Links (that I will sooner or later want to take a closer look at)
- http://www.icr.org/rate/ - from ICR, brief description and links to articles
- Assessing the RATE Project, Essay Review by Randy Isaac - Looks like a reasoned evaluation from an interesting perspective. "However, claims that scientific data affirm a young earth do not meet the criterion of integrity in science."
- The key points of the book can be summarized as follows:
- There is overwhelming evidence of more than 500 million years worth of radioactive decay.
- Biblical interpretation and some scientific studies indicate a young earth.
- Therefore, radioactive decay must have been accelerated by approximately a factor of one billion during the first three days of creation and during the Flood.
- The concept of accelerated decay leads to two unresolved scientific problems, the heat problem and the radiation problem, though there is confidence that these will be solved in the future.
- Therefore, the RATE project provides encouragement regarding the reliability of the Bible.
- The RATE researchers concede that there is evidence for “more than 500 million years worth (at today’s rates) of nuclear and radioisotope decay” (p. 284). This is a key departure from previous creationist claims that radioactive decay is much less than reported.
- All of the four radioisotopic areas discussed involve aspects which the scientific community feels are not reliable for dating. Only one of the four areas discussed, helium diffusion in zircons, is claimed to yield a measurement of the age of the earth on the order of 6,000 years. This is merely a fitting parameter in a complex system of many unknown parameters. The other three areas all lead to ages much older than 6,000 years.
- The leap to the conclusion is never made clear. Confidence in a future resolution of extraordinary scientific contradiction moves smoothly to a message “to Christians in general to encourage them regarding the reliability of the Bible” (p. 768). In other words, the expectation of a future solution to a major scientific impasse is being translated into conferences, books, and videos proclaiming the good news that the RATE project has demonstrated the scientific validity of a young earth.
- The young-earth advocate is therefore left with two positions. Either God created the earth with the appearance of age (thought by many to be inconsistent with the character of God) or else there are radical scientific laws yet to be discovered that would revolutionize science in the future. The authors acknowledge that no current scientific understanding is consistent with a young earth. Yet they are so confident that these problems will be resolved that they encourage a message that the reliability of the Bible has been confirmed.
- The key points of the book can be summarized as follows:
- R.A.T.E.: More Faulty Creation Science from The Insitutute for Creation Research, by J.G. Meert, 1999 (last update 2003) - appears to be written by an expert and goes into detail on several problems with Austin's proposal to investigate isochron discordance.
- Depending on what minerals and what other isotopic systems Austin chooses for dating, he should get ages ranging between 2550 and 3500 Ma. The discordance is predicted because of the polyphase metamorphism in the area. Incidentally, one does not simply 'pick' a few minerals from such a location without noting the tectonic relationships, alteration observed and in the case of zircons, detailing the internal structure of the minerals using cathodoluminescence. Austin does include budgeting for chemical analyses of the minerals, but does not include cathodoluminscence which is imperative for detailing the zircon overgrowth due to subsequent events. Without that analysis, there is a definite risk of obtaining a 'mixed' age from the zircons that would have no significance.
- Austin KNOWS that olivine is not suitable for precision K-Ar dating and he KNOWS that Ar-Ar dating would reveal the excess argon, but he will only perform K-Ar because it is guaranteed to give a spurious result.
- In fact, we see the RATE group again referring to flood rocks without specifying what rocks constitute flood strata. I keep harping on this point because no creationist will allow themselves to be pinned down on how flood strata are indentified and how to correlate flood strata.
- Fission-track1 estimates are not 'absolute' following rock formation, indeed one of the major uses of fission-track dating is determining the thermal history of rocks following their formation since the tracks are easily annealed at low temperatures3,4.
- The rate of helium diffusion from minerals is not a simple linear process1,5,6.
Answers in Creation
Creation Science Exposed: Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, (links to) Essays Revealing the Truth Behind the Young Earth Claims
- "RATE" Leaders Abandon Geologic Fantasies and Admit that Extensive Radioactive Decay has Occurred, by Kevin R. Henke, Ph.D.
- In an Answers in Genesis (AiG) article Carl Wieland had this to say:
- But Drs Humphreys and Baumgardner realized that there were too many independent lines of evidence (the variety of elements used in "standard" radioisotope dating, mature uranium radiohalos, fission track dating and more) that indicated that huge amounts of radioactive decay had actually taken place. It would be hard to imagine that geologic processes could explain all these. Rather, there was likely to be a single, unifying answer that concerned the nuclear decay processes themselves.
