From: Peter Ruest (email@example.com)
Date: Fri Mar 28 2003 - 00:47:17 EST
Daniel E. Wonderly, in his "Neglect of Geological Data: Sedimentary
Strata Compared with Young-Earth Creationist Writings" (IBRI, P.O.Box
423, Hatfield, PA 19440: 1987, ISBN 0-944788-00-9, 130 pp.), gives very
detailed discussions of YEC errors in the field of geology. IBRI
(Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute) is a foundation of ASA
fellow Robert C. Newman (astrophysicist and theologian, chair of ASA's
In 1989, the Group for Science and Faith of the Swiss Vereinigte
Bibelgruppen (corresponding to InterVarsity) held some meetings to
discuss about 20 claims proposed in a lecture by a YEC about the age of
the earth. I have a list of these, together with the answers of the late
physicist and ASA member Hansruedi Brugger. What follows is my free
translation (Y = YEC claim, S = scientists' answer, C = criticism of YEC
(1) Y: a) Swiss Lake of the Four Cantons (Vierwaldstättersee) will be
gone in 4 ka (thousand years). b) The Alpine lakes cannot be older than
S: a) could be correct. b) During the last glaciation, all Swiss lakes
were under thick ice. The lakes were formed about 10 ka (ka ago), after
the retreat of the glaciers.
C: The time (future) needed for filling a lake by glacial drift, gravel
and other eroded material is independent of its age (past), and its age
has nothing to do with the age of the earth. Manipulative argument.
(2) Y: Mehlert calculated the Mississippi delta to be a few ka old
(Cre.Res.Soc.Quart. 25 (Dec.1988), 121).
S: In the Cretaceous, >65 Ma (million years ago), the delta was 1600 km
farther upstream in Cairo, IL. Sea level sank during the glaciations and
rose afterwards. The ground sank due to the weight of the delta
C: a) Known geological facts are not taken into consideration (e.g. Fisk
who evaluated about 16,000 drilling cores in 1944 already). b) Age of
the Mississippi delta is not the age of the earth.
(3) Earth's magnetic field: has been discussed already.
C: a) Not taken note of known scientific observations. Held onto an
incorrect hypothesis for 20 years, and continue to hold onto it. b)
Presented observations in a very dilute, superficial way.
(4) Y: Heat flow of the earth: a) With consideration of radioactive
decay: a cooling time of at most 100 Ma. b) Without considering
radioactive decay: heat flow from the earth's interior is such that the
crust cools from being molten to its present state within 20 Ma, and if
the initial surface temperature is low, within <10 Ma (Inst.Cre.Res.
Monograph No.7, 1978).
S: a) Because of the radioactive U, Th, K, a crust 30 km thick would be
sufficient to explain the entire heat flow of the earth, even without
considering the mantle, which is 2800 km thick, and the core. a+b) Many
different causes contributed to the high temperatures of the earth's
interior, e.g. impacts of planetesimals, radioactive decay, downward
percolation of the liquid iron core... i.e., too many unknown parameters
prevent us from calculating the age of the earth from the heat flow. c)
To transport a certain amount of heat through only 400 km of rock takes
5 Ga (billion years)!
C: a1) Wrong calculation. a2) Dalrymple about the authors Slusher and
Gamwell: "Their treatment of this complex problem is inexcusably naive.
They ignored important heat sources, chose an inappropriate distribution
of the radioactive elements and left out the heat transport by
convection in the mantle." b) Radioactivity, which today is probably the
main heat source, was missed. c) If the initial temperature is low, no
time at all is needed for cooling.
(5) Nickel in the ocean: has been discussed already.
C: a) Ignored fundamental geological laws? Because there is no lasting
accumulation of Ni in the ocean, the method is unsuitable for
determining the age of the ocean. b) Residential time doesn't
characterize the age of the ocean, but the Ni cycle of the earth. An
incorrect argument from the 19th century, which YEC continue bringing
(6) Y: Fast fossilization: Most fossils could only be formed because
they were embedded extremely rapidly and under exclusion of air (Gish,
Evolution - The Fossils Say No, 1984).
S: "Extremely rapidly" is incorrect; usually only the animals' hard
parts (shell, skeleton) are fossilized, and furthermore, these are then
chemically changed by diagenesis. The fossilization of a coral reef,
e.g., takes decades. Exclusion of oxygen is possible in many ways: clay,
volcanic ash, hydrogen sulfide in water (poison, e.g. in the Black Sea),
algal blooms (poison, e.g. in the North Sea)...
