A friend of mine told me that he used to believe in evolution but that he no longer did because of things like the Creationist web page Evidence for a Young Earth. He gave me a link to the page and asked me what I thought of it. So I looked it over. There are 14 different arguments that the earth is much younger than modern science believes it is. There are a lot of people who know little or nothing about science and so I imagine they read this and think that there's something to it.
I feel that people are entitled to their beliefs as long as they don't hurt anyone with them. I didn't approve of tobacco companies saying that the jury was still out on whether tobacco killed people when there was clear evidence that it does. I don't approve of the rich corporations that have invested heavily in activities that are heating the earth, and the politicians they have bought, trying to spread doubt that global warming is real1. And I don't approve of people misleading others about the world around them. All such misinformation can cause others to act contrary to their own best interests and to my mind that just isn't right. So that's my motivation for this web page.
This page is a work in progress, at least if I find more time. I told my friend that I'd debunk 3 of the 14 creationist topics and then let him pick a fourth. I've done that now and the results follow. Items (1), (2), and (5) took less than a day each. Item (9) took me a very long time. I read the papers by Robert V. Gentry that are referenced. I had no knowledge of radiohalos in minerals and didn't know the decay series of Uranium-238. I didn't know much about various methods to determine the age of rocks or bones. So there was a lot to look up. Fortunately, it's possible to get a lot of stuff on-line and Wikipedia as a wonderful source for information on all sorts of things. Where it mattered and I wasn't sure, I made the effort to verify things from Wikipedia and other sources that I didn't recognize with information from reputable universities (no Prager "University"-like phonies). Item (9) took me a couple weeks working off and on. But I think anyone with Internet access and some judgement about what web sites he/she can trust can probably debunk most of these things without my help. I may do a little more but this has taken more time than I really wanted to spend on it. And I wouldn't have spent additional time to create this web page if it weren't for the fact that it just irks me that people are spreading distortions and their own ignorance to the public and creating doubt about science in the minds of people who know little or nothing about it.
So I have answers to only 4 of these 14 items. There are also comments for items (10) and (13) on which I did no research. Part of (10) was just ignorance on the face of it. Number (13) just shows a lack of thought on the Creationist's part. Though 8 or 9 of the items remain, I hope you will note the ignorance and carelessness with fact displayed by the Creationist author. Here are the answers I gave my friend and the comments for (10) and (13):
"The stars of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, rotate about the galactic center with different speeds, the inner ones rotating faster than the outer ones. The observed rotation speeds are so fast that if our galaxy were more than a few hundred million years old, it would be a featureless disc of stars instead of its present spiral shape.1 Yet our galaxy is supposed to be at least 10 billion years old. Evolutionists call this "the winding-up dilemma," which they have known about for fifty years. They have devised many theories to try to explain it, each one failing after a brief period of popularity. The same "winding-up" dilemma also applies to other galaxies. For the last few decades the favored attempt to resolve the puzzle has been a complex theory called "density waves."1 The theory has conceptual problems, has to be arbitrarily and very finely tuned, and has been called into serious question by the Hubble Space Telescope's discovery of very detailed spiral structure in the central hub of the "Whirlpool" galaxy, M51.2"
The author does not understand the nature of the arms. The arms do not contain a fixed set of stars. Stars travel out of an arm and into the next one, out of that one and into the one after, etc. The arms are believed to be compression waves that move more slowly around the center of the galaxy than do the stars. The arms are well lit because that's where most new stars are formed and so that's what we see from a distance. There's a good description at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_galaxy. You'll also find a moving picture there.
The author sounds like an "armchair scientist". He learns a couple things in scientific theory, doesn't really understand the theory, and concludes that he has discovered an inconsistency that the community of scientists who have devoted their careers to the subject have never noticed. Scientists have been thinking about the arms of spiral galaxies since Edwin Hubble discovered them in 1924, nearly 100 years.
It amazes me that people who have devoted comparatively little time to studying a subject think that they are so very smart that they will see something that many people who have devoted their professional lives to the subject have missed. I read something by Kip Thorne (astrophysicist) about this phenomenon. He says he gets mail from such crackpots (my term, not his) all the time. It's fine to look for errors and inconsistencies in science. That's how science advances. As I remember it, Dr. Thorne said something to the effect that first you have to learn the observed facts, learn the theory, and do the math, before you decide that current theory is wrong. It's pretty plain to me that this creationist author hasn't done his homework.
