Compiled from the ASA Listserv
Report: The Denver RATE Conference (Thousands ... Not Billions)
Steven M. Smith, Geologist
"Thousands ... not
Billions" Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth (RATE) Conference Colorado
Community Church, Denver, Colorado
September 15, 2007 (8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.)
[Editorial Note: The following summary was compiled from my
personal handwritten notes. I do not have a recording or transcript of the
conference. Statements in "quotes" represent, to the best of my
ability, the gist of what was said, if not actual sentences and phrases. I have
tried not to interject my own ideas, opinions, or evaluations of the conference.
Some personal descriptions of people and events are included to give a flavor of
the atmosphere and audience responses. In a few cases, I have felt the need to
clarify ideas or statements by enclosing comments in [brackets]. Without doubt,
some bias in these notes is inevitable since they represent only the points that
I thought were pertinent enough to record.]
On Saturday, September 15, 2007, I attended the "Thousands ... not Billions" Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth (RATE) Conference held at the Colorado Community Church in Denver. The following summary was compiled from my personal handwritten notes. I do not have a recording or transcript of the conference. Statements in "quotes" represent, to the best of my ability, the gist of what was said, if not actual sentences and phrases. I have tried not to interject my own ideas, opinions, or evaluations of the conference. Some personal descriptions of people and events are included to give a flavor of the atmosphere and audience responses. In a few cases, I have felt the need to clarify ideas or statements by enclosing comments in [brackets]. Without doubt, some bias in these notes is inevitable since they represent only the points that I thought were pertinent enough to record.
I arrived at the church at about 8:00 to get a ticket ($25) and a seat. In the foyer of the church were two long tables with Institute of Creation Research (ICR) literature for sale. The material ranged from Duane Gish's "Are You Brainwashed" (a cartoon pamphlet in the style of Chick publications) to a variety of DVDs (Grand Canyon, Mt. St. Helens, Starlight & Time, etc.); from "Darwin's Black Box" by Michael Behe to prepackaged sets of books by Henry Morris. There was also a large selection of RATE publications – the RATE I technical volume ($35), the RATE II technical volume ($80), and the layman's summary book, a DVD, and a study guide all entitled, "Thousands ... Not Billions."
In addition to the official ICR "bookstore", there was also some information from other local Creationist groups and ministries. There was a table with newsletters from the local "Rocky Mountain Christian Fellowship" (http://www.youngearth.org). And there was another display from a local pastor and editor of "Discovery News: A Publication of Significant Archeological Discoveries" (http://www.DiscoveryNews.us). I picked up a free copy of the Discovery News. It trumpeted the news about discoveries of human footprints with dinosaur tracks along the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas; showed pictures of decaying plesiosaurus carcasses snagged by a Japanese trawler or washed up on shore; and touted the archeological discovery of Noah's Ark by Ron Wyatt. This pastor was also advertising their weekly Awana Boys & Girls Club with a Poster Coloring Contest called, "Why do we find dinosaur and human footprints together in the same rock formation?"
Once in the sanctuary, we found more "free" literature set out on our seats for every attendee: the two most recent ICR Acts & Facts magazines plus the last book written by the late Henry Morris – a small 48-page booklet entitled "Some Call It Science: The Religion of Evolution." The sanctuary was semi-circular with a raised dais in front on which there was a small lectern and a table with four chairs. High above the dais were two projection screens set at opposite angles so that at least one screen was visible from anywhere in the sanctuary.
The attendance or registration numbers for the conference were not announced. Estimates that I have heard ranged from 750-800 people. The conference had been advertised nationally in ICR publications and locally on Christian radio stations, in flyers at churches, and by young-earth creationist (YEC) organizations. It appeared to me that a large number of the audience came because of the local advertising. However, there were a significant number of people from outside of the Denver area and even from the surrounding states.
At 8:30 a.m., Lawrence Ford began by outlining the schedule of events and pushing literature at the book tables. He recommended that we purchase several copies of the RATE Thousands ... not Billions book so that we could spread the word of the RATE successes because the "science community is suppressing the RATE studies." Lawrence asked that we not videotape the conference since RATE DVDs were available at the book tables. (Therefore I do not have a recording or transcript of this specific conference; only my hastily scribbled notes.)
We were also introduced to Brian Catalucci, president of the local Rocky Mountain Creation Fellowship (RMCF). Brian shared with us details of the monthly RMCF meetings (Kurt Wise will be the featured speaker in October) and then wished us "Happy Adam's Birthday." The RMCF has started or become involved in a project to declare the weekend following Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, as Creation Weekend (in contrast to Darwin Sunday in February). More details can be found at http://www.creationweekend.com.
Dr. Gary Parker – Introduction of RATE Team/Research Summary
Finally at almost 9:00 a.m., after opening prayer by the pastor of Colorado Community Church, we were introduced to our first RATE speaker, Dr. Gary Parker. Dr. Parker has been with ICR for 31 years and lives in Arcadia, Florida where he runs the Creation Adventures Museum (http://CreationAdventuresMuseum.org). He also is a featured speaker and consultant for Answers in Genesis and their museum.
The purpose of this first talk was to set the stage for why a Young Earth was such a critical doctrine for Christians and how RATE science was taking the offensive against secular science. Parker started with his testimony. Originally he was a biology professor at a Christian college and an evolutionist that delighted in attacking Christian students in his classes. For Parker, struggle and death made it impossible to be an evolutionist and a Christian. It was at a bible study led by a fellow Chemistry professor, that Parker found the Lord, YEC, the Genesis flood, and a literal Bible.
Dr. Gary Parker was personable speaker with a big smile and a chuckle (picture available at http://www.answersingenesis.org/events/bio.aspx?Speaker_ID=29). He was enthusiastic and humorous – usually at the expense of scientists, evolutionists, and compromisers (old-earth creationists, ID theorists, theistic evolutionists). His talk was a series of stories. I did not take notes on his stories but simply noted some of his main points. Therefore the following paraphrased quotes may not seem like a coherent argument.
"We live in a corrupted Creation. According to the Bible, there's a perfect start and a perfect end – but we live in the middle."
"Live by God's Word, not man's opinion. The biggest temptation is the one used on Eve in the Garden of Eden: God gave you a brain – use it."
"The creation/evolution issue is not a side issue; it is a fundamental salvation issue. Evolution is an enormous stumbling block and 'millions-of-years' is a big part of the problem."
"The lawyer-geologist Lyell was responsible for starting to stretch the time frame and generating disrespect for God's Word. Darwin would never have published his book if Lyell hadn't given him all that time."
"Time is a characteristic of God. He does things instantly."
"I was saved from the vagaries of man's opinion."
"Our job is not to interpret the Bible – we take it as it is. Interpretation means to take the words and make them mean something different."