C: Conclusion of a short age of the earth is inadmissible, same as
repeatedly in the further points below: the "extremely fast" events are
irrelevant for the earth's entire age, because there are also many slow
events (continental drift, crustal lifting and subsidence, erosion, deep
(7) Y: Radiocarbon ages: A fossil bivalve, from a stratum for which
geologians claim an age of 25 Ma, enclosed a piece of wood showing a
C-14 age of 36 ka.
S: There are certainly some dating errors (in this case, there might be
a contamination by recent C-14). But this doesn't change the fact that
the correct radiometric dates (so far about 100,000) result in a
_self-consistent_ overall picture which is also in _full agreement_ with
chrono- and magnetostratigraphic observations and the astronomical
knowledge. Furthermore, many radiometric dating methods are
self-diagnostic (isochrons, Ar-Ar method, concordia diagram), i.e., if
the sample was disturbed sometime in the past, the measurements don't
lie on the predetermined curve, and a reading is not possible.
C: a) Manipulative argument: _one_ measurement which went wrong is not
relevant to judge the reliability of a method: there are many car
accidents on the highways, but most drivers reach their destinations
unharmed! b) Illogical conclusion: indications for measurements that
went wrong are _not_ evidence for a claimed age of 6-10 ka for the
earth. YEC are incapable of pointing out a specific supposedly reliable
dating method and a specific supposedly correct age of the earth. They
are not even capable of giving a specific upper limit for the age of the
(8) Y: Sediments which are cross-bedded and/or graded indicate that they
must have been deposited very rapidly and under much running water.
S: a) "Very rapid" deposition is not required. Cross-bedding is
produced, e.g., under water with irregularly changing directions of flow
in a river delta. b) Sedimentation velocity depends very much on the
grain sizes of the particles and the flow velocity. The sedimentation of
clay (particle size < 2 microns) takes very long and a flow velocity
below 40 cm/hr.
C: a) Aren't these fundamental facts of geology? Sediment layers don't
yield any reliable age of the earth, although very rough estimates were
done in the 19th century. b) Manipulative arguments and inadmissible
(9) Y: Valleys cut into the strata: What is missing between the
individual strata in the Grand Canyon formations are, in particular,
valleys, which should have been formed in vast numbers by water erosion
(Cre.Res.Soc.Quart. 23 (Dec. 1986), 104).
S: a) 90% of the sediments are deposited on the very flat continental
shelves near the coast. There is also sedimentation in flat country
(plain of the Po!) and on the flat deep sea floor, where there are no
valleys, either. b) At the (sloping!) valley sides, there is no
deposition, but only erosion, as can be seen in the mountain valleys.
C: Isn't this basic geological knowledge? Inadmissible conclusions.
(10) Y: Upright tree trunks: a) The Carboniferous contains many fossil
tree trunks which vertically penetrate several strata. b+c) There is not
even a single intermediate layer between coal seams for which a
deposition time of at least several years can be confidently claimed.
S: a) Rapid embedding of the trunks ok. Conventional hypothesis of coal
formation: fossilization occurred in a delta region with intermittent
transgressions and regressions of the sea. b) According to Junker &
Scherer, there are, in the Saar, over 500 coal horizons (cyclothemes)
amounting to a total thickness of 5000 m. Each cyclotheme consists of a
coal seam and a clay, sandstone, or limestone layer, where 30 m of peat
yield about 1 m of coal. c) According to radiometric dating, the
Carboniferous lasted for 72 Ma.
C: a) Rapid deposition is unrelated to the age of the earth.
Inadmissible conclusion. b) How do 500 periodic layers of, e.g., very
fine, thinly fluid sludge and 5 km total thickness fit into a stormy
one-year flood? How is an _orderly_ layering possible under such
conditions? c) Generally known geological observations are not taken
into consideration: the sum of all Carboniferous strata must amount to
(11) Y: Age of the Alps: 10 Ma from now, only low hills would remain of
the Alps. Uplifts in Wallis and Engadin up to 1.5 mm/year.
S: Folding of the Alps is a dynamic process. Erosion, uplifting, and
sedimentation interact in a complex manner.
C: "10 Ma" talks about the future, from which no age of the earth can be
derived. This time would be increased by the uplifts.
