Bristlecone pines (Re: Radiometric Dating Techniques)

R. Joel Duff (
Wed, 11 Feb 1998 14:25:06 -0600 (CST)

>At 03:57 PM 2/10/98 -0500, Chris wrote:
>>The only assumptions in the analyses I've read are that: (1) trees
>>growing near each other experienced roughly the same climate (i.e.,
>>the pattern of wide and narrow rings corresponding to years with good
>>or poor growing conditions can be matched up); and (2) rings grown
>>in the same year on different trees would date to approximately the
>>same age. These assumptions are certainly reasonable, and alone they
>>are sufficient to match up rings between living and recently dead
>>trees, and then between those trees and ones which have been dead
>>for a longer time.
> As one who has taught dendrochronnology, I have a few opinions on this
>particular subject. Also, one of my graduate students went to work for
>Ferguson in his lab at U of A, and in fact was the curator of his work
>after his death, and is presently probably the only one who know anything
>about how he produced the bristlecone chronology. Another of my graduate
>students gave a seminar to the lab on dendrochronology of fossil trees and
>had ample opportunity to analyze the procedures there, and to work with
>Ferguson for a while. I can say on pretty firm grounds that the
>Bristlecone chronology before 4000bp is fraught with problems and
>unanswered questions. While Ferguson was alive, he never allowed anyone to
>analyze his original data or the bases for the many suppositions that went
>into the establishment of the chronology. Thus the cronology was not
>subjected to the normal rigors of science. This is regrettable, because I
>believe he was a careful and sincere scientist. Of course one could always
>excuse Ferguson for not revealing the bases of his decisions (for example,
>the most important rings in any chronology are the "missing rings" which
>have to be added by the investigator). But suffice to say the chronology
>before 4000bp is entirely dependent on C14 dates of the wood, and is thus
>tautologous. This does not mean it is meaningless or necessarily wrong,
>just that I wouldn't base too much on it.

I apologize if this come through twice. I sent it much earlier in the day
but never saw it but have successfully sent messages since that time.


Referring only to the 4000 year old chronology, you don't seem to be
questioning the veracity of that data. I have several questions. First, I
was under the impression that a good portion of the White Mountains were
volcanic in nature. If so are the these trees growing on any volcanic
rocks and further if they are when is it supposed that these volcanoes were
created. I am still having trouble with placing the volcanoes before or
during the flood. If post flood it would seem that it would have been some
time before any of these 4000 year old trees could have become established.
Even if not volcanic all pictures I see of these trees show them growing
on highly weathered rock such that even if these mountains are were the
result of mountain-building post-flood then these trees did not become
established in their present position I would think for hundreds of years.
The end result is that it seems that the presence of even these living
trees on these mountains suggests that more than 4000 years have passed
since a global flood.

Now I know that you may be somewhat sympathetic toward a flood date older
than 4000 years ago but the creationists I know hold tightly to a strict
chronology placing the flood at no more than 4200 years ago. When faced
with tree ring data they can not accept even the 4000 year old date for the
living trees and insist that that date is bogus because "it has been shown
that these trees can grow multiple tree rings in one year." Seeing how you
seem to accept the 4000 year old date I was wonding what you think of such
criticisms. Further, if I might press you on this. Is this a situation,
or is there any other scientific data, that you know of that compells (bad
word because it implies you put science over Scripture) to accept an older
date for the flood than 4000 ybp? It appears this is a sitution where
extraBiblical data has caused creationists to reinterpret the Scriptures.
I don't think the interpretation is wrong, I am just pointing out that all
Christian do interpret the Bible based on external evidences at some point.


Joel and Dawn Duff / | ' \ Spell Check?
Carbondale IL 62901 ( ) 0
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