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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

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Answers in Genesis tells us what we already knew

One of my favorite complaints about young earth flood creationism is that we have a vast geologic record in place, but creationists can't explain it. Oh sure, they blame the flood for the bulk of the geologic record. It is, after all, the defining event in earth history in the minds of young earther's, but I've long noticed a reluctance to give specifics on what rocks belong to what 'period'. When referring to period in this sense I mean pre, post or syn flood deposits. Any sophomore geology major would quickly recognize why creationists won't commit to the layers defining the flood. No matter what time periods are chosen, anti-flood evidence is present in the form of paleosols, desert deposits, orderly fossil record etc etc. In short, if they ever try to be specific, they know their arguments will be dissected, rejected and in big trouble. This week, AIG finally had the balls to admit that THE defining event in earth history is....not defined! Here's my favorite quote from the article. You have to read the whole thing to get the flavor of rock star worship of the 'scientists' by the author:

The Big Puzzle—Flood Geology

Most science in the museum is fairly straightforward, and scientists have very little, if any, disagreement. The wonders of God’s creation are “clearly seen,” as Paul says in Romans 1:20.

But the Flood Geology Room was another thing altogether. The scientists agree that the rock layers were laid down in the past 6,000 years, but they debate which rocks were laid down before, during, or after the Flood. Each interpretation has its own supporters and theories.

Early in the project, I thought a simple solution would be to scatter geologic artifacts around the room—coal, fossils, rocks, etc.—and with each artifact, present a theory that explains the fact. Different scientists could present different theories. It didn’t matter how well they fit together, or so I thought.

I was wrong. As the potential contradictions became clearer, I had to rethink the whole concept for the room.

Not news to me, but then again I've been asking creationists these questions for years. It seems that 200+ years of work has not allowed them to define anything in the key geologic event in their wacky earth history.


Joe Meert

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The shape of the earth

When you cut a slice
through the polar ice
the earth is like a pear
Cut through the equator
she looks like a potato
A giant pomme de terre

A short article about the shape of the earth.


Joe Meert

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

An Update and some news

It's proposal season, defense season and end of the semester season all at once so I've decided to try a once a week blog until things settle down a bit. I just returned from a field trip to Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia with my Field Methods students and have some interesting geologic pictures to share in the next few days.
While we were in the field, the Gators successfully defended their Basketball Championship against the Ohio State Buckeyes. A number of jokes are being made about Ohio State including my favorite (clean joke) "How many states in the United States" (see comments for answer).

Next Tuesday's NOVA on PBS is called "First Flower". It features the oldest fossilized flower (discovered by UF Professor David Dilcher and Chinese colleagues). A preview is shown here:



Joe Meert

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