Feature Article - June 2003
by Do-While Jones

Dealing With Science Teachers

There are some science teachers who still believe the theory of evolution and want to make sure their students believe it. What’s a student to do?

We know a young woman who is having a hard time taking a class from a science teacher who still believes in evolution. In this situation, our advice is to write what the teacher wants to hear, even if it is wrong. He is never going to listen to reason, so don’t waste your time trying to get him to consider any arguments against evolution, no matter how compelling.

Even though it is a waste of time to talk to people like this, you can learn a lot by listening to them. Her teacher was particularly impressed by an article in American Scientist magazine 1 which he thought totally discredited creationism. We would like to share some of the points of this article because it validates what we have been saying for years.

In a previous essay, we said,

The Evolutionist's Defense

The evolutionist knows he can't win a scientific debate of the theory. His only hope is to divert the discussion to something else.

He will likely use some personal attacks. He will question your real motives for doubting evolution. He will attack the credibility of any authorities you cite (and some you didn't cite). He will attempt to get you to defend yourself, defend the authorities he has maligned, or attack him. If he can get you to do any of these things, he has achieved his objective (which is to avoid talking about the theory of evolution).

The evolutionist will probably try to bring religion into the discussion. 2

This is exactly the approach taken by the American Scientist article. The first sentence of that article is,

Creationism, the fundamentalist movement that rejects much of modern science because it conflicts with a strict literal interpretation of the Bible, especially the book of Genesis, has its philosophic roots in the Darwinian debates of the last century. 3

Right off the bat, false assertions are made, and motives are questioned. Creationists don’t reject “much of modern science.” They only reject one flawed, unscientific theory.

Evolutionists would love you to believe that the theory of evolution is “a major unifying concept of science 4,” the foundation of all science and knowledge. The theory of evolution cannot be the unifying concept because the theory is wrong. How can an incorrect theory be the basis of all science?

The American Scientist article complains that,

Science is on the defensive, and creationists are gaining credibility in the court of public opinion. 5

Oh, how they love to confuse “science” with “the theory of evolution.” It isn’t science that the public is rejecting--it is the theory of evolution that is losing credibility. The theory of evolution is being rejected because it is unscientific. So, what approach does this article suggest that evolutionists take? They suggest doing exactly what we said they would do.

As a strategy, this article proposes that science should abandon its traditional and failing method of item-by-item rebuttal of creationist attacks. Instead, science should go on the offensive, using such a time scale [that is, the geologic time scale] to demand that creationists defend their total view of the geologic record and all their implausible and commonly ludicrous “scientific” interpretations. 6

They can’t defend the theory of evolution. They admit that to attempt to defend the theory of evolution is a “failing method.” So, their recommended approach is to try to use the geologic time scale to refute the Bible. As we will see later in this article, they suggest trying to get creationists to explain how millions of years of change could have happened in six thousand years. That presumes, of course, that things were created differently and had to change. If things were created pretty much like they are today, then things did not have to change.

But first, they can’t resist devoting part of page 160, and all of page 161, to making some personal attacks on Henry Morris, Duane Gish, Steven Austin, John Morris, and Kurt Wise. That’s what we said they would do in April, 1998.

Then, as we predicted, they drag religion into the argument, devoting pages 162 and 163 to “Creation Week” and “Pre-Flood Earth History”. This has absolutely nothing to do with the theory of evolution; but it does divert attention away from the scientific bankruptcy of the theory of evolution, which is their strategy.

Speed of Light

Finally, they start talking about science on page 164 in the poorly titled section on “Radiometric Dating.” We say it is poorly titled because it begins by talking about the speed of light.

Some evolutionary scientists have proposed that the speed of light (in a vacuum) might not be constant. This might explain some problems in the Big Bang theory. (Many other physical constants are related to the speed of light. Changing the speed of light would affect these other constants, which would make some Big Bang theoretical predictions agree with some astronomical observations.)

Some creation scientists have welcomed the possibility that the speed of light is variable with open arms because it might explain how light from stars more than 6,000 light years away would be visible now.

So, scientists disagree on the speed of light issue, but not along creation/evolution party lines. We don’t take a position on it because it is a rather speculative argument beyond the comprehension of the general public (which is our primary audience). Furthermore, it has nothing to do with whether or not a fish can evolve into an amphibian.

The American Scientist article simply brings up the issue of the change in the speed of light as if it were something stupid that only creationists believe, in an effort to discredit them.

