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Sarfati, AiG and Radio Isotope Dating
Roland Watts

The following comprises a series of essays written in response to a discussion held on the Message Board of this web site.  The discussion, between a young creationist, Rob, and several other regular contributors, eventually came to the issue of radio isotope dating.  Rob mentioned that Steve Austin's Grand Canyon dating experiment cast doubt on the viability of absolute dating systems.  Naturally the notion was rebuffed and respondents pointed to articles heavily critical of the YEC experiment.

Wanting to hear both sides of the issue, Rob wrote to Answers in Genesis, highlighting some particular lines written by Chris Stassen in an article critical of Austin's Canyon work.  Stassen's article was titled "A criticism of the ICR's Grand Canyon Dating Project".  The relevant lines were:

The conditions which caused the "false isochron" in this case are fairly well-understood, and easy to avoid by proper sample selection. In fact, the resulting age in this case is meaningful and probably accurate. The problem is not the age itself but rather Austin's sleight-of-hand in trying to pass off the result as the age of the flows rather than a minimum age of their source.

The attempt to abuse the meaning of a single contrived date -- which was produced only by a sample selection geared to dating a different event, and only for samples whose results were known by Austin in advance -- says a lot more about the level of competence or honesty in this creation "science" research program, than it says about the validity of isochron dating methods.

Rob is a respected and well liked contributor to the NAiG Message Board.  His letter, seeking clarification, was well written and received a response from Dr Jonathan Sarfati of AiG.   In his response, Dr Sarfati wrote:

…when radiometric dating methods are applied to rocks of KNOWN (historically verified) age, they often fail, so why should we trust them on rocks of UNKNOWN age? Sure, they can make excuses, by pointing out certain assumptions that fail …


Notice that Stassen simply makes assertions without any backing. For  example he uses the term "false isochron" without saying why it is false. He mentions the issue as being "fairly well understood" and "easy to avoid" without explaining what the understanding is and how specifically it could be avoided. He talks about "proper sample selection" without explaining what was wrong with Austin's sampling method and why. He says the "age in this case is probably meaningful" and "probably accurate" without saying what the meaning is and why. His entire claim is in this vein—without logic, without reason and without substance.


But Stassen cannot not set out any specifics of why Austin's methods or results are wrong, because they are not wrong. Stassen is bluffing.

Respondents pointed out to Rob that Stassen had indeed done what Sarfati had accused him of failing to do.  In his reply, Dr Sarfati appears to have argued only from the quote supplied by Rob rather than checking out the article from which the quote was obtained.

At this point I decided to undertake some checking myself.  This resulted in the series of essays which follow.

 For Rob,  should you read this.

Hi Rob,

On reading your letter to AiG I learned of the esteem you hold people at AiG in.  Quite obviously, from what I write, you see that I do not hold AiG in any esteem.

I hope you do not see that what I write is an attempt to belittle you or your faith.  Your respect for AiG and my disrespect derive from two different points of view.

During winter last year, I was contacted by Dr Walker, AiG’s resident geologist.  During a conversation which lasted more than an hour, we exchanged our views. I found Dr Walker a very nice person and expressed my desire to meet him, should he ever come to Adelaide.  I suspect that it could be the same with Dr Sarfati although I did find, through their letters to me, that Dr Sarfati is more concerned with debating and Dr Walker more concerned with conversion.  Dr Walker is more caring - if you like.  Dr Sarfati is a gifted writer and very good at polemics.  He can bite.

Importantly I do see the leaders of YEC as misrepresenting reality.   That misrepresentation, I think, arises from their theological viewpoint which causes them to see the world the way they do and behave in the manner that I object to so much.  This is a debate about reality; science, theology, philosophy, history, current affairs, common sense and I see it as having implications for how we live and behave, what we are taught and how we think.  They see it that way, so do I and we stand on opposite sides of the line.

For these reasons I understand that YEC leaders can be the way you see them – worthy of respect.  Yet, in the areas of science, theology, history etc, I draw the line.

For anything below which you find offensive – my early apologies and I stand ready for your rebuke.

