Radiometric dating from a “Christian perspective”

The ancient “ages” calculated by radiometric dating techniques is often the single biggest reason given for insisting that the history in Genesis simply can’t be true. The theistic evolution community has long pointed to the article by Dr. Roger Wiens as the definitive explanation for why the ancient calculated ‘ages’ are correct and must be accepted by the Christian community.

 

Recently creationist physicist Dr. Russ Humphreys was asked if there was any new info in the Wiens article. He responded as follows:

 

Nope. It’s just a secular tutorial on radioisotope dating, last updated in 2002. That date is significant, because John Baumgardner and I met Roger Wiens at the December 2003 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. John and Roger already had known each other though their employment at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Roger had read only one chapter of the RATE I book by then, so we filled him in on our new findings. Roger had no good answers. We invited him to see our posters on the RATE results, but I didn’t see him among the hundreds of geoscientists who came by. For more on our poster sessions there, see:

RATE Posters Well Received at AGU Conference
 
Later, in 2006, I think, I met Roger Wiens again at a conference of theologians on the age of the earth, in Dallas. He and Hugh Ross were there to brainwash the theologians with old-earthism. I, Danny Faulkner, and a few other young-earth scientists were there to try to counter the Rossites. Roger had still not read any more of the RATE material than he had in 2003, even though the RATE II book with results was then available. His presentation was still the same old tutorial of 2002 that you saw online. He still had no answers to what we had found. In fact, he told me privately that it would be “presumptuous” of him to go against the scientific “consensus” on the age issue. His problem may indeed be lack of courage. He really should overcome his fear of the establishment and update his 2002 article with acknowledgement and discussion of the RATE results. He owes his readers that degree of openness.
 
A sad example of the basic problems we face,
 
Russ Humphreys

 

So if you want to understand why radiometric dates do not disprove the Genesis history, you’ll need to go beyond the out of date info from Wiens. Use you brain and do some thinking for yourself. Here are some resources:

 

 

Checkout my episode about How Skull 1470 was really dated

 

Be careful about accepting at face value the supposed refutations of creationist research. For example, compare geologist Dr. Snelling’s article Dating Dilemma: Fossil Wood in “Ancient” Sandstone with this shallow critique. You are intelligent; read them both for yourself and decide whom you think is really dealing the the evidence.

 

There is also a great deal of information resulting from the multi-year research project: Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (RATE)

7 thoughts on “Radiometric dating from a “Christian perspective””

  1. I’ve been going through Dr. Tas Walker’s response to Dr. Weins’ paper and I’ve been surprised at some of the remarks that Dr. Walker has made. It seems to me that the RATE research was not published until 2005. Is that correct? If that is the case, it hardly seems fair to repeatedly lambast Dr. Weins for not taking it into consideration when it had not been published. I thought that Dr. Weins did a good job of acknowledging the assumptions and potential errors in all the methods and I was not convinced by Dr. Walker that scientists are continually deluding themselves through circular reasoning.

    I find Mr. Humphrey’s comments rather distasteful. Accusing the other side of brainwashing is particularly out of touch. How could someone be brainwashed at an event designed to give all sides of the issue of creation? And then assuming that Dr. Weins hasn’t updated his paper because he is a coward is the very definition of an ad hominum. Oh well.

    I am also interested in your encouragement to “use your brain and do some thinking for yourself.” In my experience, I have found that creation scientists who work for ICR or AIG are less intellectually honest and often appeal to the emotions of the common person to try and prove their correctness, rather than let the data speak for itself. If the data is accurate, and the models are able to explain and predict, then it will stand up in any secular journal. Secular scientists do it too with global warming and it is equally despicable.

    I think it is incredibly important to be discerning in reading refutations on both sides. I’ve read many on both sides, and I think many times short refutations are appropriate because the original claims are so ridiculous. Here is a refutation of Dr. Snelling, and in particular, the RATE research he has been involved with that is much more complete and detailed. http://www.oldearth.org/rebuttal/aig/daily/2010/20100106_rate.htm
    I have not really checked out your site, but your post here was in line with what I’ve been reading recently. I’m interested in what you think. Is there any evidence that would prove to you that an old earth creation model was legitimate?

