed many coral colonies by the resulting mud, but diluted the sea water to such a low salt content that the coral polyps could no longer live in it.

(Wonderly, 1977, p.28)

In Samoa, where we find the fastest coral grow rates known anywhere, some thin, branchy types of coral may actually grow 5 inches in a year. Obviously, the thin, branchy types of coral will have the faster growth rates by far in that their energy is not dissipated in bulk.

If one measures the rate of growth of the tips of these branches he will find it to be up to about 100 mm. (about 4 inches) per year in the Florida-Bahama region [Shinn, 1966], and up to 125 mm. per year in Samoa [Mayor, 1924]. This is the fastest growing genus of the reef-forming corals; however, it must be remembered that the open nature of the colony (somewhat like the branches of a tree) prevents this coral from making anything like 100 mm. of solid buildup of reef per year. Wave action and other forces wear and break the branches, whereupon they fall to the base to add their volume to the reef mass.

(Wonderly, 1977, p.31)

Thus, we see that the growth of a coral is often interrupted. Therefore, just as it is true for stalactites (see #22), the maximum rate of coral growth over short intervals of time will greatly exceed the average rate. The average rate, itself, will be much greater than the reef-building rate, which involves the breaking up and consolidation of the more delicate and faster growing corals in addition to erosion and other factors.

Consequently, creationists who quote individual rates for fast-growing corals as an estimate for reef-building times are being less than honest.

Mayor found the average growth in height of healthy colonies of corals of the massive type, belonging to Genus Porites, to be 17 mm. [2/3 inch] per year. He also found this kind of coral to be one of the most effective reef-building types in Samoa. Since coral skeletons of this massive type are not readily broken up by wave action, Mayor estimates that "a reef-wall composed of massive Porites might attain a thickness of 55 feet in 1000 years, while a reef composed of branching Porites might grow upward at least 25 feet in the same period of time." [Mayor, 1924, pp.60-61] (This is of course assuming that the ocean level and other environmental conditions would remain favorable for the entire period.)

(Wonderly, 1977, p.31)

Since a reef could scarcely grow much faster than its main coral component, you can see that the rate of 1 inch per year (which I used above to get 54,000 years) is quite generous. Just how generous it is remains yet to be seen.

As a swimmer passes over a submerged reef, he sees numerous clumps (colonies) of coral growing on the surface of the reef. These colonies have their own growth rates, as explained in the previous section, but most of them are destined to be drastically changed before they make their final contribution to the reef height. Boring and encrusting organisms frequently stop the growth of the colony or of a part of it. Eventually the entire colony may be broken loose by wave action and rolled down the side of the reef to a lower level.

In addition to this sort of delay in reef growth, complete stoppages occur. Each stoppage of the reef's growth leaves its mark in what is called an "unconformity" in the substance of the reef mass. Unconformities are thus caused by major disturbing factors such as a drastic change in sea level (13), the development of muddy or other unfavorable environmental conditions in the water of the area, and volcanic eruption. In many such cases, the fossil remains which are found on the unconforming surface in the reef mass are abruptly different from those above. At least one such unconformity was observed by Hoffmeister and his associates when they made core drillings into the reefs in the Florida Keys [Hoffmeister, 1964, p.356]; and many such unconformities were observed in the (far deeper) drillings made in the Marshall Islands by the U. S. Geological Survey.

Thus it is seen that it would be absurd to think that the length of time which was required for the formation of a large reef could be calculated by merely dividing the depth of the reef by the average growth rate of healthy coral colonies. The upward growth of the reef is always much slower than the growth of the colonies. In fact, this phenomenon is self-evident in the observation that most of the numerous coral reef-flats in the Pacific which have been studied during the past 75 or more years are wearing down at about the same rate that they are being built up [Mayor, 1924, p.65]. Of course we are not saying that no material is permanently added to the entire reef-flat each year, but rather, that the leveling forces spread the deposited skeletal matter out over a wider area, broadening the entire reef as time progresses.

(Wonderly, 1977, pp.31-32)

Eniwetok is one of those deeply drilled sites in the Marshall Islands. Thus, our estimate of its age is much too small because we have not allotted time for even the identified instances of total interruption and stoppage of its coral growth.

Let me remind you of just one scenario that must have played itself out over and over again. Coral can't grow above low tide as it would dry out and overheat in the tropical sun. Consequently, once a reef has reached that height it cannot go any further unless the ocean level rises or the sea floor sinks. How long a reef, already at the low tide level, might have to wait for such a "green light" is anybody's guess. Ten thousand years might pass before a reef added another foot to its height!

Scientific study has given us reasonable estimates of short term reef growth. Long term reef growth, of course, would have a much smaller rate. The longer the time period involved, the less likely that ideal conditions will prevail. It's like gambling in Las Vegas. It's easy enough to win a couple of hands back to back in a card game, but you can be sure that such a favorable streak won't hold up for long. The law of averages will take its toll.

