There are few topics in earth science which interest people as much as questions concerning the age of our globe. On this issue, of course, there are widely differing opinions. Most experts claim that our earth is 4.5 billion years old while a few scientists subscribe to an age closer to a few thousand years. While both groups of scientists agree that radiometric data are an important aspect of the issue, the two groups nevertheless do not agree on the interpretation of these data. Up to this point, the young earth model supporters have had to deal with numbers mainly generated from studies based on old earth assumptions. The time seems ripe however to undertake new studies based on different questions.
Entitled Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth or RATE, for short, the material in this book is a result of discussions between physicists Larry Vardiman, Don DeYoung, John Baumgardner, Eugene Chaffin and Russell Humphreys and geologists Steven Austin and Andrew Snelling. Drs. Baumgardner and Humphreys are research scientists at National Laboratories. The others are on the staffs of various Christian institutions. While previous young earth discussions have focused on initial assumptions and anomalous results, the new studies will focus on other aspects of the issue.
This scholarly work begins with the caution that all scientists, whatever their position, must deal with the same data. As John Morris remarks in his introduction: "Remember, creationists and evolutionists have exactly the same data. Reality is the same for both. Perception of that reality and interpretation of that data can, however be remarkably different for the two, depending on the individual's perspective "(p. iii) It is indeed the case that the difference between old earth and young earth scientists is one of perspective. As Dr. Vardiman remarks "The key to research of this type is to allow God's revelation to be our primary guide when exploring new data. Our unified premise is that observation and theory should always be subservient to a proper understanding of the Word of God. But this being said, we should never be afraid to search out new data and develop new theories." (P. 6)
The scientists in this study propose to ask some new questions. They have undertaken to investigate whether changes in the rate of radioactive decay, and also whether the mixing of diverse molten rocks in the earth's mantle, may explain some of the numbers obtained in current studies. While most secular scientists would be horrified at the idea of such wholesale rate changes, Dr. Humphreys remarks "There is nothing preventing us from looking for evidence in the natural world of the scientific consequences of accelerated decay." (p. 334) After considerable discussion of what that evidence might be, he concludes "acceleration of nuclear decay is a viable hypothesis. The data require it, theory allows it, the Bible supports it, problems with it seem solvable, and we can test it experimentally." (p. 374)
The final section of the book, after exhaustive discussion of the current literature, consists of 13 proposals for future research. Five of them are high priority projects. Each comes with an estimate of the costs to carry the project to completion. The costs range from $100,000 down to $30,000 depending upon equipment and research time required. It is difficult enough for scientists to raise money from normal funding sources for theoretical research, but for creation based studies, the task becomes harder still. Thus these research proposals represent a wonderful opportunity for the private sector to support some interesting and unique studies.
One objective of this book is that it serve as a "Primary source for anyone interested in working on issues related to radioisotope dating and the age of the earth." (p. 23) Another objective is to locate donors to underwrite the proposed research. It is expected that knowledge, outlooks, conclusions and research approaches will change as the five year program proceeds. It is also anticipated that a follow-up book will be published at the end of that time. It will be interesting to compare the initial predictions and expectations with actual results.
This book, published on glossy paper with numerous graphs and diagrams, is recommended for geologists and physicists, science libraries, potential supporters of interesting research, and anyone who is interested in scholarly discussions of the young earth model.
Larry Vardiman, Andrew Snelling and Eugene Chaffin (eds). 2000.
Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: a young-earth creationist research initiative.
Institute for Creation Research and Creation Research Society. 675 pages. Hardcover.