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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

An Evening with Rate

A couple of things to note this past week. The first is that Dr. Todd Feeley (U. Montana) attended a RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth) conference. RATE is a creationist group aimed at showing the earth could not possibly be as old as current science says it is. I've blogged about this meeting several times (here and here), but Todd sent his report to me yesterday. Here it is unedited:

Hi Joe,

Thought I’d give you a update on the Bozeman, Montana, RATE
conference held this past weekend. The ‘science’ talks by Russell
Humphreys, Andrew Snelling, and John Baumgardner contained
the standard RATE mantras on He diffusion, Po radiohaloes, and
14C. There was nothing new and which has not already been
debunked in your numerous essays, TalkOrigins.com, etc. I did
have an interesting conversation saturday morning with RATE
coordinator, Larry Vardiman, who seems like a pretty decent guy.
I asked why no recognized experts on radiometric dating were
invited to participate in the conference, given that none of the
speakers had any training or experience in experimental
geochronology. He was candid enough to admit that they would
have liked to included one on the team, but there are no young-
earth geochronologists in the world. He also agreed that the
mechanism for accelerating radioactivity by nearly a billion-fold
during a single year (the flood year) was a major problem for the
group that in the end will probably only be resolved by invoking a
“cosmic-scale event” or miracle. He further conceded that at
this point they have no physical evidence for this miracle.
Apparently, dissipation of the heat produced during the event is,
in the end, going to require yet an additional miracle.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the conference (for myself)
was saturday evening. Humphreys gave the same talk on He
diffusion, nearly verbatim, that he did in the morning. Following,
I asked the panel (Humphreys, Snelling, Baumgardner) a slight
variation of the question you suggested: Why did John
Baumgardner and the RATE group accept $2.5 million dollars
in private donations to conduct young-earth research at the
same time Baumgardner was publishing old-earth and old-moon
papers in mainstream scientific journals? I thought this was a
particularly relevant question because Baumgardner’s first slide
in his morning talk read: “News Flash: paradigm overturned;
textbooks need to be rewritten, earth is young, etc
.” The crowd
went wild. Of course, they had no idea Baumgardner was at the
same time personally contributing to the mountain of evidence
that the earth and moon are old. Baumgardner stumbled and
bumbled with his response, saying things such as his coauthors
input faulty assumptions into his Terra code and that the
interpretations were therefore incorrect, but that the physics
(his contribution) was correct. He then went into a ten minute
soul-searching monologue about his faith in scripture, which is
fine, but hardly seemed relevant. I pressed further and asked if
he would write letters to Nature and JGR clarifying his position
and the errors in the assumptions and interpretations made by
his coauthors. He would not agree to do this and surprisingly
revealed that at least one more old earth paper is coming out in
the near future with his name on it.

Well, after the Q & A session Humphreys called me “evil” for
asking such a question (I thought it was a valid question, but
Humphreys apparently didn’t and I don’t think he is a very nice
man). I also told him that he had a problem because the core
sample he showed in his talk from where his zircons were
separated was clearly a gneiss and not a granodiorite (‘with
schist veins through it’), as he claimed. I could see this from the
back row, as could the undergraduate geology students in
attendance. At this point he called me “dumb” and asked if I had
the guts to tell Baumgardner (who selected the core) that the
sample was a metamorphic rock and not an igneous rock. Sure,
I’d tell him. As we walked over to speak with Baumgardner, a
young woman who identified herself as a Christian, scolded
Humphreys for being mean and not behaving in a Christian-like
manner by calling me evil and dumb. She didn’t think he was a
very nice man either. To get back to the point, Baumgardner
conceded that the core sample was indeed a gneiss and not a
granodiorite. To his credit, Humphreys did begrudgingly
apologize. Personally, I didn’t care about the apology, which
wasn’t sincere anyway. I was more concerned that this guy was
conducting expensive research on the age of the earth, yet
couldn’t even tell the difference between a metamorphic rock
and an igneous rock. Oh yeah, I forgot, he’s a creationist
physicist and not a geologist.

The RATE conference is over now and the group has moved on
to a different town. Let’s hope there are people in future
audiences who do a bit of research and learn more about what
these guys are really up to. People that take the time to do a
background check just might come to realize that those who act
as if they are holier than thou might not be as sincere as they
claim or have the appropriate scientific backgrounds to conduct
the research discussed.

Best regards,


Interesting account. In my opinion, this 'double life' has to be embarrassing to the young earther's and we should emphasize this every chance we get. By the way, Humphreys is not reluctant to invent data when needed.

In other news, this months Geology contains an article about a fossil forest found in a coal mine. The Carboniferous age forest is richly preserved in a coal mine. The authors conclude that the preservation was enhanced because the region sunk below flood level quickly following an earthquake. No doubt that creationists will soon cite this as evidence of Noah's flood. Then again, that pins down part of the flood to the Carboniferous and creationists don't want to be pinned down.


Joe Meert


At 11:46 AM, Blogger Gary S. Hurd said...