"Radioisotope dating has problems. In the Grand Canyon there is a sill, Bass Sill, in the bottom of that canyon that evolutionists say is old. Yet there are lava flows on the rim and spilling into the canyon with radioisotope dates older than Bass Sill. So, according to evolutionists, the Grand Canyon formed upside down!"
"When I was an evolutionist, my biggest objection to the Flood and a Young Earth was radioactive dating. The RATE program began in 1997 to answer these objections."
"Evolutionary Radioisotopic Dating: The faith the facts have failed. The Bible: The faith that fits the facts."
Denver RATE Conference (Thousands ... Not Billions)
Dr. John Baumgardner -Coal & Diamonds Contain Evidence for Recent Formation
At 9:30 a.m., Dr. Gary Parker (the previous speaker-see part 1) introduced us directly to the next speaker; Dr. John Baumgardner. We were told that Baumgardner had a PhD. in Geophysics & Space Physics from UCLA, had worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory until he retired, was world famous for his supercomputer modeling work on Plate Tectonics (even featured in a US World & News article), now works full time with the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) where he has set up a supercomputer for use in Creationist research, and would be speaking to us about his own Carbon-14 (C14) dating research for the ICR Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth (RATE) project.
The initial PowerPoint slide for his talk had the title, "Evidence for a Young Earth: C-14 in Coal & Diamonds". In our conference schedule/brochure we were given his "Main Points" and some "Technical Definitions" that are reproduced here ...
* Large amounts of Carbon-14 found in coal and diamonds support a young earth and the Biblical account of Noah's Flood
* CARBON-14: a short-lived isotope used for dating organic materials like fossils (Carbon-14 has a half-live of 5,730 years)
* HALF-LIFE: the amount of time it takes for half of the mass of an isotope to decay radioactively
* UNIFORMITARIANISM: the belief that geological processes have always been of the same kind and intensity; implies vast amounts of geologic time
Dr. John Baumgardner began with his testimony: At the age of 26 he was converted during a Bible study of the first gospel of John. He had grown up in a non-Christian home – his father was an agnostic college professor.
Before his conversion, Baumgardner was an evolutionist but by 6 months afterwards he had decided that evolution was false. During a weekend Creationist conference by Henry Morris & Duane Gish in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Baumgardner was exposed to scientific evidence for the Genesis Flood and became a Young Earth Creationist (YEC). Soon after that he became a Campus Crusades lecturer for YEC.
Baumgardner was a pleasant and engaging speaker; especially as he shared his testimony. However as his talk became more technical, his speech was more dry and less dynamic (approaching monotonic) and filled with hesitations and 'uhs'. Of the four RATE research speakers that day, Baumgardner was the least dynamic and hardest to follow. Despite this, his talk was very effective – in part, I believe, by the scheduling of his lecture. As the first technical lecture of the day, people were eager to hear the science and paid close attention. Had he been later in the day, such as the first speaker after lunch, I believe his message would have been less effective. As it was, during some of the more technical parts of his talk you could see puzzled looks and furrowed brows on faces in the audience. Then he would recast his point in simplified English and you would see the faces change with relief and perceived understanding.
When Baumgardner became a YEC, he realized that the Genesis Flood had to be a tectonic catastrophe and not just a lot of water. This led him to pursue his PhD. at UCLA to study the relationship between Plate Tectonics & the Flood. He was able to continue this research during the time that he worked at Los Alamos. His recent research is on radiocarbon dating but this study was added late to the RATE project and thus wasn't included to any great detail in the first RATE technical volume (RATE I book). However, enough work has now been done on C14 dating that he could share the major conclusions with us: "The mere presence of C14 in fossils show that they must only be a few thousands years old! We need more laborers to communicate the success of the RATE C14 studies."
At this point, the talk became more technical. First he set the stage by explaining some of the basics of Carbon-14 dating (NOTE: I am reproducing here the numbers and explanations that Baumgardner gave. I did not attempt to check, corroborate, or correct these statements except as noted in [brackets]): 90% of the world's carbon is the stable isotope Carbon-12 (C12) which has 6 neutrons. [He did not mention that C12 also has 6 protons and that 6 protons + 6 neutrons = C12.] There is another stable carbon isotope, C13, which has 7 neutrons. C14 has 8 neutrons (instead of 6), is unstable or radioactive with a half-life of 5,730 years, and decays back to Nitrogen-14 (N14) by emitting a beta particle. The current ratio of C14 to C12 in the atmosphere is 1:1.2 trillion (1 atom of C14 for every 1.2 trillion atoms of C12). C14 is constantly being produced in the atmosphere as high energy protons in cosmic rays hit an air molecule (either nitrogen or oxygen) to produce neutrons. These neutrons interact with N14 to produce C14 and a proton. This atmospherically-produced C14 is taken up by all living organisms (as carbon dioxide and in the food they consume). At death, the organism stops ingesting C14, the C14/C12 ratio is set, and contained C14 begins to decay back to N14. Therefore if we know the initial C14/C12 ratio, the half-life of C14, and measure the remaining amount of C14, we can calculate the time that has passed since the death of the organism.
Baumgardner said that there are 3 assumptions made for C14 dating.(1) The original C14 content in the atmosphere is known; (2) No exchange of carbon with surrounding material (he noted that this was difficult to guarantee); and (3) The C14 decay rate hasn't changed.
Next we received an explanation (with PowerPoint diagrams) of the different types of instrumentation that are used to detect C14 in a sample. I will not include those details here. Suffice it to say that there is an older methodology that can measure C14 up to about 9 or 10 half-lives (~55,000 - 60,000 years or 55-60 ka) and a newer methodology called Accelerated Mass Spectrometry (AMS) that is more sensitive and can go to about 17 half-lives or 100 ka.
Baumgardner then emphasized some points so that we could appreciate the impact of the RATE conclusions. I will quote statements here from my notes.
"C14 has a half life of 5,730 years. One million years is about 175 half-lives. No C14 on Earth could be 1 million years old. Finding C14 in anything older than 1 million years, unless it has been contaminated, is beyond unthinkable. Yet C14 is present in all fossil organic material. This was well documented in standard radiocarbon literature before RATE."
We were then shown a couple of unreadable PowerPoint slides with a table (in a very small font) listing 90 different old C14-tested samples with dates (or measurements?) and reference citations to the standard literature to prove his last point. Baumgardner assured us that we didn't need to actually read these slides since the same table was reproduced in his chapter within the RATE II technical volume. [Only $80 at the ICR bookstore in the lobby! And since every volume was shrink-wrapped, I couldn't see the table in his chapter without buying the book.]
"Even though these samples are old (over 1 M.Y.?), the average C14 age is 50,000 years. 50,000 years is 16 times the AMS lower detection limit [and therefore, by implication, should be accurate]. The AMS detection limit is 1/100,000."
