The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Young-Earth creationism and the intensity of volcanism

The June 2012 issue of the Institute for Creation Research’s Acts & Facts magazine came to my mailbox this week, and the short article “Volcanoes of the Past” by John D. Morris caught my attention. The article argues that Noah’s flood was a time of massive volcanic eruptions (“supervolcanoes”), and that volcanic activity on Earth is now experiencing a rapid post-Flood decline.

The cornerstone of young-Earth creationist (YEC) geology is the belief that Noah’s Flood was global in extent, occurred sometime around 2300 BC, and is responsible for most of Earth’s geological features. For a variety of reasons that I have discussed elsewhere (here, here, and here for example), I don’t think that any of this is Biblically necessary nor scientifically viable. A corollary of this “Biblical Catastrophism” or “Flood Geology” is that the catastrophic activity of Noah’s flood continued after the deluge, but with exponentially declining intensity over time. According to this theory—which is not held by all YECs—the centuries after the Flood were chaotic times, with rapidly changing climate (including a single ice age), rapid sedimentation, and biological diversification. According to some, much of Earth’s Cenozoic record was deposited during these few short centuries. The difficulties with this scenario are almost as numerous as the problems with YEC flood geology, but I won’t get into that now.

The heart of Morris’s argument is that we see evidence of massive “supervolcanoes” in the rock record, and that we don’t have any of these erupting today, which is a true statement. Furthermore, if one plots the volume of material extruded by historic volcanoes, one sees a decline over time. This statement is quite simply not true. In his own words,

Through an understanding of today’s volcanic eruptions, we can better comprehend those of the past. However, the rock record of the past suggests that yesterday’s volcanoes were evidently “supervolcanoes,” accomplishing geologic work hardly comparable to those we currently observe.

If we plot the volume of ash and lava extruded by volcanoes throughout history—comparing Vesuvius (79 A.D.) and Krakatoa (1883) to more recent volcanoes, such as Mount St. Helens (1980) and Pinatubo (1991)—we come to the conclusion that the earth processes are quieting down. Then if we plot the materials blown out by volcanoes that erupted during the great Flood and soon thereafter (inferred only from the materials left behind), then we conclude an exponential decline in the power of earth’s volcanoes over time. Flood volcanoes were many times greater than those recently witnessed.

The article includes a graphic showing volumes of volcanic products from several eruptions, with an obvious decline from the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff from the Yellowstone (Island Park) eruption (2500 km3), down through Mount St. Helens (a mere 1 km3).

A person with little or no geological background reading the article and examining the figure could only come to one conclusion: There has been a steady decline in the intensity of volcanism on Earth. There are a number of problems, however, with Morris’s article.

First, Morris’s graphic is rather deceptive, especially given the content of the accompanying text. These five eruptions are portrayed from oldest to youngest, and from largest to smallest. What the diagram doesn’t show, however, is that there are many thousands of volcanic eruptions throughout the same time period which don’t fit the YEC post-Flood residual catastrophism model. The following graphic from the US Geological Survey gives a much more realistic depiction of the variability of volcanic intensity over time:

This USGS diagram is highly selective as well, as it lists only a handful of eruptions, but it is much more representative of actual trends. The Holocene (Recent) Epoch—which all YECs would consider post-Flood—has a history of a wide range of volcanic eruptions, ranging from very small to large eruptions such as that of Tambora in 1815 and Mount Mazama approximately 7700 years ago. There is no evidence that I know of that the frequency or intensity of any eruption type is decreasing with time. Instead, smaller eruptions are occurring almost continuously around the world, while the larger eruptions occur with frequencies measured in centuries or millenia.

Morris named four historic eruptions as part of his evidence that volcanism on Earth is slowing down.

If we plot the volume of ash and lava extruded by volcanoes throughout history—comparing Vesuvius (79 A.D.) and Krakatoa (1883) to more recent volcanoes, such as Mount St. Helens (1980) and Pinatubo (1991)—we come to the conclusion that the earth processes are quieting down.

These four eruptions—out of thousands he could have chosen—don’t even illustrate the trend that Morris is advocating. Rather than going from larger to smaller, the trend makes a zig-zag:

One could selectively choose four or more eruptions to show any trend they wanted: increasing volume, decreasing volume, steady volume, or random. It would be far better to look at thousands of eruptions over a long period of time, and Morris has not done that.

The second problem I want to mention is that the eruptive history of the Yellowstone region is far more complex than Morris implies. The figure in the article shows the products of two Yellowstone-related eruptions: the Huckleberry Ridge Tuff and Lava Creek Tuff. There have actually been three large eruptions from the Yellowstone area:

  • Island Park Caldera, Huckleberry Ridge Tuff, 2.1 million years, 2500 km3
  • Henry’s Fork Caldera, Mesa Falls Tuff, 1.2 million years, 280 km3
  • Yellowstone Caldera, Lava Creek Tuff, 0.6 million years, 1000 km3

The trend is from largest to smallest to something in-between. Again, Morris selected the two eruptions that supported his thesis and ignored the other eruption.

But there is much more to the story of Yellowstone. In between the mega-eruptions, and in the time since the most recent, Yellowstone has had numerous smaller eruptions of rhyolitic and basaltic lava. Therefore the trend in Yellowstone is really mega-small-mega-small-mega-small. But there is more: the Yellowstone volcanic area is part of a string of volcanic centers that extend from northwestern Nevada through the Snake River Plain up to the area of most recent explosive activity in Yellowstone. There have been dozens of “supervolcano” eruptions along this trend, with hundreds or thousands of smaller eruptions in between.

