The monthly newsletter of the Institute for Creation Research is always a treasure trove of human perversity. ICR is devoted to the notion that a supreme being cooked up the university in six literal days about 6,000 years ago. That's an awfully small container into which to stuff the planet's history. The December 2007 issue of Acts & Facts takes another shot at it.
Many radioisotopes have half-lives of millions or billions of years. The presence of their decay products on our planet give us the opportunity to measure how long they've been in existence. The conclusion is inescapable—the earth is billions of years old—unless, of course, the scientists are all wrong about the half-lives. Working backward from their assumption that Genesis is literally true, ICR's “creation scientists” have figured out that radioactive decay has had periods of enormous acceleration.
ICR's vehicle for “proving” the earth's youth is its RATE project (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth). Larry Vardiman frequently writes about RATE. His article in the December 2007 Acts & Facts is titled RATE in Review: Unresolved Problems. Vardiman draws out attention to three such problems:
The RATE project found that:As explained by Vardiman, the theological problem is especially delicious:
These findings led to the major conclusion that the earth is thousands–not billions–of years old. However, RATE left three unresolved problems concerning theology, heat, and radiation.
- A large amount of radioactive decay has occurred in earth history.
- Nuclear decay processes were accelerated during episodes in earth history.
- Conventional radioisotopic dates are therefore incorrect by large factors.
The Theological ProblemDear, dear. A damned difficult problem. But the second problem is greater!
The use of the term “accelerated decay” for nuclear processes during the Creation Week seems to create an apparent conflict for some people with the statement given by God in Genesis 1:31: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” The RATE project was able to show that accelerated decay occurred during the Genesis Flood, but this was not sufficient to explain all the observed daughter products in rocks, such as lead. The production of lead by accelerated decay during the first three days of the Creation Week could explain this, but that would introduce the concept of “decay” during this period that was stated by God to be “very good.”
The Heat ProblemWhere exactly is the problem? If God is rigging the game, he can whisk the extra heat away with a snap of his fingers. Despite their faith in an omnipotent God, the ICR folks insist on trying to find science-type explanations for miracles. It's not exactly necessary, but they're desperate to appear scientific.
Of greater concern to both supporters and skeptics of the RATE project is the issue of how to dispose of the tremendous quantities of heat generated by accelerated decay during the Genesis Flood. The amount of heat produced by a decay rate of a million times faster than normal during the year of the Flood could potentially vaporize the earth’s oceans, melt the crust, and obliterate the surface of the earth. The RATE group is confident that the accelerated decay they discovered was not only caused by God, but that the necessary removal of heat was also superintended by Him as well. Dr. Russell Humphreys, a member of the RATE group, has suggested one possible mechanism that may explain this dilemma. He has found evidence, both scientific and scriptural, that cooling of the earth by the expansion of the cosmos may have occurred simultaneously with the heat produced by accelerated decay.
The third problem is the best one: How did Noah avoid radiation poisoning?
The Radiation ProblemPoor old Noah, quick-cooked by the accelerated decay of the isotopes in his own body (probably exacerbated by the glowing bodies of his family members and everything else in the ark).
Another consideration is how Noah and his family could have survived the massive dose of radiation unleashed during the Flood. It is likely that the humans aboard the Ark would have been protected from most of the radiation occurring on the surface of the earth by the water covering the planet. It is common knowledge that water absorbs radiation, and an average of 8,000 feet of water covering the earth would have made a very effective shield. However, some have expressed concern that a radioactive element like potassium-40 that is present in the human body may have produced radiation within Noah’s body itself.
Never fear: The brave creation scientists of ICR are on the job. Vardiman tells us the next step: “Evidence for accelerated decay in meteorites has been identified as one of the most important research projects for the future.”
“Evidence,” he says. I can hardly wait.