This part was very confusing – mainly because he was throwing numbers at us fast and not being careful with units. Therefore alarm bells were going off in my mind saying that things weren't adding up but I couldn't do the math in my head quick enough to figure it out at the time so I just scribbled my notes. [As I understand it, the AMS doesn't measure and report C14 years; I believe AMS reports C14/C ratios which are then plugged into an equation to get dates.]
Baumgardner continued: There was a "frantic quest in the laboratories to find sources of C14 contamination." This led to all those papers in the radiocarbon literature. After eliminating or accounting for all known sources of C14 contamination, the labs attributed the remainder of C14 to 'in-situ' contamination; C14 that was actually in the sample. Now the laboratories subtract a "standard background from the actual C14 measurement that is equal to about 40,000 years." The laboratories do this to "avoid the embarrassing reality that essentially all fossil carbon contains C14."
A PowerPoint slide was put up with a quote from Bird, M.I. et al., 1999, Radiocarbon dating of "old" charcoal using a wet oxidation, stepped-combustion procedure: Radiocarbon v. 41, p.127-140. I could not write the quote fast enough so I just wrote down the reference. I reproduce the quote here directly from the source. [This quote may be longer or shorter than that given on the slide.]
"Detecting sample contamination and verifying the reliability of the ages produced also become more difficult as the age of the sample increases. In practice this means that many laboratories will only quote C14 ages to about 40 ka BP (thousands of C14 years Before Present), with ages greater than this generally considered to be 'infinite', or indistinguishable from procedural blanks. This so-called 'radiocarbon barrier' and the difficulty of ensuring that ages are reliable at <1% modern carbon levels has limited research in many disciplines."
Baumgardner's response to this quote was that the "radiocarbon barrier is a convenient fiction."
Baumgardner related how they had obtained 10 coal samples from the Penn State University Energy Institute Coal Sample Archive that ranged in age from Paleozoic to Mesozoic to Cenozoic. These samples were sent to a professional radiocarbon dating laboratory. Each sample was analyzed 4 times. We were shown a PowerPoint table with the results: All samples were between 44.5-57.x ka and the average age was 49,600 years.
"Our results confirmed what is already in the literature. There were no significant differences between all ages of coal; therefore all plants in these coal beds grew and died at the same time. The only explanation is Noah's Flood."
"There are no modern analogs to coal forming today. Some of the coals have articulated dinosaurs. Some dinosaurs have been found with soft tissue in their bones. All of these things point to a recent cataclysm 'thousands ... not billions' of years ago."
This pronouncement brought scattered applause from the audience but there was also some muttering about 50,000 years. Baumgardner then told us that the pre-flood world had a lot more available carbon in the biomass than in today's world – after all just look at all of the carbon contained in coal, petroleum, and carbonates that were all deposited at the same time in the geologic record by Noah's Flood. This excess carbon may have diluted the C14 in the pre-flood world such that the initial C14/C12 ratio would be a lot smaller; perhaps by a factor of 100 - 500 times. If we plug a conservative estimate of a 100-fold dilution factor for pre-flood initial C14/C12 ratios into the dating formula, then these 50,000-year C14 dates are really equal to about 5,000 years. Thus C14 gives us an approximate date for Noah's flood at 5,000 years ago. At this point, there was enthusiastic applause accompanied by scattered shouts of "Hallelujah!" from the audience.
But this wasn't the end of his talk. In additional to coal, "C14 has been found in Precambrian graphite, marble, and calcite." Therefore with their coal samples, RATE included a diamond in their initial submission for C14 dating. Although the lab had trouble analyzing the diamond, eventually they returned a date that was just about the same as the coal samples.
"Diamonds are thought to be 1 to 3 billion years old. And because of high bond strength, diamond is almost impossible to contaminate."
So Baumgardner obtained 6 African diamonds from deep mines and submitted them for C14 dating. These diamonds gave the "same results that are already in the literature." So why is there C14 in 1 to 3 billion-year-old diamonds? (1) Perhaps it is "primordial C14" from the moment of creation; or (2) Perhaps 'Accelerated Nuclear Decay' during the Flood generated high levels of neutrons that created C14 in the diamonds. Today's levels of neutrons in the mines are 10,000 to 100,000 times to low to create this much C14.
Finally, the conclusions slide for the talk told us ...
* Uniformitarianism is highly vulnerable to challenge
* Coal proves that there was a 5,000-year-old flood
* Diamonds prove 'Accelerated Nuclear Decay' during the Flood
* Therefore the Bible is true after all!
These conclusions were enthusiastically received by the audience.
At 10:30, we were released for a sorely-needed break. The crowds at the ICR literature tables were only exceeded by the lines into the bathrooms. Free doughnuts and bottled water were available for a snack.
Denver RATE Conference (Thousands ... Not Billions)
Dr. Russell Humphreys – Helium Diffusion Dates Rocks
at 6,000 Years
Its 11:00 a.m. Our half-hour break is over and Lawrence Ford is introducing the next RATE speaker, Dr. Russell Humphreys:
"Dr. Humphreys has a PhD from Louisiana State and has worked at the Sandia National Laboratory until recently when he joined the Institute of Creation Research (ICR) full time. He has studied sodium accumulation rates in the oceans and is the author of the book "Starlight and Time". This book answers those questions about how starlight has reached us from stars that evolutions say are millions of light years away. Today, we only have one of his books remaining. I have it here. I will make it available to the first person to see me during lunch time or you can order it online from the bookstore at www.icr.org. We still have several of Dr. Humphreys' Starlight and Time DVDs available at the book tables in the lobby."
Here are the "Main Points" and "Technical Definitions" given in our conference schedule/brochure for Dr. Humphreys' talk ...
* Helium leaks from radioactive crystals show that the earth is only 6,000 +/- 2,000 years old
* "1.5 Billion" years worth of radioactive decay took place within 6,000 years
* This speed-up decay collapses the alleged "billions of years" of geology down to thousands of years
* HELIUM DIFFUSION: essentially the "leakage" of helium out of material, in this case, zircon crystals
* ZIRCON: a crystal (of zirconium and silicon atoms) in granite. Often contains radioactive uranium atoms, thus making it an important mineral for dating by radioactivity
* RADIOACTIVITY: the violent emission of particles from the nuclei of atoms
* ACCELERATED DECAY: a drastic speed-up of radioactivity during episodes of earth's history
Following his introduction, Humphreys gives us his testimony. He was saved in 1969 at the age of 27 in a Bible study on the Gospel of Mark conducted near Lake Dillon in Summit County, Colorado. Before his conversion, he was an atheist – a hard-core atheist. Like many of the other speakers, Humphreys comes across as a likeable, personable speaker with a sense of humor. He is distinguished looking with white hair and a nicely trimmed white beard and mustache.