My thanks to Todd Feeley for his effort, and to Joe for posting.

At 1:11 PM, Anonymous tinyfrog said...

While the creationists want to explain the billion-fold radioactive decay rate by invoking a global flood, they still have to explain the age of the rocks on the moon (which are also extremely old). As far as I know, there was no flood on the moon.

At 1:13 PM, Anonymous Dave Thomas said...

A very interesting account. It confirms my observation that Humphreys takes all criticisms of his work as personal insults.

I guess I should add that I'm embarrassed (Dixie Chick style) that New Mexico is home state to both Humphreys and Baumgardner.

See the links for updates on Humphreys' talk at Sandia last year. Baumgardner gave one too, but it was the same old (Continental Sprint).


At 1:15 PM, Blogger Zeno said...

A delightful account! Many thanks for posting it. I've been reading about RATE in ICR's publications and they are *so* proud of their *scientific* approach to creationism. This story helps to point out what a sham it all it.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Blackbeard said...

Get ready for more, as Vardiman said the ICR was starting a genetics "research" program on the scale of RATE.

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Jon Fleming said...

While the creationists want to explain the billion-fold radioactive decay rate by invoking a global flood, they still have to explain the age of the rocks on the moon (which are also extremely old). As far as I know, there was no flood on the moon.

They invoke decay during the fludde only to "explain" how the radiation didn't knock everybody off; the water shielded them. No people on the Mon, no problem with accelerating decay during the Earthly fludde. One of these days I'm going to sit down and figure out what dose Noah would have gotten from the 40K in his body.


Anybody heard anything about RATE II?

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous tinyfrog said...

Ah, I didn't realize that the flood was merely used by creationists to insulate life from the radioactive decay. I had thought that they had some odd theory about the water pressure causing radioactive decay. In other words, for no apparent reason, God wanted to cause lots of radioactive decay and thought the flood would be a great opportunity to make that happen?

On a similar note, I had once calculated the amount of radiation life on earth would receive if all radioactive decay were compressed from 4.5 billion years into 1,000 years. (Admittedly, I also used increased radioactive decay from space in the calculation, which accounts for about 50% of the radiation.) Anyway, it turned out to be similar to radioactive levels inside Chernobyl during meltdown. That amount of radiation everyday for a period of 1,000 years.

At 9:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" He was candid enough to admit that they would
have liked to included one on the team, but there are no young-
earth geochronologists in the world."

Hmm, I wonder why that is? Maybe because once you learn anything at all about geochronology, you learn that young-earthism is garbage?


At 10:41 PM, Blogger Ginny said...

This deserves a much wider audience. My husband "stumbled upon" it and I realized that these "young-earth geo-chronologists" were a good metaphor for something I was working on to do with the discovery of an Earthlike exo-planet only 20 light-years away.

What reaction will these young-earthers have to this news, I wonder? And just how much will they freak out with their co-religionists (and their fundamentalist counterparts in other world religions) if and when we get an answer back to a tentative "hello?" sent in the direction of Libra?

At 12:01 AM, Blogger Blackbeard said...

Dave, don't be embarrassed. New Mexico is the wonderful 'red or green' state and also is home to Zach Sharp's incredible stable isotope lab.

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Joe G said...

A) Why should anyone believe Todd's story?

Anti-Creationists have been known to lie and misrepresent. They have also been known to spread those lies and misrepresentations.


B) Wouldn't we have to know how the Earth was formed before we could know when it is was formed?

We know that intelligent agencies can speed up processes. And given all the other factors that have to be in place just to sustain complex living organisms, who, in their right mind, would accept sheer dumb luck as an explanation over ID, just for our planet's existence? And if ID is the best explanation, and we know intelligent agents can speed up processes...

At 11:37 AM, Blogger Blackbeard said...

Joe G., What specifically are you implying that I lied about? The emails to Baumgardner inviting him to provide direct evidence for his global flood model to geologists? The conversation with Vardiman about why there are no young earth geochronologists? The question about why Baumgardner publishes both old and young earth models (actually, he only publishes the former in the mainstream literature)? The conversation with Humphreys and Baumgarder that Humphreys’ sample was a metamorphic rock and not igneous? That Humphreys called me evil and dumb? That a young Christian woman scolded Humphreys for not behaving in a Christian-like manner? Please, be more specific and provide some details; you speak with such authority about something you know nothing about.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Joe Meert said...

You must understand the nature (unature) of Joe G. He lives in a fantasy world of his own creation. He's fancied himself a scientist, an engineer and all manner of things.
It really doesn't matter how you answer, once he's concluded that he is right, there is no changing his mind. Joe G. is one of those queer ducks who thinks that the world is against his genius and if only it were recognized, the world would be a better place. Ignore him and he eventually slinks off into a new fantasy realm (and then, the world really is a better place!).


Joe Meert

At 3:26 AM, Anonymous Chris Grose said...

"We know that intelligent agencies can speed up processes."
Evidently this intelligent agent decided it would be brilliant to make all the major heat producing radioisotopes lithophile. DOH!!!


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