(12) Moon dust: has been discussed already.
C: a) First author Slusher used a hypothesis of 1956, which was
recognized as incorrect even _before_ the Apollo flights. He wrote his
paper in 1980, without taking into consideration the state of research
since 1966. b) Well-known moon rock ages were ignored.
(13) Y: Saturn rings: a) Centrifugal force keeps decreasing. b1) The
rings have a limited lifespan. b2) Completion of infall onto the planet
lasts less than 500 ka. c) This implies that the solar system, too, can
hardly be any older (Slusher, Age of the Cosmos, 1980).
S: a) Centrifugal force keeps increasing. b1) Correct. b2) As far as the
time indication refers to the Poynting-Robertson effect, it may be
correct. c) The origin of the Saturn rings is not yet clear (various
hypotheses). The rings around Jupiter, Uranus, Neptun are much thinner,
for unknown reasons.
C: a) Neglect of highschool physics. b) Possibility that new fragments
may be produced by mutual or meteorite collisions was ignored. c)
Manipulative argument. Infall time and age of the solar system are
unconnected. Without a formation model, no age can be determined. b+c)
Even if Saturn's rings were <500 ka old, this would not prove that the
age of 6-10 ka endorsed by YEC is correct. Illogical conclusion.
(14) Y: The actual population of the earth could arise from a single
couple within 4 ka, if an excess of births of only 0.6% per year is
S: a) 2 x 1.006^4000 = 49 billion = 9 times the actual population
(1989). b) Up to 1650 AD, the excess of births was extremely small. One
estimates (per year), e.g., 0.0004% for 100 ka, and 0.01% for 2000 BC.
C: a) Arithmetic error. b) Manipulative argument: the 0.6% excess of
births are _arbitrary_, without any scientific justification. It is
therefore not possible to use it for calculating the age of humanity.
(15) Y: The planets in the solar system have chaotic orbits, which
cannot be predicted beyond 10-20 Ma.
S: Planetary orbits are, according to current knowledge, chaotic. The
Lyapunov times (the time within which the distance between two adjacent
orbits begins to increase exponentially) for the planets are 4-20 Ma.
But this is not the end of predictive calculations. During the Lyapunov
time, there is _no_ serious disturbance of the orbit. Rather, the
expected times to risk a dangerous meeting with another planet are
800-14,000 Ga, very much more than the earth's age!
C: a) Lyapunov time is _not_ the predictability time. b) Manipulative
argument: "not predictable" does not mean that the planets could not
have existed for much longer; it just implies that one cannot calculate
their earlier positions any more. c) No proof for a "young" solar system
of about 10 ka.
(16) Y: a) Average lifespan of the short-periodic comets is about 6 ka.
b) So far, the Oort cloud, from which these comets are supposed to come,
has not been shown to exist, either theoretically or by observational
S: a) The short-periodic comets (Jupiter family) are not derived from
the Oort cloud. The long-periodic ones (which do come from the Oort
cloud) have, according to Monte-Carlo simulations, a mean lifespan of
600 ka from their first entry into the inner solar system. b1) In 1950,
Jan Oort postulated his cometary cloud on the basis of _observations_ of
_long-periodic_ comets (periods >200 years). He showed that an important
part of these comets observed entered for the _first_ time into the
inner solar system ("new" comets). They have orbital energies in a very
closely limited interval, which fits only comets whose farthest point is
about 50,000 astronomical units (AU = earth orbit radius) from the sun.
b2) Predicted orbital inclinations correspond with the observed ones (no
preference for the ecliptical plane). b3) Dust disks of similar
proportions have been observed around other stars, such as Wega and Beta
Pictoris. One considers them to contain comets. b4) The Oort cloud has
not been observed _directly_, but because of the _correspondence_
between theory and observation, research astronomers consider its
existence as being quite well confirmed.
C: a) Oort's work apparently not taken into consideration. b) Oort's
work has been misrepresented by several YEC publications, and the state
of the research after 1950 apparently has not been taken note of.
(17) Y: Globular clusters differ markedly from their galaxies
[incorrect; better: the disk stars] in age, structure, and
Hertzsprung-Russel diagram, but nevertheless, they belong to them. Are
perhaps their ages wrong?
