Dispatches from the Creation Wars

RATE and Miracles

Joe Meert prints a report of a recent RATE conference by Dr. Todd Feeley. RATE is a project by young earth creationists to undermine radiometric dating and try to show that the earth isn’t billions of years old. Naturally, such an absurd claim requires some serious mental gymnastics. This passage is particularly telling:

He also agreed that the mechanism for accelerating radioactivity by nearly a billion-fold during a single year (the flood year) was a major problem for the group that in the end will probably only be resolved by invoking a
“cosmic-scale event” or miracle. He further conceded that at this point they have no physical evidence for this miracle.
Apparently, dissipation of the heat produced during the event is, in the end, going to require yet an additional miracle.

This is a serious problem for young earthers and it’s something Joe has written about at great length before. If you’re going to argue that the decay rates of radioisotopes was faster in the past – so fast that 4.5 billion years worth of decay took place in only 6000 years – you’ve got a real heat problem. Radioisotope decay means release of radiation, which means releasing heat. Compress all of the heat and radiation released in the last 4.5 billion years into just a few thousand years and life on earth could not exist.

And radioisotope decay is not the only source of heat that messes with their timescale. There are loads of other processes that release heat as well – volcanic activity, seismic activity, meteor impacts. Compress all of the untold number of volcanic eruptions evidenced in the geological record into just a few thousand years and, again, you have massive amounts of heat released. Likewise compress all of the meteor impacts evidenced in the geological record and you have yet more heat released in a very short period of time. Mark Isaak computes the numbers:

Magma. The geologic record includes roughly 8 x 10^24 grams of lava flows and igneous intrusions. Assuming (conservatively) a specific heat of 0.15, this magma would release 5.4 x 10^27 joules while cooling 1100 degrees C. In addition, the heat of crystallization as the magma solidifies would release a great deal more heat.

Limestone formation. There are roughly 5 x 10^23 grams of limestone in the earth’s sediments [Poldervaart, 1955], and the formation of calcite releases about 11,290 joules/gram [Weast, 1974, p. D63]. If only 10% of the limestone were formed during the Flood, the 5.6 x 10^26 joules of heat released would be enough to boil the flood waters.

Meteorite impacts. Erosion and crustal movements have erased an unknown number of impact craters on earth, but Creationists Whitcomb and DeYoung suggest that cratering to the extent seen on the Moon and Mercury occurred on earth during the year of Noah’s Flood. The heat from just one of the largest lunar impacts released an estimated 3 x 10^26 joules; the same sized object falling to earth would release even more energy. [Fezer, pp. 45-46]…

5.6 x 10^26 joules is enough to heat the oceans to boiling. 3.7 x 10^27 joules will vaporize them completely. Since steam and air have a lower heat capacity than water, the steam released will quickly raise the temperature of the atmosphere over 1000 C. At these temperatures, much of the atmosphere would boil off the Earth.

There’s only one way to get rid of this problem for the creationists: invoke a miracle. God magically zapped away the heat. These are the kinds of contortions you must do with your brain in order to justify such a nonsensical position.


  1. #1 SLC
    April 26, 2007

    It’s actually even worse then this. In order accelerate the rate of radioactive decay, it would be necessary to increase the value of Plancks’ constant by 450,000 (assuming a reduction in the estimated age of the earth from 4.5 billion to 10,000). This would mean that photons coming off the sun would have 450,000 times the energy they do now, which would, of course, reduce the earth to a cinder.

  2. #2 Phil
    April 26, 2007

    There’s only one way to get rid of this problem for the creationists: invoke a miracle. God magically zapped away the heat.

    And, if you’re going to invoke a miracle to resolve the physical contradictions, why not just invoke a single miracle to make the entire thing look right in the first place? Why go through the miraculous flood, then invoke a whole bunch more miracles to clean up the mess left behind by the first miracle? God got the first miracle wrong?

  3. #3 Fastlane
    April 26, 2007

    In my view, things like RATE, and even AiG are a good sign. In the long run, science is winning.

    I’m probably being optomistic, but here’s how I see it:

    The current crop of apologists have evolved (I love using that word when referring to religionists) their apologetics to use science sounding terms, and justify their beliefs ‘scientifically’. I know they bastardize real science when they do this, but it’s a tacit aknowledgment of what we all know.