"According to astronomical observations, galaxies like our own experience about one supernova (a violently-exploding star) every 25 years. The gas and dust remnants from such explosions (like the Crab Nebula) expand outward rapidly and should remain visible for over a million years. Yet the nearby parts of our galaxy in which we could observe such gas and dust shells contain only about 200 supernova remnants. That number is consistent with only about 7,000 years worth of supernovas."
(From Wikipedia: "Sky and Telescope" is a monthly American magazine covering all aspects of amateur astronomy....)
At https://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/milky-way-supernova-rate-confirmed/ in an article dated January 4, 2006 it says: "How often do supernovae pop off in our galaxy? Using the European Space Agency's Integral satellite, an international team estimates that one of the Milky Way's massive stars explodes about every 50 years on average. This estimate agrees rather well with previous studies, but the earlier work relied on more indirect methods."
The Creationist's "the nearby parts of our galaxy" is rather vague, but let's be generous and say that we're talking about 1/4 of our galaxy as a maximum. I read one estimate that we can only see about 1/25 of our galaxy. That's because we're looking at it edge on and the nearer stuff gets in the way of seeing the farther stuff. I'll use that as a minimum.
For how long supernova remnants can be visible we have from Cornell University (http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/our-solar-system/85-the-universe/supernovae/general-questions/410-how-long-do-supernova-remnants-last-intermediate) the following: "SNR do fade away and eventually become invisible. The time for this to happen is on the order of tens of thousands to a hundred thousand years." SNR stands for Supernova remnants. So let's do some math and see what we should expect.
So if we can actually observe 200 that seems pretty nicely within the numbers I just calculated based on what astronomers have measured. I think that should settle the matter. But in the process of getting the numbers above, I found a couple things of minor interest...
At https://www.quora.com/Can-you-really-determine-the-age-of-the-Milky-Way-Galaxy-based-on-supernova-remnants I found a question/answer exchange between someone who had apparently been reading some Creationist material and a Dr. Devor with a PhD in Astronomy from Harvard University (2008)
Answered Dec 17 2016 · Author has 1.6k answers and 2m answer views
Q. Can you really determine the age of the Milky Way Galaxy based on supernova remnants?
A. Like previous answers, I can't think of how that can be done. If you'd post a link to the article you're referring to, it might clear things up. But as things stand, I have a hunch this is just a misunderstanding, since Supernova remnants (SNRs) only last for up to about 100,000 years, while the Milky Way, is probably about 10 billion years old.
I also found https://pseudoastro.wordpress.com/2008/10/18/why-few-supernova-remnants-do-not-indicate-a-young-universe/ which seems to be about item 2 of the article you directed me to.
"Every year, rivers and other sources dump over 450 million tons of sodium into the ocean. Only 27% of this sodium manages to get back out of the sea each year. As far as anyone knows, the remainder simply accumulates in the ocean. If the sea had no sodium to start with, it would have accumulated its present amount in less than 42 million years at today's input and output rates. This is much less than the evolutionary age of the ocean, three billion years. The usual reply to this discrepancy is that past sodium inputs must have been less and outputs greater. However, calculations that are as generous as possible to evolutionary scenarios still give a maximum age of only 62 million years.10 Calculations for many other seawater elements give much younger ages for the ocean."
How salt is lost from the oceans:
I had thought that the links below would be sufficient to show that the above is a naive approach to the question. I'm adding this because apparently it's not.
In brief, here's what happens. Sections of the ocean are isolated as land rises or ocean levels fall. You've probably seen ocean fossils in land high above sea level that once was ocean floor. The water eventually evaporates from these bodies of water leaving the deposits of salt etc. described in the links below. The water goes into the atmosphere and returns to earth in the form of rain. That may fall into the ocean or run off into streams and eventually find its way to the ocean. (Of course, if the water ends up in a salt lake it has to evaporate again before getting to the ocean) Some water sinks into the ground in which case there may be a brief delay, in terms of geological time. It may replace other water in the water table, find its way to aquifers, come to the surface in springs, or travel a more complicated route, but it gets back to the ocean quickly for the most part and eventually for the rest. So you have less salt in the ocean and the same amount of water. I'd thought that was obvious but I guess not.