- Humphreys et al. (2003) (Adobe Acrobat file), although full of errors and bad assumptions, also makes the following candid admission (p. 3), which is a veiled attack on Woodmorappe's "crapshoot" and similar YEC schemes that involve bogus accusations against radiometric dating methods and equipment:
- Samples 1 through 3 had helium retentions of 58, 27 and 17 percent. The fact that these percentages are high confirms that a large amount of nuclear decay did indeed occur in the zircons. Other evidence strongly supports much nuclear decay having occurred in the past [Humphreys, 2000, p. 335-337]. WE EMPHASIZE THIS POINT BECAUSE MANY CREATIONISTS HAVE ASSUMED THAT "OLD" RADIOISOTOPIC AGES ARE MERELY AN ARTIFACT OF ANALYSIS, NOT REALLY INDICATING THE OCCURRENCE OF LARGE AMOUNTS OF NUCLEAR DECAY. But according to the measured amount of lead physically present in the zircons, approximately 1.5 billion years worth — at today's rates — of nuclear decay occurred. [my emphasis]
- In an Answers in Genesis (AiG) article Carl Wieland had this to say:
- RATE’s Radiocarbon: Intrinsic or Contamination?, by Kirk Bertsche
- (Several pertinent comments on the state of the art, also in respect to C14 in coal and diamonds, with refs.)
Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth
- Volume I, 2000 (pdf download)
- by John D. Morris, Ph.D., pp.iii-viii
"This book deals with the issue of radioisotope dating, thought by many to represent unassailable proof of millions and billions of years of earth history. However, most are unaware that it often yields contradictory, internally inconsistent results. Different methods often disagree with each other. Rocks of known, historical origins, frequently date to great age. What is wrong? Is there a better way to date rocks? Does the old- earth bias hinder good science? Does the Creation model handle the data better?"
"It has always been easy to critique radioisotope dating, for it simply does not work very well."
"The RATE scientists insisted on starting with Scripture and building their understanding of science on that foundation."
Chapter 1, Introduction
- by Larry Vardiman, Ph.D., pp.1-25
"Two traditional methods of accommodation have been to hypothesize either a long period of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 ( the Gap Theory) or that the days of Creation were long periods of time (the Day-Age Theory). A popular form of accommodation today is called Progressive Creationism in which God supernaturally guided the process attributed to evolution by intervening in the process at critical steps along the way."
It appears that much larger quantities of nuclear decay have occurred in most nuclear processes than would be expected for a few thousand years of radioactivity at the currently observed rates. p. 3
"The amount of decay products which should exist, given the conventional old-earth model, differs from that expected by the young- earth creationist model, in most cases, by over five orders of magnitude (that is, 100,000 times)."
"We are beginning to suspect that the final explanation may involve a combination of at least two of them, accelerated decay and mixing."
"Part of the group believed that the evidence was sufficiently strong to justify an all-out effort on accelerated decay, immediately. Another part of the group was sympathetic to this approach, but preferred to gather more data before committing to only one direction."
One major obstacle to accelerated decay is an explanation for the disposal of the great quantities of heat which would be generated by radioactive decay over short periods of time. For example, if most of the radioactive decay implied by fission tracks or quantities of daughter products occurred over the year of the Flood, the amount of heat generated may have been sufficient to vaporize all the waters of the oceans and melt portions of the earth’s crust, given present conditions.
A second obstacle to accelerated decay is the ability of life to cope with the great quantities of ionizing radiation that would have been generated by accelerated decay over short periods of time. This is particularly so with respect to 40K in animal and human bodies. For example, Noah and his family and the animals would likely have been subjected to deadly concentrations of radiation during their stay on the ark if accelerated rates of decay occurred during the Flood. Although the water beneath the ark would have probably protected him from radiation from the earth below, if Noah had similar concentrations of K in his body as we do today, radioactive decay from within his body would have been very destructive.
It was agreed among the RATE group that the focus of RATE research would be primarily on long-age isotopes and their use as geochronometers.
A general principle commonly used in science was discussed and agreed upon for application to our research, that of Occam’s razor. This is the approach to truth that says the simplest, most elegant explanation for an observed phenomenon which appeals to the fewest miracles is considered to be the most-likely solution. This principle is based on the concept that God designs systems to operate in accordance with efficiency, order, and beauty. Use of this principle by the RATE group does not imply that we eliminate the occurrence of miracles, but rather, we minimize the number of miracles and attempt to relate them to supernatural events specifically mentioned in the Scriptures.
Although the discordant isochron “ages” are the normal pattern, the discordance seems to differ in a predictable fashion. Alpha-decay methods generally seem to give older “ages” than β-decay methods. He suggested that more measurements and analyses, especially mineral isochrons, might help identify the cause of the observed trends.
