Here’s Part Two of the God and Science conference held at Messiah College on March 8. Dr. Ken Wolgemuth presented this session, and he has a B.S in chemistry from Wheaton college, and a Ph.D in geochemistry from Columbia University.
One of his first points was that we shouldn’t argue about the age of the earth or universe because that’s not a central issue to the Bible. But if that’s true, then why is he arguing about the age of the earth and universe? Obviously he thinks it’s worth arguing about, or he wouldn’t be going around the country arguing about the age of the earth.
I think the age of the earth is an important topic because I believe truth matters. I believe it’s important to defend the hope that we have and our faith. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. And since my hope is in the Lord and his word, I’m ready to defend Scripture against evolution and naturalism.
Dr. Wolgemuth brought up the topic of “data recorders”. These are different areas of science that we can supposedly use to determine the age of the earth. Some of these data recorders are tree rings, varves, speleothems, coral reef growth, ice cores, radioactive dating, the Hawaiian islands, erosion rates, the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius, and the geologic time scale deciphered by geologists studying fossils.
According to Wolgemuth, all the evidence from these various data recorders should give us confidence in the uniform dates that have been determined. He praises the successful predictions obtained by these data recorders, and he says that young earth creationist predictions have failed because they’re very selective at choosing the data and don’t look at all the data.
If found all this very interesting because young earth creationists come to just the opposite conclusions. We find that it’s the old earth scientists who are very selective in choosing the data and aren’t looking at the whole picture. Personally I’d love to see a panel of evolutionists, old earth creationists and young earth creationists presenting their evidence, and then give each an opportunity to rebut each other and make counter arguments over the course of an entire weekend. I think there would be a lot more progress if they’d just duke-it-out scientifically.
Most of the evidences proposed by Wolgemuth have already been refuted by creationists, but it’s always worth examining these claims. Radiometric dating is always a popular topic, so I’ll start there.
Supposedly, about 50,000 years ago an asteroid fell to the earth and created an impact crater. One of the fragments recovered is known as the Holsinger Meteorite, weighing about 1,409 pounds. According to various radiometric dating, the meteor is considered to be about 4.55 billion years old, and this is how scientists have determined the age of the earth. Uranium to lead dating was measured at 4.55 billion years, rubidium to strontium was measured at 4.50 billion years, potassium to argon was measured at 4.54 billion years, and rhenium to osmium was measured at 4.62 billion years. Therefore many scientists believe the age of the earth has been settled, and that all these different dating techniques confirm an ancient earth and universe because they’re so close in agreement.
There are plenty of problems with the ages presented, and Wolgemuth attempts to address them. Scientists studying radiometric dating must assume that the decay rates are constant, that they know the initial amount of elements, and that there was no contamination. In the case of the Holsinger Meteor, it’s also assumed that some of the lead isotope ratios are the same as primordial lead isotope ratios on the earth. Young earth scientists have presented evidence demonstrating violations of each of these assumptions, and that makes these dating techniques questionable and unreliable. We’d have to be dealing with a closed system in order to have confidence in the dates presented, but this isn’t the case; in fact there may not be any closed systems in nature. We also know that many radioactive isotopes have decay constants that can be altered by up to 4%, which is problematic.
As for the geologic column, there’s evidence that those radiometric dates in agreement with the geologic time scale have been selectively published, while conflicting dates are ignored or assumed to be wrong. Comparing radiometric dates with the geologic column produces agreement when selective dates are accepted. In fact a number of scientists have admitted such. According to R.L. Mauger, “In general, dates in the ‘correct ball park’ are assumed to be correct and are published, but those in disagreement with other data are seldom published nor are discrepancies fully explained.” Therefore there’s harmony, but it’s a manufactured harmony.
Wolgemuth offered the Hawaiian Islands for evidence of an old earth. The chain of volcanic islands gives increasing radiometric ages as expected by old earth scientists, but young earth scientists wouldn’t dispute any kind of trending. They would just dispute the ages as unreliable. Old earth scientists have also measured the rates at which the islands move, and their calculations of 2.6 inches to 3.6 inches per year agrees with satellite measurements. However young earth scientists would expect accelerated movement in the past, and would expect the islands to have been formed after Noah’s flood. Wolgemuth went on to present evidence that the islands have different fossils associated with them, so he’d expect them to be from different eras, and he points to evidence showing that they match the geologic column as predicted. This evidence, however, doesn’t nullify accelerated rates early on after the flood ended nearly 4,500 years ago. The fossils may merely represent the organisms present at that time.
I do wish to address these examples in more detail in a future post, as well as the other examples provided by Dr. Wolgemuth. I think every piece of evidence he cited for an old earth is deserving of more attention. I find it interesting how scientists can come to completely opposite conclusions based on the same evidence, but different worldviews.
I’ll wrap up with a helpful link on meteorites and radiometric dating.