There have been at least two very careful calculations made, of the total amount of coral skeletal material added per year to a given surface of reef, in areas where normal growth is going on. It is significant that none of the research on growth of corals which we are citing was carried out for the purpose of demonstrating that the reefs are of great age. These research projects were done with a view to showing the rate at which corals can be expected to build up barrier reefs which are of value in protecting harbors.

Mayor made a very careful series of observations to determine the amount of actual mineral (skeletal matter) which was being secreted and deposited per square yard on one of the typical, normally growing reef-flats. An extended period of observation and measurements made during the Carnegie expeditions of 1917 to 1920, to the Samoan Islands, under Mayor's supervision, revealed that the total thickness added to the reef flat per year was approximately 8 millimeters [less than 1/3 inch].

At this point let us compare the upward growth we have cited, with the total depth of the thickest known coral reefs--the atolls in the Marshall Islands. During the drillings which were made into these islands, the thickest coral reef deposit found was that of Eniwetok atoll, where one drilling, as stated above, had to go through 4,610 feet of reef deposit before striking the volcanic rock (basalt) base. Another drilling nearby extended through reef deposit for 4,158 feet before reaching the volcanic base [Ladd, 1960, p.863ff]. It is of course true that no one is able to determine the exact length of time which was required for growing such an extensive reef, but it is obvious that it was a very long process. If we divide the thickness of the Eniwetok reef by Mayor's 8 mm. of deposit per year, we arrive at 176,000 years of continuous growth required for the laying down of this much thickness. However, this would be a false picture, because of the many factors which retard the build-up of the reef, as discussed above. Thus the total length of time required for forming the 4,610 foot reef deposit of Eniwetok was undoubtedly many times the 176,000 years (18).

(Wonderly, 1977, pp.32-33)

In his last footnote, Wonderly informs us that geologists have placed the earliest deposits at Eniwetok within the Eocene Epoch. That means that the true age of the reef is somewhere around 40 million years, roughly speaking!

Wonderly goes on to explain in detail (1977, pp.33-34) why it is naive to imagine that corals grew at tremendously faster rates in ancient times. I'll leave it to the reader to investigate that point should it be of interest to him or her.

For the stubborn mind, which refuses to grasp the great age of the Eniwetok atoll, we could present even more facts. Wonderly devotes four lovely pages to describing the details of the cores taken from Eniwetok Atoll, and even that can't do justice to the whole story. The details are fascinating and reek of old age. For example, at one point in time the coral reef was above water for such a long time that trees grew on it! How long that went on is anybody's guess. Unfortunately, we have to move on. I'll leave you with a final quote from Wonderly who, by the way, is a devout Christian as well as a competent geologist. He undertook this work because he felt that "scientific" creationism, by associating the Bible with their ridiculous arguments for a young earth, were making the Bible a target for ridicule.

Thus a reasonably good reconstruction of the history of the Eniwetok atoll has been made, by taking note of the rock and sediment types, the many kinds of marine fossils, the distinct unconformities, and the kinds of pollen and other remains of terrestrial life. All of these tell us that the reef has had a long and varied history, with numerous major interruptions in its development.

(Wonderly, 1977, p.36)

So much for Dr. Hovind's 4200-year limit on the oldest reefs!

Young-earth "proof" #27: The oldest tree in the world is 4300 years old.

27. What does the age of a tree have to do with the age of the earth? If, in fact, the oldest tree is 4300 years old, so what? Perhaps Dr. Hovind is impressed by the fact that such a tree would have sprouted at about the time Noah's flood ended. If that is the case, then it is time for a reality check.

It might interest you to know that trees go back at least 8000 years without being disturbed by Noah's flood! Dr. Charles Ferguson of the University of Arizona has, by matching up overlapping tree rings of living and dead bristlecone pines, carefully built a tree ring sequence going back to 6273 BC (Popular Science, November 1979, p.76). It turns out that such things as rainfall, floods, glacial activity, atmospheric pressure, volcanic activity, and even variations in nearby stream flows show up in the rings. We could add disease and excessive activity by pests to that list.

Different locations on the mountain also affect tree growth in that factors such as temperature, moisture, soil thickness, soil type, susceptibility to fire, susceptibility to wind, and the amount of sunlight received vary, sometimes dramatically. For example, a tree growing near a stream would be less susceptible to the effects of drought. Even the genetic inheritance of a tree plays a role in that it will magnify or retard the above factors. Thus, even trees on the same mountain, of the same species, don't always cross-date as nicely as one might think.

Creationists sometimes seize upon such isolated facts in their desperate bid to discredit tree-ring dating. They either don't understand--or don't want to understand--that careful statistical studies have settled the issue beyond a reasonable doubt.