Additionally, some of these salt deposits and other salt that has escaped the sea will eventually be found by rain runoff, streams, and rivers and be returned to the sea. So the same salt can be taken to the ocean many times. How many times will our Creationist friend count it? He's counting it every time it comes in as salt input to the ocean. He shouldn't count the same salt more than once. Well, I hope that's enough said. Check out the links too if you want. There are some great pictures and further explanation.
One more thing that the need for the above two paragraphs makes me realize is that there must be a certain number of people who have nearly no knowledge about the physical world. If that's the case I guess you are easily taken in by the Creationist and con men of all sorts. Maybe you're OK with that. If you're not I'd suggest you take a course or two in general science or get a book. Find out what it's about and see if it makes sense to you. Get a book on western medicine too so you don't end up pinning your hope for a cancer cure on aroma therapy or some crazy thing. Western medicine doesn't have all the answers but you owe it to yourself to find out what answers it does have. Your life may depend on knowing. I've known a couple people, dead now, who didn't know a quack from a medical doctor and paid the price in pain, suffering, and death.
This is a good overview of ocean chemistry. It talks about rates of addition to and removal from the ocean of minerals and uses Sodium (Na) as an example.
"During the Paleozoic Era, beginning about 600 million years ago and ending about 230 million years ago, seawater invaded the Michigan Basin at least six times. As the seas receded and evaporated, rock and mineral deposits such as halite (rock salt), gypsum (calcium sulfate with water), liquid brines, petroleum, lime, clay, sandstone and coal were left behind."
This is kind of interesting and at least tells you that there really are large, underground salt deposits outside the U.S.
This is a salt company with some information about salt. It contains some nice pictures and talks about the origin of salt deposits too.
There is also some stuff here.
This contains a map of "bedded salt deposits" and areas with salt domes in the U.S.
U. S. Dept. of the Interior "Annotated Bibliography and Index Map of Salt Deposits in the United States" 1957
"Radiohalos are rings of color formed around microscopic bits of radioactive minerals in rock crystals. They are fossil evidence of radioactive decay. "Squashed" Polonium-210 radiohalos indicate that Jurassic, Triassic, and Eocene formations in the Colorado plateau were deposited within months of one another, not hundreds of millions of years apart as required by the conventional time scale. "Orphan" Polonium-218 radiohalos, having no evidence of their mother elements, imply accelerated nuclear decay and very rapid formation of associated minerals."
Facts about radioactive decay and the cited papers by Robert Gentry:
First, there are no conventional fossils involved, only radioactive inclusions in crystals and coal and the results of radioactive decay on the crystals and coal.
I knew nothing about radiohalos and certainly didn't have the decay sequences of U-238 (Uranium with atomic weight 238, i.e. a total of 238 protons and neutrons in the nucleus) memorized. The Creationist author references two scientific articles by Robert V. Gentry that appeared in Science Magazine in 1976 and 1974 as a basis for his conclusions. (Additional element abbreviations used below are Pb = Lead (Latin plumbus), Po = Polonium, Bi = Bismuth.) Radiohalos exist when some bit of radioactive material is included in a crystalline structure and the inclusion emits alpha particles (An alpha particle is a bundle consisting of two protons and two neutrons = a helium nucleus). Different materials emit alpha particles with different energies and the higher the energy the bigger a ring the alpha particles will make as they move out from the inclusion into the crystalline material. U-238 has a whole sequence of decays that eventually take it to Pb-206. The decay sequence is illustrated at Wikipedia. It may provide a good reference as you read what follows. You will see in the diagram not only decay by means of ejecting alpha particles but also beta decay. This is typically beta-minus decay which is the ejection of the electron when a neutron turns into a proton and an electron. This changes the identity of the element but not the atomic weight, not noticeably anyway. Ejection of an electron causes no ring. I think that's mainly since it's a light particle but maybe also because it can't interact chemically with the chrystal.
