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

Dave E. Matson, 330 South Hill Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91106, Copyright 1994.

Young Earth Proof Refutations

#1: The sun is shrinking at 5 feet/hour which limits the earth-sun relationship to less than 5 million years.

#2: Given the rate at which cosmic dust accumulates, 4.5 billion years would have produced a layer on the moon much deeper than observed..

#3: The existence of short period comets means that the universe is less than 10,000 years old.

#4: There are no fossil meteorites in the geologic record.

#5: The Moon is receding a few inches each year. Less than a million years ago the Moon would have been so close that the tides would have drowned everyone twice a day.

#6: The Moon contains considerable quantities of U-236 and Th-230, both of which are short-lived isotopes that would have expired long ago if the Moon were 4.5 billion years old.

#7: Space dust would be vacuumed out of our solar system by the Poynting-Robertson effect in a few thousand years.

#8: At the rate many star clusters are expanding, they could not have been traveling for more than a few thousand years.




#27: The oldest tree in the world is 4300 years old

#28: The oldest historical records go back less than 6000 years.

#29: The dates in the Bible add up to about 6000 years.

#30: Many ancient cultures have stories of an original creation in the recent past.

Preface and Acknowledgments

"Scientific" creationists have claimed that the physical evidence, without the need of miracles, supports an earth which is only about 6000 years old. They have written numerous books in support of such claims. If the number of books written, lectures delivered, and debates staged had any relationship to the accuracy of one's claims, the "scientific" creationists would have succeeded a long time ago!

The scientific debate, of course, was settled long ago. However, a public debate is kept very much alive by the activities of the "scientific" creationists. I use quotations here because _real_ scientists look at the data first and _then_ determine if their _hypotheses_ will fit in. "Scientific" creationists begin with biblical "truths" which _may not be questioned_. They look at the data and then decide whether or not the _data_ will fit in with their interpretation of the Bible. Supporting data are collected; contradictory data are assumed to be incomplete or erroneous. That is _not_ science!

The shocking truth, unknown to much of the public, is that the arguments advanced by the "scientific" creationists are not only bad, but shockingly bad. Arguments based solely on obsolete data are by no means rare. Misrepresentation of the data are commonplace! (It is usually a case of bad data being passed along or wishful thinking rather than out- and-out dishonesty.) Thus, the question as to how good the young-earth arguments are takes on a new meaning.

This paper was written with the upcoming May 1994 Babinski-Hovind debate in mind. Dr. Kent Hovind, a popular "creationist evangelist," has offered $10,000 to anyone who can provide him with "evidence for evolution." If that offer is a meaningful one, then this manuscript may be viewed as a step toward claiming that prize. Therefore, Dr. Hovind's list of 30 young-earth "proofs"--so typical of those offered by young- earth creationists over the past few decades--will be the primary focus of our discussion.

I wish to thank Edward T. Babinski for proofreading this manuscript as well as offering some good arguments and sound advice. Ed, formerly the editor of the _Theistic Evolutionists' Forum_, an activist for common sense with irons in various fires, will likely be heard from more and more as the years go by.

I also wish to thank Dr. Alan Hayward, Dr. Stephen Brush, Dr. Arthur Strahler, Daniel Wonderly, Dr. Eugenie Scott of The National Center for Science Education, Dr. Laurie Godfrey, the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Stanford University Press, and Kalmbach Publishing Company (the publisher of _Astronomy_ and other interesting magazines) for permitting extensive use of their material.


Dr. Hovind: It only takes one proof of a young earth to decide between CREATION and EVOLUTION.

0. Wrong! Dr. Hovind appears to have misunderstood the very nature of science. If you want "proof" turn to mathematics or logic! Nothing in science is ever "proven" beyond all possible doubt. Scientific hypotheses are rated according to their credibility; as more and more data support (or fail to refute) a scientific hypothesis the greater our confidence in it. Not a single one of Dr. Hovind's "proofs" inspires confidence in its validity. Meanwhile, an avalanche of burgeoning data continue to increase our confidence in an ancient earth and cosmos. I will demonstrate the former by examining every single "proof" of a young earth listed in Dr. Hovind's Seminar Notebook. I will demonstrate the latter by supplying two or three examples which have no reasonable interpretation save that Earth is old.


Young-earth "proof" #1: The sun is shrinking at 5 feet/hour which limits the earth-sun relationship to less than 5 million years.

The shrinking sun argument contains two errors. First, and by far the worst, is the assumption that if the sun is shrinking today, as might be determined over a period of years, then it has always been shrinking!

That's a little like watching the tide go out and assuming that the water level must have always been going down at that rate. In order for that to be true, much of the land must have been flooded mere weeks ago! Inasmuch as the earth shows no signs of such a flood we conclude that the earth can't be older than a few weeks!

Obviously, we cannot extend a rate willy-nilly. We do have to take into account the physical nature of the system. The fact that the tide is going out doesn't mean that it can't come back in! Just as obvious, at least to the experts if not to yourself, is the fact that our sun could never have undergone a long period of continuous shrinking as described by the creationists. Such a view totally ignores the forces at work within our sun. Infinitely more likely is the possibility that our sun might alternate between small periods of shrinking and small periods of expansion, a kind of oscillation. Indeed, some scientists believe that there may be an 80 day cycle of slight shrinking and expanding.

Over billions of years, of course, the depletion of the sun's hydrogen will upset the sun's internal balance and the sun will undergo some continuous changes. But, that has absolutely nothing to do with the shrinking sun argument above which attempts to prove that the solar system is less than 5 million years old.

Thus, the shrinking sun argument rests squarely on a naive extension of a rate measured over a relatively short period of time. It's the type of blunder one would hope not to find in a high school science project.

The second error is the assumption that the claimed rate of shrinkage in the study by Eddy and Boornazian is an established fact. In fact, serious flaws in their methodology turned up and the data has been discredited. As a result, the full text of their study was never published.

Some creationists, such as Walter Brown, have tried to keep the argument going by quoting additional sources (Lippard, 1990, p.25), but they have not passed the test. In Brown's case, two of the three sources he offered were obsolete, and the third actually undercut his position (Lippard, 1990, p.25)! In a rebuttal to Lippard, Walter Brown offered no new studies to back up his "feeling" that the sun is undergoing a small, but continuous shrinkage (Brown, 1990, pp.45-46).

Brown, in his debate with Lippard, then dodged into the missing neutrino problem in a vain effort to turn it into evidence for his position. However, no support can be had there unless it is demonstrated that the "missing" neutrinos are due to a corresponding lack of fusion, and that the sun's current output of energy is due, in large part, to gravitational collapse. As there are several possible solutions to the missing neutrino problem (Lippard, 1990a, p.32), Brown's scenario is an extremely tall order. Even if it were proved that there is a deficiency in solar fusion, that being the cause of the missing neutrinos, Brown would still have to prove that the situation was permanent. It could be a temporary glitch or even part of some complex cycle. Thus, any attempt at present to use the missing neutrino problem as support for a shrinking sun is wholly misguided.

It was in 1979 that astronomers John Eddy and Aram Boornazian presented a paper and published its abstract: "Secular Decrease in the Solar Diameter, 1836-1953." In the April 1980 issue of ICR's Impact series (Impact #82), Russell Akridge picked up the report and naively extended the shrinkage rate of 5 feet/hour into the indefinite past. As that soon led to an impossible situation, he concluded that the earth was much less than 20 million years old. Soon, Walter Brown, Thomas Barnes, Henry Morris, Hilton Hinderliter, James Hanson, and other creationists were in on the act, and the shrinking sun argument became a part of creationist legend.

A number of studies have not found any evidence for continuous shrinking in the sun. Leslie Morrison, for example, drawing on Edmund Halley's observations of the solar eclipse of 1715, concluded that there is no evidence that the sun is shrinking. His findings were reported in January, 1988 in Gemini (no.18, pp.6-8). Gemini is the official journal of the Royal Greenwich Observatory.

Thomas Barnes, Walter Brown, and Henry Morris used the argument for several years after the original report by Eddy and Boornazian was discredited (Till, 1986). I guess a lot of creationists still haven't gotten the word. In his debate with Dr. Paul Hilpman, on June 15, 1992 at the Royal Hall of the University of Missouri, Dr. Hovind applied the obsolete shrinking sun argument.

Isolated from the corrective of continuing professional investigation and evaluation, the 'creation-science' community continues to employ this unwarranted extrapolation of a discredited report as 'scientific evidence' for a young Earth. (Van Till, 1986, p.17)

That was true in 1986 and is true today; it will be true for years to come. "Scientific" creationism lives like the proverbial ostrich, with its head in the sand, and has no effective mechanism to weed out error.


Young-earth "proof" #2: Given the rate at which cosmic dust accumulates, 4.5 billion years would have produced a layer on the moon much deeper than observed. By implication, the earth is also young.

The most amazing thing about the cosmic dust argument is that it is still being used! It has coasted along on obsolete evidence, and nothing but obsolete evidence, for the last 25 years!! More than any other argument, it shows how creationists borrow from each other and never do any outside reading.

The obsolescence of the cosmic dust argument has been brought out in numerous debates, published in numerous books, journals, and newsletters. It can be discovered by anyone who exercises his or her library card. It's not a state secret! What does it take to get through to the creationist brain??

The cosmic dust argument received a big kick-off in 1974 from Henry Morris' book, Scientific Creationism. Morris quoted the highest figure mentioned in a 1960 Scientific American article by H. Petterson. Petterson's upper estimate for the influx of cosmic dust, based on samples of air from the top of Mauna Loa on the Island of Hawaii, was 39,150 tons/day. Petterson actually favored a lower figure, about a third of the above, and he cautioned that his results might be way too high.

This caution seems to have been lost on Henry Morris, who ignored Petterson's preferred value in favor of his highest estimate. By the time the Impact #110 (August 1982) insert of Acts & Facts came out, sporting as it did a collection of young-earth claims, the reader was being told that just prior to the manned moon landing scientists were worried about a thick layer of dust. Of course, the dust did not materialize, and the Impact article claimed a victory for creation science which predicts a young moon without much cosmic dust. Steven Shore showed that this entire scenario is wrongheaded.

Let's get a proper perspective on history.

In a conference held in late 1963, on the Lunar Surface Layer, McCracken and Dublin state that


"The lunar surface layer thus formed would, therefore, consist of a mixture of lunar material and interplanetary material (primarily of cometary origin) from 10 cm to 1 m thick. The low value for the accretion rate for the small particles is not adequate to produce large scale dust erosion or to form deep layers of dust on the moon, for the flux has probably remained fairly constant during the past several billion years." (p. 204) (Shore, 1984, p.34)

In 1965, a conference was held on the nature of the lunar surface. The basic conclusion of this conference was that both from the optical properties of the scattering of sunlight observed from the Earth, and from the early Ranger photographs, there was no evidence for an extensive dust layer. (Shore, 1984, p.34)

Thus, several years before man landed on the moon there was a general feeling that our astronauts would not be greeted by vast layers of dust. Although direct confirmation was not yet at hand, allowing a few dissenting opinions, few scientists expected even as much as three feet of cosmic dust on the moon. In May 1966 Surveyor I had landed on the moon, thus putting an end to any lingering doubts about a manned landing sinking in dust.

The cosmic dust argument was already obsolete by the time Henry Morris included it in his Scientific Creationism.


Since the late 1960s, much better and more direct measurements of the meteoritic influx to the Earth have been available from satellite penetration data. In a comprehensive review article, Dohnanyi [1972, Icarus 17: 1-48] showed that the mass of meteoritic material impinging on the Earth is only about 22,000 tons per year [60 tons/day]... Other recent estimates of the mass of interplanetary matter reaching the Earth from space, based on satellite-borne detectors, range from about 11,000 to 18,000 tons per year (67) [30-49 tons/day]; estimates based on the cosmic-dust content of deep-sea sediment are comparable (e.g., 11, 103). (Dalrymple, 1984, p.109)

Thus, we have good satellite data from the late 1960s in addition to estimates from deep-sea sediment content, the latter going back to at least 1968 and yielding comparable figures.

Dohnanyi's figure of 60 tons/day includes everything from slowly settling dust to the average input of meteorites.

Dohnanyi's figure for the moon (2 x 10^[-9] grams/square centimeter per year) yields 2.3 tons/day. In 4.5 billion years a layer of about one and a half inches of cosmic dust would accumulate on the moon. (On the moon, of course, a ton would weigh much less. We're actually talking about a mass that would weigh 2.3 tons on Earth.)

In his book, Age of the Cosmos, published in 1980, Harold Slusher devoted a chapter to the amount of space dust raining down on the earth. He dwells on Petterson's 1960 figure of 39,000 tons/day and even produces a 1967 figure which gives a whopping 700,000 tons/day! Alan Hayward, a respected physicist and Bible-believing Christian, felt it necessary to make the following observation:


To write like that in 1980 was inexcusable. The two sources he quotes were dated 1960 and 1967--hopelessly out of date in a fast-changing area of science. They merely provide estimates of what the influx of meteoritic dust might possibly be.

But we no longer have to rely on estimates. A paper, published four years before Slusher's book, described how the amount of meteoritic dust in space has now been measured, with detectors mounted on satellites. (Hayward, 1985, pp.142-143)

That July 1976 article by D. W. Hughes, published in the New Scientist, gives a figure of 48 tons/day which is enough to cover the earth with about 1.5 inches of dust during the earth's lifetime! It's nearly a 1000 times smaller than Petterson's figure, and it utterly destroys the cosmic dust argument.

Because of the incredible amount of space junk orbiting the earth, modern estimates of incoming dust have become more difficult. However, with the 1990 retrieval of the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) satellite, which spent nearly six years in orbit, possibly the clearest figure yet is now available for the influx of space dust.

In the October 22, 1993, Science, Stanley G. Love and Donald E. Brownlee (University of Washington) describe their analysis of 761 small impact craters found on some of LDEF's aluminum-alloy plates. These surfaces continuously faced spaceward while the satellite was in orbit. ...As the researcher explain, this location was superbly suited for their study. It was largely protected from orbital debris and secondary impacts from collisions elsewhere on the satellite, and in pointing outward it also sampled a variety of interplanetary directions as LDEF orbited the Earth. (Sky & Telescope, March 1994, p.13)

The article goes on to explain that dust particles as small as 35 trillionths of an ounce (10^-9 grams) were detected. Love and Brownlee concluded that each year the earth collects about 40,000 metric tons (121 tons/day) which is a bit higher than the less direct figures given above. The results are "comparable to rates crudely calculated from the long- term accumulation of the rare element iridium in sea sediment and Antarctic ice."

Thus, the very latest and possibly the best cosmic dust influx measurement dooms the creationist argument once again. (How many strikes does it take before you're out in creationistland?) The general scientific consensus, going back to the 1960s, has been borne out by numerous measurements during the last 25 years.

Perhaps the constant reminders about obsolete data finally got to Henry Morris. Yet, he did not drop the cosmic dust argument like a hot potato as one might expect. On the contrary, his second edition of Scientific Creationism (1985) expanded his footnote reference to Petterson to suggest that a much more recent source from NASA gave an even larger influx of dust! The reader was referred to: "G.S. Hawkins, Ed., Meteor Orbits and Dust, published by NASA, 1976" (Wheeler, 1987, p.14). Thus, Morris appeared to have an unimpeachable source which was even more recent than Dohnanyi's figure!

Frank Lovell, suspecting that years of direct measurement from space (supported by sea floor studies) could not be that wrong, smelling a rat as it were, checked up on the source. It turned out that the actual date was 1967! The digits had been reversed (Wheeler, 1987, pp.14-15). Furthermore, the figure quoted by Morris (200 million tons of dust each year) was not given in the original source! It was a calculation based on the original source, done by an unnamed "creationist physicist" who botched it! The unsuspecting reader would have assumed that the rate had the official blessing of NASA. Astronomer Larry W. Esposito had some choice words concerning this incredible fiasco by Morris:


...the work is incorrectly cited, outdated, from a non-referenced symposium publication, based on unreliable data. The calculation multiplies together unrelated numbers: the product of these factors is not a reliable estimation of the current cosmic dust deposition rate. (Wheeler, 1987, p.15)

Wheeler and Lovell were party to another strange, creationist tale of reversed digits! They had written a letter to a religious magazine, Concern, published in Louisville, Kentucky, and had criticized an article which used Petterson's obsolete figure for cosmic dust influx. Concern published that letter along with a reply from the author of the original article. The author stated that Richard Bliss (a member of the Institute for Creation Research) had written the following to him in a letter:


It seems that we have estimates on meteor dust deposition, based on various assumptions, of the total volume of incoming meteoritic material ranging from 800,000 to 1 x 10^6 tons per day. You can get this information from the following sources: 1. Space Handbook, Astronautics and its Applications by R.W. Beucherin and staff of the Rand Corporation, Random House, NY 1959. 2. Nazarove, I.N. Rocket and Satellite Investigations of Meteors presented at the fifth meeting of the COMITE Speciale De I'annee Geophysique International, Moscow, August 1985. (Wheeler, 1987, p.15)

The first source was even more obsolete than Petterson's, but the second one was dated 1985. In response to a query, Bliss said that he got the figures from Harold Slusher, also of ICR. Several attempts to get through to Slusher failed.


Finally it occurred to us that the date cited for this reference, like that of Morris, might be incorrect. The International Geophysical Year ("I'annee Geophysique International") was 1957-1958, and I found in Nature [182:294 (1958)] that the fifth meeting of the Special Committee was held in Moscow in July-August 1958, and that it included a symposium on the rocket and satellite program; this obviously was the source of Slusher's reference. (Wheeler, 1987, p.15)

Thus, we have a second case of inverted digits! A complaint about obsolete data was answered with data even more obsolete!! The average reader, of course, would have never guessed that the citation was bad.

Thus, creationism carried the banner of the obsolete cosmic dust argument ever forward. In 1989, Walter Brown came out with the 5th edition of his booklet In the Beginning. He was no longer quoting Petterson as was the case in older editions. Nevertheless, he calculated that in 4.6 billion years 2,000 feet of dust should have accumulated on the moon.


Brown says his figure is based on data from two sources, Stuart R. Taylor's Lunar Science: A Post-Apollo View (New York: Pergamon Press, 1975, p.92) and David W. Hughes's "The Changing Micrometeoroid Flux" (Nature 251(379-380), 4 October 1974). Hughes gives no basis for any calculation. (Schadewald, 1990, p.16)

As for Taylor's data, Schadewald identifies the appropriate distribution equation, makes use of the calculus, and shows that in reality, even if we extend the range of particles way beyond what was actually detected, we would get a layer about 1 inch deep! Schadewald was left wondering where Brown got his 2000 feet of dust, and he concluded that he may have had moon dust in his eyes when he made the calculation.

Perhaps I shouldn't tease Dr. Brown on that point since I blew the initial calculations myself before finding my way! The equation which Schadewald uses (from Taylor) is:

logN = -1.62 - 1.16 log(m)

N is the number of bodies with mass greater than m impacting a square kilometer of moon per year. The density of the dust is given as 3 grams/cubic centimeter. It does make a difference which units one uses for mass. The context of Schadewald's article suggests that the proper mass units are grams (not kilograms), and a little playing around with the equation makes that reasonably clear. If one erroneously uses kilograms and integrates N(m) over a range of 10^-16 kilograms to 10^20 kilograms, a figure of 2259 feet of dust may be obtained for a period of 4.6 billion years. Possibly something like that happened in Dr. Brown's calculation.

If I understand the equation properly, a straightforward integration of N(m) is not the most precise procedure, but it does yield a good approximation to the answers I got. For a mass range of 100Kg to 1000Kg I calculate that 4.6 billion years would deposit a layer of dust 0.107mm (4 thousandths of an inch) thick. For a mass range of 100gms to 1000Kg I get 0.79mm. However, in extending the calculation to extremes, from 10^-13 grams to 10^23 grams, I came up with 26.4cm (10.4 inches) instead of 2.5cm which Schadewald got. The point is that you wouldn't even get 10.4 inches of dust in 4.6 billion years, being that the formula is not accurate for these extreme ranges. Attempts to inflate this value further, by going to even greater ranges, is simply an abuse of the formula and proves nothing.

Neither the above formula, when properly used, nor actual measurements made in space offer anything close to the huge amounts of cosmic dust needed in this young-earth argument. Of course, a little thing like that would never stop the argument from circulating!

Today, numerous creationists such as Dr. Hovind carry forth the banner of the cosmic dust argument, and some of them are still using Petterson's 1960 calculations! As for Dr. Hovind, he seems to have written a new chapter altogether! In his June 15, 1992 debate with Dr. Hilpman in the Royal Hall of the University of Missouri, Dr. Hovid calmly stated that scientists had predicted that 182 feet of cosmic dust would be found on the moon based on an accumulation of 1 inch every 10,000 years. I played that video segment three times to make sure I was hearing it right. Had he checked those figures he would have found that they represent two different rates, that of 4144 tons/day and a whopping 872,798 tons/day! Compare either figure to the 2.3 tons/day given by Dohnanyi which was based on actual measurements made in space. The cosmic dust argument, having been obsolete for 25 years, has now entered the realm of comedy! Perhaps, I should have said "tragedy" since this is the kind of nonsense creationists want to teach our children.

A few embarrassed creationists do understand this point, and in them there is some light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.


Young-earth "proof" #3: The existence of short period comets means that the universe is less than 10,000 years old. Comets and meteoroids only last from 10,000-15,000 years before they are blown apart by the solar wind.

In his debate with Dr. Hilpman, Dr. Hovind stated that comets lasted 10,000-15,000 years before being blown apart by the solar wind! I had to replay that video segment a few times!. Any high school kid with an interest in astronomy will tell you that it is the heat of the sun which is a comet's undoing. Each time a short-period comet passes near the sun the heat boils off tons of its material (which is mostly ice) thus limiting the number of orbits such a comet can make. The solar wind plus the heat of the inner solar system is responsible for a comet's magnificent tail. That's why comets brighten up as they near the sun. A few comets are terminated by crashing into one of the planets, especially Jupiter. In passing, we might note that the projected life span of one short-period comet, that of Halley's comet, is 40,000 years (Chaisson and McMillan, 1993, p.339).

The only way short-period comets can be made to support a young solar system, hence a young earth, is by showing that they have no reasonable source of replenishment. The burden of proof is on those who allege, a point which seems lost on many creationists.

Creationism's main argument seems to be that we don't have close- up photos of the Oort Cloud and, therefore, cannot be 100% certain that it really exists! Sorry fellas, but if you want to use this comet argument it is up to you to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Oort Cloud and other sources don't exist!

Having made that crucial point, let's briefly summarize what science knows about comets. In 1950, based on a study of the orbits of several long-period comets, the Dutch astronomer Jan Oort proposed that a great spherical shell of them existed at the remote frontiers of our solar system. Better statistics in more recent years have supported the existence of the Oort Cloud and put it at a distance of 50,000 AU (1.3 light-years).


During the 1980s, astronomers realized that Oort Cloud comets may be outnumbered by an inner cloud that begins about 3,000 AU from the Sun and continues to the edge of the classical Oort Cloud at 20,000 AU. Most estimates place the population of the inner Oort Cloud at about five to ten times that of the outer cloud -- say, 20 trillion or so -- although the number could be ten times greater than that. The innermost portion of the inner Oort Cloud is relatively flattened, with comets extending a few degrees above and below the ecliptic. But the cloud rapidly expands, forming a complete sphere by the time it reaches several thousand AU. (Benningfield, 1990, p.33)

This inner cloud of comets is called the Hills Cloud. Originally, it was thought that short-period comets were merely long-period comets from the Oort Cloud which had been converted by close encounters with Jupiter or the other large outer planets. That may well be true for some of them, but modern studies of short-period comets have identified their probable origin in a region of space now named the Kuiper Belt, which resembles a flattened ring just beyond the orbit of Neptune. Computer simulations show that such a source would account beautifully for the low-inclination, short-period, prograde orbits, and other features associated with short-period comets. The Kuiper Belt probably has around 100 million to several billion comets, which probably formed at that location when the planets formed, and the gradual pull of the giant gas planets over time sends a few of them continually towards the sun. Thus, the short-period comets are replenished.

Theoretical calculations indicate that the great bulk of comets were originally formed in the region between Uranus and Neptune. They represent planetesimals which escaped being gobbled up by the outer planets. Gravitational interactions tossed them into elliptical orbits which took them thousands of astronomical units (AU) away from the sun.

Oort determined that comets tossed into highly elliptical orbits by Uranus and Neptune would be nudged into more nearly circular orbits by encounters with passing stars. Stellar encounters also would scatter comets above and below the ecliptic plane, creating a sphere of comets instead of a flattened disk. After four decades of refinements to Oort's original ideas, astronomers today believe the Oort Cloud extends from about 20,000 to 100,000 AU (almost 2 light-years) from the Sun and contains as many as two trillion comets with a total mass several times Earth's. (Benningfield, 1990, p.31)

A star passing within a few light-years would likely perturb the orbits of the comets in the Oort Cloud, sending some of them towards the sun. Statistical calculations indicate that about 5000 stars have passed that closely during the earth's lifetime. An encounter with a giant molecular cloud, which is likely to happen every few hundred million years, as our sun orbits the galaxy would also perturb the Oort Cloud.

Another newly discovered agent for perturbing Oort Cloud comets is gravitational tides. Created by the gravitational force of material in the Galactic disk, these tides could alter the orbits of Oort Cloud comets. In fact, some astronomers estimate that as many as 80 percent of the long-period comets entering the inner solar system for the first time were shoved from their previous orbits by the gentle tug of Galactic tides. (Benningfield, 1990, pp.32-33)

Once in a great while, estimated at about 9 times during the lifetime of our Earth (Astronomy, February 1982, p.63), a star will pass so close as to stir up even the Hills Cloud of comets (the innermost Oort Cloud which is shaped relatively like a disk). A collision with a giant molecular cloud would have a similar effect.

Occasionally, though, a star or giant molecular cloud passes directly through both Oort Clouds, scattering comets like a cue ball striking the neatly racked balls on a billiard table. Such an event kicks many comets into the outer cloud, replenishing those lost to other processes. (Benningfield, 1990, pp.33-34)

Thus, we have a plentiful source for our long-period comets as well as for our short-period comets.