Humphreys starts with his conclusion slide. "Helium leakage from radioactive zircons deflates "billion of years". Next we are treated to an introduction to zircons. Zircons are tiny crystals commonly found in granites – more specifically as inclusions inside of larger biotite mica crystals. Small zircons may only be a few microns in size ("a germ is about 1 micron"). Large zircons are prized as gemstones and even referred to as "jacinth" in the Bible. When zircons crystallize, they often incorporate radioactive uranium and thorium atoms because these elements are chemically similar to zirconium. A zircon crystal can contain up to 4% uranium and thorium. Lead atoms, however, are not chemically similar to zirconium atoms and are excluded from zircon crystals ("zircons love uranium and hate lead"). Therefore, almost all of the lead found in zircons is the result of the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium. This makes zircon a perfect crystal for radioisotopic dating.
Every radioactive uranium-238 atom (U238) decays to a lead-206 atom (Pb206) through a decay chain that produces 8 alpha particles. These alpha particles pick up a few electrons and become helium atoms [Note: I will continue to spell out 'helium' in this report rather than use the correct element symbol of 'He' to avoid confusion with the common pronoun 'he'.] Therefore you get 8 helium atoms for every Pb206 atom present in a zircon. Helium atoms are tiny and will eventually diffuse (leak) out of the zircon crystal lattice. Helium is "slippery". It is a noble gas and doesn't react or bond with anything in the crystal. The hotter the zircon crystals are, the faster they leak helium.
In 1974, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) drilled a deep borehole 2.6 miles (4.3 km) into granodiorite (a type of granite) to explore the underground heat there and see if it could be used for geothermal energy. Zircons in granite from this rock core were dated at 1.5 billion years using the uranium/lead dating method. Robert Gentry, of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, also extracted zircons from the granites and measured higher than expected amounts of helium retained in the crystals.
Based on Gentry's data and a report about argon (another noble gas) diffusion in biotite, Humphreys did some calculations and predicted helium diffusion (leakage) rates [... in zircon? ... or in biotite? ... this point was not clear in his talk.] for a 6,000-year Creation time frame and for a 1.5 billion-year uniformitarian time frame. These calculations were done in 1998 and published as a diagram in the first RATE technical volume (fig. 7, p. 348,http://www.icr.org/pdf/research/rate-all.pdf).
After apologizing for showing a data plot to the audience, Humphreys spent about 5 minutes explaining (in very simplified terms) how the graph was made and what the implications of the diagram were. In short, the diagram was an X-Y plot of "Leak Rates" on the X axis versus increasing temperatures on the Y axis. There were two curves on the plot – one for leakage rates based on 6,000 years and one for leakage rates based on 1.5 billion years over the same temperature range. We were told that the difference in leakage rates between the two calculations was a factor of 100,000. Humphreys also said that "leak rates differ drastically between different minerals."
So after publishing their predictions (in RATE vol. I), RATE obtained samples of the granodiorite from the LANL drillhole [... from LANL or from Gentry?] and extracted zircons. The zircon crystals were sieved to obtain only those between 50 and 75 microns since smaller zircons would not retain as much helium as larger ones. RATE then submitted these zircons anonymously through an intermediary (a legitimate mining company) to a helium diffusion specialist for measurement of leakage rates. When the data came back, Humphreys plotted it up and [slide changes to show new graph] the new points plot EXACTLY on top of the predicted 6,000 year leakage rates! This brought renewed applause, cheers, & hallelujahs from the audience. So based upon the helium diffusion data, the average leak age for those zircons is 6,000 +/- 2,000 years.
At this point, Humphreys told us that there have been some RATE critics and that they are always looking for 'loopholes' in the RATE studies. There are 5 alleged loopholes that critics have proposed in order to ignore the results of the helium diffusion data. "They seem to think that these are problems that we have never thought of or addressed!", he said. These alleged loopholes are ...
(1) What if the zircon temperatures were cooler than you modeled?
Response: Well we extrapolated the actual helium diffusion rate data down to a temperature at which the rates would match the 1.5 billion year curve. Here is what the graph would look like. (Humphreys showed an extended version of the graph with a straight line extrapolation.) You would need to lower the temperature to -78 degrees Celsius to get the diffusion rates predicted by 1.5 billion years! (Here there was laughter from the audience at those stupid critics.) No one would accept temperatures that low down 2.6 miles in the crust! In fact, since this was a volcanic area, uniformitarianists would suggest that the temperature was once even hotter here.
(2) Maybe the helium entered the zircons from outside.
Response: This is impossible. The laws of diffusion tell us that helium will only diffuse from areas of high concentration into areas of low concentration. The amount of helium in the zircons is about 800,000 trillion atoms/cubic centimeter. The amount of helium in the surrounding biotite is about 4,000 trillion atoms/cc. Therefore the flow of helium will be from the zircons into the biotite. In fact, the total amount of helium in the biotite is about equal to the total loss from the zircons.
(3) Your experimental design was wrong for measuring realistic helium diffusion rates. You measured helium diffusion rates from zircons in a vacuum while in reality those zircons came from an area of high pressure 2.6 miles deep in the crust.
Response: We had the diffusion rates measured by an independent helium diffusion expert. They use a vacuum chamber in the laboratory because it is easier and because in doesn't make a difference in zircons. One thousand times atmospheric pressure doesn't affect zircons. Zircon doesn't compress, it is a hard resistant mineral. Pressure does matter in biotite. Some of our critics are using a bait and switch argument [... using biotite numbers when talking about zircon? I didn't quite get this line written down in my notes.] You can read more of our response to our critics at TrueOrigin.com
(4) Helium diffusion rates change with increasing radiation damage. Young zircons are pure with little or no defects. Radiation damage builds with time. Your zircons have 1.5 billion years worth of radiation damage. The diffusion rates will be higher.
Response: This may be true but it doesn't matter. Radiation damage in zircons changes the results only by a factor of 2. Our results are 100,000 times different than the 1.5 billion-year values.
(5) Helium is "slippery". [I didn't follow his description of this argument well and have no explanatory notes.]
Response: This argument uses my own words. I describe helium as "slippery". The argument has no merit. I only mention it because it comes from a prominent Old-Earth organization based in Los Angeles.
Looking at the clock, Humphreys apparently realizes that he only has a few minutes left before lunch. The next few slides and statements were delivered quickly with less coherent argument: The real problem is this. We have two clocks in these zircon crystals and they disagree. We have the helium diffusion clock that says 6,000 years and we have the uranium/lead decay clock that says 1.5 billion years. What is the solution? We are suggesting "accelerated nuclear decay." "Accelerated nuclear decay only messes with the inside of an atom. Changing diffusion rates would change basic chemistry and that has some nasty biochemical implications."