A third problem with Morris’s article is that the more ancient rock record isn’t just a history of supervolcanoes. Throughout Earth history there have been large volcanoes and small volcanoes. The large volcanoes include explosive “supervolcanoes” such as Yellowstone Caldera, Long Valley Caldera, and Toba, Indonesia; and also flood basalts (the term “flood” has nothing to do with Noah’s flood) such as the Columbia River Basalts. But throughout the same time period there have been numerous smaller eruptions, whether from stratovolcanoes such as Mt. Fuji or Mt. Rainier, or from even smaller volcanoes such as cinder cones and maars.

It is clear that there is no trend in Earth history going from larger volcanic eruptions to smaller. Young-Earth creationists might counter by saying that it is still a fact that there have been massive volcanic eruptions in the past, and that none of these are occurring today. The standard geological explanation is that the larger the eruption, the greater the time gap between eruptions. Yellowstone apparently erupts every 0.6 to 0.9 million years; we may be due for an eruption, but it could still be hundreds of thousands of years away. These eruptions are spaced too far apart to say whether or not their frequency is changing over time.

The YEC has a greater problem, and that is trying to fit a large number of very large eruptions into a very short time. If the Yellowstone eruptions occurred after the Flood (the distal ash is in what most YECs would call post-Flood deposits), then three very large eruptions had to occur in the span of a few centuries perhaps just a little more than 4000 years ago. In between these eruptions there would have had to have been time for weathering, vegetation growth, and a number of smaller volcanic eruptions. All of these volcanic deposits would have had to be emplaced in time for the Ice Age, which lasted only a few hundred years. And all of this is a gross oversimplification of everything that would have had to have happened in a very short period of time.

Unfortunately, most Acts & Facts readers will be completely unaware of the numerous weaknesses in this article. Morris has not made a case that the frequency or intensity of volcanism is decreasing with time.

With love for my YEC brothers and sisters in Christ, and with prayerful concern for those who are turned away from Christianity by bad arguments in defense of the Bible.

Grace and Peace

———————————————————————–

P.S. This post-Flood residual catastrophism concept actually has led to one of the best papers to come out of the YEC movement, Earthquakes and the End Times, by Austin and Strauss. A common claim among end-times prophecy teachers is that the frequency and intensity of earthquakes has been increasing over time, leading up to the return of Christ. Austin and Strauss refute this teaching, calling it a Christian urban legend. One impetus behind the article, aside from the fact that there is no geological evidence for an overall increase of earthquake activity on Earth, is this YEC idea that intensity of all sorts of geological activities should be declining over time. I briefly discussed the “Earthquakes and the End Times” article back in 2007 (here).

June 2, 2012 - Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Geology, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , , ,

51 Comments »

  1. I should have stopped reading this article half-way through. Then I could have rested easy that Yellowstone wouldn’t blow again :~)

    But seriously, in many ways I feel that YEC would have a harder time explaining recent-but-older-than-6000-years events than events from billions of years ago. Most of what I see (from both sides) mainly deals with the latter. Thanks for shedding some light on their thinking on more recent geology.

    Comment by Carol | June 2, 2012

  2. The article by ICR is one of the more disturbing ones I’ve read in a long time. Most of the articles are written in such a way that I can grasp that with their particular set of blinders and skewed approaches they are being honest with themselves in what they are writing.

    This one though ….

    With the very careful selection of particular volcanoes to create a certain trend that it could only be done on purpose, knowing full well that they were giving a completely false article. To select just those volcanoes out of the scores/hundreds/thousands of volcanoes from which they had to choose, they had to have searched through many records and could not have possibly merely “overlooked” the 99% of volcanoes which completely disprove what they wanted to say.

    I’m not nearly so bothered by articles which give false statements because of internal blinders – the authors of such articles aren’t specifically trying to deceive, but are horribly mistaken.

    It is articles such as this one by ICR, in which the author knowingly and purposefully writes things which he knows to be false are shameful blights upon his character and soul.

    Comment by WebMonk | June 2, 2012

  3. Hi Kevin. I agree, the way the ICR article is written does seem to stray beyond the territory of willful blindness – firmly into the realm of deliberate misrepresentation of science.

    Fortunately, I do not think Carol need worry about quite how long it will be until the super-volcano beneath Yellowstone blows its top (not that worrying about it achieves anything)… Far bigger than Eyjafjallajokull (i.e. responsible for air traffic control chaos in 2010) on Iceland, the sub-glacial volcano Katla could blow at any time (its eruption is already overdue). No doubt, this will be dismissed as devilish deception…

    Comment by Martin Lack | June 10, 2012

  4. Martin — thanks for the video link.

    Comment by geochristian | June 11, 2012

  5. I thought of a parallel to ICR’s “Volcanoes of the Past” article.

    If one plots the age of death for Presidents of the United States, there is a clear trend:

    Age Year President
    90 1826 John Adams
    79 1862 Martin Van Buren
    74 1874 Millard FIllmore
    67 1924 Woodrow Wilson
    64 1973 Lyndon Johnson

    Unless there is something wrong with my reasoning, there is a clear trend towards Presidents of the United States dying at younger and younger ages. If we extrapolate this back to 2300 BC…

    Data source — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_the_United_States_by_date_of_death

    Comment by geochristian | June 11, 2012

  6. Hi everyone. The article gets into blatantly made-up stuff because the author knows he can get away with it. I can’t help but be cynical. I am very discouraged by the poor level of scientific education in American schools (I don’t know really how education is in Canada or the U.K.). I am depressed by the lack of discernment in our churches. All in all things are bad.