It appears that much larger quantities of nuclear decay may have occurred than would be expected for a few thousand years of radioactivity at the currently observed rate. The evidence for this concern stems from: • the presence of daughter isotopes along the entire decay chain in proximity to parent isotopes, • visible scars (halos) from α-decay, • the presence of α-particles themselves (He nuclei) still within the rock where they were apparently formed by nuclear decay, • visible tracks from decay by fission, • residual heat produced by nuclear decay in proximity to high U concentrations. (p. 15)
Fission track estimates of nuclear decay rates are thought to be absolute following rock formation and do not inherit prior evidenceofdecay. Itisimportanttoknow if decay rates were accelerated during the Flood.
It was discovered during the discussions on the research that the RATE group needs to put more emphasis on meteorites. The primary method used to estimate the age of the earth comes from radioisotopic analysis of chondritic meteorites.
Chapter 2, Radioisotope Dating Review
- by Don DeYoung, Ph.D., pp. 26-47
In the creation model, however, the extinction of the dinosaurs can be better related to climatic changes and to the Genesis Flood itself.
As a general rule radioisotope dating is limited to igneous rocks. ... Because of these and other problems, sedimentary rock dating remains of doubtful value.
For three reasons, K-Ar remains the most popular rock dating method. First, Ar is an inert gas which quickly escapes from molten material or heated rocks. Therefore, an initial presence of the daughter product 40Ar is believed to be less of a problem than with the other radioisotope methods. Second, K is the seventh most abundant element in the earth’s crust (2.6% by weight), and therefore is very common in rocks and minerals. Third, the half-life of 40K leads to easily measurable quantities of K and Ar on a uniformitarian timescale.
Potassium decays to Ar by electron capture ...
The isochron method was first suggested by geologist Nicolaysen in 1961.
The isochron method is often assumed to solve completely the problem of initial daughter isotopes in samples. However, reality is never quite this simple. Consider three problems:
- In K-Ar dating, isochrons are based on the initial 40Ar/36Ar ratio of samples, assumed to be constant. This is the intercept of the isochron graph. But this ratio can range widely in samples because of variable atmospheric contamination.
- It is also found that the initial 87Sr/86Sr ratio is not always a constant for related samples. In fact, this ratio can vary directly with 87Rb/86Sr. In this case a straight line still results, but its slope does not give a valid age.
- Suppose two material components with different 87Rb/86Sr and 87Sr/86Sr ratios are mixed together in mineral samples. The resulting isochron line still can be straight, but have nothing to do with sample age. In fact, such lines even may have a downward slope, implying a negative sample age. Such mixing lines are called fictitious or pseudoisochrons [Austin, 1994, p. 127].
Three major weaknesses of radioisotope dating are apparent from this study. Each involves a major assumption for the isotopes. The first assumption is that of a constant nuclear decay rate or half-life in the past. From all evidence, half-lives are indeed quite constant today and largely independent of changes in the chemical environment. However, this book proposes that decay rates were temporarily and dramatically accelerated at some time in the past. This acceleration may or may not have a natural explanation. The postulated temporary change gave rise to a large, rapid accumulation of daughter products, but not to a large timescale.
Second, it is assumed that the isotope composition of rock samples has not been changed by fractionation over time. This term refers to a separation of isotopes based on their weights, due to various chemical interactions. Fractionation of K isotopes [Faure, 1986, p. 68] has been observed, as well as with many other isotopes [DeYoung, 1974]. The conclusion is that current isotope ratios may have been quite different in the past, thus invalidating published rock ages. Fractionation is a relatively new area of chemical studies and we still have much to learn about this type of isotopic separation.
Third, it is often assumed that rock samples have been closed systems over eons of time. This idea simply must be challenged. One message of modern science is that no part of nature is completely isolated. Over time, parent or daughter atoms may move into or out of rocks. Therefore, radioisotope data often may be describing atom migration rather than sample age. Radioisotope dating has not proved with absolute confidence that the earth is old.
Chapter 3, Distribution of Radioactive Isotopes in the Earth
- by John R. Baumgardner, Ph.D., pp. 49-94
[Just skimmed most of this. Not too interesting. Mostly affirms conventional geology.]
There is, however, a set of observations relating to the distribution of radioactive elements that has been somewhat of a puzzle to the earth science community for more than 30 years. This is the surprising correlation, on an outcrop to outcrop level, of the measured surface heat flow and the measured radioactivity of surface continental igneous rocks. This correlation was first reported by Roy et al.  based on combined radioactivity and heat flow measurements from plutonic rocks at 38 localities in three different tectonic provinces in the United States.
