The back page of a recent Answers Update (Vol. 18, No. 6) carries a bright little apologetic nugget by Ken Ham himself, the strikingly australopithecine leader of Answers in Genesis. Ham is talking about the earth's effing magnetic field. How does it work?
[G]eophysical and archaeological evidence indicates that 1,000 years ago, the magnetic field of the earth was 40% stronger than today. This field is actually decaying at a rate of 5% per century.Please don't be distracted by Ham's use of amusing little oxymorons like “creationist physicists.” We can easily detect what he is up to. There's a useful word to describe the theoretical foundation for Ham's argument:
The decay rate may not sound like much, but it's a very important factor in determining the age of the earth. Using the current rate of decay, it's been calculated that just a million years ago, the magnetic field would have been so strong that it would have melted the planet! ...
Creationist physicists declare that the magnetic field is a very strong indicator that our planet cannot be any older than 10,000 years. This, of course, confirms the roughly 6,000-year timeline in the book of Genesis.
Obvious. Right? Ham is assuming that conditions affecting the earth's magnetic field have remained exactly the same throughout history. What else is that besides uniformitarianism? Of course, Ham might beg to differ. Let's see how he described uniformitarianism in the 1987 edition of his book The Lie: Evolution:
Bingo! Ham's magnetic-field argument for a young earth is a page ripped right out of the uniformitarianism playbook. He stands self-accused.
Evolutionists, atheistic and theistic, use the phrase “the present is the key to the past.” In other words, they say that the way to understand the past is to observe what happens in the present.”
One imagines that Ham might wish to quibble. He could claim that he was using a reductio ad absurdum argument—or proof by contradiction—having demonstrated that the assumption of uniformitarianism leads to an impossibly high level of magnetic flux in the prehistoric past.
Sorry. That won't work. He is not just arguing that an old earth is impossible. Ham explicitly declares that some simple computations provide evidence consistent with a young earth. He is making a “pro” argument for his position every bit as much as he is making a “con” argument against his opponents (which constitute 99% of the scientific community).
Ham may not like uniformitarianism, but he is certainly willing to use it when it suits him. Perhaps he needs to create a new label for it. May I suggest “punctuated uniformitarianism”? He can use it to argue that physical laws and natural processes are uniform between occasional catastrophes—like his magnetic-field argument.