So, one of our conclusions is that "over a billion years worth of nuclear decay occurred during the past 6,000 years." What caused this? "I think God did it." "We also think that decay rates changed drastically for slow decay [radioisotopes] and less for fast decay [radioisotopes]. See the ICR Impact 402 article from December 2006 [http://www.icr.org/article/3131/]. Some free copies of this article are available on a table in the lobby. Also see our technical article in the Creation Research Society Quarterly for June 2004 (http://CreationResearch.org).
RATE scientists went to the 2003 AGU conference in San Francisco and presented 3 posters – One each by Snelling, Baumgardner, and Humphreys. "A lot of people came by to talk about our work. Most were polite. Some older scientists would disagree and would walk away with a disapproving grunt. Many of the younger scientists would stand around and listen." See the RATE page on the web for our posters.
To those who would criticize RATE, I would say that "you MUST read the RATE II technical report before criticizing." This "includes information about the problem of excess heat." You need to read the end of [my?] chapter for a discussion on heat."
The "bottom line" is this: "RATE helium diffusion experiments support the young world of the Scriptures."
And with that, almost exactly at 12:00 noon, Lawrence Ford dismissed us for a box lunch that was included in the $25 price of admission – chicken sandwiches from "Chick-fil-A", chips, a cookie, and soda pop. Members of the local Rocky Mountain Creation Fellowship also provided a couple of sheet cakes so that we could celebrate "Adam's Birthday" on Creation Weekend (corresponding to the Jewish New Year holiday of Rosh Hashanah.)
Denver RATE Conference (Thousands ... Not Billions)
Dr. Donald DeYoung – Rocks Contain Evidence for Accelerated Decay
The lunch break lasted for a full hour. Since a box lunch was included in the price of the ticket and since there were no other facilities nearby, there was nothing to do once you finished eating but to check out the ICR book tables for the third time. The selection was getting slim.
At 1:00 p.m. the conference resumed. The first order of business was to introduce the entire RATE team. There were eight RATE researchers. We had already met two. Dr. John Baumgardner (Ph.D. Geophysics & Space Physics; Institute of Creation Research (ICR); RATE study – Carbon-14) & Dr. Russell Humphreys (Ph.D. Physics; ICR; Helium Diffusion). Five researchers were not present at the conference: Dr. Steven A. Austin (Ph. D. Geology; ICR; Discordance/Radioisotope Dating), Dr. Steven Boyd (Ph.D. Hebraic & Cognate Studies; The Master's College; Analysis of Hebrew Texts), Dr. Eugene Chaffin (Ph.D. Theoretical Nuclear Physics; Bob Jones University; Accelerated Nuclear Decay), Dr. Andrew Snelling (Ph.D. Geology; ICR; Radiohalos and Fission Tracks), & Dr. Larry Vardiman (Ph.D. Atmospheric Science; ICR; Team Chairman/Editor).
It was time to hear from the last RATE team member. Dr. Donald DeYoung has a Ph.D. in Physics and teaches at Grace College in Warsaw, Indiana. DeYoung is also the current president of Creation Science Fellowship, a 1,700 member organization of which 600 hold Master's degrees or higher. His role on the RATE team was to write the layman's book, "Thousands...Not Billions" that summarizes all of the different studies in the project. This apparently was also DeYoung's role at the conference: His job was to summarize all of the other RATE studies.
The "Main Points" and "Technical Definitions" for Dr. DeYoung's talk given in our conference schedule/brochure were ...
* Polonium radiohalos formed rapidly under catastrophic conditions
* Their formation is strong evidence for accelerated decay
* RADIOHALOS: a zone of discoloration surrounding zircons caused by radioactive decay
* DAUGHTER ISOTOPE: the isotope produced by the radioactive decay of a "parent" isotope (e.g., uranium (parent) decays into lead (daughter))
Like each of the preceding speakers, DeYoung began with his testimony: He became a Christian while in High School but went to an engineering college where his faith was shaken by findings of science. It was in a seminar while DeYoung was in grad school that he was introduced to Young-Earth Creationism (YEC). "Creationism is such a refreshing alternative to the secular scientific worldview."
Once he finished his testimony and began his RATE talk, I realized that DeYoung was reading his lecture to us. It was a good delivery but he spoke very fast. He apparently had a lot of ground to cover and a short time to get it all out. I wrote notes as fast as I could.
"The RATE effort is to take a serious look at radioisotopic dating and to give a credible alternative."
"During our research we found lots of evidence for nuclear decay." This evidence included fission tracks, radiohalos, and discordant dates. RATE proposes an "unconvential idea" to explain all of this decay. There was a "temporary, large scale, acceleration of nuclear decay" (involving the large scale reduction of half-life decay rates). This episode or episodes of accelerated nuclear decay involves space as well – the whole Creation.
DeYoung tackled the topic of fission tracks first. 99% of all natural uranium is the isotope U-238. The parent U-238 goes through a chain of decays (giving off those 8 alpha particles or helium atoms discussed by Dr. Humphreys) to become the daughter Pb206 isotope. However, a small portion of U-238 spontaneously undergoes a fission reaction splitting the atom into two fragments that leave tracks of damage as they tear through the crystal structure. As an analogy, the particles are like a runaway truck plowing through a parking lot of parked cars leaving a trail of damage behind. The number of tracks in a mineral crystal (typically zircon) is proportional to the amount of total U-238 decay. "Fission track dating has been available for 50 years." You simply separate out the zircon crystals, attach them to a microscope slide, grind them down to expose an interior surface and then etch them in acid to enlarge the tracks. The number of tracks counted per a known surface area is proportional to the length of time during which the tracks accumulated. These "fission tracks will disappear if heated".
Zircon crystals are commonly used for fission track dating. They are resistant to weathering and change. DeYoung even mentioned the Australian zircons that were recently dated as 4.3 billion years old. [This fact brought snorts of derision from some of the audience.]
According to the Creation model, the Flood occurred about 4,500 years ago and there were episodes of volcanic eruption during the Flood. So RATE sampled volcanic tuffs [deposits of volcanic ash] at various levels for zircon crystals. The sampled locations include ...
* A tuff in the Tapeats Sandstone within the Grand Canyon. This Paleozoic rock is considered by RATE to be an "early Flood" rock. Zircons within this tuff have 500 million years of decay at today's rates.
* A tuff in the Morrison Formation near Blanding, Utah. This Mesozoic rock is considered by RATE to be "middle stages of the Flood" rock. Zircons within this tuff have 136 million years of decay at today's rates.
* The Peach Springs Tuff near Kingman, Arizona. This Cenozoic rock is considered by RATE to be "late Flood" rock [or possibly post-Flood?]. Zircons within this tuff have 21 million years of decay at today's rates.
The reason that this may be post-Flood is that DeYoung then stated, "Accelerated nuclear decay must have continued for some time following the Flood."