Granted, that we don't have photos of the Oort Cloud or the Hills Cloud, or even of the Kuiper Belt. Comets less than 40 miles in diameter would simply not show up even in the best telescopes at those distances. The fact that these comet clouds are "theoretical" does not mean that they are based on wild guesswork and groundless speculation. Computer simulation, as already mentioned, matches the short-period comets to the Kuiper Belt. Similar studies of long-period comets, even from the 1950s, pointed to their origin in the Oort Cloud. All in all, a great deal of computer work has been done in supporting and refining the above models. The astronomical community treats them, at the very least, as excellent working hypotheses.

Benningfield (1990, p.32) lists some interesting evidence which suggests that vast comet clouds exist around other stars, but we shall not pursue the matter further. The point has already been made. The creationist must prove that there are no reasonable sources for replenishing comets. The above is a very reasonable scenario for comet replenishment, and that renders the creationist argument dead in the water!


Young-earth "proof" #4: There are no fossil meteorites in the geologic record. If the latter were laid down over billions of years we would expect to find at least a few fossil meteorites in the geologic strata. Therefore, the geologic record was deposited rapidly.

Meteorites are hard enough to find on the surface of the earth when they are fresh and "obvious" -- unless one happens to know about a choice site in advance such as a fresh fall. Randomly select and search an acre of land in the United States and see how many meteorites you will find. I suspect that you won't find a single one even if you repeated the search a thousand times on a thousand different acres.

How much more difficult it must be to find a meteorite embedded in ancient strata. Most meteorites landing on the continental areas, no doubt, suffer much erosion before eventual burial. Those which fall into the ocean are likely to be subducted with the oceanic plate into the earth's mantel or metamorphosed and thrust up in a mountain chain. Most people who drill or dig in the earth are not looking for meteorites and would not recognize one if it fell into their lap. After a little erosion, a stoney meteorite looks just like any other pebble or rock; iron meteorites would likely have rusted out long ago. Thus, it would be a truly rare meteorite to survive initial erosion and chemical decomposition, to be uncovered by erosion, and, finally to have some rockhound stumble upon it and identify it. If you ask yourself how many people in the world can identify an eroded, stoney meteorite, you'll have some idea of the problem.

After reviewing such difficulties, geologist Davis Young (1988, p.127) tells us that, "The chances of finding a fossil meteorite in sedimentary rocks are remote. It is not to be expected." G. J. McCall, in Meteorites and Their Origins (1973), said on page 270, "The lack of fossil record of true meteorites is puzzling, but can be explained by the lack of very diagnostic shapes and the chemical nature of meteorites, which allows rapid decay..."

I once saw a large, circular orange splotch of rust stain embedded in the white chalk near Lompoc. For all I know that might have been the remains of an ancient iron meteorite, but I certainly couldn't legitimately count it as such. The "fossilization" of iron meteorites seems most unlikely.

It may surprise you, therefore, to hear that, against all odds, we do have such a find! Two Swedish scientists made the first positive identification of a fossilized stoney meteorite (Astronomy, June 1981). Per Thorslund and Frans Wickman reported in Nature that a 10 centimeter object found in a limestone slab from a quarry in Brunflo, central Sweden in 1952 is really a stoney meteorite as demonstrated by microscopic examinations and other properties. It has a terrestrial age of about 463 million years. The object had until recently been mistaken for something else. If the odds were not bent enough, it appears that the meteorite hit an Ordovician mollusk which is fossilized in conjunction with the meteorite! (Spratt and Stephens, 1992, p.53)

In 1930 a fist-sized piece of nickel-iron was said to have been recovered from a bore hole at a depth of 1,525 feet, from the Eocene. This "Zapata County" Texas iron has since been lost (Nature, January 22, 1981).

Fritz Heide mentioned that "The iron of Sardis, Burke County, Georgia, was found in 1940, in strata believed to be of Middle Miocene age." (Heide, 1964, pp.118-119.)

We may conclude, therefore, that it is not true that fossil meteorites don't exist in the geologic record. However, recovering and identifying them is extremely rare.

A much better test is to look for the remains of giant meteorite impacts. Although their craters are not always a snap to identify, due to erosion and burial, we can at least expect to find some if, in fact, they fell. Given their present impact rate, we would not expect to find any in the geologic record if the latter were laid down in a year's time by a great flood.

Thus, we have a most excellent test between the two viewpoints. If the earth's geologic record is the result of many hundreds of millions of years of slow accumulation, then we would expect a fair number of "fossil" craters. On the other hand, if the geologic column was laid down in a mere year by Noah's flood, then it would be extremely unlikely to find even one "fossil" crater.

Well, I won't keep you in suspense. The geologic record contains at least 130 positively identified "fossil" craters, and they are found from the Precambrian (2 billion years ago) to Recent times.

R. A. F. Grieve and P. B. Robertson (1979) list the known meteorite craters. Since 1979 a considerable number of fossil craters have been found, but a portion of their list will do just fine. With one exception, all of the following are larger than Meteor Crater in Arizona.


Precambrian .....Vredefort, South Africa............. 1.97 billion years
Precambrian .....Sudbury, Ontario, Canada............ 1.84 billion years
Precambrian......Janisjarvi, Russia.................. 0.70 billion years
Cambrian ........Kelly West, N.T., Australia.......... 550 million years
Cambrian.........Holleford, Ontario, Canada........... 550 million years
Cambrian ........Kjardla, Estonia..................... 500 million years
Ordovician.......Saaksjarvi, Finland.................. 490 million years
Ordovician.......Carswell, Saskatchewan, Canada....... 485 million years
Ordovician.......Brent, Ontario, Canada............... 450 million years
Silurian.........Lac Couture, Quebec, Canada.......... 420 million years
Silurian.........Lac La Moinerie, Quebec, Canada...... 400 million years
Devonian.........Siljan, Sweden....................... 365 million years
Devonian.........Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada........... 360 million years
Devonian.........Flynn Creek, Tennessee, USA.......... 360 million years
Carboniferous....Crooked Creek, Missouri, USA......... 320 million years
Carboniferous....Middlesboro, Kentucky, USA........... 300 million years
Carboniferous....Serpent Mound, Ohio, USA............. 300 million years
Permian..........Kursk, Russia........................ 250 million years
Permian..........Dellen, Sweden....................... 230 million years
Permian..........St. Martin, Manitoba, Canada......... 225 million years
Triassic.........Manicouagan, Quebec, Canada.......... 210 million years
Triassic.........Redwing Creek, North Dakota, USA..... 200 million years
Jurassic.........Vepriaj, Lithuania................... 160 million years
Jurassic.........Rochechouart, France................. 160 million years
Jurassic.........Strangways, N.T., Australia.......... 150 million years
Cretaceous.......Sierra Madre, Texas, USA............. 100 million years
Cretaceous.......Rotmistrovka, Ukraine................. 70 million years
Cretaceous.......Chicxulub, Yucatan, Mexico............ 65 million years
Paleocene........Kara, Russia.......................... 57 million years
Oligocene........Mistastin, Labrador, Canada........... 38 million years
Oligocene........Wanapitei L., Ontario, Canada......... 38 million years
Miocene..........Haughton Dome, N.W.T., Canada......... 15 million years
Miocene..........Karla, Russia......................... 10 million years
Pliocene.........New Quebec Crater, New Quebec, Canada.. 5 m.y.
Pliocene.........Aouelloul, Mauritania.................. 3.1 m.y.
Pleistocene......Bosumtwi, Ghana........................ 1.3 m.y.
Pleistocene......Lonar, India........................... 0.05 m.y.

It is only relatively recently that a means of positive identification for fossil craters has been worked out, thus we must not be misled by out-of-date quotations. George Wetherill (1979, p.59), identifies some of the clues available in 1979:

1. The presence of the usual geologic structures one might expect to find in an old, eroded crater.

2. The presence of igneous rocks that have recrystallized after having been melted by sudden impact.

3. The presence of greatly compressed forms of quartz (such as coesite and stishovite) that can be created only by a combination of high temperature and high pressure. Coesite requires above 30,000 atmospheres of pressure and stishovite requires over 100,000 atmospheres of pressure. They have been found in the vicinity of many impact craters.

4. The presence of "shatter cones" which are structures of quartzite that flare outward and downward, away from the direction of impact.

5. In some cases the chemical "signature" of a nonterrestrial impacting body can be identified in the material thrown out by the blast. Various minerals known as impactites are associated with finding ancient craters. Fossil meteorites, themselves, would not likely be found in connection with a large crater because the cosmic speeds of impact for large meteorites liberate so much energy as to easily vaporize the meteorite. Such tools, as developed in recent years, are useful for distinguishing between ancient meteorite craters and volcanic craters or other natural crater-like formations.

As you can see, plenty of impact craters have been detected throughout the geologic column, from the Cambrian to recent times; three have been found in the Precambrian. Traditional geology stands vindicated. Obviously, the major strata of the geologic column has been laid down over the ages, thus allowing plenty of time for each to record the rare major asteroid impacts.

Major impacts are obviously very rare, being that none have occurred during recorded history. Creationists must conjure up a miraculous swarm of asteroids which decide to drop in on Earth throughout the year of Noah's flood. They do so without destroying the ark with mile-high waves or blast effects far exceeding that of any atomic bomb. After the flood dries up, this bunch of asteroids, which had been steadily bombarding the earth with miraculous numbers of craters, suddenly decides to pack up and go home. Thus, history knows of no large impacts in the thousands of years since that magical year. Sounds a little like a fairy tale, doesn't it?

The geologic column stands vindicated. It wins hands down.

While we're on the subject of asteroid impacts, let me point out another fatal problem for the young-earth scenario. A casual inspection of the cratered surfaces of Mars, the Moon, and Mercury make it intuitively obvious that Earth has also been battered with a massive bombardment of asteroids. Unlike the Moon and Mercury, and to some extent, Mars, the great bulk of these craters have not been preserved. Various geological processes, such as weathering and plate tectonics, have erased almost all of the early craters.

That the earth also partook in this early massive cratering is made even clearer by the use of statistics.

Start with the oldest parts of the Moon, and imagine counting up the number of craters of different diameters. On the Moon, you find that when you go down a factor of ten in crater size, the craters become more common by about a factor of a hundred. Of course this rule isn't perfect, and some crater sizes are present in greater or lesser number than this simple rule leads you to expect.

Now play the same game with craters on the ancient terrain of Mars, or on Mercury, and what do you find? Not only do you find the same overall relationship between crater number and crater size, but those particular sizes that broke the rule on the Moon break the rule to about the same extent on Mars and Mercury as well. A common interpretation of this similarity in cratering records is that all these worlds were cratered by the same population of objects... But if Mars, Mercury, and the Moon were all pummeled by the same population of impacting objects during the heavy bombardment, Earth and Venus must have been as well. (Chyba, 1992, p.31)

What does all this mean?

Any one of the largest impacts would have produced a short lived global atmosphere composed of rock vapor, temporarily raising the temperature of Earth's surface to above that of the inside of an oven. In the most extreme cases, this searing heat would have lasted long enough to have evaporated the entire ocean, sterilizing the surface of the Earth.

Scientists can use the cratering record on the Moon to estimate just how often this level of destruction took place. Statistically, because of Earth's larger gravity, something like 17 or so objects larger than the largest object that hit the Moon should have collided with Earth. If the largest object that impacted the Moon was the one responsible for the 2,500-km-diameter South Pole-Aitken basin on the lunar farside (whose controversial existence was finally confirmed two years ago by the Galileo spacecraft), Earth was probably hit about five times by asteroids or comets big enough to have completely vaporized its oceans. [A number of scientists now believe that life originated several times on the primeval earth, only to be wiped out in its first few attempts by the above impacts!] (Chyba, 1992, pp.32-33)

Creationists just haven't come to grips with the tremendous beating which the early Earth took from impacting asteroids. Most of that evidence has been destroyed on Earth and Venus, but it can still be seen on the Moon, Mercury, and the older portions of Mars. There is absolutely no way that such violence could be crammed into even a few thousand years without destroying life on Earth, let alone be confined to the year of Noah's flood.

Not only would Noah have been blasted out of the water, assuming that he wasn't sunk first by the smaller asteroids, but the ocean, itself, would have boiled away! While all that was happening, Noah, if still alive, would have had the dubious privilege of breathing hot rock vapor instead of normal air!

Creationists had better start looking for miracles, because the above scenario just doesn't cut it. The creationist young-earth scenario is a fairy tale, and like all fairy tales it needs a little magic to smooth away the hard facts.


Young-earth "proof" #5: The Moon is receding a few inches each year. Less than a million years ago the Moon would have been so close that the tides would have drowned everyone twice a day. Less than 2 or 3 million years ago the Moon would have been inside the Roche limit (and thus destroyed). (Dr. Hilpman v. Dr. Hovind, June 15, 1992; the Royal Hall of the University of Missouri)

Once again, Dr. Hovind's figures just boggle the mind! Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the Moon is receding at 6 inches per year. If we go back a million years, then the Moon was 6 million inches closer to the earth. That comes to about 95 miles! Since the Moon is about 240,000 miles away, that doesn't amount to diddly-squat! Indeed, since the Moon doesn't orbit in a perfect circle it varies more than that on its own.

A more accurate estimate, based on the present rate of lunar recession, puts the Moon within the Roche limit around 1 or 2 billion years ago. That is the argument most creationists use. (Since Dr. Hovind's notes match the figures he quoted in his debate with Dr. Hilpman, I assume that those figures are not a simple oversight.)

As I understand it, the tides act as a brake which slows down the earth's rotation. The earth's lost energy can't simply disappear, and it goes into speeding up the Moon. As it speeds up, the Moon moves to a higher orbit. Thus, the energy of the Earth-Moon system is conserved.

The effectiveness of the tidal brake on the earth's rotation strongly depends on the configuration of the oceans. Thus, we should inquire as to whether the current arrangement is an average value or not.

The present rate of tidal dissipation is anomalously high because the tidal force is close to a resonance in the response function of the oceans; a more realistic calculation shows that dissipation must have been much smaller in the past and that 4.5 billion years ago the moon was well outside the Roche limit, at a distance of at least thirty-eight earth radii (Hansen 1982; see also Finch 1982). (Brush, 1983, p.78)

Thus, our moon was probably never closer than 151,000 miles. A modern astronomy text gives an estimate of 250,000 kilometers (155,000 miles), which agrees very closely with Brush's figure (Chaisson and McMillan, 1993, p.173). Thus, the "problem" disappears!

It may surprise you to learn that Darwin's son, George Darwin, a respected scientist in his time, did some serious calculations along this line. In the nineteenth century that was a reasonable scientific conjecture. Today, in the light of what we know, it's an exercise in futility. For more insight into the problem, see Dalrymple (1991, pp.51- 52).


Young-earth "proof" #6: The Moon contains considerable quantities of U-236 and Th-230, both of which are short-lived isotopes that would have expired long ago if the Moon were 4.5 billion years old.

Thorium-230 is an intermediate decay product of uranium-238 which has a half-life of about 4.468 billion years (Strahler, 1987, p.131). Thus, it will be continually generated as long as the supply of U-238 lasts. Funny, that Wysong should overlook the intermediate decay products of long-lived isotopes!

According to the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 7th edition (1992), the naturally existing uranium isotopes are: U-234 (0.00054%); U-235 (0.7%); U-238 (99.275%). However, trace amounts of U-236 also exist in nature. Dalrymple (1991, p.376) informs us that "U-236 is rare but is produced by nuclear reactions in some uranium ores where sufficient slow neutrons are available."

Thus, Th-230 and U-236 are currently being generated and their existence in nature proves nothing. Creationists will find a table of the known radioactive nuclides with half-lives greater than 1 million years far more interesting. It provides a elegant demonstration that the earth is exceedingly old!

Look at the table (Dalrymple, 1991, p.377) below. Notice how every single nuclide with a half-life greater than 80 million years is found in nature; every single nuclide with a half-life less than 80 million years is not found in nature unless it is currently being produced by nature. Does that tell you something?

You're looking at prime evidence in favor of an old Earth! Those radioactive nuclides with half-lives below a certain value have, in the turning of the ages, decayed away to nothing. The only survivors are those which can be created by nature.

Perhaps, you might urge, this is a chance arrangement. Not likely. The odds against being able to draw a line anywhere which divides the nuclides in the above table so that all the nuclides above that line are found in nature while all below are not, is 536 million to one! (Of course, we don't count those which nature can create.) To be fair (in testing for a 10,000 year-old Earth) we should extend the table below to include nuclides with a half-life of 1000 years or more. Certainly, they would not have decayed away if the earth were only 10,000 years old. The odds (based on an eligible list of 56 nuclides) now jumps to 72 quadrillion to one! Any takers?

Those who argue that the missing nuclides were never created must hope and pray that there is some natural process which works against the creation of short-lived nuclides. However, that argument comes up empty also.

There is good evidence that nucleosynthesis occurs in stars today and did so in the past. The spectra of some old stars, for example, reveal the presence of technetium, an element that has no stable nuclide and does not occur either in the Sun or on Earth (Merrill, 1952)... Prometheum has also been found in stars (Aller, 1971), and yet the longest-lived isotope of Pm has a half-life of only 18 years. (Dalrymple, 1991, p.380)

In the Large Megellanic Cloud, which is a small companion galaxy to our own Milky Way, a spectacular supernova (SN1987A) occurred in 1987. After the main explosion died away, much of the light from this supernova was actually powered by radioactive elements! For a time cobalt-56 (with a half-life of 77.1 days) dominated. It is a decay product of nickel-56 (with a half-life of only 6.1 days) which was produced in quantity by the explosion. After the cobalt-56 decayed away over a period of about 4 years, cobalt-57 (with a longer half-life of 270 days) became the main source of the supernova's light. The decay of cobalt-56 and cobalt-57 liberates gamma rays of very specific energies, and these diagnostic gamma rays can be detected by high-altitude balloons or satellites. Moreover, astronomers could actually watch the light fade according to the exact decay rates of these two cobalt nuclides! (Gehrels et al, 1993, p.75).

Beginning around November [of 1987], spectra from the Kuiper [NASA's airborne infrared telescope] and from Australia together revealed an entire zoo of elements in the supernova core -- not just iron, nickel and cobalt but also argon, carbon, oxygen, neon, sodium, magnesium, silicon, sulfur, chlorine, potassium, calcium and possibly aluminium. Their intense infrared lines signaled larger quantities than could have been present in the star at its birth. The elements--the components, perhaps, of some future solar system--were made in the core of the star or in the explosion itself. (Woosley and Weaver, 1989, p.38)

Such direct evidence, as well as laboratory findings and theoretical study, make it clear that when Mother Nature gets around to cooking up elements she makes plenty of those "missing" nuclides. They are missing from our old neck of the woods because they decayed away a long time ago. Dalrymple (1991, pp.280-384) supplies additional evidence showing that there is no barrier to the production of the missing nuclides. After probing the details for iodine-129, Dalrymple concludes with:

Similar arguments can be made for the other missing nuclides listed in Table 8.3. Most occupy advantageous positions in the chart of the nuclides so that ready synthesis by the r- and s-processes is expected. A few are less exposed and are produced in lesser but not negligible amounts by other nucleosynthetic processes. (Dalrymple, 1991, p.384)

Finally, to add insult to injury, we find that some of the short- lived nuclides really did exist in our solar system once upon a time! Take aluminum-26, for example, which has a half-life of 716,000 years.

The fact that our solar system lacks aluminum-26 suggests that it is at least 15 million years old. That's about how long it would take for all the aluminum-26 to decay away. Mother Nature certainly knows how to make it; there's no problem in that department. With the help of the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which was placed into orbit in 1991 by the space shuttle Atlantis, we now know that our galaxy is full of aluminum- 26 (Gehrels et al, 1993). Most of it lies along the galactic plane as would be expected if it were produced by supernovae from time to time. Supernovae not only produce new elements but are implicated in the birth of stars. The gas shells of ancient supernovae have been identified, and some of these coincide with swarms of young stars. This is not too surprising since the shock wave of a supernova would compress any gas clouds which happened to be in the vicinity, thus setting the stage for the formation of new stars.

Indeed, our own solar system appears to have formed in that very manner! John Wood (1982) gives an excellent account of that discovery from which the following has been abstracted. It all began with the Allende meteorite which broke up over Mexico on February 8, 1969, showering the area near the village of Pueblito de Allende with thousands of stones. Scientifically speaking, it was one of the most important meteors ever to fall. Radiometric dating showed that the material was about 4.5 billion years old which is the accepted age of our solar system. More importantly, Allende samples contain little inclusions of material which once floated freely in space before being packed together with the surrounding space dust. These inclusions are rich in calcium, aluminum, and titanium, and are called CAI minerals. CAI minerals appear to be survivors of a primeval heating of the material from which our solar system was formed.

In addition to the irregular-shaped inclusions, Allende also contains oval-shaped inclusions called chrondrules which are mostly made of olivine and pyroxene. A study of the chrondrules and inclusions of Allende led to a remarkable discovery in the 1970's by Robert Clayton and co-workers of the University of Chicago. They found that the ratios of oxygen-17 to oxygen-18 in Allende (and similar meteorites) could best be explained by assuming that two fundamentally different sources supplied the oxygen in our solar system. The discovery opened up a whole new area of scientific research with respect to meteorites.

One of the major advances on this front was made by G. J. Wasserburg and co-workers of the California Institute of Technology in 1976, when they found unequivocal evidence of the former presence of Al-26 in Allende CAI's. This isotope has a very short half-life, only 720,000 years, toward its decay into Mg-26. For any detectable amount of it to have been "alive" in Allende inclusions requires that it was created immediately before or during the formation of the solar system, and promptly mingled with the solar system's raw materials. It seems inescapable that a supernova (which is capable of creating Al-26, among other things) occurred near enough to the nascent solar system in space and time to contribute important amounts of freshly synthesized nuclides to it. (Wood, 1982, pp.191-192)

That ancient supernova probably triggered the collapse of a nearby nebula which, in turn, produced our sun and, most likely, a slew of other stars which have long since left the general vicinity. Such a supernova, like SN1987A, would have contributed a whole zoo-full of short-lived radioactive nuclides in addition to aluminum-26. Vast quantities of oxygen, carbon, sulfur, iron, silicon and other basic elements would likely have been produced as well.

Consequently, we not only have Wasserburg's discovery that aluminum-26 was present in the early solar system but also the supernova process responsible for it which guarantees that short-lived nuclides were a natural part of the landscape. Had the earth literally been created in seven days, Adam and Eve would have fried amongst the radioactive aluminum, cobalt, and what-have-you!

Another of the missing nuclides (very nearly so) is that of radioactive iodine-129 which has also left solid evidence of its former extensive existence in our solar system. (The small amount of iodine-129 found in tellurium ores, where it is produced from tellurium-130 by cosmic-ray muons [Dalrymple, 1991, p.376], and that from atomic bomb fallout do not affect our argument.) In the Richardson Meteorite, which fell in 1918, and the black stone Indarch, which fell in 1891, one finds regular iodine-127. That's the iodine you find in iodized salt. Since iodine-129 would have been produced along with ordinary iodine-127 during nuclear fusion, and since their chemical similarity would have tended to keep them together, we have a mystery. Where did all the iodine-129 go?

Studies showed that the above two meteorites have unusually large amounts of xenon-129 trapped in them, and xenon-129 is a stable decay product of iodine-129! Indeed, there was far more xenon present than could be created by cosmic rays. But there is more:


In the Earth's atmosphere, Xe-129 constitutes about one-fourth of total xenon. ... Yet in many meteorites Xe-129 is as much as 30 times more abundant, relative to the other xenon isotopes, than expected (Reynolds, 1967: 294, 1977: 217). As it is very probable that isotopes of the same element were thoroughly mixed when the Solar System formed, where did the excess Xe-129 come from? (Dalrymple, 1991, p.384)

Thus, we have something missing and something extra, and the two are only sensibly linked by radioactive decay! Iodine-129, which would have been created side by side with its chemical twin, iodine-127, had long ago decayed away, and xenon-129 is a daughter product of that decay.

With a half-life of 16.4 million years, 99.97% of that iodine-129 would still exist if our earth were only 7000 years old! Since it's all gone, save that produced by atomic bombs and in tellurim ores, Earth is at least 300 million years old.

When we consider the above table of nuclides as a whole, we find that the earth is more than a few but less than about 10 billion years of age (Dalrymple, 1991, p.387). For a variety of reasons this approach can only give us a rough estimate, but it's enough to easily put away the young-earth claims.

Creationists, out of sheer desperation, often challenge the constancy of the decay rates. Maybe radioactive elements decayed much faster in the past! However, neither theory nor laboratory experience offers any hope for them (see topic R2). That fact, of course, hasn't prevented creationists from taking flights of fantasy via their homespun theories about the universe. They simply toss Einstein's relativity, quantum mechanics, and any other inconvenient bit of science into the trash bin! But, hey! Special relativity (and to a lesser extend, general relativity) and quantum mechanics have earned their stripes. They are the great success stories of modern science! We're not talking about rank speculation here! Atom smashers are built according to the specifications of special relativity; quantum mechanics is the core of theoretical chemistry. Both have been tested by diverse and clever experiments, and have run true in thousands of applications.

Who are these creationists who can walk in and, without even putting their case before the scientific community, make up their own theories about the universe? They are generally individuals who are driven by religious doctrines of biblical literalism rather than by an honest search for truth. On the pretense that we have no reliable theoretical knowledge, they ask who was there, in those long lost ages, to check those decay rates. That is their ultimate refuge against the reliability of the radiometric clocks.

The astounding fact, as noted in another context a page or two earlier, is that we do have a direct observation pertaining to ancient decay rates! The light of supernova SN1987A, in its trailing phases, was produced almost entirely by the radioactive decay of cobalt-56, at first, then cobalt-57 a few years later. Those two nuclides of cobalt were positively identified by their gamma rays as they decayed. In both cases the rate at which the light faded precisely matched the decay rates for cobalt-56 and cobalt-57! (Regarding the claim that the speed of light may have slowed down, see topic A6.)