    Comment by Jacob | June 13, 2012

  7. “this YEC idea that intensity of all sorts of geological activities should be declining over time”

    Presumably not just a YEC idea – i.e. give earth a few billion more years and wouldn’t old-earthers also expect less geological activity? Just that the “lambda” of the decay curve has a rather different value!

    Indeed it’s noted that earth is the only planet with known current geological activity – although not the only *body* in the solar system with it. How indeed does old-earth theory explain the stunning volcanoes on Io – their distribution, their frequency and their ejecta?

    Comment by Dan | July 13, 2012

  8. Dan, you might want to double check your information. Venus also has active volcanoes.

    Eventually, yes, Earth’s volcanoes will stop, but that eventuality is on the order of many billions of years and the decline over the last few hundred million years is overwhelmed by the natural variability.

    How the standard view explains volcanic activism on Io is that Io is a large moon with its interior kept hot by the tidal forces of Jupiter and the other large moons which orbit nearby. It has a high orbital eccentricity, causing lots of variability in the forces it feels from Jupiter. This is exacerbated by the other large moons in nearby orbits which add to the tidal stresses.

    The volcanoes were predicted to exist for exactly these reasons BEFORE the satellite which discovered them was even launched. They were predicted by the standard, old understanding of the solar system, and then later discovered.

    Not a problem. I’m not sure why you would think it was.

    What makes you think there’s any problem explaining it? Did you read something from AiG or ICR that made you think there was some sort of “problem” for the standard view of the solar system’s formation in the fact that Io has active volcanic processes?

    Comment by WebMonk | July 15, 2012

  9. Dan,

    Yes, there are Earth processes that are slowing down over time.

    Production of heat in Earth’s crust due to radioactive decay is slowing down over time as isotopes such as K-40, Th-232, U-235, and U-238 decay. How this has affected processes such as plate tectonics is still unclear, though in Precambrian rocks there are very-high temperature lavas (komatiites) that don’t form on Earth today. But again, to compress all of this radioactive decay into the flood year—now that YECs recognize that most of what goes into radiometric dating is sound—would produce an extraordinary amount of heat. We might still be swimming in a sea of lava.

    Currently, the Earth rotates 365.24 times in its circuit around the sun. The Earth is spinning more slowly over time due to tidal interactions between the Moon and Earth’s oceans. It should still take the same amount of time to orbit the sun, by the laws of physics, but faster rotations on its axis in the past mean that it spun on its axis more times per year. We can actually determine its rate of rotation by examining daily and annual growth layers of calcium carbonate deposition in fossil corals. By doing this, we can learn that in the Silurian, the Earth spun on its axis about 420 times per year. In the Devonian, it was 400 times per year, and in the Cretaceous 370 time per year. This does not fit into YEC flood geology at all; how could these corals be growing and producing daily and annual growth layers in the murky waters of the global flood?

    I’m not sure what you are getting at by raising the point that Earth is the only one of the terrestrial planets that has significant geological activity at present. So what?

    Comment by Kevin N | July 15, 2012

  10. I deleted four comments from Zuma. They were long quotes copied and pasted from other sites, and not relevant to the “creationism and volcanic eruptions” topic. I don’t mind getting off-topic, and I don’t mind short quotes, but this was a bit too much.

    Comment by Kevin N | August 18, 2012

  11. The following are the various methods that are adopted by scientists to assess the age of the earth:
    a)Using sea composition to compute the age of the earth:
    Scientists used sea composition to derive the age of the earth. This method has its derivation from Edmond Halley (1656-1742). In his opinion, the rain would have dissolved all salt from the ground and would bring down to the sea with the assumption that there would be no salt in the sea initially.
    In 1910, George F. Becker found the age of the earth to be between 50 and 70 million years by means of salt clock method.
    However, the measurement by means of seawater composition does not give an accurate age of the earth on the condition if the sea might have been formed initially with much salt in the beginning. If that would be so, it is irrational to measure sea composition to determine the age of earth since much salt would have been in the sea already during its creation.
    b)Lord Kelvin in 1862 did compute the age of earth through the estimation of the coolness of the earth from its original molten state in which he concluded that the age of the earth was between 20 to 400 million years ago.
    However, its assumption that the earth would be in the molten state might not be accurate on the condition if the earth would have been formed in solid state initially instead of in molten. If that would be so, the computation of the age of this earth that is by means of the computation of the time taken for earth to be cooled down would not be reliable.
    c)Erosion method: The assessment of the age of the earth is by means of the observation with presumption that erosion would take place at about 1 ft every 5,000 years. With this method, they assess Canyon would start out flat and it would take 30,000,000 years for the Colorado river to erode 600 ft of the Grand Canyon.
    The computation above suffers a shortfall with the assumption that it would start up flat. What if the place does not start up flat or it would be that the place has already been created nearer to current condition in the beginning of its creation, the computation would not give the accurate period of erosion.
    Another query is why the erosion rate should be consistent at 1 ft every 5,000 years and not 1 ft every 4,000 years or otherwise.
    Thus, the computation of the earth by means of erosion method would be subjective and not reliable.
    d)Using radiometric dating methods to compute the age of the earth:
    The derivation of radiometric dating methods or radioactive dating methods came in the late 1940s and 1950s. These methods focus on the decay of atoms of one chemical element into another. This technique is based on a comparison between the measured amount of a naturally occurring radioactive element and its decay product, assuming a constant rate of decay – known as half-life.
    Using this technique, scientists could analyze the rock to assess the age of the earth through uranium and lead, plug those values along with the half-life into a logarithmic equation. They have arrived with the conclusion that the age of the earth should be 4.5 to 4.6 billion years.
    However, what if both the parent isotopes, i.e. Samarium-147, Rubidium-87, Rhenium-187, Lutetium-176, Thorium-232,Uranium-238, Potassium-40, Uranium-235, Beryllium-10, Chlorine-36, Carbon-14, Uranium-234 and Thorium-230, that have been commented by Scientists to be the products (daughter) of Neodymium-143, Strontium-87, Osmium-187, Hafnium-176, Lead-208, Lead-206, Argon-40, Lead-207, Boron-10, Argon-36, Nitrogen-14, Thorium-230, and Radium-226 respectively, might have co-existed in the beginning of the world during its formation, it is erroneous to comment that there would be relationship among them and to use them to assess the decay rate of half life in order to use it to compute the age of the earth or fossils since all these materials might have been created ever since the beginning of the earth. As that could be so, it is erroneous to use it to compute the age of the earth to be billion years.