    1. Thanks for you comments, Paul. I’ll intersperse a few responses below.

      “I find Mr. Humphrey’s comments rather distasteful. Accusing the other side of brainwashing is particularly out of touch. How could someone be brainwashed at an event designed to give all sides of the issue of creation? And then assuming that Dr. Weins hasn’t updated his paper because he is a coward is the very definition of an ad hominum. Oh well.

      “In my experience, I have found that creation scientists who work for ICR or AIG are less intellectually honest…

      –A few obvious comments:

      1 You completely ignored the content of what Dr. Humphreys stated. Roger Wiens has no answers to the scientific research published by the RATE team and the idea that it would be “presumptious” to go against the scientific “consensus” borders on scientism. Science moves forward precisely by challenging the consensus. As Michael Crichton said there is no such thing as consensus science.

      2. Humphreys did not “assume” that Dr Wiens “is a coward” as you claim, rather after noting the Wiens said it would be “presumptious” to challenge the “consensus”, Humphreys said “His problem may indeed be lack of courage.” That is a possible deduction from the position that Wiens takes.

      3. Ironically, your accusation that creation scientists “are less intellectually honest” is a classic ad hominum. Oh well.

      If the data is accurate, and the models are able to explain and predict, then it will stand up in any secular journal.

      — I only wish this were true, but alas you are wrongly assuming that the journals are completely objective. I used to believe this, however, the evidence shows otherwise. Take a look at this blog: Creationism,Science and Peer Review.

      I think it is incredibly important to be discerning in reading refutations on both sides. I’ve read many on both sides, and I think many times short refutations are appropriate because the original claims are so ridiculous. Here is a refutation of Dr. Snelling, and in particular, the RATE research he has been involved with that is much more complete and detailed. http://www.oldearth.org/rebuttal/aig/daily/2010/20100106_rate.htm

      — The claimed “refutation” you point to says nothing at all about the Hawkesbury Sandstone data that I referred to and is thus a complete non-response.

  2. Thanks for responding Mr. Walker.

    With regards to the link that I posted, it was my intent to provide an example of a critique that I thought was not shallow, and not as a specific response to the sandstone claim that you posted. I was only trying to show that not all critiques of “creationist research,” and in particular Dr Snelling, are shallow.

    Obviously peer review has problems, as pretty much the entire world does. There are almost always political and monetary considerations that take place of course. Regardless, I still maintain that if one’s research is better able to explain reality, is documented carefully, and the data displayed intelligently, then the secular world must listen, peer reviewed or not. Sadly, I have found most young earth creationist research to be poorly done. They are not alone. There are many secular scientists who do poor research and it is always a shame. I think of the research of Robert Woodberry who has documented how evangelical missionaries have affected the societies they went to for good. The thouroughness of his research has caused liberal acadamics to seriously consider his findings. That is what we need more of, regardless of the results. I believe God is truth, and when we search for truth, we find him. Especially in science. Here is an article about Woodberry. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/january-february/world-missionaries-made.html?paging=off

    Hmm, your point that I am accusing creation scientist as less intellectually honest is well taken. I was wrong in what I wrote. I only assert that in my limited experience, the arguments that I have seen laid out by creation scientists, young earth creationists in particular, have typically been geared to connect emotionally with non-scientific laypeople rather than be intellectually robust and designed for the scientific community at large. However, my presumption does not negate my point about Mr. Humphrey’s brainwashing comment. Just because you disagree, doesn’t mean the other side is brainwashing people. Especially at a conference where you present your side.

    I really am wondering, is there any evidence that would prove to you that an old earth creation model was legitimate?

    1. Hi Paul,

      I agree that not all critiques of creationist research are shallow, nor did I say they were. However, many are so and these are often pointed to as supposed refutations of the creationist data. BTW, why do you put “creationist research” in quotes? That is a standard tactic to imply that there is no such thing.