All we need now is the distance to SN1987A which turns out to be around 170,000 light-years (i.e. 52,700 parsecs). See topic A6 for more details. Surprisingly, that distance does not depend on the speed of light (in a Newtonian sense). Putting it all together, we reach the firm conclusion that we are seeing SN1987A as it was about 170,000 years ago. Thus, as it were, we have a window on the past which confirms that there has been no changes in the decay rates for cobalt-56 and cobalt-57. Hence, there is no reason for believing that any of the decay rates have changed as quantum mechanics describes them all and has been vindicated in the case of the two cobalt isotopes.

We also have a less direct but equally reliable window on the past in the formation of the present Atlantic Ocean. The magnetic stripes on the Atlantic sea floor, running parallel to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, show that the sea floor has been spreading at a rate which has been roughly constant. That rate, which can now be measured directly with fair accuracy, is 1.5 inches per year. Averaging a couple of measurements of the width of the Atlantic from my trusty globe, I came up with 3500 miles as a good ball park figure. At 1.5 inches per year it would have taken 147 million years for the Atlantic to reach its present dimensions. It turns out that the oldest sediments in the Atlantic, those near the continents, are from the latter part of the Jurassic Period. The Jurassic Period, as determined by radiometric dating, covers a period of time from 135-190 million years ago. Therefore, the two methods are in excellent agreement. Obviously, there was nothing much wrong with those radiometric decay rates even 150 million years ago!

It's "miracle time" again for the young-earth creationists as they have no scientific answers. However, if your viewpoint requires a miracle to save it, then it doesn't belong in the science classroom.


Young-earth "proof" #7: Space dust would be vacuumed out of our solar system by the Poynting-Robertson effect in a few thousand years. Since that is not the case, the earth is very young.

The Poynting-Robertson effect is an effect that sunlight has on small dust particles orbiting the sun. The continuing absorption of sunlight robs the dust particle of more and more of its angular momentum, giving it a tendency to slowly spiral into the sun.

Based on the Poynting-Robertson effect alone, particles 0.001 cm in diameter located at a distance equal to that of the earth's distance from the sun (one AU) would spiral into the sun in about 19,000 years; particles 0.0001 cm in diameter would require less than 2,000 years. (Strahler, 1987, p.145)

Slusher, in his book Age of the Cosmos (a 1980 ICR technical monograph), argued that the presence of such fine dust in our solar system limits its age to less than 10,000 years.

However, Slusher has overlooked several things. Reflected sunlight (as versus absorbed light for the Poynting-Robertson effect) applies an outward force on dust particles. As a particle gets nearer to the sun, this outward radiation pressure increases faster than the force of gravity pulling the particle in (Strahler, 1987, p.145). Certainly, that would have an important effect on any time calculations.

Another point overlooked by Slusher is the gravitational effect the planets would have on dust spiraling in. Many dust particles would be kicked into elliptical orbits which would greatly lengthen their time in space.

Still another effect "...overlooked by Slusher is trapping of particles by gravitational resonances with the larger planets (Alfven and Arrhenius, 1976, p. 81). So trapped, particles could remain in stable orbits indefinitely." (Strahler, 1987, p.145).

What about those comets which sweep through our solar system every now and then? Comets usually have two tails, one of gas and one of dust, and those tails often extend many tens of millions of miles across space. Comets would contribute quantities of new dust (Dutch, 1982, p.31). Collisions in the asteroid belt, or even major asteroid impacts on the smaller planets or moons, would also contribute some dust to the interplanetary spaces.

Therefore, the Poynting-Robertson effect provides no panacea for young-earth creationism.


Young-earth "proof" #8: At the rate many star clusters are expanding, they could not have been traveling for more than a few thousand years.

Not having the references, I have no idea as to what this argument is all about! I can't make heads or tails out of it.

I believe that some creationists have argued that many stars in a typical globular star cluster are moving outward, thus limiting the cluster to a certain age before it dissolved. Such an argument betrays a gross ignorance of globular clusters. A given star moves away from the central area of a globular cluster for a time, but it slows down, reverses direction, and falls back through the central region of the cluster and out the other side. Thus, stars move back and forth through the center of the cluster. There is no net expansion there.

Globular clusters do, however, present a stunning proof of great age! To reasonably understand the details of this proof, you should read Dalrymple (1991, pp.365-375). I'll quote from Dr. Alan Hayward to sum up the central idea.


[Scientific] techniques have enabled astronomers to work out the life span of each particular kind of star. They have found, for example, that the hottest and brightest blue stars were endowed with only enough energy to keep them going for a few million years, whereas the coolest red stars have a life span of many billions of years.

With this background in mind, we must now take note of a most remarkable fact about the star clusters...

Some clusters contain stars of all life spans, from the shortest to the longest. Some contain all except the very shortest-lived types. Some contain all except very short-lived and fairly short-lived types. And so on, all the way to those clusters where only the long-lived types are present.

But never do we find a cluster without a selection of the long- lived types. The missing ones are always from the shorter end of the range. We can look at the data for each cluster and say, 'This particular cluster contains only those types of stars with life spans greater than x years', where x has a different value for each cluster. (Hayward, 1985, p103)

The explanation is quite simple. Originally, when each globular cluster formed it was populated by a variety of star types as might reasonably be expected. As it aged, the first stars to disappear were the shortest-lived stars, and they were followed by the short-lived stars, until, in the very oldest globular clusters, only the very old red stars remained.

Since this conclusion is based upon a great mass of experimental data it seems inescapable, unless we are prepared to write off the extraordinary distribution of star types in clusters as a mere coincidence. And the odds against that have been calculated to be countless millions to one. (Hayward, 1985, p.104)

Thus, the odd distribution of stars in the globular clusters is a result of great ages at work. Most globular clusters, based on the above and other factors, appear to be more than 10 billion years old! (Chaisson and McMillan, 1993, p.411). Far from being an argument for a young universe, globular clusters are a showcase for an old universe.


Young-earth "proof" #9: Saturn's rings are unstable which indicates that they are less than millions of years old.

If Saturn's rings are less than millions of years old, then what of it? That doesn't prove that the planet is less than millions of years old. Recent study indicates that the rings are not older than 100 million years (Discover, April 1994, pp.86-91).

In his fifth seminar video, "The Hovind Theory," Dr. Hovind briefly indicates the nature of the above instability. Incredibly, he states that Saturn's rings are still spreading out according to particle size in keeping with the Poynting-Robertson effect! However, the Poynting-Robertson effect applies to fine dust in orbit around the Sun, not to particles in orbit around Saturn! Furthermore, most of the particles which make up the rings of Saturn are the size of large snowballs -- much too large for the Poynting-Robertson effect (Chaisson and McMillan, 1993, p.290).

Perhaps Hovind's argument is an evolved version of Slusher's argument made back in 1980 (ICR Technical Monograph #9, "Age of the Cosmos").

He argues that astronomer Otto Struve in 1852 noted that observations of Saturn's rings over the period from 1657 to 1851 show an increase in the widths of the rings and in the width of the gap between the planet and the inner edge of the B ring. The changes are interpreted to mean that the ring system is rapidly evolving and has not yet reached an equilibrium. ... Steven I. Dutch has evaluated Slusher's arguments and questions the observations interpreted as changes in the ring widths and distance from Saturn [1982, pp.31-32]. Drawings by Huygens in 1659 and Cassini in 1676, according to Dutch, show the proportions of the rings essentially as they are known today. Considering the poor quality of the early telescopes and the crudity of the drawings, no significant change can be inferred with confidence. Dutch summarizes with the remark that "the present creationist position is based on faulty data and erroneous reasoning, and is simply irrelevant to the age of Saturn" (p.32). (Strahler, 1987, pp.145-146)


Young-earth "proof" #10: Jupiter and Saturn are cooling off rather rapidly. Since they still give off internal heat, they cannot be billions of years old.

10. Jupiter is not cooling off that rapidly! Based on the fact that Jupiter is radiating twice as much energy as it receives from the Sun, and given its mass and other data, we can calculate the heat loss. "A simple calculation indicates that the average temperature of the interior of Jupiter falls by only about a millionth of a kelvin per year." (Chaisson and McMillan, 1993, p.269). (A drop of one kelvin is equal to a drop of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.) In short, Jupiter is big enough that it could still be radiating heat trapped during its formation 4.5 billion years ago. Thus, there's no problem there.

Saturn, which radiates almost three times more energy than it receives from the Sun, is a more complicated case as it is not massive enough to retain its primeval heat of formation 4.5 billion years ago.

The explanation for this strange state of affairs, first suggested by Ed Salpeter of Cornell and David Stevenson of Caltech, also explains the mystery of Saturn's apparent helium deficit, all in one neat package. At the temperatures and high pressures found in Jupiter's interior, liquid helium dissolves in liquid hydrogen. In Saturn, where the internal temperature is lower, the helium doesn't dissolve so easily, and tends to form droplets instead. The phenomenon is familiar to cooks who know that it is generally much easier to dissolve ingredients in hot liquids than in cold ones. Saturn probably started out with a fairly uniform mix of hydrogen and helium, but the helium tended to condense out of the surrounding hydrogen, much as water vapor condenses out of Earth's atmosphere to form a mist. The amount of helium condensation was greatest in the planet's cool outer layers, where the mist turned to rain about 2 billion years ago. A light shower of liquid helium has been falling through Saturn's interior ever since. This helium precipitation is responsible for depleting the outer layers of their helium content. ...As the helium sinks toward the center, the planet's gravitational field compresses it and heats it up. [Saturn is a "gas giant," a planet without a surface. As the helium in the outer layers "rained" down into the lower levels it was squeezed into a smaller space due to gravity, which caused the helium atoms to bump into each other more often. That is, the helium heated up according to Boyle's law.] (Chaisson and McMillan, 1993, p.288)

You may object that the above is just a "theory," but this hypothesis comes with realistic, detailed mathematical and physical explanations -- something almost unheard of in creationist literature. We now have a plausible explanation for Saturn's heat output. Therefore, Saturn presents no problem with respect to the above creationist argument.

Young-earth "proof" #11: Since the earth's magnetic field is decaying at an exponential rate, its strength would have been unrealistically high 25,000 years ago. Thus, Earth is less than 25,000 years old.

11. Dr. Hovind is almost certainly talking about Barnes's magnetic field argument (1973) or some echo of it. Henry Morris, himself, praised it as one of the best arguments for a young earth. In fact, it recommends itself as a classic study of creationist incompetence!

In 1971 Barnes took about 25 measurements of the earth's magnetic field strength (originally assembled by Keith McDonald and Robert Gunst (1967)) and fitted them to an exponential decay curve. He drew upon Sir Horace Lamb's 1883 paper as theoretical justification for this. Following the curve backwards in time, Barnes showed that 20,000 years ago the earth's magnetic field would have been impossibly high. Thus, he concluded that the earth is much younger than 20,000 years.

There are several fatal errors in Barnes's work:

1. Barnes employs an obsolete model of the earth's interior. Today, no one doing serious work on the earth's magnetic field envisions its source as a free electrical current in a spherical conductor (the earth's core) undergoing simple decay. Elsasser's dynamo theory is the only theory today which has survived.

According to Barnes, "In 1883 Sir Horace Lamb proved theoretically that the earth's magnetic field could be due to an original event (creation) from which it has been decaying ever since" [1973, p.viii]. This is not a correct description of Lamb's 1883 paper, which dealt only with electric currents and did not mention geomagnetism at all... (Brush, 1983, p.73)

Lamb's ideas on electric currents had simply been pressed into service to support Barnes's obsolete ideas about the origin of the earth's magnetic field.

In trying to discredit Elsasser's theory, Barnes quoted Cowling's theorem.

He cites Cowling's 1934 theorem that shows "that it is not possible for fluid motions to generate a magnetic field with axial symmetry (such as the dipole field of the earth)" (Barnes 1973, pp. 44-45). However, recent work shows that Cowling's theorem does not forbid a model with axially symmetric fluid motions generating a field with lower symmetry (Jacobs 1975, pp. 128-31), and, indeed, the earth's field does not have a pure dipole character, a fact that Barnes conveniently ignores. (Brush, 1983, p.76)

The dynamo theory has gained near-universal acceptance because it is the only proposed mechanism that can explain all the observed features of the Earth's magnetic field. In contrast, Barnes' hypothesis of a freely decaying field cannot explain the existence, configuration, movement, or changes in the nondipole field, the fluctuations in the dipole moment, the reversals in field polarity, or the documentation in the geologic record of the continued existence of the field for more than three billion years. (Dalrymple, 1992, p.17)

Point 1, all by itself, is fatal to Barnes's basic idea since it removes any serious reason for believing that the earth's magnetic field has been continuously decaying.

2. In using McDonald and Gunst's data, Barnes selects only the "dipole component" of the total magnetic field for analysis (Brush, 1983, p.73). The dipole field is not an accurate measurement of the overall strength of the earth's magnetic field. The dipole field can decay even as the overall strength of the magnetic field remains the same!

...McDonald and Gunst state explicitly that "the magnetic dipole field is being driven destructively to smaller values by fluid motions which transform its magnetic energy into that of the near neighboring modes rather than expend it more directly as Joule heat" (1968, p.2057). In other words, the energy is being transferred from the dipole field to the quadrupole field and to higher moments rather than being dissipated as heat. This implies that the value of the dipole field could not have been much greater in the past, since it is limited by the total magnetic energy, which does not change very rapidly. (Brush, 1983, p.75)

Thus, we are not dealing with a simple decay. Energy is being shifted to other modes rather than being totally lost to the magnetic field. Might not a reverse shift in energy increase the dipole field at times?

There is some reason to believe that the dipole field reached a maximum around 1800 and that it was smaller in 1600 than in 1800 (Yukutake 1971, p.23). Other recent work also suggests that the dipole field has fluctuated on a fairly short time scale (Braginsky 1970; papers by J. C. Cain and others in Fisher et al. 1975). (Brush, 1983, p.77)

It seems that the dipole field has gone uphill at times!

Studies of the magnetic field as recorded in dated rocks and pottery have shown that the dipole moment actually fluctuates over periods of a few thousand years and that decreases in field intensity are eventually followed by increases. For example, the archaeomagnetic data show that the dipole field was about 20% weaker than the present field 6,500 years ago and about 45% stronger than the present field about 3000 years ago (McElhinny and Senanayake, 1982). (Dalrymple, 1992, p.16)

Quite clearly, the dipole field has increased at times!

Point 2, by itself, is fatal to Barnes's idea in that Barnes was not actually plotting a decline in total field strength. Evidence shows that the dipole field has increased in strength at times.

3. Based on his preconceptions of the earth's magnetic field, Barnes fits an exponential decay curve to the data. Barnes is doing some circular reasoning here. The use of an exponential decay curve is tantamount to assuming that the earth is young; one must show that the decay curve arises from the data -- not assume it! Otherwise, one is guilty of assuming that which must be proven, of arguing in circles.

If you actually plot the data, as Brush has done (1983, p.74), it becomes quite clear that the data does not justify an exponential decay curve. To be sure, the data doesn't actually rule out an exponential decay curve, but that's not particularly helpful since the data can be made to fit any number of radically different equations. We could fit it to some kind of sine function if we wanted to. For example: f(x) = A sin(Bx + C) would also fit the data for suitable values of A, B, and C. A scientific handling of the data requires that we don't play guessing games. We must use the simplest curve (usually favored by nature) that the data justifies. In this case, the data fits a linear curve (straight line) just as well. Thus, Barnes should have used a straight line. Even then, a careful scientist would not extrapolate very far beyond the limits of the data unless there was good justification for it.

Do the data actually fit this exponential formula? Barnes gives no evidence that they do; in fact, he does not even bother to present a plot showing the experimental points in relation to his theoretical curve. When one does construct such a plot (fig. 1) it becomes immediately obvious that the fit is not very good and that a straight line ... is equally good, considering the scatter of the observational points. Indeed, that is what McDonald and Gunst themselves stated: "Since the time of Gauss's measurements the earth's dipole moment has decreased, sensibly linearly, at approximately the rate of 5 percent per hundred years" (quoted by Barnes 1973, p.34). (Brush, 1983, p.75)

Thus, instead of limiting the earth to less than 20,000 years of age, a more objective use of the data, a linear extrapolation, leads to 100 million years. However, both conclusions involve errors of procedure since there are no justifiable grounds for extending the curve great distances beyond the actual data. We would be dealing with pure speculation which proves nothing.

Point 3, alone, deprives Barnes's idea of any force, turning it into wild speculation.

4. Barnes simply ignores the fact that the earth's magnetic polarity has reversed itself on numerous occasions. That fact, alone, is absolutely fatal to every fibre of Barnes's argument.

The theoretical basis for magnetic field reversals is Elsasser's dynamo theory, which is based on fluid motions in the earth's core (Elsasser 1946-1947; see Jacobs 1975, chap. 4, or Stacey 1977, chaps. 5 and 6). The dynamo theory assumes an energy source to keep the fluid moving; it is not yet established what the main source of energy is, but there are various possibilities such as radioactive heating, growth of the inner core, differential rotation of the core and mantle, etc. In any case, nothing justifies Barnes's assumption that there is no energy source. (Brush, 1983, p.76)

Barnes, like most creationists, is not above quoting obsolete sources. In a 1981 paper he made extensive use of a 1962 book by A. Jacobs which cited difficulties with the magnetic reversal hypothesis (Brush, 1983, p.76). Funny, that Barnes should quote a 1962 source. It was in the mid-1960s when the great discoveries started rolling which forever made magnetic reversals a fact of life! Odd, don't you think, that Barnes missed all those more recent sources? I guess they were not particularly "helpful."

In the same section of the later edition of this book, Jacobs states that "the evidence seems compelling" that such reversals have occurred (1975, p. 140). Barnes, however, omits the date of publication of the text he quotes from and completely ignores the fact that Jacobs changed his position in the 1975 edition. In fact, the principal creationist "expert" on geomagnetism writes as if the "revolution in the earth sciences" of the last two decades had never happened; he quotes A. A. and Howard Meyerhoff, two diehard opponents of plate tectonics, as if their "refutations" actually had been successful. (Brush, 1983, p.76)

Actually, considering that Barnes rejected modern relativity theory, quantum mechanics, and just about anything this side of nineteenth-century physics, it's not too surprising that he also rejected the revolution in geology. Barnes was born at the wrong time; I do believe he would have been happier in the nineteenth century.

Two years later, despite criticism from Brush, we find that Barnes is still ignoring the fact that Jacobs had changed his views. If someone concluded that Barnes was less than honest, could you blame that person?

In the January 1982 issue of Journal of Geological Education, Stephen Brush cites, as well as criticizing Barnes' "theory", that Jacobs accepted reversals once the evidence was overwhelming. However, in his book Origin And Destiny Of The earth's Magnetic Field, Barnes (1983b) rejects Brush's criticisms citing again Jacobs' 1963 objections, but omits the date and ignores the 1975 revision! In fact, in 1984, Jacobs wrote a book entitled Reversals of the Earth's Magnetic Field. (Wakefield, 1991, p.6)

Point 4, just by itself, is absolutely fatal to Barnes's idea in that it destroys the theoretical foundation for believing that the earth's magnetic field is continually decaying. In supporting the dynamo theory it also destroys any attempt to read into the data a continual decline.

We can safely relegate Barnes's magnetic field argument to the junk heap of crackpot ideas.


Young-earth "proof" #12: The volume of lava on earth divided by its rate of efflux yields only a few million years. The earth is not billions of years old.

12. At present, when mountains are actively being built up, the output of magma is almost certainly much higher than usual. There may have been long, quiet periods where little happened in the way of volcanic activity. Enormous amounts of crust have been recycled in the subduction of oceanic plates. Enormous amounts of the earth's crust have been eroded away, only to be recycled. Morris has not addressed these and other problems.

Morris and Parker [1982] list an age of 500 million years based on the "influx of magma from mantle to form crust." This calculation, which appears in Morris [1974], is based on the volume (0.2 cubic km/yr) of lava erupted by Paricutin Volcano in Mexico during the 1940s. Morris [1974] notes that intrusive rocks are much more common than lava flows:


... .so that it seems reasonable to assume that at least 10 cubic kilometers of new igneous rocks are formed each year by flows from the earth's mantle.

The total volume of the earth's crust is about 5 x 10^9 cubic kilometers. Thus, the entire crust could have been formed by volcanic activity at present rates in only 500 million years, which would only take us back into the Cambrian period. ... The uniformitarian model once again leads to a serious problem and contradiction. [Morris, 1974, p.157]

But the "uniformitarian model" of which Morris [1974] is so critical is a product of Morris [1974], not science. He has pulled the value of 10 km3/yr from thin air, assumed that this fictitious rate has been constant over time, and neglected erosion, sedimentation, crustal recycling, and the fact that the injection of magma into the crust is a highly nonuniform process about which little is known. Morris' (92) calculation is worthless. (Dalrymple, 1984, p.111)

Thus, another young-earth argument bites the dust due to the use of a dubious rate. It's not good enough to find some rate; one must show that it is sound.


Young-earth "proof" #13: If we divide the amount of various minerals in the ocean by their influx rate we get only a few thousand years of accumulation. Therefore, the earth is young.

13. In the case of aluminum we "get" only 100 years! In the case of sodium we "get" 260 million years. Where Dr. Hovind gets his "few thousand years," as though there were some kind of general agreement, is anyone's guess.

The table that one sees in a couple of Henry Morris' books was copied from a chapter by Goldberg (1965) that appears in Riley and Skirrow (1965).

Goldberg's [1965] Table I is a list of the abundances and residence times of the elements in sea water; it is these residence times that Morris [1974, 1977] and Morris and Parker [1982] give as indicated ages of the Earth. The residence time of an element, however is the average time that any small amount of an element remains in seawater before it is removed, not, as stated by Morris [1974], the time "to accumulate in ocean from river inflow," and has nothing to do with the ages of either the Earth or the ocean. Morris [1974, 1974a, 1977] and Morris and Parker [1982] have totally misrepresented the data listed in Goldberg's [1965] table. (Dalrymple, 1984, 116)

Dalrymple concludes with:


The influx of chemicals to the ocean is an invalid and worthless method of determining the age of the Earth. Morris [1974, 1977] and Morris and Parker [1982] have misrepresented fundamental geochemical data and ignored virtually everything that is known about the geochemistry of seawater. (Dalrymple, 1984, p.116)

It's all in a day's work for your typical creationist author! They are quite good at ignoring unfavorable facts. Never mind that the elements are in approximate equilibrium with the ocean; never mind that residence times are not the times for elements to accumulate from river inflow. Never mind that plankton concentrates these elements sometimes a thousand fold or more in their skeletons, and, when they die, they remove these elements from the sea waters (Glenn Morton). Press that banner high and march on! And that's exactly what a new generation of creationists are doing with this intellectually dishonest argument.


Young-earth "proof" #14: The amount of helium in the atmosphere divided by its formation rate on Earth gives only 175,000 years.

14. The age of 175,000 years is a little steep for creationist purposes, so Dr. Hovind informs us that "God must have started the earth with some." Heaven forbid that the earth should be older than about 7000 years!

Helium-4 is the product of radioactive alpha decay whereas Helium- 3 is primordial. The rates of their "production" are simply the rates of their escape from within the earth to the atmosphere.

The whole argument hinges on Helium-4 remaining in the atmosphere. A fair amount of helium is lost from the earth's atmosphere by simply being heated up in the elevated temperature of the exosphere (Dalrymple, 1984, p.112).

The exosphere is the outermost layer of our atmosphere, beginning after the ionosphere at about 300 miles above the earth. When a lightweight helium atom is heated up, especially Helium-3 which is even lighter than Helium-4, it can easily pick up enough speed to escape Earth's gravity altogether and head off into outer space. Heating gas is a little like swatting rubber balls with a paddle; the lighter balls travel a lot faster after being swatted. In this manner about half of the Helium-3 produced is lost to outer space. The amount of the heavier Helium-4 lost by this method appears to be far short of the amount produced. Hence, the point of Morris' argument which is based on calculations by Cook. However, there are other mechanisms of helium escape which Morris and Cook have overlooked. Creationist Larry Vardiman (ICR Impact series, No.143, May 1985) at least recognizes some of these factors. However, he has not fully addressed the matter, let alone proven that the earth is young.

The most probable mechanism for helium loss is photoionization of helium by the polar wind and its escape along open lines of the Earth's magnetic field. Banks and Holzer [1969] have shown that the polar wind can account for an escape of 2 to 4 x 10^6 ions/cm^2 sec of Helium-4, which is nearly identical to the estimated production flux of (2.5 +-1.5) x 10^6 atoms/cm^2 sec. Calculations for Helium-3 lead to similar results, i.e., a rate virtually identical to the production flux. Another possible escape mechanism is direct interaction of the solar wind with the upper atmosphere during the short periods of lower magnetic- field intensity while the field is reversing. Sheldon and Kern [1972] estimated that 20 geomagnetic-field reversals over the past 3.5 million years would have assured a balance between helium production and loss. (Dalrymple, 1984, p.112)

Dr. Dalrymple goes on to explain that even though our understanding of the helium balance in the atmosphere is incomplete, the situation being very complicated because of various hard-to-calculate factors, we do know one thing. "...it is clear that helium can and does escape from the atmosphere in amounts sufficient to balance production." (1984, p.113)

Thus, the helium balance calculations provided by creationist Melvin Cook (which are used by Henry Morris) cannot provide a reliable minimum estimate of the earth's age. Their argument is a fatal oversimplification of a complex problem.

Another version of the helium argument for a young earth is based on the estimated production of Helium-4 by radioactive decay. The creationist then asks why so little of that amount is found in the atmosphere. The answer to that one is that the same escape mechanisms listed above apply once the helium-4 works its way out of the rock and into the atmosphere. The rock traps it for a time and slows its release.


Young-earth "proof" #15: Continents are eroding at a rate which would bring them to sea level in less than 14 million years. Inasmuch as the continents are anything but flat, the earth cannot be billions of years old. (27.5 x 109 tons sediment/year are lost to the oceans by erosion; the present mass of the continents above sea level is 383 x 1015 tons.)

