(no subject)

Fri, 18 Aug 95 07:20:00 CDT

>>become a kind of religion." In fairness to
>>legitimate science it should be emphasized that it is Sagan's Scientism
>>has become a religion. Empirical science
>>must depend on observability, repeatablility and testability of all
>>phenomena it would seek to explain. True science
>>of this kind has never been found to be in conflict with the Bible.

>So I will just pick on this statememt. True science of this kind
>has been repeatedly in conflict with the bible. Scientific evidence
>indicates that the earth is over 4 billion years old and has
>never experienced a world wide flood, for example. The fact the
>author ignores this completely undermines the rest of his article.

Show me evidence of the earth being four billion years old. Also, there is
evidence pointing out a world-wide flood!
I have documentation and articles that are just as valid, if not more valid
evidence for an ancient earth. I will send you a whole bibliography if you
would like.

Here is a breif article for you:

Problems in Radiometric Dating

January 1992
by Trevor J. Major

Controversy surrounding the age of the earth is almost as heated as the
debate between evolution and creation.
Moreover, there is a strong connection between these issues. On one side
there are those who accept a
straightforward reading of Genesis, and thus reject large-scale evolution
and its attendant eons of time. On the other
side are avowed evolutionists who reject a supernatural creation, and any
suggestion that the earth may be less than
several billions of years old. This other side may also include those who
believe in God and a creation, yet endorse a
very ancient world.

At the center of the fray we find arguments over a technique called
"radiometric dating." When a geologist says that
such-and-such a rock is millions of years old, it is likely that he has used
radiometric dating to get that age. The
problem is, any effort to measure the passage of geological time faces
questionable assumptions. Man simply does
not have access to a natural clock that can provide an objective, accurate
measurement of events in earth's past. He
cannot know when the clock started, or how fast it has been clicking.

For example, on the assumption that rivers have poured their sediments into
the oceans at the same rate through all
time over the whole earth, early geologists calculated that the earth was
three million to one-and-a- half billion years
old. On the assumption that the earth's original oceans were fresh, and that
salt has collected from a single source at
a constant rate, some scientists estimated the age of the earth at nine
million to two-and-a-half billion years old. On
the assumption that the earth began in a totally liquid state, and taking
into account heat from the sun and within the
earth itself, Lord Kelvin estimated that the earth was 20 million to 100
million years old.

However, important discoveries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries set these estimates aside.
Pioneering scientists detected radiation from a substance containing the
element uranium. From this they were able
to conclude that certain elements were unstable, that is, prone to
disintegrating or breaking down over time. Later,
they observed that this radioactive decay usually occurred in a series of
steps. Each step produced a different
radioactive element, with the whole process ending in a nonradioactive,
stable element.

With uranium, for instance, each atom decays into a thorium atom first, with
radiation and helium as by-products.
The thorium is also radioactive, and in its decay breaks down to
protactinium. After thirteen additional
transformations, the original uranium (the "parent") finally decays into
stable lead (the "daughter").

The time required for half the radioactive element to decay is its half-
life. The half-life of the most common uranium
isotope (a variety called uranium-238) is around 4.5 billion years. This
means that half the original uranium-238 will
become transformed by radioactive decay into a stable lead isotope
(lead-206) over a period of 4.5 billion years. In
another half-life, a quarter of the original uranium will remain, and so the
reaction will continue until the parent has

Simply stated, all a scientist has to do to date a rock is measure the
proportions of daughter and parent isotopes,
and wind the clock back using the half-life as his guide. For instance, a
rock with 25% of the parent remaining has
gone through two half-lives. Its age, therefore, equals the half-life
multiplied by two.

Geologists finally had a method that would give them the great ages they
expected for the earth and its rocks.
Actually, the terrestrial birthday is calculated from extraterrestrial
rubble. So far, the oldest ages have come from
lunar soil and meteorites, both dated at 4.6 billion years. Supposedly,
these formed at the same time as the earth, in
the early evolutionary stages of the solar system.