      You wrote: “Regardless, I still maintain that if one’s research is better able to explain reality, is documented carefully, and the data displayed intelligently, then the secular world must listen, peer reviewed or not.” However, you are missing one critical element, that is the proposed explanation must be materialistic or it is deemed “unscientific” and ignored. Suggest you consider the attitude exposed by this statement:

      ‘Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic’
      Dr Scott Todd, an immunologist at Kansas State University.

      Are you able to move past Humphreys’ terminology and address the content of what he wrote?

      Do you have any response to the data presented in the articles I linked in my blog?

      You asked again “is there any evidence that would prove to you that an old earth creation model was legitimate?”

      First a bit of logical clarification: any proof that a model is legitimate does not prove it matches reality, especially a model about past events. However, independent of that, I’m most interested in any internally consistent evidence that matches any old earth model. In the most common case, this model would also have to be consistent with the solar system being of a similar age. Furthermore, to be complete, this model would have to explain the origin of the solar system, and thus, the very stars themselves (beginning with the first stars). If you know of such a model, by all means, please tell me.

      I first became aware of the holes in the naturalistic explanations of the universe in 1976 when I began to ask questions about star formation. These questions are still unanswered. There is no workable theory for the formation of the first stars. Consider these statements about this:

      “The greatest difficulty is that we have no idea what induced the formation of the first bound objects in an expanding Universe [those objects bond together by gravity, such as planets or stars] . .” James Binney, “Oddballs and Galaxies Formation,” Nature, 255:275 (1975).

      Fifty cosmologists attended a conference on galaxy formation. After summarizing much observational data, two of the most respected authorities optimistically estimated the probability that any existing theory on galaxy formation is correct is about 1 out of 100. [See P. J. E. Peebles and Joseph Silk, “A Cosmic Book,” Nature, Vol. 335, 13 October 1988, pp. 601–606.]

      Abraham Loeb of Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics says: “The truth is that we don’t understand star formation at a fundamental level.” Marcus Chown, ‘Let there be light’, New Scientist 157(2120):26-30, 7 February 1998.

      Why is this such a problem? Simple – hot expanding gas does not gravitationally collapse — physics gets in the way. Here is a short description of the problem: Stars could not have come from the ‘big bang’

      I’m very interested in any proposed model for the formation of the very first stars! Please share any you know of.

      Finally, is there any evidence that would make you doubt the consensus age of the earth?

  3. Hi Mr. Walker,

    I put “creationist research” in quotes because I wanted to specifically tie it to your blog post. You used it to denote that it meant research by Christians who hold a Young Earth view. I did that because there are Christian scientists who perform “creationist research” who view the earth as billions of years old. That’s all. Not trying to offend.

    You said “the proposed explanation must be materialistic or it is deemed unscientific and ignored.” I’m not sure what you mean by that. Of course God is outside of creation and he can intervene in any way he sees fit. Do you mean by materialistic that all of the universe must be self caused? In my opinion, the big bang theory has forced scientists to grapple with the idea of a beginning, and thus a Beginner, and this has been a good thing.

    Dr. Scott Todd’s quote is interesting, and I have seen spiritual blindness first hand. However, this is a spiritual and heart issue, not a scientific one. This does not mean that nobody in the scientific community cannot recognize the truth. Many people have come to Christ by recognizing God’s hand throughout creation by scientifically studying it. We should expect scientists to see God through their scientific work. Especially when the Bible tells us that all of creation testifies about God.

    The three statements you quoted from Binney, Silk, and Abraham Loeb were interesting as well. My first thought was that the newest quote (Loeb’s) was 14 years old. Much has changed in the scientific community knowledge-wise since 1975. I was unable to view the quotes in their original contexts but I searched Abraham Loeb and found his Harvard page. He has published a book (How Did the First Stars and Galaxies Form? 2012) that seems to directly pertain to your request for information regarding first star formation. Here is a link to the book. http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9373.html

    To respond to the quote you posted by Dr. Humphreys:
    “Nope. It’s just a secular tutorial on radioisotope dating, last updated in 2002. That date is significant, because John Baumgardner and I met Roger Wiens at the December 2003 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. John and Roger already had known each other though their employment at Los Alamos National Laboratory.”
    Not sure how the publication date of 2002 is significant to their meeting in 2003.