15. This argument by creationist Stuart E. Nevins, which appeared in the ICR Impact series (No.8) in 1973, simply ignores the impact of modern geology! Nevins overlooks the fact that the continents are dynamic and have grown appreciably over time, both by accretion of material at the margins and by addition of material from the mantle below (Dalrymple, 1984, p.114). Volcanic activity, the emplacement of gigantic masses of rising, molten rock, and the stupendous compressional forces of the earth's colliding plates have been building mountains off and on for billions of years. Mountain building is going on even now in many parts of the world.

We could also mention that the current rates of erosion are particularly high and that isostatic rebound would greatly increase the time for a continent to erode flat, but that's just icing on the cake. Any argument which pretends that continents are inert lumps of rock subject only to erosion is out of touch with reality. We need not consider it further.

Davis A. Young (1988, pp.128-131) treats Nevins' argument in more detail. Another point made by Nevins is that sediment is piling up on the ocean floor faster than it's being removed. Even if that's true, there is no reason to view it as being anything more than a temporary imbalance.

...it is generally regarded by geologists that the rates of erosion at present are relatively high because of the topography of the continents. The continental land masses are believed to be much more rugged and mountainous than is usually the case, and mountainous topography speeds up rates of erosion. Thus at the present time we ought fully to expect that more sediment is being added to the oceans than is being removed. Paleogeography indicates that very often in the past the opposite was the case. (Young, 1988, p.131)

Thus, we have no problem from that quarter either.


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

16. Those "scientific" creationists must be delirious to trot this plum out! Do they really believe that we should wind up with x miles of topsoil (or some such nonsense) after billions of years? Geologically speaking, any given patch of land is seldom in equilibrium for long. Either it is collecting sediments or being eroded away, usually the latter. If it collects sediments then the old topsoil, now compressed and deeply buried, is no longer turned over by earthworms or small animals. It is deprived of oxygen and fresh organic inputs such as rotting leaves. What organic material it did have is slowly lost in most cases by decay and slow oxidation. Peat bogs and coal-forming swamps are an exception, but we would not count them as topsoils. Under unusual conditions a layer of topsoil can be "fossilized," even to the point of preserving the three-dimensional shape of tree leaves, as is the case at Yellowstone National Park. Most likely, depending on the kind of soil and environment, topsoil, if buried by slow accumulation, would become clay-like or sandy. Thus, one does not accumulate topsoil in the way that material might be accumulated in a bog.

In the case of erosion the topsoil, of course, is removed. However, in most cases plant growth, burrowing creatures, and weathering will produce a new layer of topsoil.

Where sediments are neither being collected nor eroded the accumulating humus in the soil will reach an equilibrium point. The new material will balance that lost by decay and oxidation. Keep in mind that topsoil is full of microbes that love to munch away on organic material.

In all cases topsoil formation is a renewing process, and there is a limit to how deep it can get. Furthermore, a given layer of topsoil, say in the Great Plains, may take 4000 (or whatever) years to built up, but it might also remain in a state of equilibrium for much longer periods. Just because a patch of topsoil takes 1000 (or whatever) years to build up doesn't mean that it is only 1000 years old. It could be much, much older! But, in time, it gets buried or eroded, allowing the process to begin anew.

Thus, we're dealing with a dynamic and continuing cycle of topsoil formation and destruction, not a one-way accumulation of topsoil. Is that so difficult to figure out?

The whole idea of using topsoil formation rates to prove that the earth is young is just totally insane! It shows how desperate young- earth creationists are. They're grabbing at straws! No, ghosts of straws!


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

17. If those erosion rates are correct, then the Niagara Falls are less than 10,000 years old. What of it? Since when does the age of the Niagara Falls have anything to do with the age of the earth?? Niagara Falls did not exist during the last glacial episode since ice covered the entire area to a considerable depth. Glacial activity likely made Niagara Falls possible. Indeed, glacial activity helped to create the Great Lakes. The last glacial episode, the Wisconsinan, ended around 11,000 to 12,000 years ago, thus giving us an upper limit.

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

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

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


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

18. The incredible pressure found in oil and gas wells indicates that the oil and gas have been effectively trapped. The initial slow accumulation of oil and gas, the result of primary migration, would hardly have a chance to build up great pressures if the trapping rock layers were full of cracks and acting like a sieve!

Oil and gas also do a lot of migrating, and the oil accumulated in a given reservoir may have undergone a secondary migration from another reservoir. Thus, a given pool of oil may or may not have been there millions and millions of years. A recent geological shift in the rocks might also increase the leakage of an oil pool. Thus, the mere existence of a leaky oil pool is not, in itself, sufficient proof that the oil had to be recently created.

The primary migration of oil from 1 to 5 kilometers deep in the earth, where it is produced under a combination of pressure and heat acting on organic matter, probably goes hand in hand with water migration. The water is squeezed out as the sediments experience more and more pressure. Thus, it may interest you to know how fast water migrates down there.

Some idea of the extremely slow speed of fluid motion to be expected can be gained by considering the movement of ground water at shallow depths in dense clays, classed as "impermeable." Under a moderate hydraulic gradient and a reasonable value of permeability for clay, we come up with flow speeds of ground water on the order of 2 to 3 million years per kilometer [3.2 to 4.8 million years per mile]. Yet the permeability of source shales of petroleum is rated at only one-thousandth as great as for clays tested in the surface environment (Wszolek and Burlingame, 1987, p. 573). (Strahler, 1987, p.237)

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


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

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

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

It is stretching the long arm of coincidence much too far, to suggest that there just happened to be a vast hole in the ocean bed seven miles deep near the mouth of the Mississippi, and that the Flood just happened to fill that hole with sediment, while leaving nearby areas of the Atlantic unfilled; and that similar coincidences just happened to occur around the mouths of all the world's great rivers. (Hayward, 1985, p.84)

It sounds like miracle-time for scientific creationists, but wait! Dr. Hovind will probably assure you that, when the waters were draining off the continents at the end of the flood, all that sediment was whisked down the Mississippi River and deposited in mere hours or days. Unfortunately, there's a fatal bug in that scenario.

It takes time for the earth to sink under a load of sediment. Suppose you went down to the Gulf of Mexico one fine day, say just off the Texas coast, and dumped a pile of sediment there 7 miles high! I haven't the foggiest idea how long that mountain of sediment would sit there before sinking down to sea level, but I can assure you that it would not happen in hours or even days. That heap would probably still be there after thousands of years.

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


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

20. Presently, the earth's rotation is slowing down 0.005 seconds per year per year (Thwaites and Awbrey, 1982, p.19). At least Dr. Hovind doesn't use the horrendous rate of 1 second per year which Dr. Walter Brown employed as a result of a total misunderstanding of time keeping. I believe that Dr. Brown discarded that argument upon realizing his error, but don't expect the argument to disappear from the creationist scene. It will probably be touted by various creationists for as long as "scientific" creationism lasts!

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


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

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

Thus, at 370 million years ago, the earth had 21.4 extra days per year. The total days then per year were: (365.25 + 21.4)days/Year = 386.65 days/Year

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

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

...the correct present rate of slowing of the earth's rotation is excessively high, because the present rate of spin is in a resonance mode with the back-and-forth motion of the oceans' waters in the ocean basins. In past ages when the rotation rate was faster, the resonance was much less or nonexistent, resulting in a much more gradual slowing of the rotation rate. The most recent calculations indicate that the earth could be 4 to 5 billion years old and not have been spinning excessively fast or requiring the moon to be any closer to the earth than 225,000 kilometers (140,000 miles). (Sonleitner, 1991, file=MOVIE2.WP)

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

Determinations of the same kind were made for algal deposits (stromatolites) of the Upper Cambrian (-510 m.y.) (Pannella et al., 1968). Plots of the collected data for the entire time span from Recent back through the Paleozoic Era showed a nonuniform increase in days per month going back in time, and from this it is inferred that tidal friction has not been uniform in that period. (Strahler, 1987, p.147)

Studies of the chambered nautilus, for a time, was also proposed as a geologic clock by Kahn and Pompea. However, that effort ran into problems and creationists still use it to try to discredit the coral clocks. Each case, of course, has to be judged on its own merits. The coral clocks are good enough to destroy the young-earth claims.

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

It spells "Old Earth."


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

21. This is the other half of Nevins' argument (see point #15). Dr. Hovind has simply botched it further by asserting that only a few thousand year's worth of sediment is on the ocean floor! In the case of the Atlantic Ocean floor, the sediment varies in thickness. The thinnest sediment is near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where new sea floor is currently being generated. That is to say, sediment thickness there is zero. The thickest sediment is near the continental margins, and they most certainly have more than a few thousand years of accumulation. Try around 150 million year's worth! Funny, that the observed and measured rate of sea floor spreading, when extrapolated backward in time, gives the same age for the same portions of the Atlantic sea floor as does radiometric dating, and both of those methods agree with the gradually increasing thicknesses of sediments which have accumulated on the bottom of the sea floor as the freshly formed floor has spread away from the Mid-Atlantic ridge! What are the odds of such a triple "coincidence" occurring? It's easy to see why scientists "bet" on an old-earth, not a young-earth, in such cases. And what about those magnetic stripes on the Atlantic sea floor? If that ocean floor is indeed spreading, then the thickness of these stripes and their distance from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge preserve a chronological record of magnetic field reversals. When these distances and widths are divided by the sea floor spreading rate do we get a match with the magnetic reversal chronology based on a study of continental rocks via radiometric dating? Yes, we do!

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

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

That's bad news for those creationists who believe that the earth's plates did some dancing after Noah's flood. In the few thousand years that creationists have to play around with, there would not have been enough time for a growing ocean plate to cool down. That means the plate would not sink as a result of greater density due to cooling and contraction, meaning that the Western Pacific would not be any deeper than the Eastern Pacific. Isn't that amazing! Instant-drift creationists have another problem. (Actually they have bushels of problems, but we don't have yards of space.) Like Silly Putty (remember that?) the earth's mantle will flow like a liquid if enough time is allowed, but it will act like a solid if you try to rush things. A stick of old-fashioned Silly Putty will, if left to own sweet time, melt into a puddle -- and even into the sofa! However, if you try to bend that stick quickly it will snap in two as though it were a piece of glass! For similar reasons, there is absolutely no way to significantly speed up the drift of continents or the spreading of ocean floors. It would be like driving through solid rock!

Dr. Hovind's bizarre suggestion that plate tectonics is an evolutionist's means for escaping an embarrassing dilemma doesn't really merit comment since there is no dilemma. Funny, that the theory of continental drift was fiercely opposed by most "evolutionary" geologists at first! Funnier still, is how some discoveries in the late sixties brought them all around! It looks like a case of follow-the-evidence rather than a conspiracy! We might note, in passing, that plate tectonics became an observed fact in 1985! The Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) technique in combination with laser ranging techniques, successfully measured the rate of movement of the earth's plates relative to one another (Strahler, 1987, p.212). Since 1979, such measurements have continually been taken by NASA's Crustal Dynamics Project, which has removed any doubt that the continents are indeed "drifting." (Note: the continents don't "drift" by any efforts of their own, they just hitch a ride on the earth's mantle material as it moves away from oceanic ridges.)


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

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

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

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

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

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

The [stalactites, stalagmites, and flowstones] are formed when calcium carbonate in solution in the water is deposited out, but this process is not one of simple evaporation. The air in most caves, even in the most arid regions, is highly moist; therefore, when water soaking down from above reaches the air of the open cave, it does not lose water to the air and leave minerals behind. This is clearly shown by the composition of the deposits, which consists of almost pure calcium carbonate. When the slightly acid water with its dissolved minerals meets the moist air of the cave, a minute amount of the carbon dioxide leaves the water and goes into the air. This process is almost exactly the reverse of the major process of cave formation, for, when carbon dioxide goes into the air, the solution becomes supersaturated and a small amount of calcium carbonate is precipitated out (Moore and Nicholas, 1964). (Loftin, 1988, p.23)

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

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

For example, on the mortared brickwork of old forts and places of that sort, formations which look to the naked eye like stalactites and stalagmites sometimes form in less than one hundred years. However, those formations are composed of gypsum, which is a salt of calcium sulfate. Unlike calcium carbonate, gypsum is moderately soluble in water, which means that transport and recrystallization can take place much more rapidly (White, 1976, p.304). There is a whole class of cave deposits called evaporite minerals which consist of those minerals which dissolve readily in water. As might be expected, these formations are ephemeral when compared to the carbonates which form all the really large and impressive cave formations. The chemistry of all this is not particularly complex and is very well understood. (Loftin, 1988, p.23)

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

Many people have found that stalactites forming on concrete or mortar outdoors may grow several centimeters each year. Stalactite growth in these environments, however, bears little relation to that in caves, because it does not proceed by the same chemical reaction. Although cement and mortar are made from limestone, the same rock in which the caves form, the carbon dioxide has been driven off by heating. When water is added to these materials, one product is calcium hydroxide, which is about 100 times as soluble in water as calcite is. A calcium hydroxide solution absorbs carbon dioxide rapidly from the atmosphere to reconstitute calcium carbonate, and produce stalactites. This is why stalactites formed by solution from cement and mortar grow much faster than those in caves. To illustrate, in 1925, a concrete bridge was constructed inside Postojna Cave, Yugoslavia, and adjacent to it an artificial tunnel was opened. By 1956, tubular stalactites 45 centimeters long were growing from the bridge, while stalactites of the same age in the tunnel were less than 1 centimeter long. (Moore and Sullivan, 1978, p.47)

By the way, geologic opinion holds that the Carlsbad Caverns began to be etched out 60 million years ago. The present chambers were excavated from 1 to 8 million years ago, depending on their depth. As for stalactites, the Bulletin of the National Speleological Society (37: p.21, 1975) gave their observed growth rates as ranging from 0.1 to 10 centimeters per thousand years. An exceptional spurt of growth might exceed the higher rate for short periods of time, but it could no more be maintained than a winning streak at the Las Vegas poker tables. Moore and Sullivan (1978, p.47) give an upper average rate of "only a little more" than 0.1 mm/year [10 centimeters per thousand years]. Stalagmites grow at a similar rate. Areas with a lot of overgrowth and tropical temperatures would have the higher rates. Thus, a 60-foot giant, as might be found in Carlsbad Caverns, would have a minimum estimated age of about 180,000 years.

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

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

As we go to press, research is very active in this field. In the latest results, speleothems indicate that the average surface temperature in mid-latitude cave regions reached a peak 3 degrees C above the present about 8000 years ago, that it was as much as 10 degrees C colder than at present from 15,000 to 80,000 years ago, warmer than now from 80,000 to 120,000 years ago, colder from 120,000 to 170,000 years ago, warmer from 170,000 to 200,000 years ago, and colder for an undetermined period before that. (Moore and Sullivan, 1978, p.65)

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

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

But as the study of the glacial deposits was carried westward into Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, two distinct sheets of drift were found at many places to be separated by old soil, beds of peat, or layers of till that had been leached and decayed (Fig. 18-10). Here the uppermost drift, like that in New England, appeared fresh, but the buried drift sheet showed the effect of chemical decay and was obviously much the older. Moreover, in places, the soil and peat, or gravels, between two such sheets of till included fossil wood, leaves, or bones, recording the existence of animals and plants of temperate climate. Thus it came to be realized, about 1870, that a continental ice sheet had developed more than once, and that warm interglacial ages had intervened. (Dunbar & Waage, 1969, pp.434-435)

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




0 - 15,000 warm Postglacial 15,000 - 80,000 cold Main Wisconsinan glaciation 80,000 - 120,000 warm 120,000 - 170,000 cold Early Wisconsinan glaciation 170,000 - 200,000 warm Sangamonian interglaciation 200,000 - 250,000 cool 250,000 - 270,000 warm 270,000 - 320,000 cool 320,000 - 360,000 warm 360,000 - 540,000 cold Illinoian glaciation 540,000 - 850,000 cool Yarmouthian interglaciation 850,000 - 880,000 warm 880,000 - 900,000 cold 900,000 - 1,390,000 cold Kansan glaciation 1,390,000 - 1,450,000 warm Aftonian interglaciation 1,450,000 - 1,500,000 cool 1,500,000 - 1,530,000 warm 1,530,000 - 1,580,000 cool 1,580,000 - 1,630,000 warm 1,630,000 - 1,670,000 cool 1,670,000 - 1,715,000 warm 1,715,000 - 2,000,000 cold Nebraskan glaciation

Table of Glaciation Episodes for North America (Based on D. B. Ericson and G. Wollin, 1968, Science, vol.162, p.233)


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

We can forget about Dr. Hovind's snowball theory of the Ice Age. It can't begin to account for real life data.


Young-earth "proof" #23: The Sahara desert is expanding; it can only be a few thousand years old.

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


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

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


The validity of the application of total salt in the ocean in the determination of age turned out to have a very simple answer in the fact shown by Goldschmidt (1954) that it is in steady state and therefore useless as a means of determining the age of the oceans. [Cook, 1966, p.73] (Dalrymple, 1984, pp.115-116)


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

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

Yes, given unlimited living space, a good deal of luck in the early stages, protection from mass destruction by disease or other disasters, and a high motivation of purpose throughout, eight people could probably populate the earth in a few thousand years. Eight germs could do it in less than a week. Eight bunny rabbits would fall somewhere in between. Eight cats would give us yet another figure. What do any of these figures have to do with the age of the earth? Nothing! What do these figures have to do with actual growth rates? Asolutely nothing!

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

When man lived in scattered tribal groups, which is what he did for 99% of his history, the net human population growth was zero most of the time, just as it is for animals today. Animal populations may undergo cycles of boom and bust, especially small animals such as rabbits or mice, but their net growth is zero. No permanent increase in population can be sustained unless it is reflected by a permanent change in the environment. Such a change might include the loss of a predator due to the colonization of new territory, a permanent increase in the food supply due to climatic change or a change in dietary habits, or a variety of other factors. In the case of man, the development of agriculture and the use of fossil fuels have played major roles. After a favorable change in the environment, a population of animals (or people) may record a permanent jump before leveling off at a zero net growth again. Thus, the growth rate, before technology intervened in a major way, necessarily involved a series of plateaus where the population was in approximate equilibrium with the environment. Indeed, many tribal groups probably died out. There was no assurance that early man would even survive. Jumps between plateau levels would likely have been exponential. Indeed, the exponential growth rate of the last 300 years or so can be thought of as one long jump to a new plateau which has been raised artificially high by technology.

Those who imagine that eight people gave rise to all living today according to a simple exponential growth curve have demonstrated an inability to think things through. Let's look at the equation involved in these growth rate calculations.

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

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

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

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

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


Nobody who has ever studied the population explosion would make such an unwise extrapolation. It is well known that growth rates have increased enormously in recent centuries. Population expert Paul Ehrlich gives world average yearly growth rates of 0.9 per cent between 1850 and 1930, 0.3 per cent between 1650 and 1850, and a mere 0.07 per cent in the thousand years prior to 1650. And in the fourteenth century the population increase must have been very small indeed, and it may even have been turned into a big decrease, because of the Black Death. Ehrlich's figures are not just guesses; they are based on historical records. These facts show how misguided it is to extrapolate present population trends into the remote past. (Hayward, 1985, p.136)

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

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

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


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

26. What does the age of a coral reef have to do with the age of the earth? If, in fact, the oldest coral reef is 4200 years old, so what? During the Arkansas trial of Act 590 in 1981 the subject of coral growth came up:

Roth, [who was] not a member of the CRS [Creation Research Society], was presented as an expert on coral reefs whose thesis is that corals grow very rapidly and do not need millions of years to form massive reefs. He testified for 70 minutes, but the cross-examination was brief. Q: "What is the last sentence of your article on the growth of coral reefs?" A: "...this does not establish rapid growth of coral development." Q: "Is there any evidence that coral reefs were created in recent times?" A: "No." Q: "No further questions." (Berra, 1990, pp.134-135)

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


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

Weber reports [op. cit., pp. 29-31] that H.S. Ladd has drilled bore holes through the coral cap that crowns the volcano underlying Eniwetok atoll, in order to measure the thickness of coral that has grown there since the lava cone began to sink beneath the sea. At one point, Ladd had to drill 1380 meters (almost nine-tenths of a mile!) before reaching the lava lip of the volcano. It is inconceivable that that much reef could have formed in less than 130,000 years, let alone during the few dozen centuries since Noah's flood (2348 B.C.). (Zindler, 1989, pp.20-21)

We're talking about a coral reef 54,330 inches thick! By creationist reckoning, that reef had to have formed after the flood. A flood that has reworked the surface of the earth, literally digging up miles of sediment, would certainly have destroyed any antediluvian reefs. Indeed, one wonders how the coral organisms even survived! Since the Eniwetok coral reef was neither destroyed by Noah's flood nor covered with a thick layer of sedimentary rock, we may safely assume that, according to the creationist scenario, it grew after the flood.

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

Here are some more facts on coral growth:


Hoffmeister made careful observations on the growth rate of the most dominant reef-building coral in the Florida-Bahama area, Montastrea annularis, by marking many specimens in their under-water habitats, and then observing and measuring them over a period of years. ... The fastest growth rate of these corals which Hoffmeister and his associates found was 10.7 millimeters (about two-fifths of an inch) per year in height. This would produce one foot of coral rock in 28.5 years if its growth were not interrupted or slowed down. However, there are numerous influences which directly interfere with the growth processes of the coral animals. Some of these factors as observed by A. G. Mayor during a four-year Carnegie expedition to the Samoan Islands were: (a) silt and mud washing over and smothering coral colonies, (b) high temperatures due to hot sun during low tides, (c) drenching tropical rains which not only smothered and killed many coral colonies by the resulting mud, but diluted the sea water to such a low salt content that the coral polyps could no longer live in it. (Wonderly, 1977, p.28)

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

If one measures the rate of growth of the tips of these branches he will find it to be up to about 100 mm. (about 4 inches) per year in the Florida-Bahama region [Shinn, 1966], and up to 125 mm. per year in Samoa [Mayor, 1924]. This is the fastest growing genus of the reef-forming corals; however, it must be remembered that the open nature of the colony (somewhat like the branches of a tree) prevents this coral from making anything like 100 mm. of solid buildup of reef per year. Wave action and other forces wear and break the branches, whereupon they fall to the base to add their volume to the reef mass. (Wonderly, 1977, p.31)

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

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

Mayor found the average growth in height of healthy colonies of corals of the massive type, belonging to Genus Porites, to be 17 mm. [2/3 inch] per year. He also found this kind of coral to be one of the most effective reef-building types in Samoa. Since coral skeletons of this massive type are not readily broken up by wave action, Mayor estimates that "a reef-wall composed of massive Porites might attain a thickness of 55 feet in 1000 years, while a reef composed of branching Porites might grow upward at least 25 feet in the same period of time." [Mayor, 1924, pp.60-61] (This is of course assuming that the ocean level and other environmental conditions would remain favorable for the entire period.) (Wonderly, 1977, p.31)

Since a reef could scarcely grow much faster than its main coral component, we can appreciate that the 1 inch per year rate given by Zindler (above) is really quite generous. Just how generous it is remains yet to be seen.

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

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

Thus it is seen that it would be absurd to think that the length of time which was required for the formation of a large reef could be calculated by merely dividing the depth of the reef by the average growth rate of healthy coral colonies. The upward growth of the reef is always much slower than the growth of the colonies. In fact, this phenomenon is self-evident in the observation that most of the numerous coral reef- flats in the Pacific which have been studied during the past 75 or more years are wearing down at about the same rate that they are being built up [Mayor, 1924, p.65]. Of course we are not saying that no material is permanently added to the entire reef-flat each year, but rather, that the leveling forces spread the deposited skeletal matter out over a wider area, broadening the entire reef as time progresses. (Wonderly, 1977, pp.31-32)

Note that Eniwetok is one of those sites deeply drilled in the Marshall Islands. Thus, our estimate of its age is much too small because we haven't allotted any time for the identified instances of total stoppage of coral growth.

Another factor which we have overlooked is that coral can't grow above low tide as it would dry out and overheat in the tropical sun. Consequently, once a reef has reached that height it cannot go any further unless the ocean level rises or the sea floor sinks. How long a reef, already at the maximum height, might have to wait for such a "green light" is anybody's guess. There could be thousands of years of delay before a reef added a few more feet to its height!

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

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

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

At this point let us compare the upward growth we have cited, with the total depth of the thickest known coral reefs--the atolls in the Marshall Islands. During the drillings which were made into these islands, the thickest coral reef deposit found was that of Eniwetok atoll, where one drilling, as stated above, had to go through 4,610 feet of reef deposit before striking the volcanic rock (basalt) base. Another drilling nearby extended through reef deposit for 4,158 feet before reaching the volcanic base [Ladd, 1960, p.863ff]. It is of course true that no one is able to determine the exact length of time which was required for growing such an extensive reef, but it is obvious that it was a very long process. If we divide the thickness of the Eniwetok reef by Mayor's 8 mm. of deposit per year, we arrive at 176,000 years of continuous growth required for the laying down of this much thickness. However, this would be a false picture, because of the many factors which retard the build-up of the reef, as discussed above. Thus the total length of time required for forming the 4,610 foot reef deposit of Eniwetok was undoubtedly many times the 176,000 years (18). (Wonderly, 1977, pp.32-33)

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

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

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

Thus a reasonably good reconstruction of the history of the Eniwetok atoll has been made, by taking note of the rock and sediment types, the many kinds of marine fossils, the distinct unconformities, and the kinds of pollen and other remains of terrestrial life. All of these tell us that the reef has had a long and varied history, with numerous major interruptions in its development. (Wonderly, 1977, p.36)

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


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

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

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

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

Creationists sometimes seize upon such facts in a desperate effort to discredit tree-ring dating. They ignore the fact that a careful statistical study can overcome such obstacles.