Since the RATE team was "confined by the Authority of the
Bible to a 6,000-year timeframe, the old ages suggested by fission tracks were
rejected." Therefore, the fission tracks are proof of "accelerated
nuclear decay" during the Flood. Fission tracks in zircons from Early Flood
rocks showed more accelerated decay than those from Late Flood rocks.
Large zircons retain helium or alpha particles. In small zircons the alpha particles leave the crystal to form a spherical halo of damage in the surrounding biotite mica crystal. "Each halo is from multiple decays – 100's of millions of decays." The radiohalo is about "10 microns in diameter – the same distance as fission tracks." [I do not know if this was simply a comparison of sizes between radiohalos & fission tracks or if DeYoung was suggesting that they were formed by the same process. My impression was the latter but I could have been mistaken.]
RATE collected samples of granite from the south coast of Australia, the Grand Canyon, Half Dome in Yosemite, Stone Mountain of Atlanta Georgia, England, & New South Wales. Some of these granites were emplaced during the Flood. RATE separated out biotite crystals and examined them under a microscope and found 1,000s of halos. Halos show that a substantial amount of nuclear decay has occurred.
Some of these halos were identified as polonium radiohalos. Polonium halos are of special interest to Creationists. There are three polonium isotopes that are part of the U238 to Pb-206 decay chain: Po-218 has a half life of 3.1 minutes and decays by giving off an alpha particle to become Po-214 (half life of 0.0002 seconds), which gives off another alpha particle to become Po-210 with a half life of 138 days. The question is how parentless polonium halos occurred since polonium decays in such a short time after it is forms from the decay of radon-222.
Although earlier Creationist interpretations (Robert Gentry) of polonium radiohalos suggested that God created granites instantaneously with polonium in place all ready to decay, the RATE team accepts that the polonium came naturally from the decay of uranium. "Hydrothermal fluids from cooling granites move polonium atoms. They are transported rapidly to where they decayed. Sometimes there is only a 1 mm distance between uranium and polonium halos."
Polonium halos can only form when the rock temperature is below 150 degrees C (300 degrees F). If the temperature rises back above 150 degrees C, the polonium halos will anneal or disappear. Therefore there is only a "narrow window of time for polonium to move" once the granites cool below the annealing temperature. Polonium radiohalos are "significant evidence for accelerated nuclear decay." Since heat will destroy halos & fission tracks, it is "difficult to imagine fission tracks and halos surviving for millions of years." This is "evidence for short time frames."
There are four radioisotopic methods commonly used for
dating rocks: potassium/argon,
rubidium/strontium, uranium/lead, and samarium/neodymium. DeYoung pointed out
that these are expensive procedures.
RATE collected samples from several areas: Grand Canyon Bass sill, Grand Canyon Cardenas Basalt Lavas, Grand Canyon Brahma amphibolites, Grand Canyon Elves Chasm granodiorite, plus others places that I didn't record. RATE applied all four dating methods to these samples by "contracting professional dating laboratories." The results for the different methods did not agree – they were discordant.
RATE suggests that accelerated nuclear decay causes discordance – the decay rates for each element changes differently. They also suggest that alpha decay processes may have accelerated faster then beta decays and that heavier isotopes may have accelerated faster than lighter isotopes. [This differential acceleration would cause the discordance of radioisotope dates in the same rock.]
Accelerated Nuclear Decay
RATE is proposing that there was a "temporary acceleration of nuclear decay – most
occurring during Noah's Flood."
DeYoung points out that there are some challenges to left for the RATE research. The first challenge is to determine "how was nuclear decay speeded up?" After all, we can't do it today. Neither variations in pressure, temperature, electrical, or magnetic fields has been shown to significantly affect nuclear decay. It probably involved some sort of change in the "nuclear binding force." This "must involve Divine intervention."
Another challenge to the idea of accelerated nuclear decay is heat energy. The amount of heat energy generated by the nuclear decay over that short of a time "would have vaporized the Earth." But the Earth was not vaporized so there must be some way to account for the heat. Again, "maybe Divine intervention?" We should also note that Dr. Humphreys has proposed evidence for expanding space itself, which would remove a lot of heat.
Then DeYoung concluded ... "The Genesis Flood was surely a time when the Earth was shaken to its foundation." And with that, 40 minutes after he had started, DeYoung was finished. His talk had been the shortest of the technical presentations and had covered the most territory.
Still yet to come:
* Dr. Gary Parker – The Authority of God's Word
* Q & A with RATE Scientists
Denver RATE Conference (Thousands ... Not Billions)
When Dr. Donald DeYoung finished his presentation at 1:40 p.m., we were not given a break. Lawrence Ford took the podium to push another ICR book – "John Morris has updated his book The Young Earth". He then invited us all to stand and stretch for a moment. Then Ford gave us his one sentence assessment of the RATE work, "Science gives us evidence to support His Word." And then we were re-introduced to Dr. Gary Parker.
Lawrence introduced Parker as having a BA in Biochemistry from Walbash College, plus an MS and a PhD in Biology & Paleontology from Ball State. He was a Biology Professor at a few Christian colleges including Dordt and Clearwater, FL and has written secular science textbooks. He was a science consultant to the original ICR museum and to the new Answers in Genesis Creation Museum. He is an adjunct professor for ICR and has his own Creation Adventures Museum ministry in Arcadia, FL. Gary Parker is apparently one of the cadres of YEC speakers for ICR.
The following "Summary Points" and "Technical Definitions" were given in our conference schedule/brochure for Dr. Gary Parker's talk.
* A large amount of radioactive decay has occurred.
* Nuclear processes were accelerated during certain periods of earth's history.
* Conventional radioisotope dates differ radically.
* Creation and the Flood are genuine historic events.
* The Bible is scientifically reliable.
* Discoveries of helium and carbon-14 are strong evidence for a young earth.
* ISOTOPE: the variation in an element due to different numbers of neutrons in the nucleus
* RADIOISOTOPE: an isotope which is radioactive
* ISOCHRON: graphical plot of radioisotopes used to estimate age
* DISCORDANCE: variation in the estimated age of a rock using different dating methods
Dr. Gary Parker – The Authority of God's Word
Dr. Parker spent a minute at the beginning to advertise the upcoming "Family Camp" at his Creation Adventures Museum in Arcadia, Florida and then said, "The key to this whole issue is the Authority of God's Word."
Parker continued ... Do you know what the "most embarrassing verse in the Bible is for twenty-first century Christians?" Exodus 20:11 – For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. That's part of the Ten Commandments. "God wrote this verse with his own finger, inscribed it on stone, and handed it to Moses." It is God's Word.
