Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Extinct Nuclides show an Old Earth

One of the signs that the Earth is old is the fact that many radioactive elements with relatively short half-lives (in the millions of years or less) no longer exist on Earth. (These are called "extinct nuclides").

The question is, why not?

Of course an OLD Earth is a perfect explanation.

**IF** a radioactive element with a half-life of, say, 15 million years (like Cesium-247) was created at the same time as the Earth - 4.5 billion years ago – then about 300 half-lives of that element would have passed. Therefore only 1/2**300 of that element would be expected to exist. That would work out to be NONE.

That's what we see.

On the other hand, if the Earth is only 6000 years old hardly any of that element should have decayed radioactively. So it should be fairly abundant.

A Young-Earth creationist web site at makes the argument very well. First of all the author says this about those elements:

"We know that these missing nuclides were once around because the evidence of their past existence is still in the rocks. In the past, these missing nuclides broke down into daughter nuclides until there was nothing left, so the reaction stopped. Today we still have the daughter nuclides in the rock, so we know that the parent nuclides were once present in the rocks. This is how we know them to be extinct."

So we are able to find the daughter elements, but not the radioactive elements themselves.

A small number of radioactive elements with short half-lives DO exist but those only exist because they continue to be created with well-understood processes.

The most well-known of these elements is Carbon-14 used for radiocarbon dating. But science has demonstrated that C-14 is continuously produced in the atmosphere.

Here's how that YEC web site explains it.

"Of the nuclide/isotopes that have short half-lives, only those who are being produced constantly are present in nature. Carbon 14 is a good example of a nuclide found in nature while having a short half-life. Carbon 14 is produced in the upper atmosphere. Beryllium-10 Manganese-53 and Chlorine-36 are also produced in the same way, so they are present in nature despite their having a short half-life.

All other nuclides/isotopes having short half-lives are not present in nature... So they are extinct nuclides."

So, in summary we find that we have strong evidence for the previous existence of radioactive elements with short half-lives (even in the millions of years) and NO evidence that they exist now.

None of them.

Even elements with half-lives in the millions of years.

The explanation of an OLD EARTH is perfect, even one that is easy to understand.

ON the other hand, this YEC site that I reference gives two possible explanations.

1. God is deceptive. God's basically testing the faith of the YEC. God made some things with apparent age - such as Adam and Eve themselves - but there is no explanation for why radioactive elements in the the Earth should not be present.

2. God created the Earth with pre-existing matter. In other words God found some very old rocks lying around somewhere and created the Earth from those old rocks. Specifically the web site says:

"when the first few chapters of Genesis are studied, it is clear that the word 'created' or 'made' does not exclude the possibility that preexisting matter was used... So using a literal reading of Genesis, we can understand that there could have been something here before Creation Week. The preexisting matter would be responsible for the rocks dating billions of years."

The alternatives:

1. An Old Earth - explains everything.

2. A Young Earth and a deceptive God.

3. A Young Earth, but a preexisting solar system with lots of older rocks that God used to create the Earth. (This explanation also implies a deceptive God.)

Obviously a rational person would select alternative 1. But creationists aren't rational.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Memorizing the Bible?

Mccording to the web page at the inaugural National Bible Bee was held recently. That is a contest to see who has done the best job of memorizing the Bible.

MY question: why?

Wouldn't a more useful contest be to see who could do a better job of analyzing the Bible? Wouldn't it be a much better test to find out who could write the best paper explaining the message in some passage in the Bible?

It's like memorizing how to spell a word. Knowing how to spell a word doesn't guarantee that you know what the word means. The word "antidisestablishmentarianism" is widely known as one of the longest words in the English language. Most people who have heard that word couldn't tell you what it means (even though the meaning can be fairly easily deduced by analyzing the word). Isn't knowing what something means more important than knowing how to spell it?

Similarly memorizing the first few verses in Ecclesiastes doesn't mean that you necessarily understand them. As a matter of fact if you are memorizing something you are probably NOT analyzing it. That would be too distracting.

I've always believed that one of the many bad things about believing in Biblical inerrancy is that it actually tends to actually DIMINISH the amount of thought and analysis given to the Bible. For example, if you believe that the book is inerrant, then you're generally not allowed to ask WHY something happened. The Bible says that it happened. Therefore it happened. End of story.

Why did God send a global flood rather than use some other method for killing all evil humans? You're not allowed to think about such things. God did it so it must have been the best way. Q.E.D.

Alas, Biblical literalism could be actually argued as anti-Bible as well as anti-God and anti-Christian.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Biodiversity - Part Two

Richard Dawkins explains the IMMENSE problems creationists have in explaining the diversity of land animals. But, possibly surprisingly, that problem also exists for aquatic animals - most specifically those that live in freshwater.

One problem for the flood, of course, is that no creationist that I've ever seen believes that Noah took any aquatic life forms onto the Ark. But, in fact, aquatic animals live in EITHER freshwater or salt water but, with very few exceptions, not BOTH. In fact many animals are very sensitive to the salinity level of the water. If you have a home aquarium in which you are planning on keeping salt water aquatic animals, you are given very specific instructions on what salinity level to keep the water at. Coral reefs are more sensitive than most other aquatic life forms.

For example, the web page at says:

"Maintain a salinity level of 1.019 – 1.022 for fish only aquariums and 1.025 – 1.028 if you have corals and/or clams."

Note how specific and narrow those ranges are.

If you doubt any of that, call you local aquarium and say that you want to keep freshwater and salt water fish in the same tank along with a coral reef. Warn them ahead of time, however. They will probably literally fall on the floor laughing.