A relatively simple answer, however, is available in the creationist framework. The crux of the answer is that a modest pulse of nuclear decay during the Genesis Flood has caused the near surface radioactive heat production to dominate the surface heat flow.
To summarize this section we find that an episode of accelerated nuclear decay about 5000 years ago near the end of the Genesis Flood, with an amplitude corresponding to about 200,000 years of nuclear decay at presently measured rates, can account for the surprising observation that the heat flow from continental granite bodies correlates extremely well with the heat production rate measured in rocks from surface outcrops of these rock units.
How do the inferences concerning the structure, chemical composition, and differentiation history of the earth relate to the main theme of this report, namely, radioisotope dating? First of all, the amount of processing of mantle rock required to extract the continental crust together with its huge store of incompatible elements is staggering. Such processing appears to require cycling of a large fraction of the mantle’s silicate rock via rapid thermal convection to very near the earth’s surface where two stages of partial melting plus the interaction with water could take place. Did God use such an intricate process to fashion the earth before He created life upon it? In my opinion the chemical evidence is strongly suggestive that, in fact, He did.
Moreover, did a significant amount of nuclear decay accompany this chemical differentiation process, as the large radioisotope ages of Archean and Proterozoic rocks indicate and the occurrence of mature 238U radiohalos in these rocks indeed seem to require? Again, I believe the evidence is compelling that the answer to this question is yes. The amount of convective circulation in the mantle involved with the extraction of the continental crust implies a vast amount of heat extraction from the planet’s interior. This convective circulation, of course, provides the means for removal of the heat from nuclear decay. And there is further abundant evidence for high temperatures in the earth during its earliest history as seen, for example, in high temperature Archean magmas known as komatiites.
Because the history of nuclear decay is such a central concern to this project, let me be so bold as to lay out my own tentative model based on the data I currently have available. I stress this is my own model and other members of the RATE group may not necessarily agree. First, I propose that on the order of 4.5 billion years’ worth of nuclear decay at present rates unfolded rapidly in the earth before the end of day 3. This may at first seem astonishing, but if very little nuclear decay has occurred since God created the plants and animals, as I will attempt to justify below, it is consistent with the concordant 4.5 billion year radioisotope ages for meteorites and up to 4 billion year radioisotope ages for terrestrial Archean rocks that will be discussed in Chapter 4.
Indeed I do believe there is evidence suggesting very little nuclear decay has taken place since God first created plant life on day 3. In support of this surprising possibility I appeal to 238U radiohalos. ... Their apparent absence, if it can be rigorously confirmed, would argue that dramatically less nuclear decay has actually taken place since multi-celled life first appeared.
Since radiohalos provide a tangible, visible, physical record of nuclear decay, I believe a well-documented case for the lack of mature 238U halos in Phanerozoic samples would call into question the results of methods that rely on whole rock, or even mineral, isotope ratios for such material. My working hypothesis, influenced to be sure by the radiohalo data, is that the standard isotope ratio methods are particularly vulnerable to inheritance of parent/daughter correlations, and that the large ages commonly obtained for Phanerozoic samples is mostly a consequence of such inheritance.
Finally, let me try to tie together the overall chronology picture. The model I am proposing has the events of Genesis 1 unfolding less than 10,000 years ago and culminating in an earth teeming with a spectacular diversity of life, including humans. It is a Creation that God declares to be “very good.” I conclude the processes God employed to fashion the physical earth early in Creation week involved a vast amount of nuclear transmutation that ceased prior to His Creation of plant life on day 3. The Bible records that because human sin had become so rampant by Noah’s generation, God brought a cataclysmic judgment upon the earth, to which the fossil record today bears eloquent testimony. I am convinced this catastrophe was primarily tectonic in nature, enabled by weakening instabilities in the deformation properties of silicate rock that led to an episode of global runaway subduction. It was a cataclysm that profoundly transformed the face of the planet. Evidence I mentioned in the preceding section suggests that a minor pulse of accelerated nuclear decay accompanied this year-long, fossil-record generating event some 5000 years ago. A preliminary estimate of the amount of nuclear decay in this pulse may be as little as 200,000 years, which also is in the range estimated by Gentry et al.  from 238U/206Pb ratios measured in halo radiocenters in coalified wood from the Colorado Plateau. To be sure, this sketch of earth history stands in stark contrast to the standard evolutionary picture of the past two centuries.