"Persecution in the twenty-first century is primarily 'laughter and ridicule' – not like in the first century when it meant being 'boiled, burned, crucified, or thrown to lions.' We are told in II Peter 3:3 that 'there shall come in the last days scoffers.' [Parker went on to quote or comment on most of II Peter 3:3-9.] Evolutionists don't come with reasoned arguments; they come with laughter ... and lawyers. Court suits – that's how scientists settle issues today."
Next Parker tackled the issue of "day". I will not repeat all of his arguments here; most were so familiar that I didn't bother to write them down. He did point out that the RATE research by Hebrew scholar Dr. Steven Boyd had proven (by studying Hebrew verb forms) that Genesis chapter 1 is "Historical Narrative" and not Poetry; to a statistical accuracy of 99.9973%! Therefore a "day" equals a "day".
His next topic was Theistic Evolution (TE) and Theistic Evolutionists (TE's). According to Parker, "TE's believe that the Bible tells us "Who"; that evolution tells us "How"; and that Scripture is "Irrelevant" (at least to science). Parker acknowledges that TE's are Christians but have an immature faith. After all, he was one once. There are only two problems with TE: (1) it contradicts scripture; and (2) it contradicts science. TE's have a "romantic view of evolution", equating it with an "upward and onward progress." "This is false. According to Darwin, evolution is 'war of Nature, famine & death'." Parker said that he has a chant that he used to teach his college biology students before he was converted: "Time, Chance, Struggle & Death. Time, Chance, Struggle & Death."
"God is NOT the author of Death; SIN is the author of Death! The issue is TE versus the whole Gospel, not just Creation days. TE's are in denial of the whole Christian message."
"So what is the cure for TE? Do a better job of teaching Evolution! The more you know about Evolution, the less likely you are to believe it. In Evolution, Death wins."
"Some people say that science and scripture are two different kinds of knowledge: science is facts, scripture is faith. NO! The Bible is rooted in reality. It is not a book of religious opinion but a record of the Acts of God in History."
"Science is the Christian's friend and ally in battling evolution. Science tells us ... (1) DNA – a created code; (2) Genetics – variation & decay; (3) Fossils – creation, variation & decay, and disaster."
"Mutation is not the substance of Evolution but the evidence of disease & dying. There is a new program at ICR called GENE that will research this."
Having dispatched TE, Parker now turns to Progressive Creation (PC & PC's). "PC's are Christians who really want to believe in supernatural acts but they spread it out over long periods of time. PC's do not want to compromise with Evolution but believe in millions & billions of years. PC in any form makes God the Author of millions of years of struggle and death. There are only two problems with PC: (1) it contradicts scripture; and (2) it contradicts science."
"Davis Young is a well known leader of PC. Another well known PC is Hugh Ross. Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science and Education (NCSE) once said that, 'Hugh Ross might be one ministry that we could endorse.' Eugenie Scott and the NCSE are dedicated to the absolute destruction of any mention of God in Education. The RATE team would never, ever, ever want to show how God is superfluous!"
Parker's next topic: Time & Evolution.
"Science doesn't need lots of time, Evolutionists do. Time is the Evolutionists' substitute for God."
"Darwin would have never thought of publishing his book if Lyell hadn't given him lots and lots of time."
"Evolutionists believe that given enough time and small changes you can go from a Frog to a Prince. But small changes don't always add up to big changes."
Parker used two analogies to illustrate this last point. (1) A bicycle is useful for going small distances. But no matter how much time and small distances you travel, you cannot ride a bicycle to the moon. (2) An archer can shoot lots of arrows and improve their skill with time. But no matter how much time and improvement you acquire, you cannot hit the sun with an arrow.
"Time is the rug under which Evolutionists sweep their scientific problems. Evolutionists appeal to a 'lottery mentality' – if you try long enough you will eventually win. Evolution is the belief in miracles without belief in the Miracle Worker."
Parker then reviewed some of the evidence that the Earth is young.
* Rock layers – "We know that layers of rocks need only take seconds to form." He told us a humorous story of how his wife demonstrates this to school children by taking a large clear plastic tube filled with water, sand, gravel, & mud. She takes this tube, shakes it so that everything is mixed and then sets it up so that the children can see the different layers of gravel, sand, and mud form in just seconds.
* Polystrate trees – fossil trees that span over several layers of rock.
* Mt. St. Helens – a catastrophic event that ripped up lots of trees and then showed how polystrate trees could form in a flood.
* Grand Canyon – "There is a 150 million year break between the Cambrian & Mississippian rocks. Geologists call this a 'paraconformity'. However, there is no evidence for a break between the rocks and no literature on 'paraconformities'."
* RATE – "Radiometric evidence supports a Young Earth, NOT
OLD! The concept of Accelerated Nuclear Decay is based on evidence. There is a
lot of decay but overlapping clocks tell us it all happened in a short
"We have a choice. We can believe in the ever-changing words of men or the never-changing Word of God. This is why the time issue is so important. Like children, we need to trust the Truth & Clarity of God's Word."
Finally, at 3:00 p.m., Gary Parker and the RATE presentations were finished. At least three-quarters of the audience gave them a standing ovation. As I looked around, I saw that the audience had thinned out quite a bit. At this point, even more people began to leave; after all, the only thing left was the Question & Answer session with RATE scientists (to be followed by a time for book-signing).
Denver RATE Conference (Thousands ... Not Billions)
Part 6 & The End
Q & A Session with RATE Scientists
The last talk of the day, by Gary Parker, ended at 3:00 p.m. and now it was time for the Question & Answer Session with RATE Scientists. Lawrence Ford took over the podium microphone and Drs. Donald DeYoung, Russell Humphreys, John Baumgardner, and Gary Parker took seats at a conference table. During the day, we had been handed note cards on which we were to write any questions that we might have for the Q & A time. Most of the cards had been collected earlier in the day but a few trickled in at this point. Surprisingly, it took 5-10 minutes to organize this Q & A session.
It was evident that most of the questions had, by this point, been sorted and reviewed. There were a few cards left that were being considered. During most of this delay, Lawrence Ford was talking to the audience; however, I have no notes nor do I remember a thing that he said. Finally eight questions were chosen and given to Lawrence. Lawrence read the chosen question and directed it to one of the RATE scientists. There was no opportunity for audience participation or for insuring that the response actually answered the question.
* Question #1 directed to Donald DeYoung: What is considered to be the most accurate dating method?
DeYoung responded, "Radioactive dating & the size of the universe."
* Question #2 directed to John Baumgardner: What is a half life & isotopes?
Baumgardner basically gave the answers that were written in the brochure [if anything, the answer was more obscure]. He did mention that half lives were a "statistical measure of a random process."
* Question #3 directed to Russell Humphreys: Why do you think God would cause Accelerated Nuclear Decay? Isn't this like created starlight?