    Comment by zuma | August 24, 2012

  12. Zuma,

    It appears that you are just copying and pasting long comments that you have posted elsewhere, such as here and here. I reserve the right to simply delete such comments.

    In regards to A (sea salt concentrations) — using YEC methods, one can demonstrate that the oceans cannot be any older than 100 years. Take some time to read http://geochristian.wordpress.com/2009/06/12/aluminum-and-the-100-year-old-oceans/ .

    In regards to B (Lord Kelvin and Earth cooling rates) — Kelvin was wrong because he knew nothing about the heating of the Earth by internal radioactivity due to isotopes of K, U, Th, and others.

    In regards to C (erosion rates ) — Earth is a dynamic place, with uplift and erosion occurring at some places at certain times, and subsidence and deposition occurring at others. You simply cannot extrapolate erosion rates to determine the age of the Earth.

    In regards to D (radiometric dating) — You seem to not be keeping up with YEC thinking about the topic. Mainstream YECs, such as those who wrote the RATE study, now accept that millions or billions of years of decay has occurred (assuming constant decay rates), but claim that these rates were greatly accelerated during Noah’s flood. They also acknowledge that one can have a good idea of starting concentrations of daughter products. One problem with their accelerated decay proposal is that enough heat could have been produced during the Flood to vaporize the oceans and more, and this clearly didn’t happen. There are a number of other problems as well.

    What do you think?

    Comment by geochristian | August 24, 2012

  13. In regards to D (radiometric dating) – You have mentioned that mainstream YECs have accepted millions or billion of years of decay rate. My question is how YECs would justify themselves that the decay rates would be correct instead of a few thousand years. How do these people derive with such a decay rate?
    If we talk about some rock as hard as diamond, the decay rate might be 0 since it is impossible to decay it.
    When we talk about decaying rocks, a few questions needed to be asked. Can the rock be decayed? If the rock cannot be decayed, why should we presume that the rock should decay at billion years if that rock could be so solid that it is impossible to decay?
    When YECs mentioned that the rock would decay accelerately during Noah’s flood, they have to consider a few conditions below:
    a)If the rock would be created hard enough that nothing could decay it and it was created initially at its own shape instead of being formed by rock decaying, it is irrational to support that the rock would be decayed accelerately by Noah’s flood. Instead, the rock would have been created initially to be like that initially and we could not use the shape of the rock to comment that it was the result of rapid decaying rate during Noah’s ark.
    b)What if the rock was formed partly hard rock and soft rock, certainly the soft rock would decay rapidly but not to hard rock as a whole. Who know the hard rock could not even be decayed itself? How could scientists justify themselves that all rocks could be decayed? If some rocks could not be decayed, why should there a need to compute the decay rate of hard rock if it is impossible for the hard rock to be decayed itself?
    c)How could the scientists fix decay rates for different materials since nobody could live million or billions of years to witness the decay rates would be true?
    d)How do scientists establish link between one material to be the parent and another to be daugther and comment that this material can be converted to another in million or billions of years as nobody could witness whether it is true or false.

    Comment by zuma | August 31, 2012

  14. Scientists mentioned that Samarium-147 (the parent) could be decayed and turned up to be (daughter) of Neodymium-143 by billion of years. How does the scientists establish the relationship between Samarium-147 and Neodymium-143? How do you know that Samarium-147 might not form Neodymnium-143 due to it might not be impossible to decay or that Samarium-147 would be decayed into another material instead of Neodymium-143? How does the scientists know for sure that Samarium-147 would turn up to be Neodymium-143 instead of others? Any witness or any experiment would have shown to be so.

    Comment by zuma | August 31, 2012

  15. Zuma,
    I am not sure you understand the difference between radioactive decay and erosion. Radioactive decay occurs at the molecular level. What you are describing in #13 sounds more like erosion to me.

    Comment by Carol | August 31, 2012

  16. Carol, Thanks for the information.
    Refer to the http://asa3.org/ASA/resources/Wiens.html
    Under page 4 whereby the Potassium-Argon is located. The age that has been computed by the geologist is by means of
    t = h x ln[1+(argon-40)/(0.112 x (potassium-40))]/ln(2)
    where t is the time in years, h is the half-life, also in years, and ln is the natural lograrithm
    When the h that is equal to half-life decay rate that has been pushed up by the scientists by millions or billions of years, the end-result of t, that is equal to the age of the rock, would push up to millions or billions of years as well.

