Friday, July 20, 2007

Bad Dates or Bad Intentions?

AiG’s Second Clue from the Mount St Helens Eruption goes like this:

Lava Dome – When 11 years old, a new lava dome dates greater than 350,000 years old by potassium-argon (K-Ar) dating – An example of radioisotope dating difficulties.

In 1648, Irish Prelate, Archbishop James Ussher concluded the date of creation occurred on October 23, 4004 BC. Now Ussher was not the first and he certainly would not be the last to determine the age of the planet following biblical genealogies, but Ussher’s date became the best known. This is perhaps due to publishers of the King James Version of the Bible inserted Ussher’s date in the annotated section of the bible after 1701.

Dispensationalist’s theology insists on a young-earth being true. The problem YECers face, the rest of the world had moved far and beyond our understanding of the age of the Earth once dictated by Ussher. And thanks to the discovery of radioactive decay during the turn of the twentieth century, it is now well established that the age of the planet is 4.55 billion years old, a timeframe which most mainline denominations and the Roman Catholic Church has accepted.

The science of geochronology is well established and had been for at least the past sixty years. This is a science that is able to measure the radioactive decay rates of certain elements trapped in certain crystals (zircons) that formed inside (mostly) igneous rocks to obtain an absolute age. The concept is relatively simple. Determine the ratio between parent isotopes to daughter isotopes, which the half-life of the isotopes is known to obtain an absolute age of the sample being tested. There are some limitations to geochronology like most techniques will not provide accurate results for recently formed samples and errors will sometime occur because the sample was not properly processed, nor can one obtain accurate results from samples obtained from sedimentary rocks or metamorphic rocks. Tens of thousands of samples are worked on each year, with highly accurate results, despite YECers attempts to pull out the odd Irish pennants.

Geochronology is a form of positive evidence that the earth is old. But, YECers insist is very young. ICR will allow for a time frame of 6,000 to 10,000 years old, however AiG accepts only the chronology established by the seventeenth century Irish Anglican cleric. However, if God truly made the planet 6,009 years ago, surely nature can reveal some form of positive evidence – beyond the scholarly writings of Ussher – to confirm Ussher’s timeframe. Despite several half-hearted attempts like focusing on magnetism and amount of salt in the seas, YECers have no positive evidence to support their position, none whatsoever.

So if you cannot produce positive evidence to support your position, do what you can to discredit your opposition. And this is where Mount St Helens comes into the picture.

In the mid-1990’s an ICR geologists name Steve Austin submitted a sample he obtained from the 1980-1986 lava dome to a laboratory to be dated using the Potassium-Argon technique. The laboratory Austin had sent the sample clearly indicated on the form that they were unable to obtain an accurate result for samples younger than 2 million years old (actually material as young as 6,000 years old can be dated using the K-Ar method, but this particular laboratory Austin chosen, lacked the equipment to do this type of dating to that high degree of accuracy), which Austin reported in his paper. Austin also reported that he deliberately did not mention where the sample came from. Not surprisingly, Austin got the result he was looking for when the laboratory reported indicated the age of the Mount St Helens sample to be about 350,000 years old. Austin’s little misdirection’s did not seem to matter. Instead he widely publicized through the YEC bible tracts of yet another example of where radiometric dating cannot be trusted.

So what did Austin’s little experiment show?

When you put bad science (B.S.) in, you get B.S. out!


Ev said...

Aw, you'd think his B.S piled higher and deeper would've at least earned him a Ph.D.

lawilson200 said...

Actually Austin has a PhD in geology from the Pennsylvania State University. To bad Penn State can't take back their degree.