Anyone who has dealt with creationists can tell you about the game of creationist whack-a-mole. Whack-a-mole is that game where you have a mallet and these moles pop out of various holes and you have to whack them with the mallet, but as soon as you whack one of them, another one comes up in another hole. It never seems to end. That is exactly what it’s like dealing with creationists. No matter how many times you disprove a creationist claim, it simply pops up in another hole and you have to whack it all over again. I was reminded of this yet again when I came across this essay on a creationist webpage that rehashes the long-discredited “moon dust” argument.
The moon dust argument is sort of a creationist classic, first advanced by Henry Morris in the early 70s, just after the first manned moon landing in 1969. The argument goes like this: meteoritic dust accumulates at a particular rate on the Earth (Morris used a figure of 14 million tons per year). On the Earth, erosion and other processes makes this negligible, but on the moon, where there is no atmosphere, that dust would simply accumulate. At that rate of influx, if the moon is really 4 billion years old it should have hundreds of feet of meteoritic dust on the surface; however, we only find a few inches of dust on the moon, which means it must be only a few thousand years old.
There are lots and lots of problems with this claim, the simplest being that the rate of influx used to calculate how deep the dust should be was wildly off the mark. I mean not even in the ballpark. Morris got his figure from a scientist named Hans Pettersson, who tried to make an estimate of the rate of influx by measuring the amount of nickel collected in filters placed on mountaintops. He assumed that nickel was found only in meteoritic dust (which is not true) and extrapolated from that a range of possible figures. The 14 million tons per year was the high end of the estimate, and in fact Pettersson thought the rate was about 1/3 of that, or around 5 million tons per year.
But even that rate was vastly exaggerated because of the methodological limitations of trying to take such measurements within the Earth’s atmosphere. It wasn’t long after the moon landing that NASA began collecting data using satellites in orbit, which could measure the real rate of influx without being distorted by atmospheric problems. In fact, such measurements were available by the time Morris first advanced this argument in 1974 but he ignored them. The real rate is in the range of 18,000-25,000 tons per year. Using the proper rate of influx, the amount of dust expected on the moon is, in fact, a few inches.
This is so obvious and straightforward that even the more honest creationists have long ago abandoned the argument. In 1993, Andrew Snelling, a young earth creationist geologist, and Dave Rush published a paper in a creationist journal examining the argument and concluded:
“It thus appears that the amount of meteoritic dust and meteorite debris in the lunar regolith and surface dust layer, even taking into account the postulated early intense bombardment, does not contradict the evolutionists’ multi-billion year timescale (while not proving it). Unfortunately, attempted counter-responses by creationists have so far failed because of spurious arguments or faulty calculations. Thus, until new evidence is forthcoming, creationists should not continue to use the dust on the moon as evidence against an old age for the moon and the solar system.”
But that doesn’t stop David Pogge from rehashing this argument yet again on the link above, and adding a few profoundly silly new claims of his own. I particularly love the personal anecdote he starts with:
In the summer of 1969, I was an evolutionist finishing his junior year, majoring in electrical engineering. Like many other evolutionary scientists, I feared for the safety of the Apollo XI astronauts who were about to land on the moon.
I knew that cosmic dust fell on the Earth at a rate of 15 million metric tons per year. On Earth, that isn’t a problem. Most of it lands on the ocean and just settles to the bottom. The dust that does fall on the land gets blown (or washed) off rocks and mixed in with the soil. But on the moon, there is no atmosphere to blow it away, or water to wash it into the sea. I knew there would be a treacherous 2 billion1 year-old accumulation of dust more than 50 feet thick.
What would happen when the lunar lander tried to set down on the moon? Would its large landing pads distribute the weight enough so that it would not sink down into the dust? Would the rocket exhaust blow the dust away sideways? or would it bore a deep hole in the dust? Would the dust settle back down on the landing craft, burying it?
We were all very surprised when there turned out to be just a small fraction of an inch of dust on the moon. How could that be?
All of this is pure balderdash. First of all, the fact that Pogge, an electrical engineer, refers to himself, while still in college no less, as an “evolutionary scientist” can only provoke laughter. More importantly, if he really thought that there was going to be that much dust on the moon this can only be attributed to his own ignorance, and the fact that he projects that ignorance on to other unnamed scientists is simply pathetic. In fact, NASA and the rest of the world knew exactly how much dust there was on the moon long before Apollo landed. You know why? Because we’d already been there.
Yes, Apollo 11 was the first manned spacecraft to land on the moon but there had been at least half a dozen unmanned lunar landings in the years prior to that mission that sent back data. Throughout the mid-60s, the Soviet Luna projects and the American Surveyor missions placed numerous unmanned craft on the surface of the moon to send down data. They knew exactly how much dust there was on the moon years before Apollo left. This notion that anyone feared that they would sink into 50 feet of dust is false to the point of delusion.
But Pogge has one more incredibly bad argument up his sleeve. He admits that the real rate of influx is far lower than he thought it was in 1969 and therefore the moon has the right amount of dust on it. But A HA, he says, if that’s true then how did the planets form in the first place?
It might seem that all is well in Evolution Land, now that the moon dust problem has been solved-but all isn’t well. The greatly decreased cosmic dust measurement is a sword that cuts both ways. According to one evolutionist,
“My copy of Everyman’s Astronomy indicates that the earth collects about 9000 kg per day from meteors of visual magnitude 5.0 or brighter. Assuming a typical rock density of 3 g/cc, this corresponds to an accumulation rate of one inch per 10 billion years. Unfortunately no data is presented for fainter meteors. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the actual rate is one or two orders of magnitude higher.”
OK. Let’s assume that the rate is two orders of magnitude higher. In other words, 900,000 kg per day, or 100 inches per 10 billion years. The Earth was supposedly formed in a 10 billion year period following the big bang by the accumulation of cosmic dust attracted by gravity. 900,000 kg per day for 10 billion years is roughly 3 x 1021 grams. At 3 g/cc this is 1021 cc. There are 1015 cubic centimeters per cubic kilometer, so the volume of dust collected in 10 billion years is about 106 cubic kilometers. This is the volume of a sphere with a 62 kilometer (about 39 miles) radius, which is considerably smaller than the 2,000 mile radius of the Earth. The dust accumulation would have to be about 8,000 times 900,000 kg / day for 10 billion years to create a planet the size of Earth.
So, the evolutionist is caught in a three-way stretch. He needs rapid dust accumulation for creation of the planets, slow accumulation for a relatively dust-free moon, and constant accumulation to satisfy the uniform rate assumption he uses.
Just a monumentally ridiculous argument. Does Pogge really think that the amount of meteoritic dust floating in the solar system is the same now as it was when the planets were forming? The very fact that the planets formed from such material means that there can’t possibly be as much now as there was prior to the formation of the planets – the formation of planets used up most of that material. We are literally sitting on it right now.
Contrary to Pogge’s absurd claim, there is no conflict here. No astronomer in his right mind would ever assume that the amount of interstellar dust in the solar system is the same now as it was before the formation of the planets. To even suggest this would get one a failing grade on a 10th grade science test. And the game of whack-a-mole continues once again.