Rock Formation

Then, the American Scientist article says,

A more down-to-earth creationist argument for unreliability of radiometric dating is R. V. Gentry’s observation (recapitulated in Gentry 1992) of tiny halos of radiation damage around minerals embedded in Precambrian micas. Gentry argues that these halos had to be formed in primordial granites during the first few minutes of earth history by some unrecognized, now-extinct, very short-lived radioactive element.

The confused geology of Gentry’s arguments and the geologic facts concerning his sampling site have been presented by J. R. Wakefield (1998). Wakefield points out that various kinds of halos of radiation damage around certain minerals in micas are common and that Gentry’s samples came from dikes that cut Precambrian sedimentary rocks. Thus, field relations prove that his samples are younger than the sedimentary deposits and therefore cannot be of primordial origin. 7

They have really misunderstood (or intentionally misrepresented) Gentry’s argument. The “unrecognized, now-extinct” element is actually polonium. Gentry’s observations don’t have to do with how long ago the rocks were formed. Gentry’s observations have to do with how quickly the rocks were formed, whenever that happened.

The actual observation is summarized in technical detail in an article published by the Institute for Creation Research. 8 Briefly summarized, it is true that “halos of radiation damage around certain minerals in micas are common”. When radioactive elements decay, they emit radiation which damages the rock. Uranium takes a long time to decay, but when it does, it goes through several stages rather rapidly, until it reaches a stable lead isotope. Each one of these decay stages damages the mica with a certain radius that is related to the energy released by the decay.

One of the intermediate steps in the decay of uranium to lead involves the decay of polonium. Polonium has a very short decay time. So, when a uranium atom in a piece of mica decays, it produces lead surrounded by several halos, some of which are polonium decay halos.

The mystery is that some samples of mica have lead atoms surrounded by halos that look like polonium decayed, but there are no uranium halos. If the mica were liquid when the polonium decayed, there would be no halo. Apparently the mica formed very quickly (in a matter of minutes) with polonium in it, so that the mica was solid when the polonium decayed. This is taken to be evidence that the rock formed almost instantaneously. It has nothing to do with how long ago the rock was formed.

The Two Helium Problems

The American Scientist article then falls into the trap they warned against falling into. They are trying to rebut a creationist argument. But, they have to admit that “the helium problem remains under active investigation …” 9. There are actually two helium problems for evolutionists.

The traditional helium problem is that radioactive decay inside rocks creates helium. Helium atoms are very small. That’s why they can escape from rubber balloons over night. They can escape from mylar balloons, too, but it takes longer. Helium produced by radioactive decay in rocks can escape, too, but it takes even longer to escape from rocks than from a mylar balloon. Scientists have measured the amount of helium coming out of the rocks. If radioactive elements have really been decaying in the Earth for as long as evolutionists want to believe, there should be lots more helium in the atmosphere than there actually is. Evolutionists are actively trying to invent an explanation for why there is so little helium in the atmosphere.

The newer helium problem is that there is lots of helium still in the rocks. This is a problem for evolutionists because the helium would have had plenty of time to escape from the rocks if they were really billions of years old.

The amount of helium measured in rocks cannot adequately be explained by either the evolutionary or creation model.

One way to explain all that helium in the rocks is that radioactive decay was once much faster than it is now. So, ironically, some evolutionary scientists might have to accept the idea that radioactive elements decayed faster in the past, because it is the only way to explain so much helium in rocks so old. But faster radioactive decay would also explain why there is so much helium in rocks so young.

Highly Selective Choices

The American Scientist article says,

[Creationists Austin, Morris, and Wise] are highly selective in their choice of which geologic data to present. 10

Creationists are commonly accused of carefully selecting data. All good scientists should be highly selective when analyzing data. They must differentiate between accurate and inaccurate data. They should ignore data that has been corrupted.

What was said about Austin, Morris, and Wise is absolutely true. They do select data carefully because they are good scientists. But what the American Scientist said wasn’t really what they meant. They meant that Austin, Morris, and Wise, only present data that supports their view, knowing full well that there is much more data that refutes their view. That would be bad, if they did it. But when the American Scientist points one finger at creationists, it is pointing three at itself.

After complaining that creationists cite published reports of impossibly old radioactive dates for modern lava flows, they say,

Creationist claims about radioactive dates and their linkage to the supposedly unreliable fossil record fail to point out the rarity of locations where rocks with well-controlled fossil dates are closely associated with proper mineral material for very precise radiometric dates. A few hundred of these well-dated localities represent the primary control points on which the entire dating system of the geologic column is based. 11

Quotes like these are just golden, aren’t they? It’s all about the fossils. The “known” age of the fossils gives the primary control points for determining the radiometric dating parameters. In other words, the radioactive dates agree perfectly with the presumed fossil dates because the presumed fossil dates were used to calibrate the radiometric method.

