Charles Darwin and Geological Time, Part Three

19 Feb

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

In 1905 the British Physician Lord Ernest Rutherford introduced radiometric dating as the new and “entirely scientific” method of determining geological time periods. It was as if after that year all that had been speculated upon became as real and tangible as a kitchen table; and is still accepted as real and tangible today by geologists, paleontologists, and other scientists. I will demonstrate that this new method of dating the rocks of the earth is just as mythological as what came before.

Below is a chart which summarizes the geological time periods (dates are in millions of years) “confirmed” by radiometric dating to be true and accurate, and tangible:

irks_geologic_time_table

Radiometric dating corroborated almost exactly the nineteenth century visual dating process; and over time added the Proterozoic, Archean and Hadean periods shown in the above chart. The firm dates of the Hadean period were mainly developed indirectly by using radiometric dating on moon rocks and meteorite fragments, then modeling these results as if the dates were earth dates. Nevertheless, the present scientific canon is that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, including the modeled dates for the Hadean period.

One cannot help but ask how all these measurements flowed so exactly into the unimpeachable form of a universally accepted yardstick for describing the age of the earth. My answer is that the supposed science was a means of generating a new creation myth for the earth, to replace the creation myths developed by earlier more primitive societies and their primitive storytelling. So now, instead of primitive storytelling, we have modern storytelling which purports to be based on hard data. This hard data, though, is so flimsy and easy to pull apart that it is evident that what seems to be impersonal science is in fact a myth no different than that of primitive societies.

This time-line dating of periods of earth history was made into a more compelling myth by the discovery of dinosaur bones and the imprints of such fossil creatures as Trilobites. There has always been a lot of public drama associated with the reconstruction of the life-like looks of dinosaurs based on the often incomplete sets of bones unearthed. Each dinosaur was given a personality and assigned a historical period from the developmental time-line of the earth by the “scientific” paleontologists of the time of discovery.

Since dinosaurs were so large and so totally different from what we knew of life on the earth in the nineteenth century, the scientists had to assume that these dinosaurs and other fossil life-forms existed long before our present day, even though there was no physical evidence one way or the other about how old the fossilized bone fragments were. Therefore these creatures were assigned to the Mesozoic period (see the chart above). Thus, after grave scientific consultations, it suddenly became a certainty that dinosaurs had walked the earth from about 200 million years ago to about 66 million years ago.

These dinosaurs were assumed to have taken a long evolutionary time to develop their particular features. It was further assumed that once they evolved into a particular form they stayed in the same form for millions or even tens of millions of years; they were so massive they must have walked the earth unchanging for a very long time, and the scientists of the nineteenth century, as well as the scientists of today, assumed an extensive period for the domination of the whole earth by these herculean dinosaurs. My goodness, that’s a lot of assumptions!

The truth is that worldwide the total number of individual specimens of dinosaur remains which have been unearthed until today are probably only in the tens of thousands, including all the specimens where only a few teeth were found. In the nineteenth century there were probably only a few hundred specimens worldwide, except for one trove in Colorado where a thousand or more specimens were found. This hardly amounts to evidence that huge stomping creatures roamed the whole earth for more than 150 million years.

What is more likely, and which is no more or less provable today than it was in the year 1900, is that at some time in the past, maybe a million or more, or less, years ago, long enough for the fossilizing process to have time to work, a few animals grew to an extremely large size, then died off. Charles Darwin himself describes evolutionary change as taking place over short time periods of tens or hundreds of years. Human evolution has only come to a head over the last 14,000 years or so. It is not untrue to suggest that dinosaurs could have come and gone over a period of only a few thousand years, and that dinosaurs thrived only in limited numbers before they evolved to become too unwieldy for the earth to support them.

In their imaginative speculations these nineteenth century scientists using flawed methods and large doses of creative imagination created dinosaur myths which are not capable of proof or even verification in any form whatsoever, then or now. They were really no different than the scientists five hundred years before them, or the priests of any time. We were required to have “faith” in their scientific pronouncements, and “believe” the conclusions they arrived at, without any tangible evidence whatsoever.

Now let’s return to the year 1905. In that year radiometric dating was invented by Lord Ernest Rutherford as a method by which one might determine the age of the earth. The principle by which it operates is that there is an assumption that a radioactive element decays according to a specific half-life over time. Therefore if you have a rock sample which includes a decayed element, then you can calculate backward over millions or billions of years of half-lives to find when the original radioactive substance must have been present in the rock.

In the century since then the techniques have been greatly improved and expanded. Dating can now be performed on samples as small as a nanogram, using a mass spectrometer. The mass spectrometer began to be used in radiometric dating in the 1950s. The mass spectrometer measures the mass and level of ionization of a rock sample, to determine the rate of impacts and the relative concentrations of different atoms in the beams.

The uranium-lead radiometric dating scheme has been refined to the point that the error margin in dates of rocks can be as low as less than two million years in two-and-a-half billion years. One of its great advantages is that any sample provides two clocks, one based on uranium-235’s decay to lead-207 with a half-life of about 700 million years, and one based on uranium-238’s decay to lead-206 with a half-life of about 4.5 billion years, providing a built-in crosscheck that allows accurate determination of the age of the sample even if some of the lead has been lost.