Anything you wish to discuss with me more fully, I would be happy to do so.

Regards,  Roland 



"Harlequin", a regular poster to the NAiG board,  reported that someone in the Talk.Origins newsgroup had observed an error in the feedback from Dr Sarfati concerning a letter Rob wrote to AiG. "Harlequin" was passing on what someone else had reported and the implication that he had spotted the error is a mistake made by Mr Watts. 

In the letter, Sarfati "shows" Rob why Stassen's critique of Austin's dating experiment was wrong.  An honest and sensible person, Rob was trying to hear both sides of the story concerning Austin's experiment – one side (the mainstream) claiming that it was flawed, silly and even dishonest, the other side (YECs) claiming that it was a sensible, well constructed experiment.  Rob had written a letter which contained a couple of quotes from Stassen's critical paper, to AiG seeking clarification.  Sarfati's reply was posted with Rob's letter on the AiG web site and presumably that is where "Harlequin" spotted it.

"Harlequin" noted that Sarfati had, in answering Rob, made claims about Stassen's article that were clearly not true.  They were incorrect because Sarfati had not bothered to read the article but merely critiqued the quotes supplied by Rob.  The claims were about whether Stassen had supplied evidence for Austin's isochrons being in-fact "false isochrons".  As I understand it, a "false isochron" is an isochron that appears valid (i.e. is a straight line plot), but, for a variety of reasons, is not revealing the true age of the sample which is determined from the slope of the isochron.

Rob countered by stating that he trusted Dr Sarfati and could see nothing in Stassen's article to suggest that he had supplied evidence for the false isochrons.

"Harlequin", in a subsequent posting noted that Rob also needed to re-read Stassen's paper.

Indeed "Harlequin" is correct and his initial posting is also  correct.  Sarfati's response appears to critique Stassen on the basis of Rob's letter and no more.   Read Stassen's paper as well as the other, Isochron Dating FAQ, which he provides a link to, and it will be seen that in both papers he describes "false isochrons", why sample selection is important, why ages are still meaningful etc.  Sarfati's accusations go no broader than the words supplied to him via Rob's letter.  Stassen, in "A criticism of the ICR's Grand Canyon Dating Project",  points out Austin's recognition of the problem in  section 1 of "Background on ICR's claims and isochrons".   He points the reader to a general but comprehensive article on isochron dating in section 2.  In section 3 he discusses the requirements for isochron dating and how false plots can be obtained, and avoided.  Because his paper is very brief, Stassen's discussion of false isochrons is likewise.   Nevertheless, they are dealt with more completely in his Talk.Origins' FAQ.

Motives, Faith and World Views

Given that the collective belief of AiG staffers appears to be that one's salvation is as intimately tied in with non-belief in evolution and an ancient universe as it is with belief in God, Jesus, the resurrection, the authority of the Bible, etc., it is little wonder that Dr Sarfati and other staffers just cannot deal directly with evidence, logic, argument and the like.  Their beliefs lock them into a world that is so at odds with what is now known that the only resource they have to argue their case in a sceptical, doubting, questioning, scientific world is to adopt the methods they do.  The above is a good example of such a method in action.  I have always found it easy to counter the arguments of Drs Sarfati  and Walker and Mr Lamb and other AiG staffers.  The reason for this is that AiG contributors operate at the level shown above.

It is for this reason that many Christians, including Old Earth Creationist, have such trouble with YEC.  OECs themselves manage to hold onto traditional Christian beliefs without betraying common sense when it comes to absolute dating systems.

Method of Arguing

Sometimes I have found in AiG responses to my letters, accusations that I am doing such and such.  When I read the accusations, I can see that the writers are really talking about themselves.  It is so with Dr Sarfati's response to Rob. 

Dr Sarfati makes a good propagandist.  He is bold and has a sting in his pen.  He accuses Stassen of "bluffing".  Clearly Stassen is not and because it is Sarfati who makes the accusations concerning no evidence, it must be Sarfati who is doing the bluffing.  Sarfati asks Rob to note " …that Stassen simply makes assertions without any backing."  He then focuses on the quote supplied by Rob without referring to the relevant articles.  In other words, Sarfati is doing precisely what he accuses Stassen of, that is, making a claim which is "… without logic, without reason, and without substance."