Notice that they don’t say, “When a rock from a recent lava flow is dated, the potassium-argon method always gives a date of hundreds or thousands of years; rubidium-strontium and uranium-lead always give the result ‘too young to date’ because there isn’t enough daughter element to measure. When a Precambrian rock is dated, uranium-lead always gives an accurate date of billions of years, and potassium-argon and rubidium strontium give the result ‘too old to date’ because there isn’t enough parent element left to measure. When a rock of medium age is dated with the three methods, rubidium-strontium gives a good date; potassium-argon gives ‘too old to date’ and uranium-lead gives ‘too young to date’.”

They don't say that because that isn't how the experiments typically turn out.

If radiometric methods were accurate, you could use multiple methods, and they would all agree (but some would be at, or near, the end of their accurate range). But the three methods generally give three different dates, with potassium-argon being the youngest and uranium-lead being the oldest. How do they know which one is right? It is the one that agrees with the fossils!

The American Scientist article said,

Austin used a ham-handed approach by dating whole rocks, rather than individual minerals or parts of individual mineral grains. 12

If they had read much of the creationist material, they would know that Austin has dated both whole rock and individual minerals. (Or, more accurately, Austin sent samples to the same laboratories that evolutionists use to date rocks, and reported the dates from those laboratories.) What they said about Austin’s research simply isn’t true.

What you should be asking yourself is why individual mineral dating would be more accurate than whole rock dating. If all the minerals in the rock had the same age, the whole rock age would be the same as the individual grain ages. But, if the individual minerals had different ages, then the whole rock age would be the average of all those widely varying ages. Individual mineral dating is the preferred method because evolutionists can pick the one mineral that gives the “right” age, and discard all the other minerals that give the “wrong” age.

We’ve written about radioactive dating methods in detail in previous newsletters, so there is no need to go over that ground again.

The Fossil Record

Any credibility that the American Scientist article might have had was shattered by this statement:

Since the beginning of fossil-hunting, the earth’s rock layers have yielded a record of life with a consistent pattern: more and more complex life forms appear at progressively higher and newer levels. 13

That statement is just factually wrong. There are thousands of trilobites which appear in several layers of the geologic column. The trilobites in the Cambrian (the lowest fossil-bearing) layer are every bit as complex as the trilobites in the higher levels, and just as complex as arthropods alive today. The fossils simply don’t show a pattern of increasing complexity. Fossil books say,

Although they are now extinct, these arthropods [trilobites] flourished in the sea, from the Cambrian through the Permian. They ranged in length from 1/25 in - 39 in (one millimeter to one meter). The name, trilobite, derives from their division into three longitudinal lobes; a slightly raised central lobe (the axis), with two flatter pleural lobes on either side. They were also divided into a head shield (cephalon), a thorax of up to 30 segments, and a tail shield (pygidium). The axial region of the head shield (glabella) had cheeks on either side and often well-developed eyes. 14

Trilobites are the first unequivocal arthropods to appear in the fossil record. Their shells at the base of the Cambrian mark the beginning of the Paleozoic Era; they became extinct at the end of the Paleozoic. During these 345 million years, more than 1500 genera, with about 4000 species, evolved. For a group this large and long-lasting, trilobites show unusual consistency of form, … 15

Well, it is unusual consistency only if you believe in evolution. Notice that trilobites, present at the very base of the geologic column, had “well-developed eyes.” They didn’t evolve eyes over a time. The fossil record does not show “a consistent pattern: more and more complex life forms appear at progressively higher and newer levels.”

The only way one can see a pattern of increasing complexity in the fossil record is by selectively viewing the data. That is, pick a simple organism from the Cambrian layer (ignoring all the complex ones because they don’t support the hypothesis); then pick a slightly more complex organism from the next layer (ignoring the other simpler and more complex ones); and finally pick the most complex organism (man) from the highest layer, ignoring all the simple clam fossils in the same layer.

Mixed Models

Either intentionally, or unintentionally, but certainly erroneously, the American Scientist article mixes evolutionary assumptions into the creationist model, making the creationist model appear foolish and inconsistent. Let’s look at some specific examples.

The thick sedimentary formations that cover large portions of the interior of North America to average depths of about a kilometer pose especially difficult problems for the “young earthers.” Large percentages of these deposits consist of former calcareous muds and fossil debris created by lime-secreting organisms. Production of such volumes during a single “flood year” would surely require Herculean activity on the part of those organisms. For instance, in the Grand Canyon region the Redwall and Kaibab limestone formations are each about 150 meters thick. If deposition was [sic] spread uniformly through the entire flood year, these two units would require organisms to have produced carbonate mud deposits at the unbelievable rate of 80 centimeters per day. 16

We will leave it to Christian organizations to defend the flood. We just want to point out that the American Scientist article has distorted the Christian argument just to make it appear impossible. Creationists don’t believe all that lime was secreted during the flood year. They believe that sea creatures were secreting lime for about 2,000 years before the flood. During the flood year, all that mud was washed over Arizona.