The first two sentences by the Creationist are correct. The "quashed" radiohalos only indicate to Gentry, in his 1976 article, that the Polonium-214 halo occurred in pre-coal that was in a gel-like state, to use Gentry's words. He observed elliptical Polonium-214 (not 210) radiohalos with round Polonium-210 radiohalos centered on the same inclusion in the coal. His thought was that some seismic event distorted the gel between the times that the halos formed. Polonium-214 decays quickly to Lead-210 which has a half-life of 22.26 years and decays to Bismuth-210 with a half-life of 13.73 years. Bi-210 decays to Polonium-210. The decays of the lead and bismuth emit electrons and form no halos. The Polonium decays each emit an alpha particle and so make halos. Given the length of these half-lives there's time between creation of the rings for a distortion of the gel-like pre-coal. So the squashed halos show nothing at all about the age of the formations where they were found but they may show something about the nature of coalification. The Creationist author got that entirely wrong. He didn't understand what he read and didn't even know which ring was distorted, Po-214 not Po-210.
Gentry's 1976 article concludes: "If remobilization (movement of U in or Pb out) is not the explanation, then these ratios (U-238 to Pb-206) raise crucial questions about the validity of present concepts regarding the antiquity of these geological formations and about the time required for coalification." The squashed halos were one topic of the article but he also looked at complete Uranium-238 ring sets. Measuring the Uranium to Lead-206 ratios in the centers of these halos he found it to be unexpectedly high, indicating less radioactive decay than expected for their presumed age. (Lead-206 is the eventual decay product of U-238.) This indicates that the coal was not actually in Triassic or Jurassic strata. There's nothing said to the effect that the "Jurassic, Triassic, and Eocene formations in the Colorado plateau were deposited within months....". All that Gentry says is that maybe the strata were incorrectly classified and that's only if remobilization did not happen, and he believes remobilization is unlikely. He never even hints that he believes that 171 million years of geologic history happened in a few months in either of his papers.
The Creationist author seems to know little about geologic periods and hasn't bothered to learn it before making his statements. Triassic is the earliest of the periods he mentions. The Jurassic is next. The Cretaceous is next, but not mentioned by him. The Paleogene is next and it's second oldest subdivision, an Epoch is what it's called, is the Eocene. Maybe the author doesn't believe in fossils but at the end of the Cretaceous the dinosaurs all died and in the Paleocene Epoch, just before the Eocene, mammals evolved from not much bigger than a mouse in the Cretaceous to some the size of a bear. That doesn't happen in a few months. Just the debris cloud from the Chicxulub impact with earth at the end of the Cretaceous period took at least a few months to clear, maybe much longer. Of course, if you read Gentry's papers you will see that Gentry doesn't even mention any more recent period than the Jurassic, and certainly not the Eocene.
The last sentence of the Creationist author, about '"Orphan" Polonium-218 radiohalos', is nonsense. Nobody knows how to accelerate nuclear decay and it certainly doesn't happen in nature. That's why it's used for dating. It is constant. And the "rapid formation of associated minerals" is just humorous. With a half life of about 3 minutes for Po-218, the minerals with the orphaned Po-218 radiohalos would have had to form within an hour to have even a millionth of the Polonium-218 left. By the end of a single day only 1/(1 followed by 144 zeros) would be left. So "rapid" is putting it mildly. Crystals don't form that quickly!
There is a mystery here. The fact that Gentry found Polonium-218 halos without a trace of their decay-parent isotopes is quite amazing given that the half-life of Po-218 is just 3.05 minutes. That doesn't provide enough time for the crystal to form around the Po-218, not even close. He states that he found no evidence of anything that could have decayed into Po-218 through beta decay, and so leave no ring. Additionally I've checked the half lives for both minus and plus beta decay parents and grandparents, which is all I could find, and the half lives are all under a minute. Though Gentry gives examples of "diminution", "obliteration", and "reversal effects" of halos that could explain most missing U-238 decay halos for his orphan Polonium-218 radiohalos, it can't explain the missing Radon-222, halo as far as I can see. So we have a mystery.
