Friday, August 29, 2008

More Intellectual Dishonesty, ICR Style

In late 2005, the ICR concluded an eight year radioisotope study in an effort to support the YEC point of view. This was called Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth. Things did not start out well for them since they didn't find quite what they expected. Early on, Larry Vardiman, lead author for RATE, wrote in 1999:

It appears that much larger quantities of nuclear decay may have occurred than would be expected for 6,000 (or so) years of radioactivity at the currently observed rate. The evidence for this concern stems from (1) the presence of daughter isotopes along the entire decay chain in proximity to parent isotopes, (2) visible scars (halos) from alpha decay, (3) the presence of the alpha particles themselves (helium nuclei) still within the rock where they were apparently formed by nuclear decay, (4) visible tracks from decay by fission, and (5) residual heat produced by nuclear decay in proximity to high uranium concentrations.

Subsequent research suggested that at least 500 million years of radioactive decay had occurred. He, nonetheless, concluded:

It is hypothesized by the RATE group that at some time in the past a much higher rate of radioisotope decay may have occurred leading to the production of large quantities of daughter products in a short period of time. It has been suggested that this increased decay rate could have been part of the rock-forming processes on the early earth and/or one of the results of God's judgments upon man following the Creation, i.e., the curse or during the Flood.

This last conclusion did not change over the course of the project. The RATE team went looking for instances in which radiometric dating did not work and, according to Vardiman, found them. In 2005, an anonymous article summarized the findings as follows:

Main summary points:

  1. A large amount of radioactive decay has occurred.
  2. Conventional radioisotope dates differ radically.
  3. Nuclear processes were accelerated during certain periods of earth's history.
  4. Helium diffusion and carbon-14 in diamonds is strong evidence for a young earth.

Eventually, the RATE team concluded their research in two volumes, totaling some 800 pages, costing $79.99. This set of volumes caught the attention of the American Scientific Affiliation, who waded in with a review that appeared in June of last year written by Randy Isaacs, the Executive Director of the ASA. He is scathing. He argues that the four areas in which the RATE project finds radioisotope dating to be wanting have been severely abused. He writes:

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 authors claim that the results cast doubt on standard dating techniques, making the young-earth scenario more credible.

About the rate of nuclear decay, he is a bit more forthright:

There is no direct evidence provided for accelerated decay. It is inferred solely from combining the evidence for massive decay with the young-earth position.

The RATE authors note that there is a significant problem with accelerated decay producing massive amounts of heat and radiation, but are convinced that a mechanism will be found for this and that these problems will be solved in the future. They, therefore, conclude that ther is encouraging support for the young-earth position. About this, Isaac writes:

The ASA does not take a position on issues when there is honest disagreement among Christians provided there is adherence to our statement of faith and to integrity in science. Accordingly, the ASA neither endorses nor opposes young-earth creationism which recognizes the possibility of a recent creation with appearance of age or which acknowledges the unresolved discrepancy between scientific data and a young-earth position. However, claims that scientific data affirm a young earth do not meet the criterion of integrity in science. Any portrayal of the RATE project as confirming scientific support for a young earth, contradicts the RATE project’s own admission of unresolved problems. The ASA can and does oppose such deception.

Read the whole thing.

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