Chapter 4, Mineral Isochron Method Applied as a Test of the Assumptions of Radioisotope Dating
- by Steven A. Austin, Ph.D., pp. 95-121
Such discordances are not easily explained in the conventional framework of assumptions in geochronology. Mineral and whole-rock ages for chondritic meteorites are approximately concordant. Thus, Pb-Pb mineral isochron ages for individual chondritic meteorites usually exceed slightly the associated Pb-Pb, Rb-Sr, and Ar-Ar whole-rock isochron ages of chondritic meteorites.
Thus, K-Ar model ages are the most abundant dates published, but are the most frequently questioned and discarded.
Zircon is a mineral very rich in U but strongly depleted in Pb when it crystallizes. For the procedure of zircon dating the value of (206Pb/204Pb)i and (207Pb/204Pb)i, the initial radiogenic leads in the zircon, can be assumed to be essentially zero.
The oldest radioisotopic age for a crustal rock was recently obtained using zircon in gneiss from western Slave Province, Canada, a date of 4.031 ± 0.003 Ga being obtained [Bowring and Williams, 1999].
Figure2. Lead-leadisochronplotoffivemeteoritesusedbyPatterson to estimate the “age of the earth”. The Pb-Pb whole-rock isochron age of 4.49 ± 0.07 Ga (Patterson’s value, using new constants) has been recalculated using fifteen chondrites by Huey and Kohman  as 4.505 ± 0.008 Ga.
Thus the “age of the earth” is based on four assumptions: (1) a cosmological assumption of homogeneous Pb isotope ratios in the beginning, (2) the primitive value of Pb isotopes occurred in both the primitive earth and the primitive meteorites, (3) constant radioactive decay of U to Pb, and (4) a closed isotopic system within the rocks being dated.
Although selected meteorites describe a linear plot, many meteorites do not [Gale et al., 1972]. ... That first assumption of uniform Pb isotopes has been challenged by more meteorite data [Tatsumoto et al., 1973; Abranches et al., 1980] showing that many meteorites do not, statistically speaking, lie on the sloping line as supposed by Patterson . The data argue that leads were not, strictly speaking, homogeneous, but may have been approximately homogeneous.
Because the results of the “whole-rock isochron method” are tied to the debatable notion of a “cogenetic suite,” a better isochron method of dating rocks needs to be devised. The mineral isochron method involves assumptions that are often less speculative.
Therefore, the concept of a “mineral isochron” within a rock may be geologically defensible and not as debatable as the notion of a “cogenetic suite” of rocks. This is why the mineral isochron method is superior to the whole-rock isochron method.
Although the notion of a mineral isochron is elegant in the simplicity of its assumptions, the method is infrequently applied to rocks.
Mineral isochron techniques find significant applications in testing two assertions made by the millions-of-years chronology of conventional geology. The technique allows a test of (1) “model ages” and “whole- rock isochron ages” published in the geologic literature, and a test of (2) concordance of different radioisotope pairs that, it might be supposed, all concordantly date the rock to one age.
Ultimately, the mineral isochron method can be used as a partial test of the assumption of constant decay rate of radioisotopes in rocks. If the homogenization and closed system are assumed, then discordant mineral isochrons could argue for different decay rates between the various parent isotopes. Could α-emitting radioisotopes (U, Th, and Sm) have been accelerated to faster decay rates in the past than β-emitting radioisotopes (Rb and K)? This hypothesis could be testable by the mineral isochron method. If this hypothesis is correct, there should be systematic discordance within mineral isochronsIn addition to the popular time-dependent nuclear decay interpretation of linear-array plots, geologists have offered at least six alternative explanations for linear- array plots of daughter versus radioisotope parent. These six alternatives are:
- Inheritanceofisotopicratiosdirectlyfrom“aged”sourcerocks[Brooks et al., 1976].
- Mixing or contamination of different quantities of two components within a two-component system [Faure, 1986].
- Partial melting of radiogenic minerals within source rocks [G. B. Dalrymple, unpublished and privately circulated manuscript, 1992].
- Selective diffusion of parent and/or daughter to/from the rock [Austin and Snelling, 1998].
- Correlation of errors developed by the isotopic measurement technique forming an “errorchron” [Dickin, 1995].
- Accelerated nuclear decay (see Chapter 7 by Humphreys).
Figure 3. 2.9 Ga vs. 3.3 Ga
In their dismissal of the Pb-Pb and Sm-Nd mineral isochrons, however, Whitehouse et al.  remain reticent to explain scientifically the linearity within the data of Burton et al. .
One would expect the literature on geochronology to have ready explanations for “category four discordance.” Instead, we find researchers strangely reticent to explain obvious linearity within isotopic data. These researchers use words such as “spurious” and “probably caused by the combination of a number of factors,” without a ready explanation of the data they are discarding. “Category four discordance” between mineral and whole-rock isochrons needs a scientific or statistical explanation.
