Grey Thoughts
Creation - The Age of things
A new post by David Heddle over at He lives outlines his views on the age of the universe and the earth and comments on the perceived battle between christianity and science. Normally I quite enjoy David's article, however, other than his investigation of common evolutionist claims, this one contains a vast amount of poor reasoning.

From the start, David misses the point
My adversaries, if that is the correct term, are both the scientist/atheists and Christian fundamentalists. Both make the same, erroneous assumption: Christianity and science are incompatible. While this is an understandable error for an atheist, it is completely illogical for a believer, because the scientific laws come from God—Christianity and science must be compatible.
As this previous post of mine highlights, the real issue is between naturalistic starting assumptions and Christian starting assumptions. It is these assumptions that are incompatible, not science itself. What is completely illogical for a believer is to accept the findings of historical science that has been done within a completely naturalistic frame work. In doing so you essentially say that God could not have operated outside of the natural laws in any significant way within that period.

Now this is not simply a God of the gaps supernatural appeal. If we know God is real and he has told us about certain events, then it is logically consistent to accept a supernatural intervention in those certain events.

David continues
Sadly, the most insidious approach, in my opinion, comes from fundamentalists who actually believe science is at war with the bible, but pretend otherwise. How do they accomplish this misdirection? By using "bad" science instead of real science. I am referring to the so-called creation scientists who try to use "science" to disprove science. They accomplish this with bizarre Rube Goldberg theories including (but by no means limited to) postulating that independent radiometric dating methods are not just wrong, but they somehow conspire to give the same wrong answer.
As previously stated. Creationists do not think science is at war with the bible, just that naturalistic presuppositions driving the historical sciences of evolution, geology and radiometric dating. What is 'insidious' is Christian's who continually reinterpret the bible in order to try and make it fit with man's fallible and changing opinions, thereby removing any authority the bible has. I'll come back to the radiometric dating methods a bit later...

The bottom line is that they postulate a God who is tricking us. He has created a universe that not only has apparent age but also false memories of its birth. Remnant heat (at just the right temperature) from a big bang that never occurred; arriving light which details exploding supernovae that never actually existed..

David has made a badly flawed statement here. Just because one possible explanation of an observation is consistent with a theory, it does not mean there are other possible explanations. Just because we have a background radiation (David's remnant heat) it does not necessitate that it came from a Big Bang. As the big bang is a historical theory based on naturalistic assumptions, concluding that any evidence that is consistent with the big bang theory implies God is tricking us is absurd. God isn't tricking us, we are tricking ourselves by basing our theories on anti-theistic assumptions.

David continues with his mistaken notions, but in a somewhat revealing way
I have posted this (in a slightly different form) before, but I think it bears repeating:
1. When the bible and science disagree, the bible is always right.
2. When Christians and science disagree, science is usually right.
This is a contentless statement as any evidence for this view is strictly circular. There have been many times when science and christian's seem to be at loggerheads, and it is easy to claim that in each case that science was wrong, the bible was obviously being interpreted correctly, and that in each case that science was right, it was obvious that it was Christian's misinterpreting the bible. So, if in the future, the Big Bang gets overturned, then someone like David can just argue that Christian's obviously interepreted the bible correctly.

Now I am going to skip a few of David's comments on the science, so I can deal with his logic and hermeneutics together...
If you think the bible teaches that the earth is six thousand years old I have news for you. Science is not wrong. The bible is not wrong. You are wrong. You have (correctly) assumed biblical inerrancy, but have overlaid an incorrect literalist hermeneutic on Genesis 1.

How do I know this? Why am I so confident that I am right and you are wrong? Because our intellect, our curiosity, and our planet's superior observability are gifts from God, not snares to test our faith. The simplest explanation for the supposed incompatibility places the blame squarely on you: you are interpreting God's inerrant bible incorrectly.

The major flaw of David's reasoning is that the bible was not just written to us. It was written to the ancient Hebrews. To reinterpret the plain meaning of its text based on current scientific theories (Made with naturalistic assumptions) is to do not just bad exegesis, but to pull a post-modernist textual deconstruction gag. As the text was written to them and the reasons that people like David are reinterpreting the texts were not around at that time, the ancient hebrew people would have naturally concluded the earth was indeed around 7000 years old (Based on the use of the word 'day' with a numeral and its historical narrative structure). So, according to David's point of view, God would have been tricking THEM.