    “Roger had read only one chapter of the RATE I book by then, so we filled him in on our new findings. Roger had no good answers.”
    I have to take Dr. Humphreys word that he had no good answers, whatever his definition of good answer means. Also, why would Dr. Wiens be expected to give “good answers” to something which he has now read one chapter and had one conversation about?

    “We invited him to see our posters on the RATE results, but I didn’t see him among the hundreds of geoscientists who came by.”
    I’m expected to believe that they couldn’t possibly have missed Dr. Weins among the hundreds of geoscientists who came by? Also, would the posters have provided more information that they didn’t fill him in on earlier? It seems the only purpose of this sentence is to claim that hundreds of geoscientists checked out their posters.

    “Later, in 2006, I think, I met Roger Wiens again at a conference of theologians on the age of the earth, in Dallas. He and Hugh Ross were there to brainwash the theologians with old-earthism. I, Danny Faulkner, and a few other young-earth scientists were there to try to counter the Rossites.”
    Again, how can brainwashing occur when Dr. Humphreys and Danny Faulkner also presented.

    “Roger had still not read any more of the RATE material than he had in 2003, even though the RATE II book with results was then available. His presentation was still the same old tutorial of 2002 that you saw online. He still had no answers to what we had found.”
    Again the no answers business. I would be interested in Dr. Weins opinion on the RATE research as well. I don’t know why he hadn’t read it.

    “In fact, he told me privately that it would be “presumptuous” of him to go against the scientific “consensus” on the age issue.”
    Impossible to prove. Could be true. Could be slander. To use a private conversation to attack someone you disagree with is not very good form.

    “His problem may indeed be lack of courage. He really should overcome his fear of the establishment and update his 2002 article with acknowledgement and discussion of the RATE results. He owes his readers that degree of openness.”
    Overall, I agree with Dr. Humphreys that it would be interesting to hear Dr. Weins opinion on the RATE research. I can’t agree that Dr. Weins is afraid of the RATE research.

    I don’t want to make this too long, perhaps it already is, so I won’t comment on the Sandstone article.

    I need to go, so I will answer your question of what evidence would make me doubt an old age of the earth in a following post. It is a good question and deserves a fair response. Thanks for dialoguing with me.

  4. Ok, I have a chance to write my thoughts down in regards to your question about what evidences would make me doubt an old earth view. There are several that I would pose. First, I have yet to see a convincing argument for Adam naming all the animals in one 24-hour day that accounts for the importance of names. Names are not given lightly throughout scripture. We see the Name of God being held so highly that the scribes won’t even write it down. Names denote character, and symbolize a change in covenant with both Abraham and Jacob. Why should the naming of the animals, a task given specifically by God to Adam, be any different? To treat the naming of the animals lightly, as it must be if Adam is to name every animal in only a few hours, spending only seconds to do so, is very flippant and not in sync with what I see in the rest of scripture.

    Secondly, I would like to see evidence that a global flood could produce all the geographical formations we see throughout the earth. Sure, floods can, and do, produce certain geological formations. There have been scores of articles and books written on this subject, and I have read some of them. However, the vast majority of geology can be easily explained with modern geological theory, emphasis on easily. The same geology is much more difficult to explain by a catastrophic flood. Any anomalies that exist are being studied to try and figure them out and I’m ok with that. Keep in mind that most geologists that founded the science were Christians.

    Third, I would like to see a good explanation why ice cores are invalid in counting a date older than 4000 years. Tas Walker’s response to the ice core portion of Weins’ paper amounts to little more than it’s hard to count when we get down so far. Just because something is hard to do, doesn’t mean we can’t do it with accuracy. There has been much that has been recently written about ice cores, I assume because of the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye. All I have seen up to this point is the arguments that scientists are not accounting for the compression of the ice, that scientists assume ice conditions have always been the same (laughable), and that so much error has been introduced into their calculations that they are mistakenly led to believe that it is way older than 4000 years. These are poor arguments and not convincing.