    Comment by zuma | September 1, 2012

  17. Now let’s examine another formula that could be located in the website address as follows: http://education.gsfc.nasa.gov/ess/Units/Unit4/U4L31A.html
    Another mathematical expression of the computation of age of fossils and the earth could be computed by means of
    t = 1/delta ln(1+D/P)
    where t is the age of a rock or mineral specimen, D is the number of atoms of a daughter product today, P is the number of atoms of the parent product today, ln is the natural logarithm (logarithm to base e), and delta is the appropriate decay constant.
    In order to compute the age of the rock to determine its age, it is necessary to establishment relationship whether a substance is to be considered to be the daughter of another product. If the relationship could not be established, how could we apply this formula to compute the age of the rock? Let’s give you an example. If we could not establish firmly whether Samarium-147 could turn up to be Neodymium-143, how could we apply this formula to determine the age of the rock then? Again question has to be raised. How could scientists be so sure that Samarium-147 could be converted to Neodymium-143 instead of other alternative material? What if the Samarium-147 would have been created in the very beginning that the nature by itself is as hard as diamond that it would be impossible for it to decay, there is no reason that we should apply this formula to compute the age of fossils or the earth due to the relationship between them to be parent and daughter could not be established due to they could not even decay in the first place.

    Comment by zuma | September 1, 2012

  18. Zuma, regarding #16.
    Yes, if h goes up, then t goes up. But, in the section on “Radiometric Clocks” the author explains that h has been studied for 50 years and the value is known precisely, usually with only 2% uncertainty. What is your evidence that scientists have inflated the values of h? Just because the accepted value of h does not give the value of t you would like to see is not sufficient evidence. You also make it sound like inflating h is a deliberate deception on the part of scientists. It would be very hard to perpetuate false data over 50 years of peer-reviewed and peer-repeated research. It is possible the research is flawed. Again, 50 years of research by different scientists, using different methods, cross-checking each other makes that unlikely. If, indeed, the research were flawed, then a careful study of the seminal papers of the field, recreating those experiments, should reveal flaws in experimental technique, data analysis, and/or conclusions. Finally, Weins states that best practice is to verify a given sample’s date through multiple methods. When multiple dating methods agree on a given age for a sample, it is gives greater validity to the answer. It might be easy enough to manipulate one method to give the date you want, but to do that with 2 or 3 would be a lot harder to get away with.

    Comment by Carol | September 1, 2012

  19. How do the scientists establish the h and to ensure its accuracy?
    Never look down on 2% discrepancy. A minor 2% discrepancy in the short run could mean a lot in the long run. For instance, a year of 2% discrepancy would turn up to be 40 years*2% = 80% discrepancy in 40 years.
    Instead, to ensure the accuracy of h, there should have 0% discrepancy so as to prevent it could distort the figure in the long run.
    How does the scientists ensure the h be accurate within these 50 years? What procedure has been done to ensure its accuracy?

    Comment by zuma | September 1, 2012

  20. Zuma, you seem to be treating the 2% uncertainty in h like an interest rate that compounds over time. If scientists calculate h +/- 2% that means that the answer t will be accurate to within 2%. So, if t is calculated to be 1 million years, then the “true” answer is somewhere between 980,000 and 1.02 million years. If another method, also with 2% uncertainty calculates t to be 970,000 years old, the “true” answer is between 950,600 and 989,400 years old. The two ranges overlap, so the two methods are considered to agree. If a different sample has t = 1 billion years old, the uncertainty is still 2% or 20 million years. Yes, 2% is larger in absolute amount, but it is still a small uncertainty compared to the magnitude of the answer.

    As for what procedure has been done to ensure h’s accuracy, re-read Wein’s article. He gives a simple description of the method used. For greater detail, look into the literature of the field.

    Comment by Carol | September 1, 2012

  21. As for #17, the radioactive decay processes are well-established just as chemical reactions are well-established. The atomic structure of each isotope and the laws of nature determine what it can and cannot decay into.

    All the objections you raise are true in the sense that if there are other decay paths or if accepted h values are horribly wrong or if initial parent/daughter isotope ratios are unknown radiometric dating will not work. However, I think Weins’ article shows that scientists are not stupid. They have been very careful to take all those issues into account as they develop their theory and put it into practice. Samples that do not meet the conditions necessary for a given dating method cannot be dated with that method. Results can be cross-checked by using other, appropriate dating methods. It is not a grand conspiracy to falsify an old age for the earth to satisfy an atheistic worldview.

    Comment by Carol | September 1, 2012

  22. Let’s assume the America has maintained 2% inflation every year. The inflation is indeed damned low. Considering the cost of home selling price would be $200,000. At the year end, the housing would have increased by $4,000 and it turns up to $240,000. 2nd year, the housing would have another minor increase of another 2% and the housing would turn up to be $4,800 and it would end up to $240,000+4,800 = $28,800. 10years years later, the minor of 2% would turn up to be ten times more.
    For decay rate, it is the same. The minor difference of 2% in 1 year might turn up to a huge number for many years and this causes the years to jack up and turns up to be many years difference. Let’s assume that there would be 2% difference in this year when computing the decay rate. Let’s assume that each year there would be as low as 98,200 years difference in computation. 1 years later the difference of 98,200 years difference would go up by 98,200*2 = 196,400 years. 2 years later the ignoring of that 2% would jack up the years to 294,600 years. And so on and so forth. This minor 2% discrepancy would make a big difference in 50 years later without caring.

    Comment by zuma | September 1, 2012

  23. If a sample would give rise to 2% or 2 million years per year when t = 1 billion years, the igoring of this 2 million years difference would cause the h to be extended up to have jacked up by another 2 million years in the following years and the h would have turned up to be 4 million years. Third years later, that 2% or 2 million years would have jacked up the years by another 2 million years and it would turn up to be accumulative 6 million years. 100 years later, the difference in years would have jacked up to 200 million years + the original 2 million years = 202 million years. Thus, a minor step back in 2% discrepancy could have great difference in accuracy after numerous years later.