David also seems to have a very high opinion about the nature of the evidence for the age of the earth and the universe. He comments
They accomplish this with bizarre Rube Goldberg theories including (but by no means limited to) postulating that independent radiometric dating methods are not just wrong, but they somehow conspire to give the same wrong answer

Radiometric dating is an interesting concept, where you measure the decay rates of one isotope/isochron into another and measure the current ratio of those two isotopes in a rock in order to extrapolate the time required to reach the current ration. However there are major assumptions involved in any radiometic dating.
1) You must assume the initial ratio of the two isotopes
2) You must assume that the decay rate is constant
3) You must assume that there has been no external process adding to or taking away from the amount of isotopes in the rock being examined.

It should also be noted that much of the age of rocks was already decided before we got the radiometric dating methods.

So we have a bunch of assumptions and a pre-existing old earth mentality, but what does that really mean? Obviously people like David feel that the consistency in results accross different methods is strong evidence, but perhaps that consistency is merely an artifact of result selection. Lets take a look at some of the issues and see what really is going on.

Well, for a start, any radiometric dating method that consistently gives a young age is automatically rejected as useless. So from the start, there is a selection bias in the very methods that are used.

Secondly, as scientists already start with the notion of age, if they come accross ages that do not match pre-conceived notions they are free to ignore or explain away the data. The most common way this is done is by appealing to a violation of assumption 3. They will say the rock has been reheated, had some of the isotopes leached or was not part of surrounding rocks (being placed there by a geological event etc). Make no mistake, this is not how science should be done! It is an Ad Hoc appeal for troublesome results that places it squarely outside of the real of the scientific method. It has to be Ad Hoc, as they would not have bothered to test the rock fragments in question if they knew before hand that it had these problems. John Woodmorrape has compiled a very long list of many of thi sorts of rationalizing in 'The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods' where he cites over 500 secular papers showing it is not just an isolated practice. A recent report in Nature, and summarized on MSNBC shows that many scientists often ignore flawed data.

This brings us to assumption (2), the constant decay rate assumption. At least for beta decay methods, it has been shown that it is possible to accelerate the rate of decay by 9 orders of magnitude.

The first assumption is the most informative however (known initial ratios), as a recent study has investigating this very assumption. A very interesting paper came out in Geology by Davidson, Charlier, Hora, and Perlroth, “Mineral isochrons and isotopic fingerprinting: Pitfalls and promises,” Geology, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 29-32. In this paper, the authors state
The determination of accurate and precise isochron ages for igneous rocks requires that the initial isotope ratios of the analyzed minerals are identical at the time of eruption or emplacement. Studies of young volcanic rocks at the mineral scale have shown this assumption to be invalid in many instances. Variations in initial isotope ratios can result in erroneous or imprecise ages.
All I can say is...whoops. The paper essentially invalidates the ability of the rubidium-strontium radiometric dating to determine ages.

My question is this. Scientists have been using these methods for decades. Why has no one tested this before? In light of this paper, which I encourage everybody to get a copy of to read, how confident can we be in any radiometric dating.

It is obvious that the 3 assumptions have many problems and that the pre-conceived notions of age help to shape results. But time and time again, we see the cracks appearing in the old age dating as time and time again we see the old ages eroding away to younger ages. We also see that at every opportunity to actually validate a known age with these methods, the methods always fail miserably.

We also see many problems with old age notions when we get the absurd conclusions that soft tissue can last 70 million years, or finding C-14 in a diamond that is meant to be millions of years old.

In addition, many of the original ideas about how long certain things take to form also have been thrown out. I remember being told how long diamonds, fossils and Rocks take to form. But now we know these things can form in almost a geological instant.

Clearly, the age of the earth is not as open and shut as David would like to believe. Perhaps it would be wiser to place more faith in God's infallible word than in man's fallible theories (Based on naturalistic assumptions).

Finally, I wanted to comment on one last statement by David where he says
The earth is about 4.5 billion years old, not six thousand. If all the science that gives us that answer is wrong, then nothing that we have built that uses that science should function. It always amazes me that someone would use a computer, with semiconductor components designed using quantum mechanics, to write an essay claiming that the same quantum mechanics fails in radiometric dating.
As my responses quite clearly show, none of the criticisms of Radiometric dating have to do with calling quantum mechanics into question. David is making the classic blunder of confusing experimental science with historical science.
I wouldn't be so hard on David considering there ARE "Creationists" like he describes constantly making cringe-inducing public statements. He describes himself as new to the whole evolution/creation debate so he's probably only familar with those types of unscientific Creationists.
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