Sarfati accuses Stassen of "special pleading".    His argument is that the absolute dating systems fail on rocks of known age ("historically verifiable") and therefore the system must fail on rocks of unknown age.  However, we know why the dating systems fail on rocks of known ages.  We understand the physical systems well enough to explain why this failure occurs and why the method can be trusted on older rocks.  When the method fails on older rocks, reasons can, again, generally be found.  Reasons are not "excuses" – Sarfati is being a propagandist here.  Dating systems are checked through a variety of ways.  Some of these will be explained below.  So it is Sarfati who is doing the special pleading.  The dating systems are well researched and to explain them away, Sarfati has to pretend that explanations for failure are excuses; he has to argue using spurious logic e.g. discount the reasons for not using methods on rocks of known age ("historically verified") – and notice he does not offer evidence to discount these reasons.  He just asserts that the method fails on rocks of known age without challenging the physics of why they fail on such rocks.

Note how Sarfati uses words:  "Sure, they can make excuses, by pointing out certain assumptions that fail, but then we can apply the same reason to discount 'dates' that contradict the Bible."  The word "excuses" is poignant here.  Sarfati is suggesting that when geologists obtain a result they do not like they make "excuses".   No!  They obtain a result that does not make sense and so they investigate and find out why.  This leads to the realisation that under certain conditions, some things cannot be dated.  In this particular case, it was probably known from the beginning that young rocks could not be dated based on pre-existing knowledge of the composition of rocks e.g. in young rocks one could expect to find traces of argon that could overwhelm radiogenic argon signals.  This sort of word use by Sarfati reminds one of Ham's  "definition" of a theory in his book The Lie: Evolution.  There, "theory" is equated with "guess".

It is also interesting that Sarfati again makes the accusation here without a skerrick of evidence to back it up.

His statement about being able to do the same for the Bible makes little sense.  Here he is playing a game of "I will accept your assumptions if you will accept mine."  Assumptions, like theories, are not items for horse trading.  Assumptions, in scholarship, are ideas that sound right, that are investigated, that are argued about.  They are ideas that have to be examined or have had some sort of test.  Hence there are good assumptions and bad assumptions and it is silly of Sarfati to suggest that "if they can do it then so can we".  I will bet that Sarfati does not try to settle any of his arguments in this manner.  I would bet he would consider someone silly who argued in this manner back to him.

Sarfati points Rob to a Creation magazine article – "Radio Dating in Rubble".  Because I had mentioned this article to Rob earlier, I shall post my letter to AiG and AiG's response.

Dating Systems


In this section I want to deal with some of the assumptions behind dating systems, in particular the K/Ar system.  This discussion will be very general and cover only some aspects.  Any errors that are made are due to my own lack of knowledge and if any one wishes to comment, or add corrections, please do so.

There are a good many absolute dating systems in use, relying on different properties of matter for their effectiveness.  For instance -


Radio isotope methods use the decay of radio active
elements and an associated containment within rocks to
date when the rock was last formed or re-heated above
a certain temperature.

bullet Carbon dating relies on the accumulation of radio active
carbon from ingested plant material within an animal's
tissue while it is alive and the subsequent decay of that
carbon when the animal dies. 

bullet Fission track dating relies on the natural fission of radio
active materials within rocks to leave tracks within rock
crystals.  These tracks can be counted, thereby dating
when the rock was formed or last heated above a
certain temperature. 
bullet Tree ring dating uses the nature of the growth of trees to
date the time that a tree stopped growing; the time that
the tree was cut down. It is a pure counting system.

bullet Thermoluminescent dating uses the ability of certain
minerals to emit light when heated. The light comes
from electrons pumped into energetic states by
radioactive decay within the mineral.  Hence the time
when a pot, made from the material, was formed and
heated in a kiln is dated.

These are perhaps the most well known dating systems.