    Comment by zuma | September 1, 2012

  24. How does the Scientists ensure that Samarium-147 could in nature be decay and be converted to Neodymium-143? If Samarium-147 would not turn up to be Neodymium-143 in billion years later and yet we link up these two items in computation, the computation of age of fossils or rocks or the earth would be falsified.
    When the mathematical formula has been adopted by scientists to compute the age of the rock or fossils or the earth, they presume that Samarium-147 and Neodymium-143 would be related. The mathematical formula only becomes effective if Samarium-147 would 100% turn up to be Neodymium-143 eventually a billion years later. This is by virtue of the computation of the age of the rocks or fossils or the earth requires information as the number of parent as well as daughter isotopes. However, presumption is presumption but not the reality. As nobody could live billion years to witness that Samarium-147 could eventually turn up to be Neodymium-143, it might be ended to be other source. To insist the relationship between Samarium-147 and Neodymium-143 and to establish their relationship as one is the daughter isotope as another, the age of the earth or fossils or the earth could be falsified to be billions of years.

    Comment by zuma | September 1, 2012

  25. What if Samarium-147 would be as hard as diamond that it would be impossible for it to decay, to insist their link would falsify the computation of the age of the earth or the rocks or fossils.

    Comment by zuma | September 1, 2012

  26. The 2% compounding of inflation is a totally different situation from a 2% uncertainty in the measurement of the half-life of a radioactive isotope. h is constant, the same today as 1000 years from now. Your reasoning in #24 bears no correlation to Weins’ description of how to properly apply the concept of a half-life and the values he gives for Samarium/Neodymium. At this point it is a waste of my time and yours to try to clear up your misconceptions so I will bow out of the discussion.

    Comment by Carol | September 1, 2012

  27. Zuma,

    As Carol stated, you seem to have confused erosion rates with radioactive decay rates. And you have also equated uncertainty in decay rates with compounding of interest.

    Your most recent comment (#25) about samarium-147 being as hard as diamond so that it would be impossible for it to decay is along the same lines. The hardness of a mineral such as diamond is something completely different than the stability of radioactive isotopes. Diamond is hard because of the strength of the covalent bonds between the carbon atoms, not because of the lack of radioactivity of the carbon-12 and carbon-13 atoms that make up the crystal lattice.

    Your arguments about neodymium-samarium dating is wrong, as most knowledgeable young-Earth creationists would now agree. The geologists associated with Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research acknowledge (in their RATE study) that in most cases it appears that millions of years worth of decay has occurred. Unlike old-Earth geologists, they believe that decay rates were greatly accelerated during Noah’s flood. Unfortunately, this supposed acceleration of radioactive decay would have released enough heat in that year to melt a good portion of the Earth.

    They also acknowledge that samarium-147 decays to neodymium-143, and that for many radioactive isotopes, one can have a pretty good idea of the initial composition of the mineral. I can explain why this is true if you need me to.

    Comment by geochristian | September 1, 2012

  28. My question is if the substance could never be decayed, why should there be a need to compute radioactive decay rate. If substance could never be decayed, why should samarium-147 be turned up and be suggested to be neodymium-143? If substance could never be decayed and be transformed, samarium-147 would always be samarium-147 instead of neodymium-143.
    Common acceptance by scientists that samarium-147 would be generated to neodymium-143. However, there is no physical witness for anyone that smarium-147 would turn up to be neodymium-143 ultimately.

    Comment by zuma | September 1, 2012

  29. Radioactive decay has been defined to be the process by which an atomic nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting ironizing particles. A decay, or loss of energy, result when an atom with one type of nucleus, called the parent radionuclide.
    The change of the quality of substance through radioactive decay indeed has caused the value of the susbtance to change. My question is what if the substance is as hard as diamond that there is no way for this substance to change in quality through radio active decay, how could radioactive dating method be used reliably to predict the age of the earth or even to compute the age of fossils or rocks?

    Comment by zuma | September 1, 2012

  30. Let’s assume that there would be some rocks that are so weak that could change in quality due to the ease through radioactive decay. The change of weather whether it would be cold or hot; or the influence of Noah’s ark or the flood; or the change of wind whether it is strong or weak, or human faults, such as, hitting the rocks and beating them intentionally or unintentionally; or animals’ faults, such as, attacking it; or etc., would cause the rocks with rapid radioactive decay. As many factors could have the influence upon the emission of rocks on the condition if the rocks could easily be in radioactive decay condition, the computation of the age of fossils or rocks or the earth would not be reliable.

    Comment by zuma | September 1, 2012

  31. Zuma:

    #28 — “Common acceptance by scientists that samarium-147 would be generated to neodymium-143. However, there is no physical witness for anyone that smarium-147 would turn up to be neodymium-143 ultimately.” Samarium-147 has a very long half-life (about 106 billion years). This sounds like an extremely long time, but it still emits alpha particles at a rate sufficient to be measured in the laboratory. If samarium-147 is emitting alpha particles, then the product is neodymium-143:

    147Sm –> 143Nd + 4He

    No young-Earth scientist I know of would dispute this, so not only are you out of step with an old-Earth Christian such as myself, but with young-Earthers as well.

    #29 — “My question is what if the substance is as hard as diamond that there is no way for this substance to change in quality through radio active decay, how could radioactive dating method be used reliably to predict the age of the earth or even to compute the age of fossils or rocks?” Why do you keep on comparing radioactive decay to hardness? To say that samarium is as hard as diamond so it cannot decay is like saying airplanes are as soft as kittens so they must have fleas. It just makes absolutely no sense.