    Forth, I would like to hear a good explanation of how the animals re-populated the earth after the Global Flood. The diversity of life throughout the earth, is simply too much to account for if they all originated from one location, i.e. the Ark. Many creatures require special foods, like the koala and panda, or can’t travel very far, like centipedes, or toads. How do you explain the travel of species to different continents when, correct me if I’m wrong, the continents broke up during the flood? The sheer diversity of creatures in the Amazon alone is enough for me to question a global flood.

    Finally, I would like to hear an good response to this. As I’ve studied this issue, I am much more in awe and wonder of a God who would spend so much time to create a world where we humans could live, and not just live, but be given dominion over it. To view God as a careful craftsman, lovingly preparing the world over so long, gives me a much greater appreciation and makes me worship Him more deeply. To then be given charge over creation and being in God’s image, to participate in creating good things is an awesome responsibility. Could God create the world in six 24-hour days? Of course. I’m saying that it seems more in tune with a loving Creator for Him to take His time.

    I hope this has been helpful. I’m curious what you think.

  5. Hi Mr. Walker, thanks for responding.

    Please take another look at the ASA page. It is one page because it is an outline describing the RATE research and the responses to it, as well as counter-responses by both sides. Links are provided to all the different papers and articles so that one may examine what each side is saying and come to your own conclusion. In fact, they provide the exact same link to the RATE research site that you provided, as well as links to specific RATE papers and presentations. I’m not sure how this proves that I’m not serious about our discussion.

    You asked me again, “Are you able to move past Humphreys’ terminology and address the content of what he wrote?”

    Let me summarize my sentence by sentence reposne that I posted earlier to Dr. Humphreys’ comments. I am also curious about Dr. Weins opinions on the RATE research. That does not mean he has an obligation to respond, especially when he has colleagues who have responded to RATE in writing. I could infer that he has similar views as to his colleagues, and that there is no need for him to respond personally as he has not written anything personally. Also, it seems to me that he has been extremely busy with his current project on Mars, and perhaps he simply has not had the time.

    My criticism of Dr. Humphrey’s using personal and private interaction with Dr. Weins, specifically the sentence that it would be “presumptuous of him to go against the scientific “consensus” on the age issue,” is that it is non-verifiable. People lie, as I’m sure you know. I’m not asserting that Dr. Humphreys is lying. I’m just pointing out that it’s impossible to know if he is or not about that statement, which weakens his whole argument. This is why writing is powerful.

    For example, I could claim that I met Dr. Humphreys at his conference booth and asked him questions about his posters on the RATE research. I could then write a review on some blog saying that I had a conversation with Dr. Humphreys about the RATE research and that he had no “good answers” to my questions. In fact, he said to me that it would be presumptious of him to challenge the plain reading of scripture for him to consider any other interpretations of radiometric dating. See? It is just as inappropriate for me to say this, especially if I was criticizing Dr. Humphreys for his lack of opinion, because it is impossible to know if I’m telling the truth or not. Just to be clear, I have not met or spoken with Dr. Humphreys personally and this was a made up example.

    Finally, you said earlier “There is no workable theory for the formation of the first stars.” I’m curious as to what sort of research you would accept as a workable theory. There is so much research out there in an attempt to create a workable theory, of which there are several theories with varying degrees of plausibility, but it seems that you would reject most of it. I can make assumptions as to why you seem to reject most of it, but that would be putting word into your mouth. So I really don’t know what information you would accept as valid research on this topic of the first formation of stars. Would research by Evangelical Christians be acceptable, since they approach research with God in mind, even if they assert an old earth viewpoint?

    I really don’t care where the research comes from. Good for ICR to conduct the RATE projects. I applaud them for challenging the aspects in radiometric dating they felt were untenable because the truth is what matters. But I judge their research the same as I judge any other. One must examine the methodology, the assumptions, the adjustments and calculations for sources of error, in any research project. The point is that scientific methodology must always work to eliminate bias of any kind. The greatest care must be exercised when there is strong motivation to obtain a particular result. Those motivations may be confirming a particular theory, personal credit, company revenue or reputation, or religious preference. Truth always points to God. We should not be afraid science will disprove or discredit God and, I would contend, that modern scientific theories of cosmology and geology will explain God away. In fact I believe just the opposite.

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