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

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

The dendrochronological check on radiocarbon dating is not without its own problems, the main one being that some species of trees may, under certain climatic conditions such as late frost, produce more than one ring per year [Glock and Agerter, 1963]. Fortunately, however, this has been "extremely rare" in the carefully checked history of bristlecone pines [Ferguson, 1968, p.840]. (Bailey, 1989, p.101)

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

Other species of trees corroborate the work that Ferguson did with bristlecone pines. Before his work, the tree-ring sequence of the sequoias had been worked out back to 1250 BC. The archaeological ring sequence had been worked out back to 59 BC. The lumber pine sequence had been worked out back to 25 BC. The radiocarbon dates and tree-ring dates of these other trees agree with those Ferguson got from the bristlecone pine. (Weber, 1982, p.26)

The great Sierra redwoods have a different tree-ring pattern than does the bristlecone pine, and the other two cases mentioned by Weber probably have yet another pattern. Thus, because of the completely different environments in which these trees live, their tree-ring patterns do not directly correlate with each other. However, as Weber notes, the carbon-14 dating method bridges these differences. In other words, a specific carbon-14 date, say 200 AD, corresponds to the same tree-ring date in each of the above species. Actually, carbon-14 dating is not that precise, so it really corresponds to a small range of tree- ring dates. Thus, we not only have a partial check on the carbon-14 dating, but we have additional proof of the accuracy of tree-ring dating. We have several species whose counts agree with each other.

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

How a tree which supposedly lived in a tropical, lowland environment survived being dumped into a high altitude subject to extremes of temperature, harsh winds, and desert-like conditions for part of the year, and that after being churned about in a flood for a year--a flood which was violent enough to rip up the earth's crust and pulverize great rocks, a flood which was packed with grinding sediments, is something best explained by creationists. While at it, they might also explain why there is no dramatic difference between the antediluvian tree-ring pattern, supposedly grown under lush, tropical conditions, and the present day tree-ring pattern which reflects a harsh environment. One would expect to see a dramatic change between big, fat tree-rings and thin, hard ones upon crossing that boundary in the tree-ring sequence!

Nor are the bristlecone pines the only plants to survive Noah's flood!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

2. The Ages of the Patriarches ... are the modest Hebrew equivalents of the much longer life-spans attributed by the Babylonians to their antediluvian kings. The first five names will suffice as examples: Alulim reigned 28,800 years, Alamar 36,000, Enmenluanna 43,200, Enmenluanna 28,800, Dumuzi the Shepherd 36,000, etc. These Babylonian lists, a version of which is recorded also by Berosus, have one feature in common with the Biblical list of patriarches: they both attribute extremely long life-spans to the earliest figures, then shorter, but still unrealistically long, lives to the later ones, until the historical period is reached when both kings and patriarches are cut down to human size. In the ancient Near East, where longevity was considered man's greatest blessing, the quasi-divine character of early mythical kings and patriarches is indicated by a ten-fold, hundred-fold or thousand-fold multiplication of their reigns or ages. (Graves and Patai, 1989, pp.132-133)

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

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

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


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

30. Many cultures start their creation stories in the mist of time with no specific date affixed. Some of the eastern religions specify a creation date much older than 6000 years. Other cultures, I suspect, use or had used a more recent date. Thus, we have a spread of dates, to the extent that a date can be applied.

No people, of course, are going to have memories of the hundreds of thousands of years that Homo sapiens has been on this planet! A natural mistake for an ancient would have been the assumption that his tribe or city-state began its ascent shortly after the world began. Thus, most creation accounts, if they give a specific date, will likely favor a recent creation.

We have no proof for a young earth here!

The following material has been taken from a sheet entitled Several Faulty Assumptions Are Used in all Radiometric Dating Methods. Carbon 14 is used for this example: which was put out by Dr. Hovind.

Dr. Hovind (R1): The atmospheric C-14 is presently only 1/3 of the way to an equilibrium value which will be reached in 30,000 years. This nullifies the carbon-14 method as well as demonstrating that the earth is less than 10,000 years old.

R1. The above was offered as a simple fact of research. Knowing how faulty creationist "facts" can be, let's do a little research of our own.

This argument was popularized by Henry Morris (1974, p.164) who drew on some calculations Melvin Cook did in 1968 to come up with the 10,000-year figure limiting the age of the earth. Another creationist, Robert L. Whitelaw, also writing in 1968, used a greater ratio of carbon- 14 production to decay to conclude that only 5000 years passed since carbon-14 started forming in the atmosphere.

The argument may be compared to filling a barrel which has numerous small holes in its sides. We stick the garden hose in and turn it on full blast. The water coming out of the hose is analogous to the continuous production of carbon-14 atoms in the upper atmosphere. The barrel represents the earth's atmosphere where the carbon-14 accumulates. The water leaking out the sides represents the decay of carbon-14. Now, the fuller that barrel gets the more water is going to leak out the thoroughly perforated sides, just as more carbon-14 will decay if you have more of it around. Finally, when the water reaches a certain level in the barrel, the amount of water going into the barrel is equal to the amount leaking out the perforated sides. We say that the input and output of water is in equilibrium. The water level just sits there.

Henry Morris argued that if we start filling up our empty barrel that, in our analogy, it would take 30,000 years to reach the equilibrium point. Thus, he concluded, if our Earth were older than 30,000 years the incoming water should just equal the leaking water. That is, the equilibrium point should have long since been reached given the present rate of carbon-14 production.

The next step in Henry Morris' argument was to show that the water level in our barrel analogy was not in equilibrium, that considerably more water was coming in than leaking out. To that end, he quoted some authorities, including Richard Lingenfelter. Having accomplished that, Morris concluded that the barrel was still in the process of being filled up and that, given the present rate of water coming in and leaking out, the filling process began only 10,000 years ago.

It's a great argument except for one, little thing. The water is not coming into the barrel at a steady rate! Sometimes it slows down to a trickle so that much more water is leaking out than is coming in; sometimes it goes full blast so that a lot more water is coming into the barrel than is leaking out. Thus, the mere fact that the present rate of water coming in exceeds that of water leaking out cannot be extrapolated back to a starting time. And, that destroys the entire argument.

Lingenfelter's paper was written in 1963, before the cycles of C-14 variation we described had been fully documented. The point is that fluctuations in the rate of C-14 production mean that at times the production rate will exceed the decay rate, while at other times the decay rate will be the larger. (Strahler, 1987, p.158)

Lingenfelter actually attributed the discrepancy between the production and decay rates to possible variations in the earth's magnetic field, a conclusion which would have ruined Morris's argument. Henry Morris chose not to mention that portion of the paper! Creationists don't want their readers to be distracted with problems like that -- unless the cat is already out of the bag and something has to be said.

Tree-ring dating (see Topic 27) has allowed the radiocarbon dating method to be carefully checked over the last 8000 years. That is, we can use carbon-14 dating on a given tree ring (the inner wood being dead) and compare that with the tree-ring date. A study of the deviations from the accurate tree-ring dating sequence shows that the earth's magnetic field has an important effect on carbon-14 production. When the dipole moment is strong, carbon-14 production is suppressed below normal; when it is weak, carbon-14 production is boosted above normal. What the magnetic field does is to partially shield the earth from cosmic rays which are the cause of the carbon-14 production high in the atmosphere.

Contrary to creationist Barnes' totally discredited claims, which I've covered in Topic 11, the earth's magnetic field (dipole moment) has, indeed, varied over time. Strahler presents a graph of the earth's dipole moment going back 9000 years.

Figure 19.5, curve C, shows the dipole field strength calculated from measurements of magnetism of lava flows and of artifacts such as pottery and bricks, whose age can be determined. The curve is roughly fitted to mean values determined about every 500 to 1,000 years... The curve is roughly 180 degrees out of phase with the C-14 curve. (Strahler, 1987, p.156)

The idea [that the fluctuating magnetic field affects influx of cosmic rays, which in turn affects C-14 formation rates] has been taken up by the Czech geophysicist, V. Bucha, who has been able to determine, using samples of baked clay from archeological sites, what the intensity of the earth's magnetic field was at the time in question. Even before the tree- ring calibration data were available to them, he and the archeologist, Evzen Neustupny, were able to suggest how much this would affect the radiocarbon dates. (Renfrew, p.76) (Weber, 1982, p.27)

Thus, at least in the last 9000 years, the earth's magnetic field has fluctuated and those fluctuations have induced fluctuations in the production of carbon-14 to a noticeable extent. Therefore, Dr. Hovind's claim that carbon-14 has been slowly building up towards a 30,000 year equilibrium is worthless.

It may interest the reader to know that within this 9000 year period, where the radiocarbon method can be checked by tree-ring data, objects older than 400 BC receive a carbon-14 date which makes them appear younger than they really are! An uncorrected carbon-14 date of 6000 years for an object would actually mean that the object was probably 6700 years old. Seven hundred years or so is about as far as the carbon- 14 method strays from tree-ring dating on the average. Individual dates given on a 1973 correlation chart (Bailey, 1989, p.100) show that objects with true ages between 4200 BC and 5400 BC would receive a carbon-14 date making them appear between 500-900 years too young.

As it turns out, we have a check on the carbon-14 production which goes back even further than 8000 years:


Evidence of past history of C-14 concentration in the atmosphere is now available through the past 22,000 years, using ages of lake sediments in which organic carbon compounds are preserved. Reporting before a 1976 conference on past climates, Professor Minze Stuiver of the University of Washington found that magnetic ages of the lake sediments remained within 500 years of the radiocarbon ages throughout the entire period. He reported that the concentration of C-14 in the atmosphere during that long interval did not vary by more than 10 percent (Stuiver, 1976, p. 835).

Thus, the available evidence is sufficient to validate the radiocarbon method of age determination with an error of about 10 percent for twice as long a period as the creation scenario calls for. (Strahler, 1987, p.157)

Yes, the atmospheric content of carbon-14 can vary somewhat. The dipole moment of the earth's magnetic field, sunspot activity, the Suess effect, possible nearby supernova explosions, and even ocean absorption can have some effect on the carbon-14 concentration. However, these factors don't affect the radiocarbon dates by more than about 10-15 percent, judging from the above studies. Of course, when we reach the upper limit of the method, around 40,000 years for the standard techniques, we should allow for much greater uncertainty.

Tree-ring data gives us a precise correction table for dates as far back as 8,000-9,000 years. The above study by Stuiver shows that the C-14 fluctuations in the atmosphere were quite reasonable as far back as 22,000 years ago. The earth's magnetic field seems to have the greatest effect on C-14 production, and there is no reason to believe that its strength was greatly different 40,000 years ago than today. (For a refutation of Barnes' argument see Topic 11.)

We may conclude that atmospheric variation in C-14 production is not a serious problem for the carbon-14 method. The evidence clearly refutes Dr. Hovind's claim that the C-14 content of our atmosphere is in the middle of a 30,000 year buildup. Thus, we can dismiss the young- earth argument based on that claim.

Dr. Hovind (R2): The C-14 decay rate is not constant. Several factors, including the 11-year sunspot cycle, affects its rate of decay.

R2. It is obvious from this statement that Dr. Hovind knows absolutely nothing about carbon-14 dating! Changes in the sunspot cycle may have a noticeable short-term effect on the rate of C-14 production, but they have absolutely nothing to do with the rate of C-14 decay.

Quantum mechanics, that stout pillar of modern physics which has been verified in so many different ways that I couldn't begin to list them all even if I had them at hand, gives us no theoretical reason to believe that the C-14 rate of decay has changed or can be significantly affected by any reasonable process. We also have direct observation:


That radiocarbon ages agree so closely with tree-ring counts over at least 8000 years, when the observed magnetic effect upon the production rate of C-14 is taken into account, suggests that the decay constant itself can be assumed to be reliable. (Strahler, 1987, p.157)

Since 8000 years is almost two half-lives for carbon-14, it's half-live being 5730 years (plus or minus 40 years), we have excellent observational evidence that the decay rate is constant. We also have laboratory studies which support the constancy of all the decay rates used in radiometric dating.

A great many experiments have been done in attempts to change radioactive decay rates, but these experiments have invariably failed to produce any significant changes. It has been found, for example, that decay constants are the same at a temperature of 2000 degrees C or at a temperature of -186 degrees C and are the same in a vacuum or under a pressure of several thousand atmospheres. Measurements of decay rates under differing gravitational and magnetic fields also have yielded negative results. Although changes in alpha and beta decay rates are theoretically possible, theory also predicts that such changes would be very small [Emery, 1972] and thus would not affect dating methods. Under certain environmental conditions, the decay characteristics of C-14, Co-60, and Ce-137, all of which decay by beta emission, do deviate slightly from the ideal random distribution predicted by current theory [Anderson, 1972; Anderson & Spangler, 1973], but changes in the decay constants have not been detected.

There is a fourth type of decay that can be affected by physical and chemical conditions, though only very slightly. This type of decay is electron capture (e.c. or K-capture), in which an orbital electron is captured by the nucleus and a proton is converted into a neutron. Because this type of decay involves a particle outside the nucleus, the decay rate may be affected by variations in the electron density near the nucleus of the atom. For example, the decay constant of Be-7 in different beryllium chemical compounds varies by as much as 0.18 percent [Emery, 1972, 64]. The only isotope of geologic interest that undergoes e.c. decay is K-40, which is the parent isotope in the K-Ar method. Measurements of the decay rate of K-40 in different substances under various conditions indicate that variations in the chemical and physical environment have no detectable effect on its e.c. decay constant. (Dalrymple, 1984, p.88)

Believe it or not, a number of creationist attacks against radiometric decay rates are aimed at a kind of "decay" called internal conversion (IC) which has absolutely nothing to do with the radiometric dating methods (Dalrymple, 1984, p.88). "Experiments have shown that the decay rates of cesium 133 and iron 57 vary, hence there may be similar variations in other radioactive decay rates." (Slusher, 1981, p.22, 49; from Brush)

These are both stable isotopes so there is no decay rate to be changed. This statement merely reveals Slusher's ignorance of nuclear physics. (Gamma decay of an excited state of iron 57 has been studied, but this has nothing to do with the kinds of decays used in radiometric dating.) (Brush, 1982, p.52)

DeYoung [1976] lists 20 isotopes whose decay rates have been changed by environmental conditions, alluding to the possible significance of these changes to geochronology, but the only significant changes are for isotopes that "decay" by internal conversion. These changes are irrelevant to radiometric dating methods. (Dalrymple, 1984, p.88)

Keep an eye on those creationists! They will switch tracks faster than you can say "tiddlywinks." One moment they're talking about the radioactive decay of the nuclides involved in geochronology; in the next moment, they're passing out examples of IC decay in stable isotopes.

Morris (1974) claimed that free neutrons might change the decay rates. However, Henry Morris, that icon of creationism, only demonstrated that he knew no more about radiometric dating than does Dr. Hovind today. "...[Morris'] arguments show that he does not understand either neutron reactions or radioactive decay." (Dalrymple, 1984, pp.88- 89). Free neutrons might change one element into another, but the decay rates all remain true to their elements.

Another attempt by Morris invokes neutrinos.

Morris [1974] also suggests that neutrinos might change decay rates, citing a column by Jueneman (72) in Industrial Research. The subtitle of Jueneman's columns, which appear regularly, is, appropriately, "Scientific Speculation." He speculates that neutrinos released in a supernova explosion might have "reset" all the radiometric clocks. Jueneman describes a highly speculative hypothesis that would account for radioactive decay by interaction with neutrinos rather than by spontaneous decay, and he notes that an event that temporarily increased the neutrino flux might "reset" the clocks. Jueneman, however, does not propose that decay rates would be changed, nor does he state how the clocks would be reset; in addition, there is no evidence to support his speculation. (Dalrymple, 1984, p.89)

There was also an attempt by Slusher and Rybka to invoke neutrinos. Those mysterious neutrinos seem to be a hot topic!

Slusher (117) and Rybka (110) also propose that neutrinos can change decay rates, citing an hypothesis by Dudley (40) that decay is triggered by neutrinos in a "neutrino sea" and that changes in the neutrino flux might affect decay rates. This argument has been refuted by Brush (20), who points out that Dudley's hypothesis not only requires rejection of both relativity and quantum mechanics, two of the most spectacularly successful theories in modern science, but is disproved by recent experiments. Dudley himself rejects the conclusions drawn from his hypothesis by Slusher (117) and Rybka (110), noting that the observed changes in decay rates are insufficient to change the age of the Earth by more than a few percent (Dudley, personal communication, 1981, quoted in 20, p.51). Thus, even if Slusher and Rybka were correct--which they are not--the measured age of the Earth would still exceed 4 billion years. (Dalrymple, 1984, p.89)

Dalrymple goes on to debunk several other creationists attacks on the reliability of the radiometric decay rates used in geochronology. Judging from the above, it is easy to see that creationists are indulging in wild fishing expeditions. Compare their flighty arguments to the solid support provided by theoretical work, laboratory testing, and, for the shorter half-lives, actual observation, and add to that the statistical consistency of the dates obtained, including numerous cross- checks between different "clocks," and only one conclusion is left. The radiometric decay rates used in dating are totally reliable. They are one of the safest bets in all of science.

Dr. Hovind (R3): The initial C-14 content cannot be known. Different parts of the same sample often yield different ratios of C-14/C-12. Various living samples give very different ratios.

R3. With one notable exception, living creatures and plants get their carbon-14 from the atmosphere. Plants take it in directly and animals eat the plants. Studies have shown that living things are in a reasonable equilibrium with atmospheric carbon-14. Some creationists have claimed that certain plants can reject carbon-14 in favor of carbon- 12, but I have yet to see any serious scientific documentation. Different isotopes of an element are chemically similar, hence the difficulty in separating them. Thus, it seems unlikely that such claims can be defended beyond minute differences or unusual cases. Neither case would pose much of a problem for radiocarbon dating. That only leaves the initial concentration of C-14 to worry about. Topic R1 shows that the level of C-14 in the atmosphere has not varied appreciably over tens of thousands of years. Therefore, the initial C-14 content is known in any reasonable sample!

The exception is some mollusks which get much of their carbon from dissolved limestone. Since limestone is very old it contains very little carbon-14. Thus, in getting some of their carbon from limestone, these mollusks "inherit" some of the limestone's old age! That is, the limestone carbon skews the normal ratio between C-12 and C-14 found in living things. No problem! If one dates such mollusks, one must be extra careful in interpreting the data. Not every mollusk shell presents such problems, and the dating of other material might yield a cross- check. Further study might even allow correction tables. The discovery has strengthened the carbon-14 method, not weakened it! By the way, shouldn't the creationist be worried over the old carbon-14 age of the limestone?

Different parts of the same sample may, indeed, yield different C- 14/C-12 ratios. Partial contamination may affect different parts of a sample to different degrees. There are laboratory techniques for recognizing and dealing with such problems. If the sample shows evidence of being hopelessly contaminated it is pitched.

Some samples, such as a section of a tree trunk, may well contain material of considerably different ages. The interior portion of a tree trunk could easily be several hundred years older than the outer portions. Once again, the C-14/C-12 ratios would reflect this difference in age.

In summing up this point, we do know within good limits what the initial C-14 was for any reasonable sample. A sample will not have different ratios of carbon unless it has been contaminated or reflects a genuine range of ages.

Dr. Hovind (R4): It is very difficult or impossible to prove that a given sample has not been contaminated. Parent or daughter products could have leached in or out of the sample.

R4. In the case of carbon-14 dating, the daughter product is ordinary nitrogen and plays no role in the dating process. We are only interested in the amount of C-14 present in the sample. Since the C-14 is an integral part of the carbon structure of a sample, such as cellulose, it isn't going to do much migrating. If it did there wouldn't be any sample left! Residues which do migrate can usually be washed out with various chemicals.

A sample, of course, can be contaminated if organic material, rich in fresh atmospheric C-14, thoroughly penetrates it. Such contamination will make the sample appear younger than its true age. Thus, creationists are barking up the wrong tree on the contamination issue!

Laboratories, of course, do have techniques for identifying contamination and correcting for it. There are various methods of cleaning the material, and the activity of each rinse can be measured. Lab contamination can be checked for by running blanks. A careful choice of samples can often minimize or check contamination. Dating various portions of a sample is another kind of check on contamination.

Often there are cross-checks. Samples from top to bottom of a peat bog gave reasonable time intervals (Science, vol.200, p.11). The calibrated C-14 method confirmed Egyptian records, and most of the Aegean dates which were cross-dated with Egyptian dates were confirmed (American Scientist, May-June 1982). The marvelous agreement with tree-ring data, after correction for variations in the earth's magnetic field, has already been mentioned.

Carbon-14 dating thus presents a deadly challenge to young-earth creationists. If an old date is reasonably accurate, they're out of business; if an old date is bad, then they are still out of business because the true date is almost certainly older still. On the average, the great majority of bad dates would be too young. It hardly seems fair, but that's the way it is. With that in mind, let's look at a few carbon-14 dates.

Egyptian barley samples were found which dated to 17,000-18,300 years old (Science, April 7, 1978). On page 1346 the author explains some of the care that goes into such dates.

A wooden walkway buried in a peat bog in England dated to about 4000 BC (Scientific American, August 1990, p.30). Odd, that Noah's flood neither destroyed it nor deposited thick sediments on top of it! Jennifer Hillam of the University of Sheffield and Mike Baillie of Queen's University of Belfast and their colleagues were actually able to date the walkway by tree-ring dating. The road, known as the Sweet Track, was built from trees felled in the winter of 3807-3806 BC. Pretty close agreement, huh?

Stonehenge, as dated by carbon-14, was built over a period from 1900 BC to 1500 BC -- long before the Druids came to England. Astronomer Gerald Hawkins found, after careful computer calculations, that the arrangement of the stones at Stonehenge are aligned with key positions of the sun and moon as they were almost 4000 years ago. (Weber, 1982, p.29). Thus, we have another remarkable confirmation of the C-14 method.

When did the volcano that destroyed Thera (and probably the Minoan culture as well) explode? Radiocarbon dating of seeds and wood buried in the ash, done by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, pointed to no later than 1600 BC. Being that this was one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, it almost certainly caused worldwide cooling which would, in turn, affect tree growth. Sure enough, the growth rings among oaks buried in Ireland's bogs show the effect of unusual cooling from 1628-1618 BC. Nor was that just an effect of local weather conditions. The bristlecone pines in the White Mountains of California show the same thing. A third estimate came from studies in Greenland. "In 1987 Danish geologists examining signs of volcanic acidity in the Greenland ice sheet concluded that the Thera volcano erupted in 1645 B.C., give or take 20 years. (Biblical Archaeology Review, Jan/Feb 1991, p.48). Thus, we have a remarkable agreement between three different methods, all within two or three percentage points of each other!

Trees buried by the last advance of glacial ice at Two Creeks, Wisconsin were dated at 11,850 years. (Strahler, 1987, p.251). Between those trees, which are buried in Valders red till, and an earlier, deeper layer of till, the Woodfordian gray till, lay the remains of a forest bed! What is a forest, including developed soil and rooted stumps, doing between two advances of ice? That could be an interesting question for someone who believes in only one "ice age." In 1878 Baron Gerard de Geer, a Swedish geologist, made a careful study of the annual varves left in European glacial lakes. By careful counting and cross-checking he was able to determine that the oldest glacial lakes, which would have formed at the start of the retreat of the ice, were 12,000 years old. Thus, we have a rough check between varves in glacial lakes and radiocarbon dating.

"Richard Foster Flint, a professor of geology at Yale University and an expert on the Pleistocene epoch, was among the first to apply radiocarbon dating to glacial events. Collecting wood, bones and other organic material that had been covered over by the Laurentide Ice Sheet as it plowed across eastern and central North America, Flint collaborated with geophysicist Myer Rubin to demonstrate in 1955 that in most places the ice sheet achieved its greatest advance about 18,000 years ago, began to withdraw shortly thereafter and then hastened its retreat about 10,000 years ago." (Chorlton, 1984, p.120)

Ancient cave art, at cueva de los caballos, near Castellon, Spain has been dated at about 6000 BC. (The Times Atlas of World History [1978]).

On the wall of Gargas Cave in the French Pyrenees are the outlined hands of Ice Age artists which date to at least 12,000 years. Such cave art, in various places in Europe, was at its height around 20,000 years ago, and some examples probably go back 30,000 years!

Dr. Hovind (R5): The C-14 cannot be accurately measured. It makes up less than one part per million in the atmosphere, and claiming to be able to measure accurately to 7 decimal places is not reasonable.

R5. This is similar to an argument put out by Harold Slusher (1981, p.45). Dr. Hovind adds the bizarre claim that something can't be measured accurately to seven decimal places. This nonsense is answered by Dr. Dalrymple, an expert in radiometric dating, who concluded that: "Modern counting instruments, available for more than two decades, are capable of counting the C-14 activity in a sample as old as 35,000 years in an ordinary laboratory, and as old as 50,000 years in laboratories constructed with special shielding against cosmic radiation. New techniques using accelerators and highly sensitive mass spectrometers, now in the experimental stage, have pushed these limits back to 70,000 or 80,000 years..." (Dalrymple, 1984, pp.86-87).

We can also explore this issue from first principles.

Given that the half-life of carbon-14 is 5730 years, one can calculate that 4 billion C-14 atoms will produce 1 decay per minute on the average. Converting that to grams (a nickel weighs 5 grams), we get 0.000000000000093 grams of carbon-14. Consequently, by tallying one click per minute on the Geiger counter, we can measure a whole lot further than 7 decimal places!

A 1-gram, fresh sample of carbon, containing the atmospheric concentration of one ten-billionth percent of carbon-14, will yield about 12 decays per minute. That figure follows directly from the mathematics and is close enough to Dr. Hovind's present-day figure of 16 counts per minute per gram as the atmospheric portion of carbon-14 given above is an approximation. Because of atomic bomb tests, the rate is slightly higher today, but the present rate would not apply to animals and plants which died before such tests. One book used a figure of about 13.5 decays per minute per gram for the pre-bomb rate. Consequently, a 64-gram sample of fresh carbon will still give about 7 clicks per minute after 40,000 years. Because of background radiation, that's about as far as one can normally go with this counting method. As noted above, Dr. Dalrymple would extend that to 50,000 years in special laboratories.

Once again, Dr. Hovind has relied on bad data. If you get your information from a creationist source, you'd better triple-check it! Errors get handed down in the creationist literature like the family jewels!

Dr. Hovind (R6): The shape of the curve of the line is based on too few real measurements to be reliable.

R6. It's not clear to me what Dr. Hovind is talking about. If he is referring to the carbon-14 decay curve then he has demonstrated, once again, his ignorance of radiometric dating.