The CAIs from Allende yield a 207Pb-206Pb model age (relative to Canyon Diablo troilite) of 4.559 ± 0.004 Ga, and, according to Tilton [1989, p. 259], “yield the oldest high-precision meteorite date, thus providing the best estimate of the first condensation of matter in the solar system.”
Figure 5. Lead-lead linear array plot for fifteen chondritic meteorites analyzed as whole rocks [after Huey and Kohman, 1973]. The Pb-Pb isochron age of 4.505 ± 0.008 Ga is concordant with the Rb-Sr whole-rock isochron for chondritic meteorites shown in Figure 6.
Rubidium-strontium linear array plot for twenty-three chondritic meteorites analyzed as whole rocks [after Minster et al., 1982]. The graph includes multiple analyses on a single meteorite. The Rb-Sr isochron age of 4.498 ± 0.015 Ga is concordant with the Pb-Pb whole-rock isochron for chondritic meteorites shown in Figure 5. Figure 6.
Can a conclusion be offered for the near concordance between α-emitters (U and Sm) and β-emitters (Rb and K) within chondrites? The data seem to be consistent with the notion, if radioisotope decay was accelerated at sometime in the past, that α-emitters (U and Sm) and β-emitters (Rb and K) within chondrites were both uniformly accelerated.
G. Brent Dalrymple and W. K. Hamblin  have concluded recently that most of more than 60 published K-Ar model ages on Pleistocene basalts in western Grand Canyon are in error.
Preliminary research on Grand Canyon rocks indicates that significant discordance exists between the “ages” calculated by different radioisotopes.
Chapter 5, Geochemical Processes in the Mantle and Crust
- by Andrew A. Snelling, Ph.D., pp. 123-304
Chapter 6, Theoretical Mechanisms of Accelerated Radioactive Decay
- by Eugene F. Chaffin, Ph.D., pp. 305-331
Data, for instance, isochron and fission track data, indicate that a large amount of decay has occurred in lunar and earth rocks.
On the one hand, experimental and observational limits on possible recent variation of these so-called “constants” keep getting tighter, as physicists consider more situations as evidence of non-variation. On the other hand, new bodies of theory keep appearing which may indicate that variation of these parameters is possible. Usually, conventional science restricts these variations to the time of the early universe, soon after the big bang. As has been noted [Chaffin, 1990, 1994], episodic or transient variations are more difficult to rule out, as opposed to linear extrapolations of assumed variations into the past. Thus these episodic variations may be needed to explain isotopic abundances found in rocks within a young-earth timeframe.
Studies of fission track dating, isochrons using various isotopes, etc. keep turning up data which appear to be convergent upon an old age for a rock, contrary to what a young-earth creationist might at first expect. We also find that various data which give old ages for recent rocks, that is, the Kilauea lava flows measured in the 1970s, the Austin data for Grand Canyon rocks [see Austin and Snelling, 1998] etc., indicate that apparent “age” can be inherited from parent magmas. What we seek is a creationist theory of the isotopic abundances in the earth, including the source regions for these magmas.
Varying constants make sense only if viewed in terms of variations in dimensionless ratios [Chaffin, 1994; Albrecht and Magueijo, 1999].
Some young-earth creationists might ask whether radioisotope data can be explained without variable decay constants. One piece of evidence that Creation viewpoints need accelerated decay has to do with spontaneous fission decay.
Bielecki  wrote a thesis for the Institute for Creation Research in which he examined fission track densities in obsidian from Resting Spring Range located near Shoshone, California. Since the rocks are placed in the Miocene of the uniformitarian geologic column, but were thought to be post-Flood rocks according to Bielecki, it was initially thought that the fission track densities might be smaller than what would be imparted by a million-year age. However, the data did not support this hypothesis.
Figure 2 thus delineates what type of nuclei could have made the fission tracks on the basis of a young-earth model. One might ask, why should we not just attribute the tracks to 238U as in the uniformitarian model? The answer is that, according to equation (1), and an assumption of several thousand years for the age of the earth, 238U could only produce about 17 tracks per square centimeter, as compared to the measured amount of ten million times greater magnitude (for lunar rock 12064 previously discussed). Thus, on the assumption of constant half-lives, we are forced to seek another candidate.
Fission track data by itself thus seems to be explainable, pending further results, in this fashion without accelerated decay. However, wider considerations may not support this conclusion.