Each is based on certain assumptions which vary from method to method.

Let's have a look at the K/Ar system and see some of the assumptions behind it.  Before we do though, I would like to point you to the following sites on the Talk.Origins archive:

Isochron Dating

The Age of The Earth

These are written by specialists and I certainly am not one.

Back to the K/Ar system.  One complaint often raised by YECs is that there is no guarantee that the mineral being dated has remained a closed system.  Such a possibility has been well understood by practitioners.  It had to be overcome by those who developed the system in the first place before the technique could be used.  If it was not, then scientists in all fields of historical research could not make sense of any date they were given, and the point is that the dates do make sense.  They tie in with the pre-existing relative dating systems.   They tie in with pre-existing knowledge.   Thus, in a relative system, if one stratum was deemed to be older than another, the K/Ar system dates that way as well.  If the system was as leaky as YECs make out, then why should that be the case?  K/Ar systems also tie in with the pre-existing "absolute" dates.  Early geologists did have some idea of the immensity of geologic time and how old some strata could be.  K/Ar dating confirmed these notions.   K/Ar systems support and are supported by other absolute systems that rely, in the main, on different assumptions.  Thus, cross checking can often be performed to ensure the reliability of a date.  Again, if the system was as leaky as YECs pretend, it is hard to see how cross checking could be performed.  Finally, many YEC suggestions of a leaky system can be checked.  Two assumptions often attacked by creationists are -

i) knowledge of the initial daughter and

ii) that the rock remained a closed system.  

One way such objections are met is by the use of isochron diagrams.   These are constructed from the analysis of several different minerals in a rock where the minerals contain different amounts of parent and daughter isotopes.  Ratios of parent and daughter isotopes relative to a third, closely related isotope are used to obtain straight line plots, the slope of which supplies the age of the mineral and the y-intercept, the initial daughter.   Hence, the initial daughter quantity is not needed with this method.  The linear plot virtually ensures that a closed system has been dated.   Problems which can give rise to false isochrons are well known.  These problems are rare and certainly do not invalidate the system.  Rather they supply dates for subsequent metamorphic events or dates between original rock formation and subsequent metamorphic events.  Such dates run into tens of millions of years to hundreds of millions of years.

Compositions of minerals from as wide a variety of sources as possible (e.g. other planetary bodies, various terrestrial locations, etc.), are examined.  This is done to ensure that a mineral from one location behaves the same as a mineral from another.  If different behaviours are found then this does not invalidate a dating system.  Reasons for the behaviours are found.  The behaviours are researched and understood, and this new knowledge then places more constraints on the technique.  Constraining a method does not make it suspect.  Quite naturally it makes it more reliable.  This research is not necessarily done as a part of geochronology studies either.   Petrologists who wish to understand the nature of rocks undertake such research and obviously it has nothing to do with dating studies.  Thus a body of literature was in existence well before radio isotope systems were developed.  There was an expertise which physicists could tap into as they developed the absolute dating systems.  

How do scientists determine the ability of minerals to retain various elements?  There are many books available which describe the extent to which scientists go to determine how various minerals retain elements, under what conditions they can be contaminated, etc.  Henry Faul, in his book "Ages of Rocks, Planets, and Stars" describes a lot of this.  Consider the loss of argon.  Minerals vary greatly in their ability to hold argon.  (Hence some will be totally unsuitable for dating purposes and geologists will not use them).   An advantage of argon being a gas is that, while it can diffuse through minerals, it is also easy to collect during the dating process.  Not only do scientists test minerals for argon retention in the lab, but they test retention in the field as well.  In the lab, a mineral is placed in a vacuum and gradually heated.  All this time, the argon which has escaped is measured.  Some mica's for instance lose very little argon up to a fairly high temperature, then lose a lot, rapidly, until settling down to no loss from then on.  Other minerals can be shown to follow a similar pattern.  To check these lab tests against reality, scientists go into the field and look for systems where once molten rock has intruded into surrounding cold rock.  They can look at the increasing ages of samples taken further from the contact zone and this reinforces and refines laboratory studies.