The decay curve follows mathematically from the fact that any atom of carbon-14 has the same chance of decaying within a given interval of time.

The random character of radioactive decay is a special case of the indeterminacy of quantum theory, as was pointed out in 1928 by George Gamow, Ronald Gurney and Edward Condon. They showed that a particle held inside the nucleus by a "potential barrier" may be able to "tunnel through" the barrier and emerge on the other side, since if the barrier is finite the wave function of the particle is not completely localized and there is a finite probability that the particle will be outside the nucleus. (Brush, 1982, p.42)

Since we are dealing with millions of C-14 atoms in even the smallest samples, the amount of C-14 remaining with respect to time will be an excellent approximation to an exponential decay curve. Statistics assures us of that.

Once we have a good approximation of the half-life, the carbon-14 decay curve can be constructed with complete confidence. We don't need Egyptian mummies or what have you at that point. At that point it's just a routine exercise in math. If you want additional assurance that we have the correct half-life, then look at the close correlation between C- 14 dates and tree-ring dates after correcting for variances in C-14 production caused by changes in the earth's magnetic field. The snug fit indicates that the half-life of C-14 is stable and accurately known.

Today, the half-lives of those radioactive elements used in dating are known to a few percent by careful laboratory study. So, there's no problem in getting an accurate decay curve.

Dr. Hovind (G1): The assumption that the geologic column is a base from which to calibrate the C-14 dates is not wise.

G1. With a half-life of only 5730 years, carbon-14 dating has nothing to do with dating the geological ages! Whether by sloppiness or gross ignorance, Dr. Hovind is confusing the carbon-14 "clock" with other radiometric "clocks."

The only thing in the geologic record which has anything to do with calibrating carbon-14 dating is the coal from the Carboniferous Period. Being ancient, the C-14 content has long since decayed away and that makes it useful in "zeroing" laboratory instruments. It's just one of the tricks which have been used to make the work a little more precise.

Dr. Hovind (G2): The entire geologic column is based on the assumption that evolution is true.

G2. If Dr. Hovind would take the trouble to do a little reading from something other than creationist publications, he would not make such an outrageous statement. I believe he has confused the use of index fossils with evolution. One creationist editor, a little more mellow than his unfortunate statement suggests, who shall remain anonymous, phrased the argument thus:


Unfortunately the geologists date the rocks as the paleontologists tell them to. Then the paleontologists use the geologists' dates as evidence for the age of the fossils! That's not science. That's just a game played by dishonest scientists!

The passage might have come out of one of Henry Morris' books, except that Morris usually avoids crude slander.

Perhaps Dr. Hovind is not aware of the fact that by 1815 the broad outlines of the geologic column from Paleozoic times onward had been worked out by people who were mostly creationist geologists. The relative order of the strata was first determined by the principles of stratification. (The principle of superposition was recognized as early as 1669 by Steno.) By 1830 Lyell's famous textbook, Principles of Geology, came out. The captain of the H.M.S. Beagle, a very strong Bible believer, made it a point to have a copy of Lyell's book for the ship's library. That was the age of the great creationist geologists!

The principle of faunal succession in the geologic record was established by direct observation as early as 1799 by William Smith. By the 1830's Adam Sedgwick and Roderick Murchison established a correlation between the various types of fossils and the rock formations in the British Isles. It was found that certain fossils, now referred to as index fossils, were restricted to a narrow zone of strata. Studies done on the European continent soon demonstrated the universal validity of index fossils. That is, an index fossil corresponded to a very specific point in the geologic column. Once the worth of index fossils had been established on the basis of stratification studies, they could logically be used to extend the correlation of rock formations to other continents. At this point in time they were simply a useful tool for correlating rock formations.

One can hardly accuse these pioneers of evolutionary prejudice. Nearly a half-century would yet pass before Darwin's book, The Origin of Species, was published! By then, the relative ages (order) of the geologic column had already been worked out in some detail. Later, the relative ages of the strata were confirmed and made absolute by radiometric dating. Thus, it became possible to date strata directly from index fossils. Note that, in principle, evolution has nothing to do with the use of index fossils to date strata! Rather, evolution should be seen as an explanation of the faunal succession, a succession which was worked out long before evolution dominated the scene.

While we're on this subject, you might wish to know the odds of arranging the Precambrian era, the seven geologic periods of the Paleozoic (Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, Permian), the three periods of the Mesozoic (Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous), and the two periods of the Cenozoic (Paleogene, Neogene or Tertiary, Quaternary) in their proper order by pure chance. The chances are 6.2 billion to one of getting the right order for all thirteen. And, when you consider that each period can also be divided into "upper, middle, and lower," the odds of arranging them in the correct order become astronomical. Radiometric dating has passed that severe test!

Creationists, on the other hand, must explain to us how sediment and rock laid down in a mere year can yield such fantastic differences in radiometric ages. This poses a fatal problem whether one believes in the accuracy of radiometric dating or not! One would think that the flood sediments (gathered from the four corners of the old antediluvian world) and their associated igneous rock (formed during the flood) would all register very little radiometric age. Why should the percentage of lead to uranium in zircon crystals, for example, depend on which geologic period they are found in? If most of the geologic column were created during Noah's flood would it really matter whether a zircon crystal was found in Cambrian strata or Cretaceous strata?

Thus, we have a mystery. Pressure has nothing to do with it, and zircon crystals all have about the same density as their total lead content is minute. Just what is it that the Cambrian strata has which the Cretaceous strata lacks? If rock type mattered then we would expect a zircon crystal's lead content to vary dramatically within the Cambrian or Cretaceous strata according to their rock types. No, that's not what we observe. How about neutrinos or cosmic rays? Neutrinos penetrate the earth so easily that they would affect all strata more or less equally, to the extent that they affect anything at all. Cosmic rays, on the other hand, don't penetrate that far into the earth to begin with, so we can rule them out. The depth of burial, itself, has little to do with our mystery. In some parts of the world the Cretaceous is found deeper than is the Cambrian in other parts of the world. The depth at which either is found can vary dramatically. In the Grand Canyon area the Cambrian lies beneath a huge column of strata; in California's Mojave Desert the Cambrian is exposed at the surface.

For the young-earth creationist, this is an unsolvable mystery, a mystery with parallels in each of the radiometric clocks used by geologists. The potassium-argon, rubidium-strontium, samarium-neodymium, luteium-hafnium, rhenium-osmium, thorium-lead, and the two uranium-lead dating methods all point to the same amazing fact. The ratio between tiny amounts of radioactive elements and their decay products have this uncanny ability to determine which strata a rock will appear in! What is this magic ingredient that each of the geologic periods has which affects rocks and zircon crystals so? For those who believe that each of the geologic periods was laid down in days or weeks by Noah's flood, the mystery has no intelligent answer. For the rest of us, the answer is as plain as daylight. Time. The answer to our riddle is time, the eons of time needed for long-lived radioactive materials to decay. Radioactive elements in different geologic periods will have decayed by different amounts.

Even creationists realize that time is the only answer, but they give that answer a strange twist. They imagine that the radioactive elements decayed much faster in the past! Such claims are mere flights of fantasy with no basis in fact or theory (see Topic R2). Consequently, radiometric dating has passed a severe test whereas young-earth creationism flounders on the basic facts of the geologic record.

Dr. Hovind (G3): The fictitious geologic column (invented in the 1800's to discredit the Bible) does not exist anywhere in the world except in textbooks.

G3. Oh sure, early creationists invented the geologic column to discredit the Bible. That just makes bushels of sense, doesn't it? Is it possible that Dr. Hovind, who taught earth science for 13 out of his 15 years as a high school science teacher, doesn't understand the concept behind the geologic column? The thought boggles the mind! On top of that, Dr. Hovind is simply wrong in his claim that no place on Earth has a full set of representative strata.

John Woodmorappe, a young-earth creationist, has admitted that representative strata from the Cambrian to the Tertiary have been discovered lying in their proper order in Iran, by the Caspian, the Himalayas, Indonesia, Australia, North Africa, Canada, South America, Japan, Mexico, and the Philippines! (Woodmorappe, 1981, p.46-71. See especially, pp.62 & 67). Furthermore, Glenn R. Morton, a professional geologist, has reported that portions of Alaska also contain strata representing all these geologic periods lying in their exact textbook order. (Phone conversation between Edward Babinski and Glenn Morton, as relayed to me.) So, the geologic column definitely does exist! That is to say, the geologic column is nicely illustrated in various localities. (Wherever we find relatively undisturbed areas where the obvious signs of mountain building are absent, the strata is always in the textbook order. Some of the geologic periods may be missing, either because they were never laid down or because they eroded away, but the order is preserved. See Topics G4b and G4c for a discussion of missing and out-of-order strata.)

Showing that the geologic column is fully represented in various places is not my main concern here. Far more important is Dr. Hovind's fundamental misunderstanding of the geologic column.

The geologic column is an abstract conceptual tool which gives order to the overall geologic record. It's like a yearbook with the pictures of all the 9th graders in it. No one expects that every one of those 9th graders will belong to a particular club or show up for a particular dance! Neither does the geologist expect any particular locality to exhibit all the known strata. The point is that the earth's strata has a very definite chronological order to it, and that overall order is usually what we mean when we refer to the geologic column. Different localities will, to different degrees, physically illustrate that order.

Dr. Hovind (G4): Poly-strata fossils, missing layers, layers out of order, misplaced fossils, and layers in reverse order all invalidate the geologic column.

G4. None of these charges amount to a hill of discarded beans. We can't examine every claim made, but we can look at a few examples.

a) Poly-strata fossils.

By this, Dr. Hovind means fossils which cross several strata. Usually that means fossilized, vertical tree trunks. Creationists are attacking a straw man. No geologist claims that every little stratum requires thousands of years to be laid down! The strata associated with polystrate fossils invariably show evidence of relatively rapid deposition.

'Polystrate' trees show every sign of extremely rapid burial, generally when rivers flood over their banks. (Eldredge, 1982, p.105)

An example of this very thing is given by Dunbar (Dunbar & Waage, 1969, p.52). He shows a photo of the Yahtse River area in Alaska which depicts a number of upright, broken-off stumps stripped of most of their branches. The taller stumps poke out above the alluvial muds. This is the result of natural processes accompanying river course change. A couple of pages later we find a photograph showing how trees can be buried fairly quickly in another way. In this case, volcanic ash has partially buried a forest whose trees are mostly reduced to broken-off stumps stripped of their branches. Continuing volcanic eruptions over a period of years (dead trees last a long time!) and the interaction with wind would create variations in the strata which finally bury the stumps.

In some cases, burial might well be less than instantaneous. In the San Francisco area fossils of cedar and redwood (dated at 23,000 years) are found in place 20 feet below present sea level. This may be due to a rising sea level from melting ice-caps. (Encyclopedia Americana, 1978 Annual [Geology].) A similar find exists off the coast of Japan where remnants of a forest of willows and alders are found in 70 feet of water. They are some 10,000 years old (Chorlton, 1984, p.90).

Thus, we have polystrate fossils in the making, without the aid of Noah's flood.

As to the 80-foot whale, standing on its tail, which was found by the Greco Corporation at Lompoc, that being an outstanding example of a polystrate fossil, you may rest assured that geologists do not assume that it remained on its tail until slowly buried by diatoms! More likely it died a natural death, sank to the bottom for a time, and was buried in some kind of underwater avalanche which left it in its vertical position. Here's what a Christian geologist had to say:


Before the discovery of rapid, submarine sediment flows the circumstances under which these animals were buried was very much a mystery... ...it is logical to conclude that the Lompoc diatom beds were deposited naturally on the ocean floor, and that sometime before the period of tectonic activity which finally raised them to an elevation above sea level the earthquakes in that area triggered at least one large sediment slide and flow which overwhelmed and buried the animals that were down- slope from where the slide began. As pointed out in the early parts of this section on rapid burial, we now know of large sediment flows in various parts of the world which apparently had all of the characteristics necessary for overwhelming and burying both swift and large marine animals. (Wonderly, 1987, pages 56,58)

In order to collect the point, creationists must show that polystrate fossils exist where they shouldn't. That's a lot more work than conjuring up interesting pictures accompanied by much speculation.

b) Missing Layers

Missing layers are no problem at all once one understands that the concept of the geologic column is an abstract conceptual tool which gives order to the overall geologic record. It's like a dictionary listing the more important English words. No one expects that every one of those words will be present in some history book! Neither does the geologist expect any particular locality to exhibit all the known strata.

Has it occurred to you that the thick strata now being formed in the oceans off our coasts are not forming on the mainland? Thus, we have one cause of our missing strata, namely that it might not have been laid down in the first place! Another possibility is erosion. Given enough time, erosion will strip away exposed strata. Large parts of Canada have been, with the help of glaciers, stripped all the way down to the Precambrian rock! Talk about missing layers!

Again, missing strata present no problem for geologists.

c) Out of Order and Reversed Layers

"Overturning of strata is associated with intense folding in tectonic belts formed by continental collision." (Strahler, 1987, p.384) Anyone who makes the most elementary observations of mountain strata will note a high degree of folding. Anyone who has studied a decent geology text, a result of numerous years of careful work by thousands of trained geologists making numerous field trips to assorted mountains and valleys, which are often inaccessible to decent travel, in order to chip away at the earth's old rind, will appreciate just how messy things can get.

Nevertheless, except in the very worst cases of mangled rock, there is almost always a pattern to it which holds the key to its history. In the Grand Morgon in the French Alps, for instance, we have a recumbent fold giving a strata sequence like D-C-B-A-B-C-D. Common sense suggests that the strata have been folded, and careful mapping bears that out. Footprints, mudcracks, ripple marks, cross laminations, and various other clues found on the surfaces of bedding planes often confirm beyond any shadow of a doubt that a given sequence of strata have been overturned.

A strata sequence of B-C-A-B-C, to give another example, suggests that the strata A-B-C had been shoved upon itself after breaking along a front, and that stratum A- had eroded away. A geologist studying the site would look for evidence of an overthrust at the boundary of C-A. To hear creationists complain, you'd think the strata were shuffled like a deck of cards without a clue as to which way is up! Far from it! A careful mapping of an area is usually enough to unravel the mystery or at least point to a likely solution. Strahler (1987, Chapter 40) provides an excellent discussion on the nature of overturned strata, including a thorough discussion of the Lewis Overthrust.

When geologists look at areas which haven't been seriously disturbed, such as the Grand Canyon, they always find the strata in the right order. Some strata may be missing, but the order will be correct. Such studies soon made it abundantly clear to the early geologists that the earth's strata has a very specific order. Thus arose the concept of the geologic column.

We might also add that radiometric dating supports only one order for the geologic column, the same order found in undisturbed areas. Radiometric dating, where applicable, also clearly identifies reversed strata and other anomalies. Such anomalies, as already noted, can often be identified by extended mapping of an area. It is a sign of desperation that today's creationists would even try to challenge such a solidly established fact as the geologic column.

d) Misplaced Fossils

The creationist claim of misplaced fossils, i.e., fossils in the "wrong" strata, is a collection of dime-a-dozen rumors which lack scientific documentation. The one, shining exception, the supposed man- tracks along the Paluxy River in Texas, the subject of a creationist movie yet, have proved to be an embarrassing bust to all but the most die-hard, head-in-the-sand creationists. A thorough discussion of all the claims for misplaced fossils and manufactured items would fill an entire book. We can only scratch the surface.

Carl Baugh's hammer: This hammer was supposedly dug out of Ordovician strata. In fact, it is a 19th century miner's hammer of recent American historical style.

Carl Baugh is something of an embarrassment even to creationists in that he is continually finding things in the Paluxy River area which just ain't so! Perhaps you've heard of "Glen Rose Man" which was created from a fish's tooth! That was one of Baugh's productions. As for the hammer, which was actually found by others near London, Texas in the 1930s, supposedly in an Ordovician stone concretion, it merely came into Baugh's possession.

The stone concretion is real, and it looks impressive to someone unfamiliar with geological processes. How could a modern artifact be stuck in Ordovician rock? The answer is that the concretion itself is not Ordovician. Minerals in solution can harden around an intrusive object dropped in a crack or simply left on the ground if the source rock (in this case, reportedly Ordovician) is chemically soluble. This is analogous to stalactites incorporating recent objects in their paths as they grow. The rapidity with which concretions and similar types of stone can form is evident in soil caliche development. "Rapid formation of limestone has been shown in coral atolls in the Pacific where World War II artifacts have been found in the matrix" (McKusick and Shinn, 1980). (Cole, 1985, pp.46-47)

Given the above data, evolutionists are scarcely troubled by Carl Baugh's hammer.

Paluxy River Footprints: For years creationists claimed that human footprints could be found side by side with dinosaur prints at this site near Glen Rose, Texas. The complete story of creationist doings in and around the Paluxy River is, with one or two notable exceptions, a classic study of wishful thinking gone awry. Few studies shed more light on the creationist mentality than does the history of the Paluxy River "mantracks." Richard Tierney (1986) captures some of the flavor of that story which is too long to tell here. A running account can be found in various issues of Creation/Evolution.

There was even a seductive creationist movie, Footprints in Stone, which "documented" the "mantracks" found along the Paluxy River. Laurie Godfrey (1981) showed that the film was pseudoscience. The "man prints" in the film had been darkened, with either shellac or oil, making them look far more humanlike than they would have otherwise (Godfrey, 1981, p.24). In some cases the "man print" was a portion of a larger footprint which was probably made by a dinosaur. "In other cases the shellac seemed to connect erosional depressions." (Godfrey, 1981, p.24). One of Godfrey's students wrote to Eden Films to ask whether or not duplicates of their casts could be purchased for firsthand examination. Their answer was "no, not yet," leaving Laurie Godfrey wondering "Why not yet?" Perhaps a careful examination of such casts would have exposed the wishful thinking, expressed in shellac outlines, that went on. Dr. Coombs, a vertebrate paleontologist who has studied dinosaur tracks, and Dr. Gomberg, an expert on the anatomy of the primate foot, both watched the film and concluded that they saw no genuine human tracks except those made during a modern demonstration. They concluded that some of the prints shown were genuine in the sense that some kind of animal made them, but the details from the film were too poor to draw any conclusions.

It is fortunate that some Texas paleontologists have examined firsthand the Glen Rose tracks. Wann Langston, Jr., pointed out that some of the "man prints" have distinct claw marks emanating from what the creationists call their "heels." (The creationists apparently reversed the direction of travel for these critters.) Langston also noted that one of the most widely reproduced footprint photos of Paluxy man shows a portion of a poor print of a tridactyl dinosaur; this may be clear, however, only to someone who, having studied the anatomy of the dinosaur foot, knows what to look for. Milne [1981] makes the same point using photographs of in situ "man prints" taken directly from creationist literature. These "man prints" are nothing more than dinosaur toe impressions, selectively highlighted , with sand obscuring places where the rest of the dinosaur's foot might show. ... The existence of claw marks on some of the best series of "giant man prints" is now acknowledged by creationist John D. Morris, son of Henry Morris and author of Tracking Those Incredible Dinosaurs and the People Who Knew Them. This includes the McFall track, which is shown in Footprints in Stone. (Godfrey, 1981, p.25)

After commenting on the film's unbalanced testimonials from "experts," which did not include a single vertebrate paleontologist or paleoichnologist (an expert on the tracks of extinct critters), Laurie Godfrey concluded: "In short, the film is a distorted pseudodocumentary, which belongs in the realm of science fiction rather than science."

Before long others had visited the site. Issue XV of Creation/Evolution is devoted to the Paluxy River footprints. In it the studies/reports of R. J. Hastings, L. R. Godfrey, J. R. Cole, and S. D. Schafersman are devastating. "Man tracks" turned out to be erosional features and partial dinosaur prints. A study of stride length added additional support to the obvious. Nor has previous paleontological studies of the area offered any hope for creationists. Fossils typical of the Cretaceous were found in the Cretaceous strata. Mammoth remains were found above that strata in recent deposits, but never embedded in the Cretaceous. The Ryals Trail, the McFall site, Taylor's Trail, and other items were examined and discounted as human trackways or footprints. The details of these studies are too numerous to repeat here.

In September of 1984 Glen Kuban and Ronnie Hastings noticed that coloration patterns, due to secondary infilling of the original depressions, patterns previously noticed on only some of the Taylor site tracks, now appeared on tracks of all four alleged human trails. The coloration clearly brought out the dinosaurian nature of the "human" footprints! A few creationists became so hysterical that they actually hinted that evolutionists might have painted in these markings! Taylor was so impressed with Kuban's guided tour of these problems that he withdrew the film Footprints in Stone from public circulation! (Schadewald, 1986, p.6) The Institute for Creation Research halfheartedly backed off without giving Glen Kuban any credit for his work which blew the lid off the whole affair. (Schadewald, 1986, p.7).

In the March 1986 Acts and Facts, an anonymous author (presumably Henry Morris) defends John Morris' half-hearted retraction in an unapologetic apologetic. Regarding John Morris' hints about fraudulent colorations, the anonymous author of "Following Up on the Paluxy Mystery" notes that "no evidence of fraud has been found, and some hints of these dinosaur toe stains have now possibly been discerned on photos taken when the prints in question were originally discovered." Glen Kuban, who pointed out these colorations in the early photos, is not mentioned at all. Indeed, the original creationist interpretation of the trackways is characterized as "not only a valid interpretation but arguably the best interpretation of the data available at that time." The "close-minded" evolutionists who have criticized the Paluxy tracks are mentioned only with sneer and smear.

Another creationist organization with a heavy stake in the Paluxy River footprints is the Bible-Science Association. The Reverend Paul Bartz, editor of the Bible-Science Newsletter, has hotly defended Footprints in Stone and editorially sneered at the work of the "Raiders." After Films for Christ withdrew Footprints in Stone, I watched the Bible- Science Newsletter for a reaction. Nothing. The BSA headquarters are in Minneapolis, and BSA officials are active in the Twin Cities Creation- Science Association. I attended TCCSA meetings to hear what the BSA had to say in that forum. Nothing. I privately showed BSA field director Bill Overn an unpublished manuscript on the tracks. About a month later, the BSA finally broke its silence. (Schadewald, 1986, pp.8-9)

The statement made no mention of Kuban's work or of the contribution that the "Raiders of the Lost Tracks" had made. Schadewald referred to it as "whitewash as usual from the Bible-Science Association," but he held out hope that they would yet come clean. Meanwhile, as if nature intended to add insult to injury, the colorations were becoming more and more distinct as the years rolled by! The "human" footprints were turning into dinosaur footprints! Glen Kuban (1986, pp.15-17) discusses the coloration at some length, noting that:

The colorations provide strong confirmation that all the trackways on the Taylor site are dinosaurian. Even before these colorations became more prominent, the tracks did not merit a human interpretation. (Kuban, 1986, p.17)

The upshot of all this is that many creationists, at least the more sophisticated ones, have had the good sense to abandon this argument. (Hopefully that includes Dr. Hovind.) The die-hards, of course, continue to dream of finding their Holy Grail along the Paluxy River, a find which will magically banish evolution along with 120 years of scientific study. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if a few of them are still poking around the Paluxy River even today. Thus, from time to time, we may expect pathetic attempts to rejuvenate the creationist Paluxy River juggernaut which had sunk of late. Stay tuned!

Trilobites and Humans: Dr. Hovind has a slide of a trilobite which was "stepped on" by a human!

This looks suspiciously like one of the bogus Meister tracks (Conrad, 1981, pp.30-33). Mr. William J. Meister's specimen, found in 1968 near Antelope Springs, Utah, was offered as evidence that a trilobite was stepped on by a human wearing a boot with a heel. In a 1973 debate Reverend Boswell claimed that it had been tested by three laboratories around the world!

Sounds pretty impressive, huh? In fact, it is nothing more than a slab of Wheeler shale that has a fragment spalled off in the form of a footprint, which reveals a trilobite, Erathia kingi. To fully appreciate that fact, which has been established beyond any reasonable doubt, you should read Conrad's account.

The Olmo, Castenedolo, and Calaveras Skulls: Creationists have made some interesting claims about these fossils. In his book, the Handy Dandy Evolution Refuter, Robert Kofahl stated that the above fossils were essentially modern and yet were found buried in very old strata. In The Creationist Explanation, Kofahl and Kelly Segraves suggest that the above fossils were relegated to dusty museum closets and forgotten because they didn't fit the evolutionary scheme. Scientific Creationism, Henry Morris' "classic" book, states that the Castenedolo and Olmo skulls were found in undisturbed Pliocene strata in Italy. The Bible Science Newsletter had this to day (from: Conrad, 1982, p.15).

Another example of how people react when the evidence does not agree with their philosophical position is the treatment which the Castenedolo skull received. This totally modern type skull was found in Pliocene strata, dated at one-half million years. Because this discovery did not agree with preconceived ideas, it is rarely mentioned in textbooks or other literature. (p.5)

As the professional creationist watcher might suspect, there was more to the story. Conrad (1982, p.16) fills us in with a quote from the 1957 issue of Fossil Men, by Boule and Vallois:


The bones from Castenedolo, near Brescia in Italy, belong to several skeletons of men, women, and children and were found on various occasions in a shelly bed of sand and clay, of marine origin and of Pliocene age. In 1899, the discovery of a new human skeleton was the subject of an official report by Professor Issel, who then observed that the various fossils from this deposit were all impregnated with salt, with the sole exception of the human fossils... It seems certain that at Castenedolo we are dealing with more or less recent burials. (Boule and Vallois, page 107)

Ernest Conrad goes on to inform us that in 1965 collagen tests demonstrated "that the Castenedolo materials were intrusive burials into the Astian clays." Radiocarbon dating in 1969 by the British Museum placed the cranial fossils in the Holocene. We're dealing with relatively recent fossils and they present no problem for evolution.

The creationists are also mistaken about the Olmo skull:


In the case of the Olmo materials, the creationists are in error from the beginning. The Olmo skull fits perfectly into the evolutionary chronology and is a legitimate specimen, for here we find a modern skull cap in upper-Pleistocene gravels--exactly where it ought to be. (Conrad, 1982, p.16)

Based on various lab tests developed by the British Museum, it was determined that the Olmo skull was probably from the upper Pleistocene. It was relatively old, but it presents no embarrassment for evolution. It came from the Upper Paleolithic cultural period.