S: Globular clusters (GC) and halo stars (HS) differ clearly from the
disk stars (DS) dynamically, chemically, luminosity- and age-wise: a)
Dynamics: GC and HS have a large velocity component orthogonal to the
galactic disk, DS practically none. b) Chemistry: GC and HS contain
10-100 times less heavy elements (Z>5, e.g. C, N, O,... Fe) than DS. c)
Luminosity: In the main sequence of the GC and HS, there are no stars
more luminous than the sun, while there are many such DS. Conclusion: in
the GC, there are no main sequence stars heavier than 1 solar mass,
therefore: d) Age of the GC 15 Ga [more recent values: rather ~12 Ga].
Due to their shorter lifespans, the more massive stars have become
extinct long ago. e) In the galactic bulge, there are stars of similarly
high ages as those in the GC, they are therefore nothing special.
C: Apparently, YEC hardly take note of the _fundamental model of the
origin of the Milky Way galaxy_ (Eggen/Lynden-Bell/Sandage, 1962), which
describes the observations a)-d) very well: The Milky Way was formed
from one or more big gas clouds, the _protogalactic cloud_, which
consisted of virtually nothing but H and He, which had been produced
directly after the big bang. In this cloud, the GC and HS were formed.
(The size of the cloud explains the velocity components orthogonal to
the galactic plain, cp. a). Then, the gas cloud became denser through
gravity and collapsed into the galactic disk, and gradually, DS were
born, e.g. our sun. An enrichment with heavy elements (cp. b) only
occurred after the most massive first-generation stars exploded as
supernovae, spreading the newly synthesized heavy elements (C, N, O,...
Fe) for the next star generation. (Literature: Sci.Amer. 268 (Jan.1993),
(18) Y: Connected galaxies should, if their ages are of the order of Ga,
have lost these connections long ago, due to their different velocities.
S: Such connections between galaxies are continually formed and severed.
Occasionally, they merge permanently (cannibal galaxies). Estimate:
typical galaxy diameter = 50 kLy (50,000 light years); typical distance
between galaxies = 2000 kLy. Ratio = 1:40. Consequence: contact between
two galaxies may occur rather frequently. For comparison: typical star
diameter = 1.5 million km, typical distance between stars = 5 Ly = 50
trillion km. Ratio = 1:30 million, i.e. contact between two stars is
C: Not taken note of fundamental facts of extragalactic astronomy? There
are large catalogues of such "peculiar galaxies". Astronomical scales
(19) Y: Conflicting radiometric ages: The concordia diagram of zircon
crystals (Jack Hill, near the Narryer Formation) shows quite different
ages for 207Pb/235U and 208Pb/232Th in the same crystals. In an extreme
case, the ratio of the ages determined is 1:8! Also, almost all Th ages
are lower than the U ages. Either the crystals contained 208Pb to begin
with, or a part of the Th-containing material was lost from the crystals
S: Same as (7).
C: Same as (7).
Finally, two more arguments from a German YEC book of 1978 (in addition,
the book deals with points 3, 5, 12, 14 above, and sediments, fossils,
radioactive dating in general):
(20) Y: Lost helium: a) 300,000 tons of He from radioactive decay enter
the atmosphere from the lithosphere per year. Now, the atmosphere
contains 3.5 billion tons of He. This yields an age of the earth of
slightly over 10 ka. b) In the upper atmosphere, gas atoms move with
3000 km/h, but the escape velocity is 40,000 km/h. No He could escape.
C: a) H.Faul, Nuclear Geology (Wiley, no year) is quoted, but not the
explanation he probably gave for these figures. b) Diffusion may lead to
He escape. c) The assumptions are naive: that He has been produced at a
constant rate, that once it is here, it stays here, and that atomic
velocities in the upper atmosphere don't show a wide distribution.
(21) Y: a) The estimated age of the earth was fit to the half-life of
238U. b) Radioactive decay has nothing to do with the age of the earth.
c) It is unknown when and how intensely radioactive decay set in.
C: This is the first argument given in the book mentioned. I'm really
embarrassed to have to report such nonsense. The author was an industry
manager without any scientific qualifications. He clearly didn't even
understand radioactive decay.
Some of you might want to add further information to these points.
And some of the points may no longer be in the YEC arsenal today, such
as the Paluxy River "dinosaur plus man track" fossils and the fossil
"human" footprint squashing a trilobite.
-- Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland <firstname.lastname@example.org> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution "..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
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