    Science works. Period, end of sentence. All of the results, the advancement we’ve made in technology, medicine, etc, come about byt he scientific process. We know it. They know it too, but they can’t aknowledge it explicitely, because (to them) it implies their god isn’t as great as all they’ve been told.

    Many people have no problems reconciling science and religion, I know, but those arn’t the ones supporting the RATE project and similar efforts.

    So we just need to keep showing them how they are MISapplying science, and where they are wrong. They will continue to decrease in numbers, and increase in volume, but eventually, they will be suh a marginalized monority that no one will listen to their screeching anymore. We can put them on the same shelf as the flat earthers.


  4. #4 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    April 26, 2007

    …going to require yet an additional miracle.

    This is a serious problem for young earthers…

    What’s the problem? These are people who believe in miracles.

  5. #5 Jason I.
    April 26, 2007

    The more these folks and the IDiots try to explain away all of this scientific evidence, the more it sounds like their god is a really sadistic SOB who likes fucking with people’s minds. If none of the scientific evidence supporting a 4.5 billion year old earth and supporting evolution that we have today is true, why the hell did he put it there in the first place? Shits and giggles?

  6. #6 386sx
    April 26, 2007

    What’s the problem? These are people who believe in miracles.

    The problem is they don’t care about how miracles work. They’re worried about how the “mechanism for” whatever work, but they’re not even the slightest bit worried about how the mechanisms for miracles work. They want to stick everybody with their creation science but they don’t want to get all scientifical about how miracles work. I wonder why that is.

  7. #7 Stephen
    April 26, 2007

    So, God created the Universe to look older than it is? Last Thursdayism does this too, but it’s much more self-consistent. The idea is that Last Thursday (this morning, i guess) God created the Universe as it is. That includes fossils, the Hubble Space Telescope, and so on. Why? Well, God is impatient, and doesn’t want to wait 13.7 billion years to get to the good part. And, God is ‘lazy’. It’s much easier to create a Universe that has a 1 light week radius, and let it run just that long. One light week is much, much smaller than 46 billion light years. The Universe is really well done. It looks just like one that is older and evolved by discoverable rules. I’m very thankful that God included microwave ovens. They’re so convenient.

    Really, a decietful God is not worthy of praise. There are theological solutions to this problem. They’re worth looking for.

  8. #8 Phil
    April 26, 2007

    Last Thursdayism does this too, but it’s much more self-consistent. The idea is that Last Thursday (this morning, i guess) God created the Universe as it is.

    Last Thursday!??! Heretic. It was last Tuesday!

  9. #9 daenku32
    April 26, 2007

    The year of Noah’s flood much have been a really good year for miracles.

    I wonder why they elevate the flood myth to such an high level of importance? Because I think the whole concept of God performing global genocide doesn’t sound like something a benevolent God would do.

  10. #10 Johnny Vector
    April 26, 2007

    Last Thursday!??! Heretic. It was last Tuesday!

    Watchoo talkin’ about? It happened just as you finished reading this comment!

    …waaaaaait for it….

    While we’re waiting, re fastlane’s comment:

    Science works. Period, end of sentence.

    No no no! Not end of sentence, one more word.

    Science works, bitches!

    Okay, now the universe can start.

  11. #11 BennyZ
    April 27, 2007

    this reminds me of that great far side cartoon, where the two scientists are looking at a complex equation on a board. by the equal sign is the phrase “and then a miracle happens” and one scientist says to the other “maybe we should be a bit more specific in part 3”
    i don’t think i ever took a science class, in high chool or college, that didn’t use at least one far side cartoon to illustrate a point. nor have i met a science prof who didn’t have at least one larson cartoon pinned to his door.

  12. #12 keiths
    April 27, 2007


    That one was by Sidney Harris, not Gary Larson:


  13. #13 djmullen
    April 27, 2007

    Good cartoon, a real classic, but it was Sidney Harris, not Far Side.

  14. #14 Coin
    April 27, 2007

    Last Thursday!??! Heretic. It was last Tuesday!

    As a Last-thursdayism Universalist, I propose we can mend this schism by postulating that last Thursday and last Tuesday were the same day; it is just that we choose to call it by different names.

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