Many dating methods based on radioactive decay have appeared since the
discovery of the uranium-lead series.
Rubidium-strontium, potassium- argon, and radiocarbon are some of the older
and more popular methods you may
come across in your reading. Recent developments include fission- track
dating, thermoluminescence,
neodymium-samarium, and many variations on the older methods.

However, most radiometric dating techniques incorporate three main
assumptions--all of which are subject to

Assumption #1.
"The original composition can be known."

This assumption holds that there were no daughter-like isotopes when decay
began. Or, if their presence is
suspected, then "corrections" are attempted. For instance, if a rock
contained lead-206 at formation, then it would
now have extra quantities of the "daughter" isotope, and appear older than
it really was. Geologists try to subtract
this initial lead from their equations by making guesses about the original
composition of the rock--guesses which are
themselves based on questionable assumptions.

Assumption #2.
"The system has always been closed."

Ideally, the rock sample should be unaffected by external influences. Such
effects would include: leaching of
radiometric components out of the system; infiltration of components into
the system; or any other source of
contamination. Water is a special problem in two ways. First, minerals can
be affected by water soaking through
pores and joints in the rock. As many samples come from near the surface of
the earth, there is the possibility that
such water could affect the composition of the rock. Second, and perhaps of
greater potential impact, is the effect of
geothermal water originating from or near molten rock. Such superheated
water can carry relatively high
concentrations of minerals in solution-- minerals that could affect dating.

The closed-system requirement is a serious stumbling block in the
potassium-argon method. Argon is a gas, and so
leakage and contamination are real problems. Once again, attempted
"corrections" require yet more assumptions.

Assumption #3.
"Decay rates have never varied."

Of these three assumptions, the idea that rates of radioactive decay are
constant is the most firmly held. Supposedly,
there are no physical processes operating in nature which could change the
rate of decay, and the decay constant is
the same over the life of the parent isotope.

There is the possibility, however, that radioactive decay may have operated
under fundamentally different conditions
in the past. This is the suggestion of several scientists who have put
considerable effort into the study of the creation
and the world-wide flood. In particular, they propose that the flood of Noah
was a unique, catastrophic event which
caused tremendous changes in the fabric of nature. This means that natural
processes may not have worked
uniformly through time. Of course, all this flies in the face of a
scientific community which, generally speaking, rejects
any possibility that a Divine Being could work in the affairs of man. In
responding to one area of research, a
humanist wrote that he couldn't explain the results, but "whatever it is,
must be naturalistic."

Critics of the criticism will respond, "Yes, but what about the thousands of
dates out there in the scientific literature
that are nothing like your biblical chronology?" First, situations do arise
where the preceding assumptions have
played havoc with dating. For example, potassium-argon dating of a granite
in the Soviet Union gave dates ranging
from 20 to 350 million years. Researchers took the higher dates because they
were closer to the expected age.
They blamed the lower dates on a hypothetical "Alpine heating event."

Such arbitrary explanations provide a second reason for skepticism.
Radiometric dating, like any tool, can be used
in many ways to achieve the desired effect. It does not have to be used, and
when it is, the results don't have to be
accepted or published. Subjectivity really comes to the fore in
controversial areas like human evolution. Richard
Leakey staked his reputation on the age of a fossil skull. Only after ten
years of trying to explain away contradictory
dates did he accept that the skull was half as old.

Finally, as suggested in the discussion of decay constancy, there is the
possibility that decay rates and geological
settings were affected in some universal way. This may have occurred during
the creation (Genesis 1), and the
worldwide flood (Genesis 6-9).

Christians are in no way compelled to embrace something, like radiometric
dating, which is an integral part of an
opposing belief system. Scripturally, acceptance would imply the denial of a
supernatural Creator. Scientifically,
rejection is a justifiable conclusion from studying the theory and practice
of evolutionary dating methods.

(C) 1991 Apologetics Press, Inc All Rights Reserved

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