Humphreys' response: "Decay happened. We don't think that He just created the evidence. Decay gives off heat. The heat may have started the process of Plate Tectonics. Maybe Accelerated Nuclear Decay is the means that God used to start the Flood. There are hints of this in the Scriptures. See the RATE I technical volume for more details.
* Question #4 directed to Gary Parker: For Old-Earth Creationists, why is a local flood more important than a global one?
Parker: "I suppose that Old-Earth Creationists want the geologic column to represent millions of years of death. For some strange reason, Old-Earth Creationists don't like it when God did what He said He did. They also don't want ridicule from their peers. They want to preserve long periods of time."
* Question #5 directed to Gary Parker: What about the Big Bang?
Parker responded: "You can't compromise with Genesis. The Big Bang is supported by Old-Earth Creationists. I'll stick with Genesis, which doesn't change."
* Question #6 directed to John Baumgardner: What is the basis for the Carbon-14 dilution before the Flood? How can a dilution factor of 100 times change the time frame from 50,000 to 5,000? Isn't 50,000/100 = 500?
Baumgardner: "The main reason is all the evidence of carbon buried by the Flood. Fossils, petroleum, limestone – these were all living critters prior to the Flood. Therefore there was more Carbon-12 in the world; at least 100 times greater. Some might say 200-500 times greater. Carbon-14 might have been less. There were only 1,600 years before the Flood to create Carbon-14. The math works out because the Carbon-14 decline is exponential so a factor of 100 corresponds to about 40,000 years."
* Question #7 directed to Russell Humphreys: How do you account for all of the heat generated by Nuclear Decay?
Humphreys: "There was a lot of heat generated. If it was all generated during the Flood, it would incinerate things – but it didn't. We think that accelerated nuclear decay occurred during both the Creation week and during the Flood. Both of these are associated with periods of expansion. See Psalm 18:9. This is talking about the time of the Flood. The Hebrew word translated as 'bowed' also means 'stretched'. So when it says that God 'bowed the heavens also', it means that he stretched out the heavens. The Psalmist David is talking about the expansion of space. A little known corollary to Einstein's Theory of General Relativity is that the expansion of space robs every moving particle of energy. Losing energy is the same as losing heat. There may have also been a time dilation event with the Flood too. This expansion of space is so effective at removing heat that the problem is how to keep Mrs. Noah from freezing to death! We are studying a new effect that may suck more heat out of hotter objects than colder objects. That's our best guess."
Baumgardner: "Heat flow in continental crystalline rocks is currently correlated with radioactive content in the surface rocks; therefore the current heat flow is dominated by recent nuclear decay."
Humphreys: "Baumgardner's work show that only 10% of the heat generated actually reaches the surface. The volume expansion cooling of space may account for the other 90%."
* Question #8 directed to Gary Parker: Is the "Day" of Genesis the same as the "Day of Days"?
Parker: "Yes, Genesis is talking about ordinary days. These were not necessarily solar days or exactly 24-hour days. The exact number of hours in a day may have changed some. First God created time, then matter and space. The first three days were not solar days, they were God's days. On Day 4, when He created the Sun & Moon, all He did was change the marker for days. The days remained the same."
Lawrence Ford: "Because we are committed to Biblical Authority, we will never see any contradiction in the Bible."
And thus the day – at least the conference – ended. The RATE scientists were going to stay for another half hour to give people an opportunity to have their newly purchased RATE books autographed. Since I had not purchased anything, I left. I'd had enough.
Throughout this long-winded 6-part description I have tried to report only what I heard and saw at the Denver RATE Conference without interjecting too much of my own thoughts or opinions. I leave it to you to determine how successful I was. However, now that I have finished describing the conference I will share a few of those personal thoughts and responses.
This conference brought out the entire gamut of the modern Young-Earth Creationist movement; from the worst to the best; from the promotion of long-refuted Paluxy River dinosaur/human footprints and rotting plesiosaur carcasses in the newspaper handed out from a local pastor's ministry, to ramblings of Gary Parker (great debate one-liners but short on substantive science), to the results of some RATE scientists (who, though I believe they are mistaken in their conclusions, are at least getting out of their armchairs and actually examining real evidence).
But even at its best, this was still a conference in support of an idea that was discredited at least 200 years ago. It is disheartening when you realize that the faithful contributed $1.25 million to this study; that most of this was spent on scientific tests that did nothing more than confirm what was already known and published in the professional literature (only the conclusions were changed to protect the innocent); and that in a highly literate nation, in a town that boasts of its highly educated workforce and technical expertise, a Young-Earth Conference could entice 800 attendees at $20-25 per head (between $16,000 & $20,000 plus book sales) to waste a sunny & gorgeous late-summer Saturday in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, just to hear this stuff.
It was disheartening to watch a non-scientific audience (or perhaps even a moderately savvy audience used to science as presented on cable TV), receive the RATE arguments as plausible and real scientific results; and to reject the results of modern science as the fruit of alleged atheistic scientists (aided by duped Christians) bent on destroying true religion.
I also found it disheartening when no one seemed to recognize the irony in two RATE statements that, though never mentioned in the same breath, were repeated in various forms throughout the conference: (1) The RATE team is confined to a 6,000-year timeframe based on their reading of God's Word; and (2) RATE research confirms that the earth is only about 6,000 years old. Because of their starting assumption, all of the admitted evidence for millions of years worth of radioactive decay was rejected, and wild unsupported hypotheses of accelerated nuclear decay (with associated fudge factors, unrecognized laws of physics, and calls for Divine intervention) were proposed that just happened to give the same 6,000 year result that they had initially assumed.
For me, the Question & Answer period summed up the whole conference.
* After a full day of listening to RATE presentations, many people still did not understand enough of the basic science to know what an isotope or half life was. But they clearly heard and applauded the message that RATE science says the Earth is only 6,000 years old and gives support to God's Word.
* Despite being presented as science, the real issue is theological. Questions 3, 4, & 8 were essentially theological in nature and the answer to question 5 ignored the scientific issue in favor of a theological answer. Only 2 questions (6 & 7) really addressed the results of the RATE studies. During the conference, the introduction session and the summation session – both by Gary Parker – wrapped all of the RATE science into a specific theological viewpoint.
* Perceived problems with RATE research are glibly passed over with promises of future resolution using undiscovered processes and a mixture of bad science and bad theology. Critics of RATE are dismissed as immature, as silly, as unqualified, or as motivated by a desire to destroy the faithful. Nothing is too far out to be called upon to disqualify a perceived problem – and when all else fails, call for Divine intervention.
* It doesn't matter what the science actually discovers, the answer was known – without any doubts – before the first sample was collected. It is just a matter of explaining the scientific results in a framework that matches the desired conclusion.
(Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein are my own and are not to be attributed to my employer ... or anyone else.)
Steven M. Smith,