Petrologists, over the years, have classified rocks and built up an extensive amount of knowledge concerning them – their compositions, physical, chemical, mineralogical; their physical and chemical structures; their properties.  Ratios of elements, mineral stabilities, resistances to attack are all known with varying degrees of reliability.

Geologists recognise that rocks, once set, could easily undergo later metamorphic events that interfere with subsequent dating.  Tests are done to check for this.  For example, metamorphosis is likely to affect different minerals in different ways.  Therefore, if different dating systems yield compatible ages, one can be confident that a real age has been determined.  Properties of various minerals can be used to see if a rock has undergone metamorphosis.  If so, different interpretations have to be placed on an associated date.  For example, rather than the date reflecting the time of rock formation, it reflects the time of the last metamorphic event.

Scientists love a chance to test their assumptions using as many independent methods as possible.  The reason for this is that scientists really would like to know what is going on in nature.  They do want to know the truth.  They have no hidden agendas.  Conversion of souls is left up to the individual's faith.  Eternal life is not tied in with how old a rock is.  For that reason, many scientists are theistic including devout Christian and happily accept an ancient Earth as being reality.  Therefore, testing of assumptions becomes vital to refining techniques.  If the K/Ar system can be extended to other mineral types then its use can be extended.  Better quality research can be done and more questions answered.   Sometimes one hears YECs claim that modern dating systems were developed to give scientists time for evolution.  Such claims are silly.  Modern dating systems were developed largely because some people really wanted a good system for dating the earth.  It had nothing to do with evolution.  As I pointed out earlier, if the mainstream was so dishonest, then there are other dating systems that would put the age of the earth into trillions of years – even better still – and geologists could then use the excuse making that YECs accuse them of to deny the current systems their validity.  (Returning to a theme I discussed above – YECs accuse the mainstream of guessing and making excuses.  YECs rarely back such assertions up.  Nevertheless, reading their literature shows that it is they who deem hand waving and just-so-stories as viable theories.  Yet again the mainstream is incorrectly accused of doing precisely what YECs do.)

If scientists are as dishonest as Sarfati suggests, i.e. they make excuses and unsubstantiated assertions then why be limited in dishonesty when it comes to dating?  By this I mean, why not claim to be able to date everything?  However, the literature shows that only some things can be dated.  For example, Dalrymple's book on the K/Ar system has a chapter titled "What can be dated?"  Out of all possibilities only a few of the rock forming minerals can be dated.  Some of these can only be dated under exceptional circumstances.  Thus, biotite, a mica, can be dated in volcanic, plutonic and metamorphic rocks; lepidolite can only be dated sometimes, in plutonic rocks.  Sedimentary rocks are very hard to date.  The mica, glauconite, offers the only chance there.   The reason for all this is that only some things are understood well enough so that scientists are confident or otherwise in the usefulness of the mineral and the technique applied to it in order to extract a date.  As an example, biotite retains argon well.  However, if heated above a few hundred degrees Centigrade, the mineral easily loses argon.  Because of this though, the mineral, while good for providing rock formation ages, is also very useful for indicating post formation heating events.  Under this scenario, a date of 50,000,000 years would not be the age of the rock.  Rather it would be the age since the rock was last heated to above a few hundred degrees.  And this would have to be less than the age of the rock!  Quartz though is different.  While it retains argon well it has a very low potassium content which makes its usefulness very limited.  Understand the system and it can be used.  If geologists and physicists adopted the YEC scientific method, then the mainstream could claim that everything can be dated and use statements such as "God would have" and "God could have" to answer any objections that the associated dates were based on unknown, untested and unscientific methodologies.  Unless such statements are based on real knowledge of God's intentions, then really, they are all unsubstantiated assertions and as such just one of many things God could have or would have done.

It is important to see what is being suggested by YECs when they raise their objections.  