Evidence, such as mature 238U halos in Precambrian rocks, indicates a large amount of nuclear decay subsequent to early earth history (see Snelling, Chapter 8 and Humphreys, Chapter 7). It is doubtful whether the U in the halo inclusions is mobile enough to allow the explanation of these halos in terms of the present-day, measured U concentrations, without accelerated decay.
Chapter 7, Accelerated Nuclear Decay: A Viable Hypothesis?
- by D. Russell Humphreys, Ph.D., pp 333-379
Abstract. Geoscience and nuclear data strongly imply that “billions of years” worth of nuclear decay took place within thousands of years ago. To explain this, I propose that since Creation, one or more episodes occurred when nuclear decay rates were billions of times greater than today’s rates. Possibly there were three episodes: one in the early part of the Creation week, another between the Fall and the Flood, and the third during the year of the Genesis Flood. I outline the scientific and Biblical evidence for accelerated nuclear decay, investigate theoretical ways God may have chosen to cause the acceleration, review problems with this hypothesis, and offer preliminary scientific predictions to test it.
Most of the rate changes cited were between a few tenths of a percent to a few percent, but several were greater than twenty percent. More recently, a researcher reported a change as high as forty percent [Reifenschweiler, 1994]. However, these human-produced rate changes are minuscule compared to the million-fold or greater acceleration of decay rates which (I will show below) is required by the evidence for a young earth. Therefore we should not be surprised if we find evidence that God has supernaturally intervened, either directly or indirectly, to produce such large changes.
What I want to show in this paper is that accelerated nuclear decay is a good answer to the problems posed by geoscience and nuclear data. I will show that the data require it, Scripture suggests it, theory allows it, and observations can test it.
2. Much Nuclear Decay has Occurred
If we survey the wealth of nuclear geoscience data, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that large amounts of nuclear decay have occurred in the past—millions of times more than can be accounted for in 6000 years of decay at today’s rates. For me, one of the most compelling individual items of such evidence is the existence of mature radiohalos formed from 238U-decay.
Thus these halos are visible marks of decay, direct evidence for at least “hundreds of millions” of years worth of nuclear decay.
A creationist study of Miocene volcanic glass shows thousands of times more fission tracks than could be accounted for by spontaneous 238U fission in thousands of years at today’s rates [Bielecki, 1994]. Thus fission tracks seem to be visible evidence for “millions” of years worth of decay by nuclear fission.
The amount of heat flow is consistent with “millions” of years worth of nuclear decay at today’s rates.
Thus we observe a wide spectrum of nuclear decay effects: (1) daughter isotopes along the whole decay chain, (2) visible scars (halos) from α-decay, (3) the α-particles themselves (He nuclei), (4) visible tracks from decay by fission, and (5) the heat produced by nuclear decay. The most reasonable hypothesis is that all these products of nuclear decay were indeed produced by nuclear decay! But the amounts of those products we observe are much greater than thousands of years could produce—at today’s rates.
3. Little Time for the Decay to Occur
Table 2. Scientific evidence for a young world.
Item Description 1 Sodium is deposited in the sea rapidly 2 Tight folds and clastic dikes formed rapidly 3 “Squashed” radiohalos show fast deposition 4 Earth’s magnetic field loses energy rapidly 5 Sediment accumulates on seafloors rapidly 6 Polystrate fossils show deposition was rapid 7 Features on strata surfaces show rapid burial 8 History started recently 9 Human population grows very rapidly 10 Scarcity of stone-age graves shows short times 11 Fossil “graveyards” show rapid burial 12 Small Pb diffusion shows recentness of strata 13 Small He diffusion shows recentness of strata 14 Scarcity of radiogenic He in air shows youth
Reference Austin and Humphreys  Austin and Morris  Gentry [1992, pp. 53–58] Humphreys [1990, p. 138] Vardiman  Morris [1994, pp. 100–102] Morris [1994, pp. 94–100] Morris [1994, pp. 69–70] Morris [1994, pp. 70–71] Morris [1994, p. 71] Whitcomb and Morris  Gentry et al. [1982a] Gentry et al. [1982b] Vardiman 
Creationists have produced large lists of such evidence [Morris, 1974; Brown, 1995, pp. 19–36]. These data are at least as numerous and weighty, and more varied, than old-earth evidence.
4. Biology Seems to Allow Fast Decay Only at Certain Times
If we spread out the acceleration uniformly over almost all the 6000 years, there would be severe consequences for living creatures. ... Such a level would kill humans within weeks [Schleien et al., 1998, pp. 15–4].
However, there are three periods in the earth’s history when radioactivity in the earth’s crust might not have harmed living creatures:
- From the first instant of Creation to, say, midway into the third day. During that period, God had not yet created any plants or animals.