The Calaveras skull turned out to be a hoax! If you wish to read the details, see Conrad (1982, pp.17-18). Thus, Morris, Kofahl, Segraves were all taken in by a hoax! Take note those of you who would remind evolutionists about Nebraska Man!

Dr. Hovind (G5): The assumed age of a sample will dictate which radiometric dating method is used. One method will only give results for a young age; another will only give results for a very old age. Thus, the assumed age of a sample dictates the method which, in turn, gives the assumed age!

G5. That seems to be the substance of Dr. Hovind's complaint, a complaint which has been made by other creationists.

Are "scientific" creationists, with all those Ph.D.s, really so naive as to think that the world's geologists cannot recognize an elementary case of circular reasoning? Is that a reasonable explanation of above fact? Of course not! Those creationists have been blinded by religious prejudice, against which a Ph.D. is no defense.

The problem lies with Dr. Hovind and many other creationists who haven't the foggiest idea how radiometric dating works! They are the last people who should be criticizing it. The explanation is so easy that quotations from specialists won't even be necessary.

If you test an old sample with a radiometric method geared to young samples, you will find that all the "parent" radioactive atoms have decayed. Your conclusion will be that the sample has a minimum age which corresponds to the smallest amount of the "parent" nuclide you can detect. You would not conclude that the sample was young.

If you test a young sample with a radiometric method geared to old samples, you will find that none of the "parent" radioactive atoms have decayed. Your conclusion will be that the sample has a maximum age which corresponds to the smallest amount of the "daughter" nuclide which you can detect. You would not conclude that the sample was old.

The realities of the laboratory, of course, mean that there are no sharp cut-off points. Instead, there will be ranges at the extremes where the results can only give a rough maximum or minimum age. Dates landing in that zone would be considered unreliable.

It's a little like weighing a flea on a scale used to weigh trucks or weighing a brick on a scale designed to weigh envelopes. If the brick depresses the scales all the way to the highest mark, you conclude that the brick weighs at least that much. If the flea doesn't depress the scales at the truck stop, you conclude that it weighs less than a weight which barely moves those scales.

Consequently, the choice of scales will not dictate the result. Of course, if the truck scale isn't perfectly calibrated, you might get a 50-pound flea! Similarly, the envelope scale would indicate that the brick only weighs a few ounces. However, no one who is familiar with such scales would take those readings too seriously. A similar situation holds for radiometric dating. Readings falling in the minimum or maximum zones are not taken too seriously. Thus, there is no problem.

Was that so difficult?

We will now look at several arguments which, though not on the above lists, enjoy a wide circulation among "scientific" creationists. I will also present a couple of arguments indicating that the earth is much older than a few thousand years.

A1. Woodmorappe's Collection of Bad Dates

Eat one of those and your tummy will curl right up! Seriously speaking, a favorite attack on radiometric dating involves dangling "horror stories" about gross errors before the reader, thus giving the impression that radiometric dating is totally unreliable. Woodmorappe (1979), with his collection of some 350 bad radiometric dates, must surely be the master of that technique.

Upon being presented with claims that radiometric dating is totally erroneous, a question naturally arises:


If radiometric geochronology is half as bad as Woodmorappe's list suggests, then how in the world did geologists ever arrive at a tight consensus for the official dates? Look at the various radiometric tables in use over the last 20 years or so and you will find, at least for the fossil-bearing strata, a remarkably tight agreement. ... Did the geochronologists throw darts to determine the accepted dates? (Matson, 1993, p.1)

Either we have a worldwide conspiracy among geologists, which no sane person believes, or else the numerous radiometric dates were consistent enough to allow that kind of close agreement. In fact, Dr. Dalrymple, an expert in radiometric dating with lots of hands-on experience, puts the percentage of bad dates at only 5-10 percent.

Thus, we clear away the first illusion spun by creationism, namely that most of the dates are bad, that the radiometric picture is totally chaotic. In fact, it is not at all unusual for several different radiometric methods to agree within a few percentage points on a date. When you consider that each radiometric method is subject to different types of error, that the different "clocks" run at different speeds, such an agreement would be extremely rare on the basis of pure chance. In a number of instances, more than one might imagine, dates are further corroborated by methods which have nothing to do with radioactivity. Thus, the big, statistical picture painted by radiometric dating is excellent. Today, we have some 100,000 radiometric dates, the vast majority contributing sensibly to the overall picture.

Woodmorappe's main theme, minus the diplomatic wording, is that geologists are cheating like so many schoolboys to make their dates come out right. But even schoolboys need to know what the right answers are in order to cheat, and there was no absolute age list when radiometric dating was first applied to the strata.

Anyone can make up a list of bad cars, bad people, bad neighborhoods, or bad radiometric dates. What does that prove? Is it unsafe for you to drive a car, to meet new people, or to live in a neighborhood? Of course not!

The thing that is lacking in Woodmorappe's argument is statistical balance. He is very good at showing the many ways that things can go wrong; he has not shown that things normally go wrong.

To be sure, Woodmorappe isn't claiming that his table is a normal sample of radiometric dates. His is a table of discordant dates. However, in order to make his case against radiometric dating he must, at the very least, show a high percentage of bad dates among the credible radiometric candidates. This cannot be done by merely citing the numerous ways in which one can get a bad date; nor is it achieved by concentrating on atypical cases. Such information is certainly interesting, a healthy reminder of what can go wrong, but it is no threat to the radiometric dating methods which, after all, measure their successes on a statistical basis. (Matson, 1993, p.2)

Thus, Woodmorappe is acting more like a mechanic who informs a car owner of the many ways that her car can break down, who quotes numerous horror stories to illustrate his points. Even if those horror stories were true, the mechanic has failed to prove that the lady's car needs repair, let alone junking.

How different it would be if the mechanic pulled out a statistical study done by a consumer magazine to show that the particular make and year for the lady's car was unreliable, due to certain parts, after so many miles. That kind of balanced statistical study is the very thing Woodmorappe's paper lacks.

An eye-opener awaits anyone who closely examines Woodmorappe's list of bad dates. Some of the dates involved minerals that even Woodmorappe admits are unreliable. No geologist would normally use such minerals.

Some of the dates were experimental! Since when do we count experimental work? The idea of experimental dating is to see if a given radiometric method can be used on certain materials or under certain conditions.

A great many dates, perhaps most, were rejects. That is, they were rejected because of internal indicators (such as a bad isochron) rather than on the basis of the final date produced. If the radiometric method is to be indicted, it must be indicted by dates which were counted as good but shown, by other means, to be bad. Rejects don't fall into that category. They can't be used against the radiometric method.

The dates all lacked the investigator's personal, detailed interpretation. That's no way to make a case for a bad date! Again, one must demonstrate that each bad date would have been counted as good had no contradiction by outside data occurred. Given a proper interpretation, a number of gross "errors" listed in Woodmorappe's table turn out to be no errors at all! A spectacular example showcased by Woodmorappe, though not actually listed in his table, dealt with an example from California.

The Pharump diabase from the Precambrian of California yielded an Rb-Sr isochron of no less than 34 b.y., which is not only 7 times the age of the earth but also greater than some uniformitarian estimates of the age of the universe. This super-anomaly was explained away by claiming some strange metamorphic effect on the Sr. (Woodmorappe, 1979, p.122)

Sounds pretty grim, huh? The unsuspecting reader would assume that here is a real disaster which geochronologists were trying to cover up with some phoney explanation! In fact, the 34-billion-year figure is the result of an incompetent reading of the data, an attempt to see an isochron where none exists!

The data do not fall on any straight line and do not, therefore, form an isochron. The original data are from a report by Wasserburg and others [1964], who plotted the data as shown but did not draw a 34-billion-year isochron on the diagram. The "isochrons" lines were drawn by Faure and Powell [1972] as "reference isochrons" solely for the purpose of showing the magnitude of the scatter in the data. ... The scatter of the data in Figure 6 shows clearly that the sample has been an open system to Sr-87 (and perhaps to other isotopes as well) and that no meaningful Rb-Sr age can be calculated from these data. This conclusion was clearly stated by both Wasserburg and others [1964] and by Faure and Powell [1972]. The interpretation that the data represent a 34-billion year isochron is solely Woodmorappe's [1979] and is patently wrong. (Dalrymple, 1984, pp.78-79)

Whatever the reasons may be for the scatter, the fact remains that these data were clearly a "discard" case. Thus, this example cannot be used against the Rb-Sr method. That Woodmorappe would see an isochron where none could possibly exist, by misinterpreting one of the lines Faure and Powell had drawn, this in spite of the fact that those authors stated that the data cannot be used, strongly suggests that Woodmorappe's search for discordant dates is superficial. One wonders how many other obvious discards are hiding in his table. (Matson, 1993, p.7)

Perhaps, by now, you can understand why long lists of bad dates do not, in themselves, impress scientists. The success of such an attack on radiometric dating hangs on a detailed, case by case analysis as well as a clear demonstration that the sample is representative of the whole to some meaningful degree. In my paper (1993) I listed about 10 conditions which must be examined in any meaningful study of bad dates.

A2. Water and Vapor and Noah's Flood

Attempting to supply the water for Noah's flood is a much greater problem than one might realize. True, one can simply say that God did it and leave it at that. However, that argument will support the cosmological views of any and every religion, and they all can't be right! How easy it is for religious man to invoke the infallible name of God to vouchsafe his own ignorance! How many times have Christians done that very thing down through the centuries? Biblical infallibility was cited in defense of a flat earth as late as 1935 in Zion, Illinois, by Christian radio evangelist Wilbur Glenn Voliva who advocated the biblical view of the world's flatness in contrast to "modern astronomy." Some evangelical Christians continue to defend the belief that the sun moves around the earth, which they base on the "plain words of Scripture." Indeed, they have formed The Tychonian Society in order to defend their view "scientifically." Science confers a number of benefits, not the least of which is the fact that it can be taught in the classroom. Thus, the quest to find the source of water for Noah's flood, to do it scientifically.

Since our atmosphere only holds enough moisture to account for about an inch of water worldwide, creationists have found it necessary to seek out other sources. A massive vapor canopy is the favorite choice of many creationists. The concept, unfortunately, is a mass of scientific and biblical contradictions.

A vapor (or water) canopy, if of any significant thickness, would block out the sun and stars with a massively overcast sky! Didn't the Bible say something about the stars and moon being created to give man a clock for the seasons? Some clock, if much of the human race couldn't see it!

The increased atmospheric pressure, which would be greatly increased by a massive vapor canopy, would also cause nitrogen narcosis. Adam and Eve, and the antediluvian generations, would be in a perpetual narcotic stupor!

Here is what a renown physicist, a Bible-believing Christian, had to say about the vapor canopy. He is referring to the model which was made popular by Whitcomb and Morris in their classic, The Genesis Flood.

They assert that the canopy's sudden collapse would have increased the volume of the ocean by 30 per cent (p.326). This would mean that 30/100 of the original ocean volume, or something like 30/130 of the present ocean volume, came from the canopy. That amounts to about 75 million cubic miles. That quantity of water in the form of a vapour canopy would raise the pressure of our atmosphere from its usual 15 pounds per square inch to a crushing 970 pounds per square inch, which would create all sorts of problems for living things.

Worst of all, the pressure in the base of the canopy would be so high that it would need to have a temperature of over 500 degrees Fahrenheit. (Any cooler, and it would collapse into rain.) (Hayward, 1985, p.151)

Therefore, since antediluvian life was not pressure-cooked, any substantial vapor canopy in contact with our atmosphere is a scientific impossibility. Even a token vapor canopy depositing 40 feet of rain, as suggested by at least one creationist, does not get around all the problems. Dr. Hayward pointed out, on page 152, that winds in the upper atmosphere would soon dissipate such a structure, causing it to mix with the atmosphere and mostly rain out. Dr. Alan Hayward's final conclusion is this:

The supposed vapour canopy has been much talked about in recent- creationist circles, but very seldom thought about. A little thought soon shows there could never have been such a canopy, unless it was sustained by one long, continuing miracle. And that, of course, would be contrary to the teaching of 'Flood geologists', since they invented the canopy in the first place to explain how the Flood could have occurred by 'purely natural processes'. (Hayward, 1985, p.152)

Obviously, you can't get more than a tiny fraction of the flood waters from the atmosphere without running into a host of difficulties, and that includes the latent heat of vaporization. It takes a fair amount of heat to convert a quart of water into vapor. Even if that quart of water dries up of its own accord, it still takes the same amount of heat to turn it into vapor. In that case, the heat is gradually drawn from the surrounding environment. Step in front of a fan after getting out of the shower and you will soon appreciate just how much heat water takes with it when it turns into vapor! Well, the reverse is also true. When vapor condenses into water, it releases the same amount of heat which originally turned it into vapor. If that were not true we would be losing energy in the cycle, and the first law of thermodynamics prohibits that.

The point is that in order to condense that vapor canopy to rain it would have to release enough heat to raise the temperature of our atmosphere to 6000 degrees! That's a straightforward calculation of the latent heat of vaporization. That is to say, there is no way to convert the vapor canopy into rain in time for Noah's flood without burning up the Earth!

Thus, we can forget about the vapor canopy as a means for supplying any significant amounts of water.

Nor can more than a tiny fraction of the flood water be derived from pressurized reservoirs deep within the earth. Aside from stability problems involved in packing vast quantities of free water under miles of rock, an arrangement that would have caved in from the start, there is a problem in getting the water out. After a small quantity had been released, the pressure would have dropped to zero! At that point you have to cave in the caverns to displace the remaining water with rock. However, that wouldn't drive the water much higher than the original sea level as the rocks and water would simply change places. The Bible makes it clear that the flood waters came and lifted the ark up, that the high mountains were covered, not that the ground caved in below ark and mountain!

That leaves Dr. Hovind's bizarre iceberg-from-space conjecture to make up almost all the water. Odd, that the Bible never hints at such a mechanism! The claim that huge blocks of ice, or pieces thereof, would be deflected to the North and South magnetic poles because of a super- strong magnetic field on earth is absurd. Most likely it is based on Barnes' totally discredited ideas about the earth's magnetic field (Godfrey, 1983, pp.73-77; Dalrymple, 1992, pp.16-17). It also makes assumptions about ice which are highly questionable.

Thus, with our earth sporting an ordinary magnetic field, this iceberg from space is not going to be re-routed to the North and South polar areas. It's going to crash into the earth like any other asteroid or comet. As it impacts at tens of thousands of miles per hour the conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy is going to vaporize it. And, that takes us right back to the latent heat of vaporization problem. Also, in order to supply any large quantity of water, to flood high mountains for example, and reliable translations of the Bible do mention high mountains, this asteroid would have to be huge -- huge enough to exterminate almost every living thing on earth and sea. Tell me now, does the Bible say that the flood started off with a big bang, a great fireball from heaven? Or, does it say that a lot of rain started coming down and that the deep springs started bubbling up?

The more sophisticated creationists, realizing the horrible problems involved in flooding all the high mountains, assert that the earth was originally flat and took very little water to flood. That's the position Dr. Hovind has taken. The excess water was afterwards collected into deepening basins which became our present day oceans. At the same time that the ocean basins were magically deepening the mountains were rising.

The first problem encountered is the Bible, itself. Good translations speak of the flood rising high above the earth, of covering all the high mountains (The New Oxford Annotated Bible and others). The Bible knows only of a simple flood which floods the land by special rain and by waters upwelling from the unchecked depths below the earth. (Ancient cosmology imagined a flat earth which rested on top of a primeval ocean, a world covered with a dome [the firmament] which kept vast quantities of water above the firmament from crashing down. To flood the ancient earth the deity only had to open the windows of the firmament and release the checks on the water below the earth [Babinski, 1986].) Where in this flood account do you hear of mountains rising and the surface of the earth being totally dissolved into sediment? There is not one iota of clear, unequivocal Scriptural evidence for such wild speculation! In their desperation, creationists have simply rewritten the Bible!

A second problem involves the thickness of sedimentary rock on the ocean floor as well as missing flood layers. Let us start with Dr. Hovind's assumption that the earth was relatively flat during the flood and that the excess water was drawn off into deepening ocean basins, even as the continental regions rose up. Both areas would have received approximately the same amount of sediment during a worldwide flood which reworked the earth's original outer crust to a great depth. After all, the low hills and flat lands of Dr. Hovind's antediluvian world are not going to provide more than a fraction of the sediment needed. Thus, even if that sediment were not transported, an extremely unlikely possibility given the assumed violence of the flood, the sediments would still be distributed about equally over former ocean and land areas. Right?

Such would be the condition after the sediment first settled out. The excess water, now rushing off the rising continental areas, would wash vast amounts of sediment into the new ocean basins. Thus, today's ocean basins should have a thicker layer of sedimentary rock than the continental areas. In addition, the first flood strata laid down on the new ocean floors should match the first flood strata laid down on today's continental areas, especially in areas adjoining the border between the two zones.

Why is it that the sedimentary rocks are, in fact, much thinner on the ocean floor than in continental regions? Why is it that the sedimentary rocks in the Pacific or Atlantic ocean floors are no older than the Jurassic (or thereabouts)? What happened to the Cambrian, the Ordovician, the Silurian, the Devonian, the Carboniferous, and the Permian layers? Funny, that Noah's flood should deposit all these layers on various continental areas while systematically missing the ocean basins!

A third problem lies in the fact that there is a sharp difference in the sedimentary strata when you move from a continental area (including the shelf) to an ocean area. According to the flood model this boundary area was originally flat and should have collected similar sediments before one section sank and the other rose. The sedimentary rock strata, without change in its composition, should simply dip (or drop along a fault) as it goes from continent to ocean. That is not what's observed!

A fourth problem lies in finding a believable mechanism to make the ocean basin sink in a few weeks(!) so as to make space for the retreating flood waters. The crust may be thin, thinner by proportion than the skin on an apple as Dr. Hovind put it, but the material under it is heavier. Light stuff (like a cork) does not sink into heavier stuff (like water). The reason the ocean basins are lower is because they are made of denser material. The reason the continents are higher is because they are made of lighter material. What forces do creationists have in mind for depressing the basins and moving trillions and trillions of tons of heavy, semi-molten rock out of the way? How are those trillions and trillions of tons of heavy, semi-molten rock to be lifted up in the first place to support a rising ocean basin? Worse, how do creationists propose to move this hot rock in a few weeks at the end of the flood since it moves only a few inches a year? At that rate it can act like a fluid; speed it up and you have material acting like solid rock. As far as I can tell, creationists haven't the foggiest clue as to how this can be done scientifically.

A fifth problem lies in the instant rising of mountains. Just what mechanism do creationists have in mind which can propel a mountain 20,000 feet up in a couple of thousand years and, then, stop on a dime? Today, after great earthquakes, mountains are observed to rise a few feet at most. That is how most non-volcanic mountains actually rise. Are we to believe that the ancient world endured one magnitude 8 earthquake after another, day and night, for centuries, so that the mountains might be lifted up in record time? Of course not. Nobody could build cities of brick under those conditions. It never happened.

A sixth problem lies in the absence of great gorges and canyons perpendicular to the coast. Rivers have cut deep gorges in places, but nothing like what we would expect for the vast quantities of water rapidly draining off continents of soft sediment. Where are these deep scars which Noah's flood would have left? We should have numerous "Grand Canyons" along all the coasts of the world by creationist reckoning. Ironically, the Grand Canyon doesn't count because it contains meandering patterns which could not have been formed by vast quantities of water quickly draining off the continent. Nor would soft sediments support high, vertical walls and pillars.

A good geologist could probably cite many more problems, but I think I've offered enough. Six strikes and you're out! We have no choice but to toss out the superficially attractive sinking/rising crust model as an explanation for Noah's flood. Creationists are stuck with an old fashioned flood which covered the high mountains, including Mt. Everest and Mt. Ararat. And, that takes us back to the water source problems mentioned above with a vengeance. There is no escaping the need for miracles!

Miracles are the great equalizer. Any and every theory, from that of the native in the Amazon to the views of the ancient Greeks, are equally good as long as they can use miracles. Thus, in the final analysis, the biblical flood story is no better than the tales of Zeus and of the gods of Olympus. We can't teach that in our science classes.

A3. Coal and Oil

The amount of coal and oil existing today greatly exceeds what could have been produced in a few thousand years. It is naive to think that today's coal and oil come from the buried remains of Noah's antediluvian world. Most creationists simply have no idea how much raw material would have been required, especially for oil deposits.

Because coal and oil are important economic resources, geologists have worked hard to estimate how much of these resources exist. The creationist writer Morton cites data published by Hunt indicating that the carbon in the coal alone is 50 times that in the entire present biosphere!...And the carbon in all oil deposits is 666 times that in the entire present biosphere! That in oil shales and other sedimentary rocks (which Morton doesn't mention!) is 40,000 times that in the present biosphere. And that doesn't count the enormous quantities of carbonates, much in the form of fossil shells. The Livingstone Limestone in the Canadian Rockies contains at least 10,000 cubic miles of broken crinoid plates! (Sonleitner, 1988, file=MOVIE6B.WP)

Just how thick did Dr. Hovind say that antediluvian vegetation was?

In doing your math, be sure to allow plenty of open space for grasslands, so that the buffalo, horses, and numerous other grazers, past and present, have plenty of space for their herds. Be sure to have plenty of deserts or near-deserts for your reptiles. Most of them require a dry environment. You will also need plenty of marshy tundra pasture for your mammoths and other pre-flood, cold-adapted grazers.

A4. Mammoths: Were They Quick-Frozen?

The claim that mammoths were quick-frozen goes back at least several decades as an old Reader's Digest article will testify. It has no merit whatsoever.

To begin with, mammoths were adapted for severely cold weather as their heavy fur, complete with a thick, insulating underwool, and a thick layer of fat attest. Their four-toed feet and smaller size, compared to the European mammoths, was better for marshy tundra pasture. A little extra ice from space, assuming that it could even reach the ground without being vaporized, would hardly have bothered them! Obviously, the Arctic area was cold, though possibly a tad warmer and moist than today, before Dr. Hovind's iceberg-from-space arrived!

Take the frozen Berezovka mammoth, for instance. In its stomach were found arctic plants like conifers, tundra grasses, and sedges. Its flesh was really rather putrefied. "The excavators found the stench of the partially rotted Berezovka mammoth unbearable; even the earth in which it was buried stank." (Weber, 1980, p.15). Ancient predators had a chance to get at the carcass, which proved there was no instantaneous freezing. The unfortunate animal seems to have fallen from a river buff, possibly by getting too close to the edge and causing a slump, and broke many bones. In the muck of the floodplain below his carcass was soon frozen in (Strahler, 1987, p.381).

William R. Farrand, writing in 1961, pointed out that only 39 mammoths had been found with some of their flesh preserved. Out of those only four were found more or less intact, including the Berezovka mammoth. All of them were rotten to some extent and the evidence showed that most were somewhat mutilated by predators prior to freezing. Such things as grasses, sedges, other boreal meadow and tundra plants, a few twigs, cones, and pollen traces from high-boreal and tundra trees are typical of what was found in their stomaches. Evidence indicates that some of these mammoths had died in cave-ins or had drowned. The Mamontova mammoth was probably caught in a bog while grazing the floodplain of the ancient Mamontova River. Another apparently died on a floodplain, possibly falling through river ice, and rotted mostly away before natural burial. The upright nature of many mammoth finds suggest "that they perished when a rapid thaw melted the permafrost and turned the tundra into a huge bog." (Chorlton, 1984, p.70).

A more modern find, that of a calf dated at about 40,000 years, was retrieved whole in 1977 from a creek bed in eastern Siberia. Apparently it had fallen through a thin layer of frozen turf into a channel cut by melting water. Evidence, sorry to say, indicates that the animal starved to death. The hole was soon filled in and the mammoth was preserved for thousands of years by the cold and by a high tannic acid content from decayed vegetation. Eventually a shifting channel of a river exposed the mammoth. (Chorlton, 1984, p.71)

Getting bogged down in a marsh, falling into "riparian" gullies, getting mired in sticky mudflows, falling through the thin ice of a lake, and getting caught in river bank cave-ins of river ice are some of the hazards mammoths would face. Judging by what they were eating, it appears that the time of death was usually late summer or early fall, precisely the time when melting and solifluction would have been at a maximum and travel most dangerous. Most of their remains are associated with river valleys and fluviatile and terrestrial sediment. There is no direct evidence that any mammoth simply froze to death (Farrand, 1961).

All of this evidence points to a routine scenario of life and death.

It is interesting to note that only the mammoths and wooly rhinoceri are found frozen in Siberia (Weber, 1980, pp.15-16). If a sudden disaster overwhelmed the entire area, don't you think that we would find a whole range of preserved animals?

Dr. Hovind, I think that you have been had by that fellow on the North Slope. I doubt very much that he choked down a piece of putrid mammoth meat! It's probably a favorite tall-timber tale of the North.

A5. A Couple of Ice Age Problems

Dr. Hovind believes that there was only one ice age which began sometime after Noah's flood ended, that being around 4300 years ago by his reckoning. Thus, the world moved from a warm, tropical climate to an ice age only a few thousand years ago. There are fatal problems with that view.

First, we now know that there were at least 7 ice eras lasting on the average some 50 million years apiece. Each ice era was, itself, composed of numerous ice epochs which lasted about two or three million years. They, in turn, were composed of ice-age cycles which often lasted around 100,000 years. Thus, there have been numerous fluctuations between warm and cold climates. (Chorlton, 1984, pp.20-21). The more recent advances and retreats of the glaciers have resulted in sea level changes which, in turn, have affected the heights of coral reefs, the oxygen isotope ratios in sea floor sediments, and shorelines around the world. Several levels of terraces were carved in the world's shorelines by recent fluctuations in the ocean level, each lasting many thousands of years. I don't have the space to explore this issue, but numerous facts fit together to document the existence of many "ice ages." Regarding one ancient ice era, we have a remarkable coming together of different facts:

The theory of continental drift led to one of the most remarkable discoveries in ice age studies. During the 1960s, scientists analyzed the magnetic orientation of rocks from many parts of the world and concluded that North Africa had been located over the South Pole during the Ordovician period, about 450 million years ago. If they were correct, there should be traces of ancient glaciation in the Sahara. At about the same time, French petroleum geologists working in southern Algeria stumbled on a series of giant grooves that appeared to have been cut into the underlying sandstone by glaciers. The geologists alerted the scientific world and assembled an international team to examine the evidence. The team saw unmistakable signs of an ice age: scars created by the friction of pebbles incorporated into the base of glaciers; erratic rocks that had been transported from sources hundreds of miles distant; and formations of sand typical of glacial outwash streams. (Chorlton, 1984, p.141)

In some places in the Sahara the grooves made by glaciers can be traced for hundreds of miles (Chorlton, 1984, p.144). How do creationists explain glaciers in the Sahara?