Creationists will even quote statistics for species of trees which no dendrochronologist would ever think of using! Some species of trees are not sensitive enough to the year-to-year climatic changes whilafter 158 generations, e others sport such an irregular growth rate as to be worthless for precise tree-ring dating. We hear horror stories about how easy it is for a tree to produce two or more rings in one year. What their readers don't hear is that such problems are minimal for some species of trees. Dr. Andrew E. Douglass, who pioneered the field of dendrochronology, found that ponderosa pine and douglass fir are especially excellent for dating purposes. In such species spotting a double ring was "...easy to do by eye after a very little training..." (American Scientist, May-June 1982).

In the case of the bristlecone pine, the problem of double rings is hardly any problem at all!

The dendrochronological check on radiocarbon dating is not without its own problems, the main one being that some species of trees may, under certain climatic conditions such as late frost, produce more than one ring per year [Glock and Agerter, 1963]. Fortunately, however, this has been "extremely rare" in the carefully checked history of bristlecone pines [Ferguson, 1968, p.840].

(Bailey, 1989, p.101)

Dr. Charles Ferguson goes on to say that the growth-ring analysis of about 1000 bristlecone pine trees in the White Mountains, where these tree-ring studies are done, turned up no more than three or four cases where there was even a trace of extra rings. In fact, the case for partially or totally missing rings is much more impressive. A typical bristlecone pine has up to 5 percent of its rings missing (Weber, 1982, p.25). Thus, if anything, one is likely to get a date that is too young! A careful statistical study, of course, minimizes even that problem. That's why statistics were invented!

Other species of trees corroborate the work that Ferguson did with bristlecone pines. Before his work, the tree-ring sequence of the sequoias had been worked out back to 1250 BC. The archaeological ring sequence had been worked out back to 59 BC. The lumber pine sequence had been worked out back to 25 BC. The radiocarbon dates and tree-ring dates of these other trees agree with those Ferguson got from the bristlecone pine.

(Weber, 1982, p.26)

The great Sierra redwoods have a different tree-ring pattern than does the bristlecone pine, and the other two cases mentioned by Weber probably have yet another pattern. Thus, because of the completely different environments in which these trees live, their tree-ring patterns do not directly correlate with each other. However, as Weber notes, the carbon-14 dating method bridges these differences. In other words, a specific date, say 200 AD, can be located in a redwood, a bristlecone pine, and a douglass fir by counting their tree-rings. A carbon-14 test can then be made on the wood of each of those three tree-rings to see whether they really do point to one date, namely 200 AD. (Actually, carbon-14 dating is not that precise, so a carbon-14 date really corresponds to a small range of tree-ring dates.) Thus, since this test has been passed, we not only have a partial check on the carbon-14 method, itself, but we have additional proof of the accuracy of tree-ring dating. We now have several species of trees whose ring counts agree with each other.

Our confidence in tree-ring dating is, therefore, established beyond a reasonable doubt. Dr. Hovind must now explain how it was that groves of bristlecone pine trees were living in the White Mountains before Noah's flood! Did all the antediluvian bristlecone pines just happen to collect in the White Mountains after the flood, perhaps to miraculously take root? Even that straw is fatally flawed. A new generation of bristlecone pines, starting from scratch as it were, would have no overlapping tree-rings with respect to their antediluvian cousins. Overlapping tree-rings means a shared environment, and any tree which has grown in both the antediluvian environment and the modern environment is a tree which has survived Noah's flood.

Thus, we begin with trees that are supposedly designed for a tropical, lowland, pre-flood environment. Those poor trees are then uprooted and churned about in salt water for a year, in a flood loaded with grinding sediments--a flood that was violent enough to rip up the earth's crust and pulverize great rocks. Those trees then float around, at least those that can still float, buried in mats of decaying vegetation for weeks or months. Unlike other mats of vegetation, which are buried and become instant, coal seams, they are dumped on mountain peaks where extremes of temperature, harsh winds, and desert-like conditions now prevail much of the year. Finally, enough of those trees survive to produce scattered forests, which grow nowhere else to this very day. Fortunately, that is something best explained by creationists. While at it, they might also explain why there is no dramatic difference between the antediluvian tree-ring pattern, supposedly grown under lush, tropical conditions, and the present day tree-ring pattern which reflects a harsh, dry environment. One would expect to see a dramatic change between big, fat tree-rings and thin, hard ones upon crossing that boundary in the tree-ring sequence! Nothing of the sort is found in the 8000-year-old, tree-ring history of the bristlecone pine.

Nor are the bristlecone pines the only plants with a history refuting Noah's flood!