Gentry's 1974 article concludes, "In summary, the combined results of ring structure studies, mass spectrometric analyses, and electron induced x-ray fluorescence present a compelling case for the independent existence of Po halos. The question is, can they be explained by presently accepted cosmological and geological concepts relating to the origin and development of Earth?" I'm sure they can't. Nothing can explain them, nothing at all, because the half-lives involved are all too tiny compared with the time required for a crystal to form around an inclusion of Po-218 or any of its beta decay ancestors. So Gentry seems to assume that the crystals, Po-218 and all, instantaneously appeared when the earth had cooled enough for crystals to exist. It makes no sense to me.
The connection to the age of the earth is this: Since best estimates of the age of the earth are often based on Pb-206/Pb-204 and Pb-207/Pb-204 ratios (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead%E2%80%93lead_dating), the appearance of extra Pb-206 from the decay of Polonium-218 that didn't originate from U-238 would throw off the calculations, at least if they were done with the Biotite and Fluorite samples Gentry used, making the sample look older than it actually is. This form of dating is commonly referred to as Pb-Pb dating. The extra Pb-206 would do the same thing to uranium-lead dating.
Gentry mentioned in this 1974 paper that he examined meteors and moon rocks and found no orphan Polonium-218 radiohalos. In the 1976 paper he states that he found none in the coal he was examining. So there seems to be no mystery Lead-206 in those samples and age estimates of the Uranium there, if any, should be accurate. Since there is no reasonable explanation for the orphan Polonium-218 radiohalos and they don't seem to be common I would guess that estimates of the age of the earth using Pb-Pb dating are pretty accurate.
Additionally, there are other types of dating of materials. Carbon-14 dating can reliably measure back about 50,000 years for formerly living material. But with a half-life of 5,730 years, and depending on intake of Carbon-14 from the air, as living things do, it isn't any use in dating the earth. It can tell us that the earth is more than 50,000 years old though. Uranium-thorium dating doesn't rely on accumulation of Lead and is accurate back to 500,000 years. Rubidium-strontium dating can date rocks and, though I'm not sure how far back it's accurate, the Rubidium-87 half-life of 49.23 billion years makes it look like a good candidate for going way, way back and 4 or 5 billion years for the age of the earth looks easy. So there are many ways to tell that the earth is a good deal older than 6,000 years. Also, the Creationist author made so many mistakes in his few sentences that he obviously didn't take the time to understand what he was reading or what he was saying. So much for item (9).
"... This is not only evidence for the youth of the earth, but also for episodes of greatly accelerated decay rates of long half-life nuclei within thousands of years ago, compressing radioisotope timescales enormously."
This is, as with the claim made in (9), total nonsense. Radioactive decay is never accelerated and never decelerated. If it were, half-lives would be ranges, not fixed numbers. Scientific knowledge of the nucleus of the atom is still incomplete. (See the June issue of Scientific American for example.) The day may come when we can affect the decay rate of an isotope of an element but that day is not yet here. In nature the half-lives of isotopes do not change. I haven't spent time on the rest of the claim but this is just obvious nonsense that I wanted to point out. If you don't believe me I'm sure you can find a reliable source on the Internet that will confirm this. This is left as an exercise for the reader. :-)
"The usual evolutionary picture has men existing as hunters and gatherers for 185,000 years during the Stone Age before discovering agriculture less than 10,000 years ago. Yet the archaeological evidence shows that Stone Age men were as intelligent as we are. It is very improbable that none of the eight billion people mentioned in item 12 should discover that plants grow from seeds. It is more likely that men were without agriculture for a very short time after the Flood, if at all.
This is another pretty silly just on the face of it. Homo Sapiens, i.e. people physically and mentally like us have, by current estimates been around 250,000 years or more according to Wikipedia, so I have no argument there.
I don't know that none of them ever realized that plants grow from seeds. I will say that your average person even today is not that all bright. As evidence I give you Jay Leno's "Jay Walking" segments of "The Tonight Show" back when he was the host. There are people who don't believe in global warming, though I'll admit they have been bombarded by a lot of well financed propaganda. And you also have Evidence for a Young Earth. It's hand to underestimatet he intelligence of the average man or woman. Additionally, lack of nutrition and various diseases may have made many Stone Age people less bright than they might otherwise have been.