1)   When you read YEC literature, the impression is made that geologists are being untruthful or are blind.  Either they know that the systems are leaky and ignore it or they are blissfully unaware of the potential for error.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Reading the historical literature on this, you will see that scientists always raised objections to dating systems that they considered unreliable.  Such dating systems could be used – but only as a last resort, in the absence of anything better.  In order to develop the modern systems, something had to be offered that could answer the objections to the older systems.  From the literature it is also clear that scientists love to check and cross check their systems.  Thus, when tree ring dating systems matured, they were used to check the carbon 14 dating system.  And sure enough, as the carbon dates went back in time, so their accuracy began to decline.   The sources of these small inaccuracies are now understood and tree rings have been used to re-calibrate the carbon clock.  (And the earth sure ain't 6,000 years old.)

2)       In challenging the mainstream, YECs rarely mention their own assumptions and with good reason. Often their assumptions are groundless, cases of special pleading or contrivances.  YEC critiques of an ancient Earth rely on the assumption that all dating techniques must fail in a methodological way so that any age above 6,000 years, no matter how well established, can be discounted. Assumptions behind their special pleading are rarely stated and never supported.  They are merely hand waved into the story.  Thus, Woodmorappe (below) can assume that decay in an ionised state is relevant to modern dating systems by assuming that God behaved in a particular way at creation, to ensure that rocks had the right amount of elements (but not all rocks mind you) so that geologists could be misled.   Not only does Woodmorappe assume this for one dating system but the implication is, (and why not?) that God tweaked all other dating systems as well – but in different ways.

Now for some examples of YEC science.  These examples are from a series of letters I posted to AiG concerning articles on dating that were written in their family magazine, Creation, and their technical magazine, TJ.

YEC Dating Articles – Critique of K/Ar

Radio Dating in Rubble

The article Radio Dating in Rubble appeared in Creation 23(3): June -August 2001.  Below is the exchange of correspondence between AiG and myself.  I am not a scientist yet find it fairly easy to argue against the writing of various AiG scientists.  While I have no doubt that AiG personnel are very busy, this does not prevent them from writing articles that present information accurately and reasonably.  Nor does it prevent them from arguing with sense and reason.  That they don't I suspect is because of the world view they have locked themselves into.  It is basically defenceless.

1.  My initial letter:

The Editor,

Dear Dr. Wieland,

With reference to the article "Radio Dating in Rubble", Creation 23(3): June-August 2001.

Given that text books state that rocks like those at the dome on Mount St Helens cannot be dated using the K/Ar method for the very reasons that Dr Swenson stated, then why on earth did he and Dr Austin, a physicist, go ahead and do that very thing? Then when nonsensical results were obtained, why did Dr Swenson write that "... this invalidates the 'dating' method."

This is no different to purchasing a clock and operating it outside of manufacturing specifications then claiming that the resulting errors in time proves that the manufacturer cannot make accurate clocks.

Silly, is it not?

Roland Watts

2. Mr Lamb's response.  [Any typos and errors in this reproduction are mine.  (I need to obtain a scanner.)]

Dear Mr Watts.

Thank you for your letter of 1 July.

Your criticisms are addressed in paragraph 2 of the box "Countering the critics" on page 25.

A careful reading of this passage answers your objections.   The method is not a "clock".   It does not measure time.  It is a chemical method which measures potassium and argon concentrations.  Provided there is sufficient of the elements present to measure them accurately, the method is being used appropriately.  The +/- ranges on Table 1 confirm that the amounts present were sufficient for accurate measurement.

Evolutionists say that K/Ar dating cannot be used on things so young because they assume that there would be insufficient Argon to measure.  The paper shows this is not the case, which casts doubt on a basic assumption of the K/Ar dating system.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Lamb
Information Officer

 3. My reply:

Mr Andrew Lamb
Information Officer
Answers In Genesis

Dear Mr Lamb, 

Thank you for your 6th July response to my letter.

Unfortunately your reply does not answer any of my queries.

Firstly, "evolutionists" do not say that "K/Ar dating cannot be used on things so young because they assume that there would be insufficient Argon to measure." Given that Dalrymple (recognised as "one of the big names in radioactive dating"[1]) was cited, then why was the statement made? Experts in the field describe in detail as to why such dates cannot be trusted, even though there is sufficient argon to measure.[2] Geyh and Schleicher[3] show in the 20 years since Dalrymple's book (reference 2), that the understanding of the physical systems and the methodologies had improved to an extent, that under certain circumstances the method can be employed on rocks "a few thousand years old". This is still a far cry from what Austin and  Swenson attempted.