    #30 — There is absolutely no evidence that temperature, wind, human activities, or animal activities can affect rate of radioactive decay.

    Comment by geochristian | September 1, 2012

  32. Both samarium-147 and neodymium-143 would emit apha particle, that does not mean that samarium-147 could be transformed into neodymium-143.
    If a substance, let’s say, samarium-147 would be so strong that even radioactive dating method would not cause any change of that substance, there should be no reason for one to comment that samarium-147 could be transformed into neodymium-143.
    If no temperature, wind, human activities, or animal activies would have any influence upon radioactive decay, why should the mathematical formula that has been used to compute the age of fossils or rocks or the earth has to assume that radioactive decay has to be constant in the first place prior to its application.

    Comment by zuma | September 2, 2012

  33. Rewrite: If a substance, let’s say, samarium-147, would be so strong that it could resist radioactive decay that not even its influence could affect the quality of it, there should be no reason for one to comment that samarium-147 could be transformed into neodymium-143.

    Comment by zuma | September 2, 2012

  34. You have mentioned that nothing could change the radioactive decay rate. No doubts radiometric theory mentions that the radioactive decay rate is constant, the rates can be altered as shown in the website address below in reality:
    http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/5076971/description.html

    Comment by zuma | September 2, 2012

  35. Any website address http://creation.com/radioactive-decay-rate-depends-on-chemical-environment has reviewed that environmental factor has been discovered that would have direct influence upon radioactive decay rate.

    Comment by zuma | September 2, 2012

  36. Zuma:

    #32 — Both samarium-147 and neodymium-143 would emit apha particle, that does not mean that samarium-147 could be transformed into neodymium-143.

    Why would neodymium-143 have to emit alpha particles?

    #34 — I didn’t say that nothing can change certain radioactive decay rates. But your list—temperature, human activities, animal activities—isn’t it.

    #35 — Of course one can change the decay rate of lithium-7. It decays by electron capture, in which the nucleus absorbs one of the atom’s electrons, transforming a proton into a neutron. If you took away all of a lithium-7 atom’s electrons, there would be no electrons left for it to absorb. The same would apply to K-40, used in K-Ar dating (as the creation.com article mentions). The problem is, pottasium normally loses just one of its 19 electrons in crustal chemical reactions, and this has no significant effect on its decay rate.

    I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on The GeoChristian, but until you do some study on your own to sharpen your arguments, this conversation is over. I am assuming you are a young-Earth creationist, though you haven’t specifically stated that. I suggest you read a book such as Thousands Not Billions before commenting on this topic again, whether on this blog or on another. Though I disagree with the authors, they at least get most of their nuclear chemistry correct.

    Comment by geochristian | September 2, 2012

  37. Regarding the comments of zuma, this is a case where a response is useless. Zuma has attempted to post the EXACT same set of comments on my blog on pages that have nothing to do with his/her comments. A quick google search will show that he/she has posted the same comments on MANY blogs with not a single altered word. They are just looking for outlets to publish material with no intent to involve themselves in intelligent dialogue.

    Comment by Natural Historian | September 2, 2012

  38. I’ve moved Zuma to the moderation folder for future posts, a step I’ve only taken a handful of times in six years.

    Comment by geochristian | September 2, 2012

  39. That the Earth had been created and judged “before” the Six Days of Genesis One, is shown by the following facts:
    1. In the other five days, God initiated His work by speaking. When He first speaks (in 1:3) it must indicate the start of Day One. Earth was already there (1:2), covered with water (like in the Noah’s Flood judgment 7:19) and darkness (like in the judgment in Egypt (Exodus 10:22).
    2. At no point during the Six Days, is the creation of two of the most important things–water (the deep) or Earth, ever mentioned. Only when (on Day Three) God moved the water “below the heavens…into one place”, did “dry land appear.” (1:9). The water and land were there already, so there was no need to create them during the Six Days. And by the way, from space, you can see there is really only one ocean, with land scattered within it.
    3. “Darkness” was only “over the surface of the deep” and not everywhere (1:2). This indicates that it was ONLY EARTH that was judged at this time. The rest of the Universe functioned normally in relation to everything except the Earth. For example, the sun could be seen from Mars, but not from Earth. On Day Four, God changed things so the sun, moon and stars could be seen from Earth. We know the light from distant stars has been traveling toward Earth for many billions of years because, those stars are billions of light years away and we can see their light. So how did God hide them from Earth? Job speaks of God, “Who commands the sun not to shine, and sets a seal upon the stars.” (Job 9:7).

    4. The fact that ONLY EARTH needed to be changed, “repaired”, indicates it had just been judged. If Earth was created during the six days, then why was everything except Earth, created perfect and complete in the first place? Why wouldn’t God create Earth perfect and complete, with no need for further work, like the rest of His creation??
    5. EARTH WAS TOHU WABOHU (1:2), before the Six Days. Jeremiah four is the only other place tohu wabohu appear in the same section of scripture in The Bible. All the major translators put them together in 4:23. These Hebrew words have been translated: “Unformed and unfilled” (Weston W. Fields), “Formless and void” (NASB), “Waste and void” (Youngs Literal Translation), “Waste and empty” (Darby), “Formless and empty” (NIV), and “Without form and void” (KJV). Found also in Revelation 16: 18,19, Jeremiah 4: 23-26 says:
    I looked on Earth, and behold, it was TOHU WABOHU; and to the heavens and they had no
    light. I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to
    and fro. I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled.
    I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a wilderness, and all its ciuties were pulled down
    before the Lord, before His fierce anger.
    The many huge structures and cities we are finding beneath the ocean and in various places in jungles around the world, were not all made since Adam and Eve. If the TOHU WABOHU yet to come has cities in ruins, certainly the TOHU WABOHU in Genesis 1:2, before Adam and Eve, also had them!
    So Genesis One is not the original creation, but rather a restoration. That’s why when John One speaks of the very beginning, it says nothing about the Six Days!!
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart
    from Him, nothing came into being that has come into being. John 1:1-3