- During the 1656 years which elapsed from Creation, or the Fall of man, to the Genesis Flood—provided that during that time all the naturally-occurring radioactive elements were deep within the earth’s crust and not accessible to life at the surface of the earth. The decay rates would have to be below the intensities at which they would cause life-extinguishing geologic upheavals at the surface.
- During the year of the Genesis Flood, when over a mile of water shielded the ark from radioactive rocks below, and the thick walls of the ark would shield the creatures within from any radioactive elements leaching from the rocks below into the waters outside the ark. In a section below I will present reasons for thinking that during the Flood there were very few radioactive atoms in the tissues of the creatures themselves.
5. Fast Decay Explains both Trend and Deviations in Data
Although the creationist who collated these data did so to show how often the radioisotopic ages deviate from the line, and how large the deviations can be, we still see an overall trend. How can we explain both the trend and large deviations?
One very common creationist explanation of the trend is that evolutionists either knowingly or unknowingly filter the data, thus imposing an artificial trend on the data. This could happen either by informing the radioisotopic laboratories what the approximate “right age” should be, or by simply not publishing highly deviant data—things we know do happen [Woodmorappe, 1999; Snelling, Chapter 5 of this book]. According to this view, if all the data were plotted in the same way as Figure 3, we would not see a trend at all, but simply a random scattering of points all over the graph. The deviations would then simply be published by more honest researchers who were willing to let the data fall where they may.
Attractive as this explanation may be for some people, I have one problem with it: how did the radioisotopic timescale get established in the first place?
The point I want to make is this: if an acceleration of decay rates did occur, I would expect the data to look like Figure 3.
The rapidity of events would also cause large scatter in the data. The usual assumption in radioisotopic dating is that rock formation happens slowly enough to reset the radioisotopic “clocks” to zero.
6. Helium Retention Supports Fast Nuclear Decay
7. Other Data Support the Helium Retention Data
8. Deuteronomy Suggests God Kindled Nuclear Fire
9. Scripture Hints at a Decay Speedup During the Genesis Flood
10. The New Testament Also Suggests Nuclear Decay Changes
11. Did God Change Nuclear Decay to Change the World?
12. Nuclear Theory Favors Changes in Alpha-Decay Rates
13. Beta-Decay Also Depends on Gauge Boson Masses
14. Cosmic Expansion may have Accelerated Nuclear Decay
15. Heat and other problems
Chapter 8, Radiohalos
- by Andrew A. Snelling, Ph.D., pp. 381-468
- pp. 469-559
Appendix, July 2000, Research Proposals for RATE
- Introduction ................................................................................................ 563
- Helium (He) Diffusion ..................................................................... 566
- Isochron Discordance ...................................................................... 569
- Nuclear Decay Theory ..................................................................... 576
- Radiohalos ....................................................................................... 580
- Fission Tracks .................................................................................. 587
- Uranium (U) and Thorium (Th) Halos ............................................ 597
- Case Studies in Isotope Decay ......................................................... 601
- Biblical Word Studies ...................................................................... 611
- Plutonium (Pu) in Oklo Reactor ...................................................... 612
- Allende Meteorite Origin ................................................................. 616
- Diffusion of Argon (Ar) in Biotite ................................................... 619
- Origin of Chemical Elements .......................................................... 622
- Cosmology and Nuclear Decay ....................................................... 626
- Volume II, 2005 (links to individual chapters as pdf downloads)
Appendix: Peer Evaluation in Scientific Research and Creationism
- by Henry M. Morris, Jr.
Reviewers should therefore be selected, if possible, who will not allow their personal beliefs to influence their scientific evaluation of the research.
... it is almost impossible to get a fair evaluation from scientists whose interpretations are essentially naturalistic and uniformitarian in science.
Thus, although peer review can be invaluable in limiting the harmful influences of fallacious research, it can also be of deadly influence in screening out valuable discoveries and silencing truth. Reviewers must be selected judiciously!
Pure research for the sake of pure research may motivate secular scientists and their funding sources, but Christians are expected by God to be careful stewards of their financial resources and thus will require persuasive Biblical reasons for using them to support scientific research. That constraint, therefore, must also be understood by any peer reviewer.
Selecting the Peer Reviewers
- Whenever possible, the reviewer should be in agreement with―or at least not antagonistic to―the Biblical viewpoint of the researcher, especially if the research is potentially relevant to that perspective.
- A negatively inclined reviewer should be selected only if he or she agrees to limit the critique to scientific questions. It will be understood that interpretations may clash, but that should not be a consideration in the review, unless clearly so stated in the review request.