But it does seem like someone might have noticed a seed sprouting somewhere in the 240,000 years before agriculture and guessed what was going on. I'm not sure they would have cared even if they did notice. Perhaps if they had planted a lot of seeds in their fenced backyard, waited from fall to spring to see the results, and kept the plants watered as they grew we would have had agriculture and civilization much earlier. Before people would say to themselves, "Hey, let's settle down here, plant a crop, and become farmers." there would have to be some unlikely conditions. They would need to know that all the plants they needed could be grown from seed or grew wild at their farm in abundance. They would have had to be confident they could keep animals from eating their crops. Those Stone Age people would have had to gather a lot of stones to keep antelope, deer, and other such creatures from eating their crops or stayed awake all night and day to scare them away if they could. Unless the weather was going to be cooperative year after year they would have had to be near a water source to water their crops when needed. That's a lot of work without plumbing. They would also have to be pretty good fighters to keep other tribes of people, who were accustomed to taking whatever food they found, from taking their crops. There was no such thing as land ownership as we know it. They would have had to be confident of having food in that location while the crop was growing and a source of meat in that location at least most of the year to stay at the farm. If they were accustomed to following herds then farming wouldn't cross their minds. And if they had all that they needed to survive while a crop crew why would they be motivated to do all the extra work of farming and fighting when they already had what they needed?
After reading all the Creationist arguments about not enough time or not enough salt, I find it amusing to see a mention of the biblical flood. There's not enough water for a global flood. There never has been and there never will be. Well, maybe the Creationists' God made a lot of temporary water for Noah to sail on. But if you don't allow for magic in your considerations then the biggest flood would have to be local. If you believe in magic then anything could have happened in the past and anything can happen in the future. Welcome to the world of Harry Potter.
It's pretty obvious to me, and maybe to you too now, that the Creationist author knows very little about the real, physical world. Though he cites some real, credible references, his statements about what they say are inaccurate and prone to wild exaggeration and misrepresentation.
I am always suspicious of claims by such fringe groups as Creationists. Their agenda is to find support for their beliefs. They learn just a little, don't understand it, and claim it's false. Science, on the other hand, has the agenda of finding the truth. Science is definitely a work in progress but it's good to keep in mind that scientists around the world make extensive observations, often building extraordinary instruments to help them observe more than the ordinary person has an opportunity to observe. They publish their observations and the community of people with interest in the subject do their best to duplicate observations or find that they can't, and make sense of what they observe. Mistakes are made but they are corrected as more observations are made. Many, I think MOST, scientists are motivated by a desire to gain a deeper understanding of nature. Maybe some are motivated by a desire to be the first to understand something and maybe to gain some fame and glory. I can't imagine any of them wishing to promote an idea that doesn't fit with observations. That would not gain them anything and their fellow scientists would tend to discount anything they said after their misrepresentations was discovered.
If a person is going to make claims that I'm going to give any credit, he has to know the observable facts and get them right in his arguments. The creationist author doesn't do that. If I'm going to be swayed by the citations he gives with his statements, they need to be either be taken from the works cited or easily deduced from them. The Creationist author made numerous mistakes with respect to the cited articles by Robert Gentry and drew conclusions from them that had nothing to do with the material in the articles. Scientists don't do sloppy work like that without getting laughed out of their profession.
I'm not a scientist. I do have a bachelor's degree in Physics and a PhD in Math. Also, I have an interest in science and read about scientific topics and have for decades.
1. If you don't believe global warming is real I have a quick remedy for you: Get a grade school history book if you need it, or try to remember when you were in grade school, or go to Wikipedia, and remember the "Northwest Passage". It was the hope of early European explorers of the Americas that they could find a way to the Pacific Ocean by sailing north of what is now Canada and Alaska. They didn't find anything. It wasn't until 1903-1906 that Norwegian Roald Amundsen found a route and made the trip. But the route wasn't practical for commercial traffic until 2009 because of arctic sea ice blocking it. Now go to the web site for Crystal Cruises and look for their Northwest Passage cruise. Yes, you can do what the early explorers couldn't. You can sail it in reverse, from Anchorage, north of Canada, to New York City for just $45,000 and a month of your time. What a change from 1903-1906. No global warming hmmm?