Dirt accumulates at a rate of a small fraction of an inch per year on the floors of homes in Malibu, California. When it rains in the fall, we often see TV news coverage of Malibu homes with several feet of mud in their living rooms. That mud did not come from dirt that accumulated slowly and got wet in the flood. It was washed into the living rooms in just a few hours. The rate at which dirt accumulates has nothing to do with how much mud can be moved around in a short period of time.

Furthermore, the Grand Canyon is not difficult for creationists to explain. In fact, it is the site of several annual creationist tours because it is considered by them to be excellent evidence for the flood.

Remember that the premise of the American Scientist article is that evolutionists should not try to use the “failed technique” of trying to defend evolution, but use time scales to attack the creation model. The article illustrated how to do this by turning the creation model into a cartoon, and then attacking it.

Cooling Rates

In addition to the models discussed above that involve preposterous rates of global and sea floor cooling, there is the problem of rapid cooling of the high-temperature granite masses that now comprise tens of thousands of cubic kilometers in the cores of almost all great mountain systems. Creationist models require these bodies to have cooled completely since 2500 B.C. by mechanisms recorded neither by general history nor the Bible. Furthermore, these unknown mechanisms must be so efficient that only a few hot springs remain in most areas of the globe. Even though the laws of cooling and heat transfer are well established with their values and applications to geologic examples provided in many geologic texts, to date I have found no attempts by creationists to apply these thermal constraints in any detail to their models. 17

The evolutionary model is that the Earth was incredibly hot billions of years ago when it formed from rocks smashing into each other. It has, they say, cooled down slowly over billions of years.

The creation model is that the Earth was created at roughly its present temperature about 6,000 years ago. No creationist models attempt to explain how a red-hot planet could have cooled in 6,000 years because the model doesn’t say the planet was red-hot to begin with.

The Last Word

Get ready for the chilling conclusion of the American Scientist article.

Conclusions

Only now is the scientific community coming to recognize that although battles in the last decade to keep creationist pseudo-science out of public-school science classrooms may have been won in the courts, the war itself is in serious danger of being lost in the court of public opinion. L. Kraus (1996) may have made the best statement in a New York Times Op-Ed piece: “The increasingly blatant nature of the nonsense uttered with impunity in public discourse is chilling. Our democratic society is imperiled as much by this as any other single threat, regardless of whether the origins of the nonsense are religious fanaticism, simple ignorance or personal gain.” 18

They are afraid of what is said in “public discourse”. They find it “chilling”. We wonder, what will that fear lead them to do? Will they decided that the only way they can save democracy is to suppress the scientific evidence against evolution?

The American Scientist article wasn’t a rational discussion about science. It was an obviously emotional, open attack upon religion. They had to distort scientific facts to do it because science is against evolution.

Quick links to
Science Against Evolution
Home Page
Back issues of
Disclosure
(our newsletter)
Web Site
of the Month
Topical Index

Footnotes:

1 Donald U. Wise, American Scientist, Vol. 86. March-April 1998, “Creationism’s Geologic Time Scale” (Ev+)
2 Disclosure, April 1998, “Debate Tips
3 Donald U. Wise, American Scientist, Vol. 86. March-April 1998, “Creationism’s Geologic Time Scale”, page 160
4 See this month’s Web Site of the Month.
5 Donald U. Wise, American Scientist, Vol. 86. March-April 1998, “Creationism’s Geologic Time Scale”, page 160
6 ibid.
7 ibid. page 164
8 Snelling , Impact No. 326, August 2000, “Polonium Radiohalos: Still ‘A Very Tiny Mystery’ " http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-326.htm (Cr+)
9 Donald U. Wise, American Scientist, Vol. 86. March-April 1998, “Creationism’s Geologic Time Scale”, page 165
10 ibid. page 161
11 ibid. page 165
12 ibid. page 165
13 ibid. page 165
14 Walker & Ward, The Eyewitness Handbook of Fossils, 1992, Dorling Kindersley, page 56 (Ev)
15 National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Fossils, 1995, page 549 (Ev)
16 Donald U. Wise, American Scientist, Vol. 86. March-April 1998, “Creationism’s Geologic Time Scale”, page 166
17 ibid. page 171
18 ibid. page 172