Second, we have a problem with permafrost. Chorlton informs us that the building up of a 100-foot deep layer of permafrost takes thousands of years of freezing weather to accomplish. The bad news for creationists is this:


About 20 per cent of the world's land area remains permanently frozen -- in some cases to depths of almost a mile. (Chorlton, 1984, p.30)

Thus, we have direct evidence that the frozen parts of our world have been frozen a lot longer than a few thousand years! Try a few million years! (Forget about super-cold snowballs crashing into the Earth and instantly freezing thousands of feet of earth. They would have vaporized upon impact.)

A6. The Distance to Supernova SN1987A and the Speed of Light

When supernova SN1987A exploded, its light soon struck a ring of gas some distance from the star and illuminated it. As viewed from Earth, the ring appeared around the supernova about a year after it exploded. Its angular size combined with the time it took for the ring to be illuminated after SN1987A was first observed allows a direct, trigonometric calculation of the distance to that supernova with an error of less than 5%.

Oddly enough, if we use the older Newtonian physics (which most creationists favor because it allows them to play around with the speed of light) we find that a change in the speed of light does not affect our calculations of the distance to SN1987A! Gordon Davisson pointed out that interesting tidbit.



________________________________________________ ________________________________________________ Diagram #1


The distance is based on triangulation. The line from Earth to the supernova is one side of the triangle and the line from Earth to the edge of the ring is another leg. The third leg of this right triangle is the relatively short distance from the supernova to the edge of its ring. Since the ring lit up about a year after the supernova exploded, that means that a beam of light coming directly from the supernova reached us a year before the beam of light which was detoured via the ring. Let us assume that the distance of the ring from the supernova is really 1 unit and that light presently travels 1 unit per year.

If there were no change in the speed of light then the third leg of the triangle would be 1 unit in length, thus allowing the calculation of the distance by pure trigonometry. On the other hand, if the two light beams were originally traveling, say, three units per year, the second beam would initially lag 1/3 of a year behind the first as that's how long it would take to do the ring detour. However, the distance that the second beam lags behind the first beam is the same as before. As both beams were traveling the same speed, the second beam fell behind the first by the length of the detour. Thus, by measuring the distance that the second beam lags behind the first, a distance which will not change when both light beams slow down together, we get the true distance from the supernova to its ring. We get the same distance no matter what we use for the initial and final speeds of the light beams.

Thus, supernova SN1987A is about 170,000 light-years from us (i.e. 997,800,000,000,000,000 miles) whether or not the speed of light has slowed down.

Still, the creationist has one ace remaining. Had the speed of light slowed down, as often imagined by creationists who have not advanced beyond Newtonian physics, the distance of SN1987A would still be 170,000 light-years as indicated above. However, the time that it would take for the light to reach us need not be anywhere near 170,000 years. One might urge that if the speed of light changed then so would the decay rates of cobalt-56 and cobalt-57, and since their decay rates have been observed in SN1987A and appear normal that should settle it. Light hasn't slowed down. Unfortunately, that argument is based on the assumption that we are observing the correct decay rates. In fact, if the speed of light had slowed down we would be seeing a slow motion replay of reality. The farther away objects are the greater the effect. The actual decay rates of the cobalt from SN1987A would be much faster than what we observed.

To this one might say, "Get an education!" Relativity is central to modern science and the speed of light is a fundamental constant. Light can't go faster than about 186,000 miles a second and that's that. One could then recite volumes of laboratory studies, experiments, and observations to impress the reader with the power and reliability of special relativity. However, that approach might seem rather dogmatic to someone lacking a good education in the sciences. Thus, I will pretend that light once traveled much faster than today (as might be imagined in Newtonian physics) and show that it still won't work.

Our first argument is based on a straightforward observation of pulsars. Pulsars put out flashes at such precise intervals and clarity that only the rotation of a small body can account for it (Chaisson and McMillan, 1993, p.498). Indeed, the more precise pulsars keep much better time than even the atomic clocks on Earth! In the mid-1980s a new class of pulsars, called millisecond pulsars, were discovered which were rotating hundreds of times each second! When a pulsar, which is a neutron star smaller than Manhattan Island with a weight problem (about as heavy as our sun), spins that fast it is pretty close to flying apart. Thus, in observing these millisecond pulsars, we are not seeing a slow motion replay as that would imply an actual spin rate which would have destroyed those pulsars. We couldn't observe them spinning that fast if light was slowing down. Consequently, we can dispense with the claim that the light coming from SN1987A might have slowed down. Therefore, the decay rates observed for cobalt-56 and cobalt-57 were the actual decay rates.

A more quantitative argument can also be advanced. Suppose that light is slowing down according to some exponential decay curve. An exponential decay curve is one of Mother Nature's favorites. It describes radioactive decay and a host of other observations. If the speed of light were really slowing down then an exponential decay curve would be a reasonable place to start our investigation. Later, we will be able to draw some general conclusions which apply to almost any curve, including those favored by creationist Barry Setterfield.

We want the light in our model to start fast enough so that the most distant objects in the universe, say 10 billion light-years away, will be visible today. That is, the light must travel 10 billion light- years in the 6000 years which creationists allow for the Earth's age. (A light-year is the distance a beam of light, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, covers in one year.) Furthermore, the speed of light must decay at a rate which will reduce it to its present value after 6000 years. Upon applying these constraints to all possible exponential decay curves, and after doing a little calculus, we wind up with two non-linear equations in two variables. After solving those equations by computer, we get the following functions for velocity and distance. The first function gives the velocity of light (light-years per year) t years after creation (t=0). The second function gives the distance (light-years) that the first beams of light have traveled since creation (since t=0).

V(t) = V0 e-Kt
S(t) = 1010(1 - e-Kt)

--- Where: ---
V0 = 28,615,783 (The initial velocity for light)

K = 0.00286158 (the decay rate parameter)

With these equations in hand it can be shown that if light is slowing down, equal time intervals in distant space will be seen on Earth as unequal intervals of time. That's our test. But, where can we find a natural, reliable clock in distant space with which to do the test?

As it turns out, Mother Nature has supplied some of the best clocks around. They are the pulsars. Pulsars keep time like the Earth does, by rotating smoothly, only they do it much better because they are much smaller and vastly heavier. The heavier a spinning top is the less any outside forces can affect it. Many pulsars rotate hundreds of times per second! And they keep incredibly precise time. Thus, we can observe how long it takes a pulsar to make 100 rotations and compare that figure to another observation five years later. Thus, we can put the above creationist model to the test.

Let's start by considering a pulsar which is 170,000 light-years away, which would be as far away as SN1987A. Certainly, we can see pulsars at that distance easily enough. In our creationist model, due to the initial high velocity of light, the light now arriving from our pulsar (light beam A) took about 2149.7 years to reach Earth. At the time light beam A left the pulsar it was going 487.4686 times the speed of light. The next day (24 hours after light beam A left the pulsar) light beam B leaves; it leaves at 487.4648 times the speed of light. As you can see, the velocity of light has already decayed a small amount. (I shall reserve the expression "speed of light" for the true speed of light which is about 186,000 miles per second.) Allowing for the continuing decay in velocity, we can calculate that light beam A is 1.336957 light-years ahead of light beam B. That lead distance is not going to change since both light beams will slow down together as the velocity of light decays.

When light beam A reaches the Earth, and light is now going its normal speed, that lead distance translates into 1.336957 years. Thus, the one-day interval on our pulsar, the actual time between the departures of light beams A and B, wrongly appears to us as more than a year! Upon looking at our pulsar, which is 170,000 light-years away, we are not only seeing 2149.7 years into the past but are seeing things occur 488.3 times more slowly than they really are!

Exactly 5 years after light beam A left the pulsar, light beam Y departs. It is traveling at 480.5436 times the speed of light. Twenty- four hours after its departure light beam Z leaves the pulsar. It is traveling at 480.5398 times the speed of light. Making due allowances for the continual slowing down of the light, we can calculate that light beam Y has a lead in distance over light beam Z of 1.318767 light-years. Once again, when light beam Y reached Earth, when the velocity of light had become frozen at its present value, that distance translates into years. Thus, a day on the pulsar, the one defined by light beams Y and Z, appears in slow motion to us. We see things happening 481.7 times slower than the rate at which they actually occurred.

Therefore, if the above creationist model is correct, we should see a difference in time for the above two identical intervals, a difference which amounts to about 1.3%. Of course, the above calculations could be redone with much shorter intervals without affecting the 1.3% figure, being that the perceived slowdown is essentially the same for the smaller intervals within one day. As a result, an astronomer need only measure the spin of a number of pulsars over a few years to get definitive results. Pulsars keep such accurate time that a 1.3% difference would stand out like a giant redwood in a Kansas wheat field -- even after hundreds of years!

So, what are the results of this definitive test? Many pulsars have been observed which show nothing remotely close to a 1% change in their rotation rates over a five year period. Although we have technically disproved only the above model, we have, nevertheless, thrown a monkey wrench into the machinery for decaying light-speed. Every such scenario must have the slow motion effect described above. Furthermore, the slow motion effect is directly related to how fast the light is moving. If a model requires light in the past to move one hundred times faster than observed today, then, at least for some interval of time measured in that part of space, we would observe things moving one hundred times as slow.

That's the fatal point which no choice of curve can wholly remedy. The creationist model, in order to be useful, must start with a high velocity for light so that objects ten billion light-years away can be seen in a universe a mere 6000 years old. Consequently, such a universe must appear, in general, to be slowing down more and more the further we look into the depths of space. And the further we look, in general, the more dramatic the perceived slowdown should be.

It might seem that if we started out with a fantastically high speed for light which decayed precipitously we could reduce the problems. Certainly, that would produce a light curve with near-normal velocities for most of the years between t=0 and t=6000. However, the effect would be to move the departure time of light beam A (in the above model) closer to the creation time and to jack up its speed. Thus, the slow motion factor would be even worse than the model we just examined! On the other extreme, by abandoning an exponential decay curve, one can get the initial velocity down to about 1.6 million light-years per year. But alas! The speed of light beam A is now 1.6 million light-years per year! We've gone from the frying pan into the fire.

The problem, from a graphical point of view, is that we have a certain amount of obligatory area under the velocity-time curve which must be distributed in some way. That area represents the 10 billion light-years of space which our initial light beams must cross in 6000 years. No matter where you put that area, now matter how you poke or shape it, you have a problem.

The big question, then, is whether our general observations of the universe fit such models. Do we, for example, observe pulsars spinning slower and slower the further away they are? Do the rotation of galaxies, as determined from the Doppler effect, grind to a near halt in the more remote regions of space? Do dust clouds seem to collapse more slowly the farther away they are? Do the closer novas and supernovas explode, on the whole, more quickly than the more remote ones? Do galaxies appear to be traveling any slower the farther away they are? The answer is no.

The alternative, if these light-decay models are to be salvaged, is that the more distant the object the faster it is moving. Thus, we would have the illusion of seeing normal rates prevail everywhere, the slow motion factor being cancelled by objects which are moving, in truth, faster and faster the further we look into the depths of space. However, there is a limit to how fast some things can go. Millisecond pulsars are already close to flying apart. Their spin rates are no illusion! The distant galaxies, if they were really rotating millions of times faster a few thousand years ago, would have flown apart. We are led into absurdity. There is no reason, for example, for believing that the distance of a gas cloud from us dictates how fast it will collapse! We have no reason to believe that distant galaxies once traveled millions of times faster than their observed rates. Had they done so, they would surely have broken out of the great clusters of galaxies which are bound by gravity. Their distribution today would have been more or less random.

Light, itself, would have behaved differently at different speeds. The higher the speed the more blue-shifted, the more energetic it would be. Certain wavelengths of light, for example, have the power to penetrate the galactic dust, thus allowing us to see events going on in the core of our galaxy. If the wavelength of such light was merely an illusion produced by the slow motion effect, if those light waves actually existed at shorter frequencies back then, they would have been absorbed or scattered differently by the galactic dust. That is to say, astronomers would not see a logical correspondence between the wavelengths they observe and their known properties. In the above example, we might not see the galactic core at all by using the preferred wavelength for dust penetration! Needless to say, astronomers don't have that problem.

Our conclusion, then, is that any model which would drive us to such views is bankrupt. We can forget about those claims that light traveled much faster in the past.

Once it's clear that the light-speed decay models are bankrupt, not only with respect to modern science but even within Newtonian physics, then there is only one reasonable conclusion. The light coming from distant stars and galaxies have not only traveled immense distances but have spanned ages as well. In particular, the fact that supernova SN1987A is around 170,000 light-years distant means that we are seeing an event which is around 170,000 years old.

A few creationists have argued that the universe really isn't that big. In particular, Slusher, working for the Institute for Creation Research, argued in 1980 that the universe is based on a Riemannian space which allowed no point to be more than 15.71 light-years away. The great distances observed would be an illusion based on mistaking the Riemannian space for Euclidean space.

This model, however, requires that the distance to supernova SN1987A be measured at less than 15.71 light-years in contradiction to the 170,000 light-years actually measured. Unexploded versions of SN1987A would be seen at the same time, one of them being at a perceived distance of 170,000 light-years! A few decades later, the light from the explosion would circle around again, thus causing us to see SN1987A explode all over again! This is madness, not science! See Strahler (1987, pp.114-116) for a thorough debunking of this Riemannian space nonsense. (George Friedrich Bernhard Riemann, 1826-1866, was a German mathematician whose work on curved space proved helpful to Einstein, but not with the absurd radius of curvature assigned by Slusher!)

Yet another idea, advanced by Henry Morris and others, is that star light was created in situ during the Genesis creation week. However, we have now left the realm of science for theology. There is no scientific way to separate star light from its origin in a star. Not only is it theology, but it's bad theology. God creates a universe which forces him to be a deceiver! It goes beyond the need for any reasonable appearance of age as a result of functionality. There is no need, for example, to see supernovae explode before their time. An observer would ultimately see the supernova leap back together and explode all over again when the light from the real explosion finally arrived! It makes God out to be an idiot.

When the smoke blown about finally drifts away and the debate hall falls silent, the young-earth creationist finds himself back on square one. He is looking at stars many millions of light-years away, stars putting out light which takes many millions of years to reach us! Attempts to speed up the velocity of light or to shrink down the universe have come to naught. What does remain is the old age of our universe.


I will round out this work with some miscellaneous arguments which, with one exception, are from Dr. Hovind's notebook.

Dr. Hovind (A): If the universe is not billions of years old, then we need not bother with the other arguments supporting evolution.

A. The presently accepted history of evolution on Earth would be in trouble if the universe were not billions of years old. Significant evolution, however, can occur in as little as 10 million years. Thus, even if complex life were created on Earth a mere 10 million years ago that would not, in itself, rule out significant biological evolution!

Just the other day Jeffrey Bada and Stanley Miller, both highly respected scientists, presented a new theory of the origin of life to the scientific community. It answers many of the problems plaguing earlier models. Regarding how long it might take for life to evolve, Stanley Miller had this to say:


"We have been adding up the time it might take for life to develop," Miller said. "The whole process could take place in 10 million years or less." (Los Angeles Times, February 21, 1994, A1,A16)

Forget about evolution requiring billions and billions of years to evolve life! It is now believed that life may have evolved a number of times on the early Earth, only to be wiped out by gigantic asteroid impacts.

Dr. Hovind (B): Modern textbooks, in effect, tell us that FROGS+TIME = PRINCE.

B. Wrong! FROGS + TIME does not equal people! Historically speaking, certain early amphibians gave rise to all of the higher life forms today, including man. Frogs are a modern day branch tip on the evolutionary tree, not a section of a limb.

Secondly, if the clock were rewound, humanity would not likely evolve again. Primitive life forms + time MAY equal something complex if the environment is right and if chance factors work for the best.

Dr. Hovind (C): How could many of the marvelous structures evolve by chance?

C. Things don't evolve by chance alone! Natural selection, the key to evolution, is not a random chance process. The environment applies very specific pressures. In that way, Mother Nature selects for certain characteristics. In a desert, for example, certain strategies for plant survival are favored while others are selected against. Since major environments often last a long time, their effect on evolving life is not random. In the desert, plants with better and better adaptations for reproducing despite the heat and lack of water have the edge.

Mutations may be thought of as random, but mutations are not the same thing as evolution. They merely enrich the gene pool whose diversity natural selection acts upon.

General (D): Evolution is merely a theory.

D. Evolution (descent of life with modification) is a fact of life! That is to say, it may be deduced from the facts with near certainty. The fact of evolution is debated in the scientific community about as often as the roundness of the Earth! Both issues have been settled scientifically long ago. If you don't believe me, scan the world's leading scientific journals, such as Nature or Science, and tell me how many articles in the last 24 issues challenge the fact of evolution. Legitimate scientific disagreement is not over descent with modification, but rather over how best to explain descent with modification. Such explanations constitute the theories of evolution. It is there we find the legitimate scientific debate which creationists are so fond of quoting, often out of context.

In the United States the chief opposition to the fact of evolution comes from a noisy, minority religious crusade cloaked in scientific jargon, whose ultimate goal is to enforce the teaching of fundamentalist doctrine in our schools.

Dr. Hovind (E): Evolution is a religion, not part of science.

E. Evolution does not postulate a creator. It offers no guide to moral living. It has neither a temple of worship nor a priesthood. It contains no sacred dogma. Dr. Hovind, how in the world do you turn it into a religion?

"Scientific creationism" has been proven in a court of law to be nothing more than a thinly veiled religion. U.S. District Court Judge William R. Overton in 1982 ruled unconstitutional an Arkansas law which tried to sneak Genesis into the schools under the guise of science. Let me quote Ronald Ecker to sum up a few of Judge Overton's points.

In finding for the plaintiffs, Overton, drawing heavily from the experts' courtroom testimony, gave no quarter to the creationist defense. "Evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology," he wrote, and any student deprived of instruction "as to the prevailing scientific thought" on such topics as the age of the earth, geology, and relationships among living things "will be deprived of a significant part of science education." Science, Overton said, is defined as that which is "accepted by the scientific community"; science is "what scientists do," and "creation science" as defined in Act 590 "is simply not science." ... The creationists' two-model approach is "a contrived dualism which has no scientific factual basis or legitimate educational purpose." (Ecker, 1990, pp.137-138)

Evolution meets all the criteria of a good science; scientific creationism fails as science. In the U. S. Supreme Court case of Edwards v. Aguillard a remarkable friend-of-court brief was submitted by 71 Nobel laureates, seventeen state academies of science, and seven other scientific organizations which exposed "scientific creationism" as a fraud. I know of no other document of belief supported by so many Nobel prizewinners!

Let's compare real science to "scientific" creationism.

1. Real scientists, as did Darwin, usually spend some time pointing out the possible weaknesses they see in their theories. Creationists usually minimize or ignore the weaknesses in their theories unless the cat is out of the bag.

2. Real scientists publish scientific literature, which can be very unorthodox, in refereed journals. Creationists, apparently having nothing much to say to the scientific community, write for the layman. They have found it necessary to publish their ideas in special "creationist journals" because none of the hundreds of legitimate scientific journals find their work acceptable.

3. Real scientists are quick to criticize their colleagues if they suspect an error. (Remember the cold fusion flap?) Creationists have a fortress mentality, and they are quick to circle their wagons. To admit error is considered bad form among creationists, and most of them must literally be smoked out before admitting any errors whatsoever.

4. Real scientists are quick to test promising ideas (however unorthodox) and those which don't pan out quickly disappear from the literature. Creationist arguments having serious errors, including arguments based solely on obsolete data, circulate indefinitely in the creationist literature.

5. Real scientists are often involved in meaningful laboratory and field work. Creationists spend most of their time combing through books and technical journals for quotes with which to snipe at evolution. When they're not doing that they can usually be found out on the stump drumming up support among the uneducated public.

6. Real scientists base their theories on the available evidence. Creationists take their science straight from the Bible. Many creationist leaders have publically stated, often in print, that any evidence at variance with the Bible should be rejected out of hand.

7. No self-respecting scientist would ever think of signing an oath of allegiance to Darwinism as a condition for employment. Many creationist societies actually require a "loyalty oath" which is tantamount to an admission that their minds are closed!

8. Real scientists gather facts for the purpose of testing their ideas. Creationists gather facts to prop up their preconceived ideas.

9. All good scientists admit that they might be wrong, at least in principle, that absolute certainty is not part of science. Except for trivial details, creationists cannot conceive of the possibility that they are in error as that would take down their concept of biblical inerrancy.

10. Not one of the great universities, where real science is done and advanced, takes creationism seriously. Those few "universities" where creationism is featured have either failed to get full accreditation or have done so only through the pulling of political strings. What discoveries have they made? Name their Nobel laureates!

11. Scientists build upon numerous findings accumulated over the years, and only then are great revolutionary breakthroughs achieved. Creationists fancy that they are in the process of overthrowing biology, geology, astronomy, anthropology, linguistics, paleontology, archaeology, oceanography, cosmology, physics, and numerous other branches of science. Some creationists (the flat-earth societies) would add the "grease-ball" theory of round-earth geography to that list.

Dr. Hovind (F): Let's imagine we are exploring an old gold mine. Suppose we find a Casio Databank watch half buried in the mud and, upon closer inspection, still keeping good time. Perhaps the watch is a 1000 years old. No, this particular entrance to the mine was dug 150 years ago. Maybe, then, it is 150 years old. No, the model was marketed only 12 years ago. Could it have been there 10 years? No, the batteries are only good for 5 years.

We might not be able to pin down the precise age of that watch, but each of the above arguments establishes a maximum age. Any estimates giving an older age than 5 years may be ignored as irrelevant. If we found a 30-year-old shoe near the watch that would not override our 5 year maximum estimate. The minimum date takes precedence.

The same logic can be applied to finding the age of the Earth. If several factors limit the age of the Earth to within the last few thousand years, the Earth cannot be older than that! Even if a few indicators seem to show a greater age for the Earth, it only takes ONE proof of a young Earth to prove the Earth is young. Below is a list of arguments that limit the age of the universe and Earth to within the last few thousand years.

F. If you were trying to date some mountain range, then the uranium-lead age of a certain layer of rock which made up part of that mountain would yield, at most, a maximum age in accordance to the above analogy. Thus, if we found another layer of rock in that mountain which, by the potassium-argon method, yielded half the previous age, then the younger age would stand.

The watch analogy is wrong because creationists are trying to date the entire Earth, not some fixture on it! They are trying to date the mine, not the watch! Each of the figures, then, would give a minimum date. The largest reliable figure would take precedence. Therefore, we need only one good argument yielding an old age for the Earth!

Dr. Hovind (G): Each of these evidences of a young Earth is described in great detail in the books referred to at the end of each line.

G. The book's authors read like a Who's Who in the creationist world! I guess it takes a creationist to explain these things, because I sure don't know any reputable scientists who would accept these young- Earth arguments! By now you should have some inkling as to why respectable scientists reject such claims.

Dr. Hovind (H): Those who believe the earth is billions of years old will typically try to discredit one of the above arguments and then mistakenly think that they have successfully proven the entire list wrong.

H. I certainly don't know of anyone who would do that!

Dr. Hovind (I): The burden of proof is on the evolutionists if they expect all taxpayers to fund the teaching of their religion in the school system.

I. The topics of evolution (descent of life with modification) and the old age of the Earth are not scientific controversies! If you look at the last 50 issues of any of the world's leading scientific journals, such as Nature or Science, you will not find any debates in progress about the fact of evolution or the old age of the Earth! You might find a debate over the explanation of those facts, or of specific dates or rates, but never over the facts themselves. If you look into our best universities, you will not find any scientific debates in progress on those subjects. Standard reference works, such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, treat them as facts. They are regarded as fact by knowledgeable people who are not fettered with extreme religious prejudice.

We taxpayers owe it to our children to expose them to the best that science offers. Of course, philosophical speculation should be clearly labeled as such. On that point I would agree with Dr. Hovind. Jumping from the facts of evolution to a non-theistic universe is not a proper conclusion of science. Science does not speculate on the supernatural.

The fact that some religious groups aren't living in the real world should not be allowed to dumb down our public schools. If you want to believe that the Earth is 6000 years old that's your business. If you make it your religion and teach it to your children, that's your error and their injury. If you make it your crusade to force it into the science classroom, that's your Waterloo!

Try to understand. Suppose that flat-Earth creationism became very popular and books appeared defending the flat-Earth hypothesis. Such parents, of course, would be very unhappy to find that the public schools were teaching that the Earth is round. Some of those parents would move their children into private schools which teach flat-Earth theory. Others would campaign against the "brainwashing" their children were getting in the public schools. Perhaps they would demand equal time for flat-Earth views. How would you handle that potato?

It would be irresponsible, of course, to include the flat-Earth view in our geography classes. Time spent on discussing the evidence for a flat-Earth is time robbed from serious learning. As it is, there are many things that should be covered in a geography class that get left out for lack of time. Nor would we want to leave the impressionable student with the idea that the flat-Earth hypothesis is a serious scientific alternative.

I think you will agree with me that the teaching of the round- Earth hypothesis should not depend on popularity polls. I think that you would also agree that the flat-Earth hypothesis should not be injected into the geography classroom under the premises that it would be fair to present all sides of the issue. The point, of course, is that the flat- Earth hypothesis is not a valid "side" of geography. We, as taxpayers, would expect our public schools to teach serious geography so as to best prepare our kids for the future. Such a decision, of course, will make the flat-Earth folks very unhappy, and they might even vote you out of office, but there is no other responsible choice.



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