The King Clone creosote bush, today a patch of shrubbery 70 by 25 feet in the Mojave Desert about 80 miles northeast of Los Angeles, goes back 11,700 years! (This item comes from The Washington Post, December 10, 1984 and was noted in the Creation/Evolution Newsletter of November-December, 1984.) The evergreen shrub is called a creosote bush because it has a pungent odor like that of creosote, an oily liquid produced from coal tar.

Frank C. Vasek, a botany professor at the Riverside campus of the University of California, who found the bush, has determined that the patch of shrubbery originally began as a single plant sprouting from one seed. As the plant grew outward the interior portions died out, thus leaving a huge ring with each clump becoming a clone of the first growth. I guess Noah's flood didn't bother this desert shrub any! Did I say "desert shrub?" What is a desert doing in the supposedly tropical antediluvian world?

The government (the Department of the Interior) puts out a booklet entitled "Tree Rings: Timekeepers of the Past," which is a highly readable presentation of the basic facts of tree ring dating. (Look under "U.S. Government" in the bibliography.)

Young-earth "proof" #28: The oldest historical records go back less than 6000 years.

28. What does the age of the oldest known historical records have to do with the age of the earth? If, in fact, they go back 6000 years, what of it?

Records couldn't be kept until writing was invented. Of course, we do have cave art which goes back 20,000-30,000 years, but I guess that doesn't count!

As long as man lived by hunting and gathering there really wasn't much need for dissertations and record-keeping. The invention of agriculture, of course, eventually concentrated humanity into centers that, in turn, gave rise to cities ruled by kings, and the state began to collect taxes. Bureaucrats have a great need for records! Trading between organized states also presented a need for records. As a result, the art of writing evolved. People eventually discovered that writing was good for other things, and written accounts of mythology and the affairs of state developed.

Consequently, historical records entered the scene quite late in man's existence. How Dr. Hovind gets a young-earth out of that is beyond me!

Young-earth "proof" #29: The dates in the Bible add up to about 6000 years.

29. The biblical figure, unfortunately, is based on patriarchal life spans to which no right-thinking person could subscribe. You have to be pretty deep into biblical infallibility before you can make yourself believe that individuals once lived upwards of 900 years! Claims about the magical effects of vapor canopies and tropical living don't impress anyone who has the slightest understanding of the aging process.

More to the point, the patriarchal ages are nothing more than a modified version of an old Babylonian myth!

2. The Ages of the Patriarches ... are the modest Hebrew equivalents of the much longer life-spans attributed by the Babylonians to their antediluvian kings. The first five names will suffice as examples: Alulim reigned 28,800 years, Alamar 36,000, Enmenluanna 43,200, Enmenluanna 28,800, Dumuzi the Shepherd 36,000, etc. These Babylonian lists, a version of which is recorded also by Berosus, have one feature in common with the Biblical list of patriarches: they both attribute extremely long life-spans to the earliest figures, then shorter, but still unrealistically long, lives to the later ones, until the historical period is reached when both kings and patriarches are cut down to human size. In the ancient Near East, where longevity was considered man's greatest blessing, the quasi-divine character of early mythical kings and patriarches is indicated by a ten-fold, hundred-fold or thousand-fold multiplication of their reigns or ages.

(Graves and Patai, 1989, pp.132-133)

The source Lloyd Bailey uses (Text W-B 62, Sumerian King List) yields even higher ages for some of the pre-diluvian kings of Mesopotamia (Bailey, 1989, p.123). It is interesting to note that Genesis has the same number of antediluvian kings, namely tem. Bailey spends several pages examining the figures of Genesis and of the above text, often turning up interesting subleties and odd relationships which expose the artificial nature of the biblical ages assigned to the patriarches.

Thus, we see the true source of the great ages of those biblical patriarches. Their ages are simply a Hebrew version of an older Mesopotamian tradition, which is to say that they are historically fictitious, that they are endowed with symbolic meanings.

Therefore, the biblical age of the earth is a product of the literary reworking of a Mesopotamian tradition and not the result of a factual estimate. The patriarches' ages were selected with symbolic meanings in mind, and any attempt to turn them into an estimate of the earth's age would be most unwise.

Young-earth "proof" #30: Many ancient cultures have stories of an original creation in the recent past. This is because the earth really is young.

30. Some creation myths are set in the mists of time, and no date can be affixed. The Australian aborigine, for example, speaks of a primeval dream-time. Some eastern religions speak of a creation cycle much older than 6000 years. Other cultures, I suspect, use or once used a more recent date. Thus, we have a spread of dates, to the extent that a date can be applied.

No tribe is going to have memories of the hundreds of thousands of years that Homo sapiens has been on this planet! An ancient, quite naturally, would have assumed that his tribe or city-state began its ascent shortly after the world began. Memory, even if boosted by imagination, is not likely to go back more than several thousand years. Ditto for the age of the world as given by most myths.


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