To make your statement, you must have read experts in the field (e.g. Dalrymple) who stated that young rocks cannot be dated for the reason you give.

Could you please provide me with references to such statements as well as indicating the context in which they were made!

Secondly, I did read paragraph 2 of "Countering the critics" carefully. Slippery logic is being used here, isn't it! As far as I can see the paragraph is a red herring. I can easily read with high precision an inaccurate clock and I can have an accurate clock and read it with low precision. My reading of the clock then may well give a supposed time that does not have anything to do with reality. If the evidence suggests that I was reading a clock that was operating out of its limits then I become suspicious of the time, no matter what the error bars indicate! The point is, those error bars have little to do with the thrust of your argument, do they?

Did you or Drs Austin and Swenson find out just what interpretation the labs put on these error bars? Could you please explain what that interpretation has to do with the thrust of the article we are discussing?

Thirdly, I can think of many non-clock systems that can be used to measure various aspects of time. These systems can be chemical or physical.

Just what do you mean then when you write that the "... method is not a 'clock'. It does not measure time."?

Fourthly. I would have thought that the decay process, the element retentions, the element separating and the measurement techniques were all physical systems.

What do you mean when you write that it is a "chemical method ..."?

Austin and Swenson did the very thing that experts would have told them should not be done. They then accuse the experts of getting it wrong. When I pointed out the errors made by Austin and Swenson, you "back them up" by failing to answer any of my criticisms.

Once again, thank you for your reply and I look forward to your correspondence and clarification.

Yours sincerely

Roland Watts

4. An attempt to get a response:

Mr Andrew Lamb,
Information Officer
Answers in Genesis

Dear Andrew,

I wrote a letter dated 1/7/01 to Dr Wieland, pointing out that the article "Radio Dating in Rubble", Creation 23(3):June-August 2001 was in error. That letter was handed to you and you wrote back, defending the article with further errors.

In a letter dated 15/7/01, I wrote you pointing out your mistakes. I have heard nothing from you since.

In many exchanges with members of your organisation, I have found my arguments met with spurious logic, name calling, side stepping, avoidance or silence. It appears that you have chosen the latter.

Given that your organisation takes the high moral ground in these discussions and claims to promptly correct any errors that are pointed out, can I assume that a correction will be forthcoming in a future issue of Creation?

Since you are the information officer for Answers in Genesis, I would have much preferred correspondence on the points I raised. Hopefully I am wrong in all this and you have been unable to respond for some proper reason. If so I would most gladly apologise to you.


Roland Watts

AN EXAMPLE OF YEC SCIENCE – An investigation into
dating assumptions.

Below is a copy of a letter I wrote to AiG concerning an article written by Woodmorappe in their TJ magazine.   It highlights YEC science that argues by using an irrelevancy to cast doubt on the Rb/Sr dating system then, as an alternative, offers a just-so-story.

As noted above, I am not a scientist and took physics only to year 12 level.  Yet, even knowledge from that level was enough to reveal that Woodmorappe's article (Woodmorappe, J., "Billion-fold acceleration of radioactivity demonstrated in laboratory", TJ 15(2) 2001) was based on irrelevancy.

 1. My initial letter seeking a response from someone at AiG:

The Editor
Answers in Genesis 

Concerning the article by John Woodmorappe titled "Billion-fold acceleration of radioactivity demonstrated in laboratory",  Mr Woodmorappe appears to be addressing two audiences - conventional science and creation science.

In addressing conventional science, at the end of the article, Mr Woodmorappe suggests that dating systems are in trouble because:

a) the demonstration of bound B decay raises questions about the temporal stability of isotopic clocks and

b) this shows that the failure to consider other possibilities of the physics of radioactive decay, calls the use of the conventional clocks into question.