    Comment by Mike Riter | September 6, 2012

  40. Crackpot alert.

    Comment by WebMonk | September 7, 2012

  41. I applaud Post 39 above. I have yet to see a convincing argument for a 6000 year earth based on scriptures alone. There is a great deal in scriptures and science (both are revelations from God) that promote a much older earth. A knowledge of what went on before Adam and Eve is essential if we are to truly understand why Jesus had to die on the cross for us. I wish the YECs would do an in depth study of what the Bible really tells us about creation. There are also now numerous web sites on the First Earth Age with what I consider to have good biblical backing. From personal experience I can say that YECism is a commercial organisation first and not a ministry designed to win hearts and minds for Christ.

    Comment by Leander | September 12, 2012

  42. Leander,

    Thanks for your comment. I agree that there is only limited support for a young Earth in the Scriptures. However, I do not question the sincerity of most young-Earthers in their desire to see people come to faith in Christ. Yes, a few YEC organizations bring in a lot of cash, but I don’t see them living in mansions and driving Mercedes like the health and wealth prosperity teachers.

    Comment by geochristian | September 12, 2012

  43. Great article. I appreciate the direct look at one of the YEC arguments I often see repeated. It helps that volcanoes are fascinating in their own rights.

    Comment by J.W. Wartick | October 18, 2012

  44. [...] Young Earth Creationism and the intensity of volcanism- Is there a curve of decreasing volcanic activity that supports old earth creationism? The Geochristian investigates. [...]

    Pingback by Really Recommended Posts 11/02/12 « J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" | November 2, 2012

  45. Webmonk states “I applaud Post 39 above. I have yet to see a convincing argument for a 6000 year earth based on scriptures alone.”

    You certainly haven’t looked very hard if this is truly your testimony. I would refer you specifically to an address by the president of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary titled What the Rest of the Bible Says About Genesis. You may also want to take a look at Did God Create in 6 Days?. While this is an older publication, IMHO, it is the best. The audio presentations from the book (which was originally a conference) are located here. Dr. Pipa’s presentation, and the presentation by Dr. Morton Smith titled
    Theological Implications of the Doctrine of Creation
    are worth checking out.

    Comment by Jeff | December 27, 2012

  46. Excellent info! Keep up the great work. What is your belief–Day-age or Gap or???

    Comment by Mike Riter | December 27, 2012

  47. I’m a YEC, and so would not agree that the other ideas are biblical.

    Comment by Jeff | December 28, 2012

  48. Hey Jeff, a minor correction. In comment 45, you said that I was the one who wrote “I applaud Post 39 above. I have yet …..”

    I think you mis-read who wrote that comment. That comment was made by one of the crackpots who occasionally swing by this blog – “Leander”.

    Comment by WebMonk | January 1, 2013

  49. Sorry about that. :)

    Comment by Jeff | January 1, 2013

  50. The Hebrew word translated “fountains” as in, “the fountains of the great deep”, always obviously speaks only of water in every other place in the O. T.!!! The Bible speaks nothing of volcanism in relation to Noah’s flood. It is YEC science and not The Bible that says there was excess volcanism.

    Comment by Mike Riter | January 1, 2013

  51. Mike — in response to your question (#46) about how I interpret Genesis: day-age, gap, or other.

    There could be a gap between Gen 1:1 and 1:2, but I don’t think this flows out of the text.

    The days could be ages, but I don’t think this flows out of the text either. If it is true, it is something we can see in hindsight rather than something one could pull directly from Genesis. I like Hugh Ross’s day-age chart ( http://geochristian.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/day-age-time-chart/ ) but am not committed to this position.

    I am not convinced by literary interpretations such as the framework interpretation or cosmic temple inauguration interpretation. They seem to make to little of the narrative nature of the passage.

    I like the analogical days interpretation, such as given by Old Testament scholar C. John Collins of Covenant Seminary, and presented in his books Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary and Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?

    Here is a basic outline of the analogical days interpretation:

    1. The days of Genesis 1 are God’s work days, analogous to but not necessarily identical to our work days. Just as God’s work is not the same as our work, God’s rest is not the same as our rest, and God’s speaking is not the same as our speaking (does God need a mouth to speak?), so God’s day is not the same as our day. This is implied in the passage by the existence of days before the “creation” of the sun.

    2. Verses one and two are background, describing the initial creation ex nihilo, and the initial state of the planet before the six days.

    3. The six days are periods of God’s creative activity to prepare Earth as a place for humans.

    4. The days are “broadly consecutive” but there could be overlap between some days or non-linear arrangement of material for literary purposes.

    5. Length of time is not important. Sequence of events is not critical.

    6. God’s creation week sets the pattern for the human weekly cycle of work and Sabbath, as well as for the Sabbatical year.

    This interpretation flows more naturally from the text than do the other interpretations—day-age, gap, framework, etc.—though it does not exclude the possibility of the others being true as well. It is even compatible with young-Earth creationism.

    Comment by geochristian | January 1, 2013


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