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!

Monday, July 16, 2007

“Clue” 1 - Ash Cloud: A single ash cloud cools the earth a fraction of a degree – A miniature example of the earth cooling after the flood

It was Benjamin Franklin, while serving as a US Envoy to the French Court, who made the first connection between the impacts a volcanic eruption can have with the climate. In 1783, Laki on the island of Iceland had erupted, producing a tremendous amount of sulfuric acid into the atmosphere, which had deleterious effects over Europe the following year (over 7,000 people died, most due to starvation).

But perhaps the most famous attempt to understanding the impact volcanic eruption had on the climate came a full century later when the British Royal Society took on the task to study the global atmospheric conditions left by the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia. Of course most recently, as climate scientists are attempting to understanding the complexities of our climate and global warming, the role volcanoes play in climate change is given close scrutiny.

Let’s for a moment give AiG the benefit of the doubt and say there was a global flood. According to Michael Oard, a researcher with ICR, the flood would had been as much as a volcanic event as it was a water event (although a literal reading of Genesis 6-8 supports only the water version.) Oard states, when the water and drained away and Noah was permitted to leave the Ark, the global atmosphere was chocked full of volcanic ash, setting the condition necessary for an ice age to develop.

It is good at least, YECers are finally admitting there was an ice age and lots of volcanism, because there was a time when YECers refused to acknowledge an ice age. However, the clue has lots of problems.

While volcanic ash will deflect sunlight, ash is not the only thing they emit. In fact, for the ash to even reach the stratosphere volcanoes must also become a gas factory (and a lot of it!). Among the gases produce by an erupting volcano include sulfur, sulfur dioxide, sulfuric acid, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and water vapor. And if you had been following the debate on global warming at all, each of these gases are considered to be greenhouse gases.

Volcanic gases are really a double edge sword. Sulfuric acid for example is able to deflect sunlight, causing global cooling, but water vapor, sulfur and the other greenhouse gases traps heat, thus preventing the heat to escape, which is the factor for global warming.

Oard suggest there were as many as 50,000 volcanoes that erupted during the time of the flood. If true, many of these eruptions were so-called super-eruptions like those found at Yellowstone and Lake Toba in Indonesia. Just one super-eruption can emit enough gas to create a global cooling; lasting for months to years, but 50,000 volcanic eruptions will produce a tremendous amount of gases, which can actually set about the conditions for massive global warming, as well as suffocate all of the survivors on the Ark in volcanic gases and kill all of the surviving fish in the acid laden waters.
But why stop?

Heat is enemy for YEC is another way. During the course of the flood, there would be a tremendous transfer of heat produce by the waters flowing from the depth, accelerated nuclear decay (the YEC explanation for why radioisotope dating methods report ages greater than their accepted 6,000 year date), volcanic activity, meteorite impacts and other possible sources.

Heat is a form of energy. And based on the explanations provided by YECers in recent years to explain the flood, there would be enough heat generated to increase the global temperatures by a burning 1000 degree Celsius. Not only this would be enough for all of the water used in the flood to flash into steam, this would also destroy what remained of the planet atmosphere. God would certainly have gotten his wish; everything on the planet would be destroyed, along with everyone riding the Ark.

Perhaps the people at AiG should have thought about this a little further, before comparing the volcanic eruption at Mount St Helens to their global flood theory.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Silly World of AiG Creation “Museum,” Answering the Clues of Mount St Helens -- An Overview

As much as Mount St Helens and volcanology fascinates me, I must admit getting a little kick to learn what young-earth creationists are saying about my favorite little mountain.

As I explained in my last blog entry, there is a room inside the newly opened Creation Science “Museum” that is dedicated to explaining the world according to flood geology, as told through the eruption of Mount St Helens. For all of the world catastrophes to obsess over, it seems odd that little young-earth creationists “scientists” and organizations would be most fixated with the 1980 eruption. There had been much larger and more devastating natural disasters that wrought wreck and ruin over human lives, a few one would think, matches precisely with how would one expect to find in a world covered by a flood (like the 2004 Sumatra Earthquake and Indian Ocean Tsunami), but if YECers wish to build their world around the eruption of Mount St Helens, I am the more happier to knock it down for them.

In the flood geology room, there are 10 “clues” from Mount St Helens which a person can draw from to lead to the conclusion that the world is a product of a recent flood, instead of vast periods of time for an ever changing earth. Over the next several days and weeks, I will post commentary on each of these “clues” and why they don’t lend themselves well towards explanations of a recent earth.

These 10 “clues” are:

  1. Ash Cloud: A single ash cloud cools the earth a fraction of a degree – A miniature example 0f the earth cooling after the flood.
  2. 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.
  3. “Looit” (the word should be Loowit) and Step Canyon – Mudflows cut canyons out of solid rock in just a few years – A miniature example of rapid erosion immediately during and after the flood.
  4. Engineers and Little Grand Canyon – Mudflows cut soft sediments in hours – A miniature example of rapid erosion immediately during and after the flood.
  5. Pyroclastic Deposits – Pyroclastic flows (fluid hot ash) deposit 25 feet of finely layered sediments in a few hours – A miniature example of rapid sedimentation during and after the flood.
  6. Coldwater Delta – Hundreds of feet of delta form in just a few years – A miniature example of delta formation during and after the flood.
  7. Elk Recovery – Thousands of elk killed in the eruption are replaced within a decade – A clue about how animals refill the earth after the flood.
  8. Plant Recovery – Ecosystems develop in years rather than decades – A picture of the rapid development of ecosystems after the flood.
  9. Vertical floating logs – Uprooted trees float vertically and sink to the bottom of Spirit Lake. A clue about how petrified forests and polystrate fossils formed as a result of the flood.
  10. Bark Peat – Bark rubs off floating logs and accumulate at the bottom of Spirit Lake – A clue about how coal layers formed as a result of the flood.

Most of these “clues” are just plain silly. A few really does a disservice to educating visitors on geological and biological processes. It should be fun debunking them.