I do not see how these suggestions can seriously be made given the frameworks within which conventional science operates.

He addresses creation scientists in the section titled "A Creation Week Scenario". That section seems to be no more than a hand waving exercise in which the author mixes the miraculous and natural explanation in a virtually unconstrained manner. The only constraint is the need to shoehorn an idea to fit his own particular interpretation of some Biblical texts. Surely this methodology can be used to "substantiate" any hypothesis, myth, story, theory - any idea one chooses.

As a result, is the article really just a support for creation science by a sheer overstatement of a supposed problem in the conventional camp followed by an appeal to take a creation science just-so-story as the serious alternative?

Am I correct in all that I have said?

Yours Truly
Roland Watts

I received no response to this letter.  My objections to the article were, briefly:

1)    Bound Beta decay is irrelevant to isotope dating systems.  It relies on elements getting into an ionised state of some sort such that radio active decay can be accelerated.  This occurs,  I think, because a reduction in the surrounding electron cloud allows the complete escape of electrons from a fissioning neutron, rather than their recombination.  A system in an ionised state is irrelevant to the formation of rocks and normal radioactive systems.

2)    Woodmorappe's appeal: "What else have we failed to consider in terms of the physics of radio active decay?" is an irrelevancy.   This is special pleading that can be applied to anything that humans do. What we do not know cannot be included into our equations.  Things can only be incorporated when we know about then.  Woodmorappe does not let unknowns prevent him from wild speculations as will be seen in the next point.

3)    His "Creation Week Scenario" is a just-so-story.  Woodmorappe mixes physical theory with unsubstantiated assertion.   It is invented to fit Woodmorappe's own peculiar interpretation of some verses from the Bible and to explain away naturalistic dating systems.  It does not address any reality that Woodmorappe knows about.  What God did or did not do on day one of the creation, Woodmorappe has no idea.  At the end of his story Woodmorappe writes:

During the remainder of the Creation Week, as God cooled and organized the plasma into solid celestial objects, such as planets, the excess radiogenic isotopes became partitioned into the relevant mineral phases, perhaps according to accelerated geochemical processes.  The modern uniformitarian geologist misreads this deployment of the radiogenic isotopes as isochrons indicative of up to billions of years to time.

The previous mixture of just-so-story and physics fact now has mixed in with it, miracles.  This whole section, roughly a page in length, is clearly a contrived story, made up to explain away naturalistic dating systems.  It is a set of assertions without evidence (remember Dr Sarfati's accusation).  Here Woodmorappe is prepared to allow himself the privilege he does not allow the mainstream.  The "what we do not know…" is supposed to cast doubt on the mainstream.   Yet Woodmorappe knows nothing of what he wrote in this section, save for the physics facts.


The above demonstrates, I think, the duplicity of YEC science.   The accusations it makes of the mainstream are only sensibly applied to itself.  Dr Sarfati's critique of Stassen was based on no more than the quote supplied by Rob.  As a result Dr Sarfati's accusations themselves proved to be groundless. 

The succeeding discussion shows how the mainstream does operate honestly.  It does so, not out of reaction to YEC but out of the need to develop systems that do work.  Scientists are not interested in converting souls when they step into the lab.  They are interested in finding out about nature.  YEC scientists are interested in religion when they step into the lab and their particular religion is intimately connected to a part of their science.  (This leads to another problem with YEC.  Sheer inconsistency in their approach to the scientific method, naturalism, etc.)   For a mainstream scientist, the date of a rock is tied up to the measurement of the elements it contains.  For a YEC the date of a rock is tied up to eternal life.

The copies of letters exchanged between AiG and myself show that YEC science operates from groundless assertions and wishful thinking.


[1] In the box titled "More and more wrong dates" - Creation 23:(3) June-August 2001, page 24.

[2] Dalrymple, G.B. and Lanphere, M.A, Potassium-Argon Dating, Principles, Techniques and Applications to Geochronology. W.H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco. 1969

[3] Geyh, M. A. and Schleicher, H., Absolute Age Determination, Physical and Chemical Dating Methods and Their Application. Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg. 1990.

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