This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the “Thousands … Not Billions” conference where the results of the RATE (Radioisotopes and the age of the earth) project were presented. The RATE project (a joint research initiative between the Institute for Creation Research, and the Creation Research Society) has carefully investigated the method of radioisotope dating: a method that allegedly shows rocks to be millions or billions of years old. Of course, the biblical text indicates a much more recent creation-a fact confirmed by RATE researcher and Hebrew scholar Dr. Steven Boyd. So it is exciting (but not surprising) that the RATE researchers have uncovered powerful evidence that supports a recent creation, and explains the radioisotope data within the biblical timescale.
We have known for some time that radiometric dating methods are unreliable. They often disagree between methods (this was quantified by RATE geologist Dr. Steven Austin and Dr. Andrew Snelling) and can produce vastly inflated age estimates for rocks that are known to be recently formed. However, RATE scientists have attempted to answer the question of why the radioisotope methods are giving the inflated ages. One of the profound results of the RATE research is the exciting evidence of accelerated nuclear decay in the past.
All radioisotope dating methods assume (among other things) that the decay rate of a given isotope (an atomic nucleus with a given number of neutrons) is constant-that it has always been what it is today. Only if nuclear decay rates have always been constant can the method be used to estimate a reliable age. After all, a clock would not give the correct time if it were to dramatically speed up or slow down. The RATE researchers have uncovered several independent lines of evidence that strongly indicate that nuclear decay was much more rapid in the past.
RATE physicist Dr. Russ Humphreys reported on the measurements of helium diffusing (leaking) out of zircon crystals. The helium is produced by radioactive decay, but over time it can leak out of the crystals. If the zircons were billions of years, there should be very little helium left since it would have had plenty of time to diffuse away, yet there is still a tremendous amount of helium in the zircons-consistent with an age of about 6,000 years. The current amount of helium in the zircons, and the measured rate of helium diffusion show (1) that a lot of radioactive decay has happened (to produce so much helium) and (2) that it must have happened quickly in the recent past (otherwise the helium would have had time to escape).
RATE geophysicist Dr. John Baumgardner reported on the detection of C14 in coal and in diamonds. Since C14 is a short-lived radioisotope, it cannot survive for millions of years. This is compelling evidence that these diamonds and coal deposits are thousands of years old at most. In particular, the hard lattice structure of a diamond makes any sort of contamination extremely unlikely. Dr. Baumgardner also stated that C14 is found in essentially all fossil organic material throughout the geologic column.
Dr. Andrew Snelling (Ph.D. in geology) reported on the topic of radiohalos (tiny spheres of discolored crystal produced by the decay of radioactive material at their center) and fission tracks. His research strongly indicates that uranium must have decayed much more quickly in the past-an independent confirmation of accelerated decay.
RATE researcher Dr. Larry Vardiman (Ph.D. in atmospheric science) summarized the results and discussed possible avenues for future research. The technical results and data of the RATE research can be found in the newly-released book Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth volume II. Dr. Don DeYoung (Ph.D. in physics) has written an easy-to-understand summary of the RATE research in a book for non-specialists entitled Thousands … Not Billions.
It was very encouraging to see the excitement at this conference as the Bible was once again confirmed. Mark Looy, the CCO of AiG-USA, also flew to California to attend the conference. He has often acknowledged the pivotal role that ICR played in the development of his Christian life. After the conference, Mark shared with me that even above the important findings announced at the meeting, the highlight for him was at the beginning, when ICR founder and prolific author, Dr. Henry Morris, was introduced to the 2,000 people in the auditorium. “It was thrilling to see the large crowd rise to its feet,” Mark observed. “I know that some Christians are reluctant to applaud another believer with adulation like this, but because this wonderful man of God has worked tirelessly-for many decades-to defend the precious Word of God, I couldn’t imagine anyone objecting. In fact, I know of no other Christian more deserving of such a display of admiration. It was very moving.”
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