So **IF** the flood occurred as described in the Bible we should have seen pretty much all aquatic life would have died. At a minimum all coral reefs would have been destroyed. (Maybe a few salmon might have survived.)

We don't see that.

But, I'm here to talk about biodiversity.

Because all of the oceans are connected to each other we see salt water organisms all over. You can find a shark in any ocean.

But that is NOT true for freshwater fish. The reason is obvious - freshwater fish necessarily live in isolated waters. Even rivers don't run from Africa to Asia.

But **IF** there was a global flood and in the VERY unlikely event that it didn't kill all freshwater animals outright, then for a year they would have had the same ability to diversify that all saltwater fish have.

Evidently they didn't. There are many, many examples of freshwater organisms that stay in very narrow ecological niches.

Arguably the most well-known freshwater fish is the piranha. It lives in a very narrow ecological niche - the waters of the Amazon river basin.

Why would that be so if there was a global flood?

According to the Bible, the flood lasted a bit more than a year.

In a year piranhas would have been able to easily swim to Central America and places like Florida. Given a year, a trip to Africa would have been a reasonably leisurely swim. All of those places have the sort of climate that piranhas find ideal.

In fact, such swims should have been even more leisurely. That's because many, probably most, creationists claim that the plate tectonics that we see evidence for took place during the flood year. That means at the start of the flood Africa was actually connected to South America. It also means that piranhas and other fish wouldn't even have had to swim much at all. They should have been really carried along with the land itself.

But despite all of that, piranhas stayed in a relatively small geographical area.


Surely no answer will be found in the Bible.

Of course piranhas are far from the exception. They actually represent the rule. A very large percentage of freshwater aquatic organisms live in similar small niches.

One final related problem for creationists - why are there NO fossils of freshwater fish mixed in with salt water fossils? **IF** they lived together and **IF** the flood created the fossil record, what possible explanation is there for the complete lack of such fossils?

The unanswerable questions for the flood account in the Bible go on and on and on. That's no doubt why the ACTIONS of most creationists - which speak louder than their words - show that the DON'T actually believe in the flood of Noah.

Biodiversity - Part One

In his book "The Greatest Show on Earth", Richard Dawkins discusses the mountain of evidence supporting evolution.

One of the interesting points he makes is that despite the MANY other forms of evidence for evolution, undeniably the strongest evidence comes from the biodiversity of life, also called the geographical distribution of life - how species are nearly universally constrained to relatively small geographical niches. That CANNOT be explained by Biblical creationism and, because of that, is a topic that creationists really refuse to even discuss.

Dawkins makes his points primarily in chapter 9 of his book:

"It is almost too ridiculous to mention it, but I’m afraid I have to because of the more than 40 per cent of the American population who, as I lamented in Chapter 1, accept the Bible literally: think what the geographical distribution of animals should look like if they’d all dispersed from Noah’s Ark. Shouldn’t there be some sort of law of decreasing species diversity as we move away from an epicentre – perhaps Mount Ararat? I don’t need to tell you that that is not what we see.

"Why would all those marsupials – ranging from tiny pouched mice through koalas and bilbys to giant kangaroos and Diprotodonts – why would all those marsupials, but no placentals at all, have migrated en masse from Mount Ararat to Australia? Which route did they take? And why did not a single member of their straggling caravan pause on the way, and settle – in India, perhaps, or China, or some haven along the Great Silk Road? Why did the entire order Edentata (all twenty species of armadillo, including the extinct giant armadillo, all six species of sloth, including extinct giant sloths, and all four species of anteater) troop off unerringly for South America, leaving not a rack behind, leaving no hide nor hair nor armour plate of settlers somewhere along the way? Why were they joined by the entire infraorder of caviomorph rodents, including guinea pigs, agoutis, pacas, maras, capybaras, chinchillas and lots of others, a large group of characteristically South American rodents, found nowhere else? Why did an entire sub-order of monkeys, the platyrrhine monkeys, end up in South America and nowhere else? Shouldn’t at least a few of them have joined the rest of the monkeys, the catarrhines, in Asia or Africa? And shouldn’t at least one species of catarrhine have found itself in the New World, along with the platyrrhines? Why did all the penguins undertake the long waddle south to the Antarctic, not a single one to the equally hospitable Arctic?

"An ancestral lemur, again very possibly just a single species, found itself in Madagascar. Now there are thirty-seven species of lemur (plus some extinct ones). They range in size from the pygmy mouse lemur, smaller than a hamster, to a giant lemur, larger than a gorilla and resembling a bear, which went extinct quite recently. And they are all, every last one of them, in Madagascar. There are no lemurs anywhere else in the world, and there are no monkeys in Madagascar. How on Earth do the 40 per cent history-deniers think this state of affairs came about? Did all thirty-seven and more species of lemur troop in a body down Noah’s gangplank and hightail it (literally in the case of the ringtail) for Madagascar, leaving not a single straggler by the wayside, anywhere throughout the length and breadth of Africa?

"Once again, I am sorry to take a sledgehammer to so small and fragile a nut, but I have to do so because more than 40 per cent of the American people believe literally in the story of Noah’s Ark. We should be able to ignore them and get on with our science, but we can’t afford to because they control school boards, they home-school their children to deprive them of access to proper science teachers, and they include many members of the United States Congress, some state governors and even presidential and vice-presidential candidates. They have the money and the power to build institutions, universities, even a museum where children ride life-size mechanical models of dinosaurs, which, they are solemnly told, coexisted with humans. And, as recent polls have shown, Britain is not far behind (or should that read ‘ahead’?), along with parts of Europe and most of the Islamic world."


Evolution, as always, has a PERFECT explanation for all of this.

Where's the creationist explanation?