One problem is that zircon is often used as the mineral to be radiometrically dated in the uranium-lead method. The assumption is that a zircon crystal originally crystallized from a flow of magma billions of years ago, and then remained in a closed system (no loss or gain of uranium or lead) from the time of crystallization to the present. This is an awfully big assumption that a piece of rock would stay in the same place, undisturbed, for four billion years, or even for just ten million years.

Further, the assumption that rocks found on the surface of the earth have stayed in the same place, unchanged for four billion years, creates other absurdities. In order to actually know the age of the earth, we have to know what happed over time all the way to the center of the earth. The contents of the levels of the earth, going down about 12,500 miles to the center, are, after all, a part of the created earth. Examining rocks on the surface, or mantle, of the earth, which according to experts in geological time have stayed in the same place for four billion years, can tell us nothing whatsoever about what has happened all the way to the center of the earth. The creation of the earth includes the creation of the interior, all the way to the center. What do we know about the center of the earth? Nothing much.

Further, a survey of all of the geological sciences leads to the conclusion that the surface of the earth has risen and fallen over time, and that water and wind and earthquakes and eruptions have changed the face of the earth over time. So how is it that these geological time specialists can get away with saying that whatever rock they are measuring was in exactly the same location, totally undisturbed, for a period of, say, two billion years.

In fact, it is nothing more than a modern-day myth that radiometric dating can provide a date of any kind from the distant past.

The truth is that radiometric dating is an entirely mathematical and theoretical method for creating a compelling yet flawed narrative of our past: just another creation myth. For a very excellent description of the theories and mathematical computations necessary to arrive at a radiometric date, see http://www.tulane.edu/~sanelson/eens211/radiometric_dating.htm . Keep in mind though, that a mathematical formula is not the same as an observation of a phenomena based on evidence.

Actually, religious stories of creation are more interesting and come from a greater place of feeling, plus they don’t pretend to be anything more than a myth. Using the impersonal scientific stories of the creation of the earth, which are as carefully calculated as any equilateral triangle, is an attempt by the new priesthood of science to make a personal impact on people. This is taking science too far. It is setting up a dogma which we are required to believe, and which is taught in every school as religiously as Catholic dogma used to be taught. It is time to dismantle the mass delusion represented by the “scientific” creation myth; just as it was necessary for Charles Darwin to dismantle the creationist myth which prevailed up until his time.

To summarize, radiometric dating is no more valid than the visual observations of the nineteenth century “scientists.” It relies almost entirely on two absurd premises. First, that a piece of rock will stay intact and in the same place over millions or billions of years of time, even though the surface and deep structure of the earth are always changing. Second, the process assumes that the half-life decay of a radioactive substance is always the same over millions or billions of years of time, and the presence of a decay product demonstrates the earlier presence of the original radioactive product.

There is actually no way whatsoever to confirm that radioactive decay is consistent over millions or billions of years. All anyone can ever verify experimentally is that over the time period of an actual experiment, which may be seconds, minutes, or days at most, the radioactive particle decayed by a certain incredibly minute amount. After the experiment, a half-life of half a billion years or so is mathematically calculated by extrapolating from the almost infinitesimal change that took place during the time period of the experiment. No one can ever say for sure that the decay of radioactive particles over millions of years conforms to the mathematical modeling.

For example, Dr. Murray Gell-Mann, 1969 Nobel Laureate in Physics, makes it clear that the laws of physics are not deterministic, but are only probabilities over time. The moment in time of radioactive disintegration in a half-life computation is only probabilistic. There is no way to predict the exact moment of disintegration, only a curve of probabilities. Additionally, the direction of decay is completely unpredictable. “If so much is unknowable in advance about one atomic nucleus, imagine how much is fundamentally unpredictable about the entire universe….” he says.

No less an authority than the Geological Society of America (see their geological time-line at http://www.geosociety.org/science/timescale/ ) accepts right now as established science almost exactly the same time periods which were established in 1841 based on trivial observations of the surface rocks of England. Almost every university in the world teaches these geological time scales as established fact. The radiometric dating method has in fact increased and expanded the same mythical narratives as the visual observations of the nineteenth century.

People will perform amazing feats of mental gymnastics to get what they want. And learned persons then and now will give the people what they want: a dollop of hard science packaged with an unsupported yet unchallenged view of the past, which through inflation has now morphed into seeing billions of years into history. We’re now told, and we want to believe, that the planet Earth is 4.54 ± 0.05 billion years old.

This current age estimate is based on evidence from radiometric age dating as well as mathematical extrapolations from examining moon rocks and meteorites. The very precision of the numbers is presented as proof of their veracity. The same precision provides evidence of an artificial construct. After all, it’s really hard to say how much time it takes to make a good cup of coffee or tea; and the time may vary from day to day. Deterministic precision is highly suspect.

Radiometric dating is the geological New Testament, leaping into being fully formed at the beginning of the twentieth century. Scientists are still using this original method, with only a few minor adjustments, even to the present day. http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/radiometric.html . With unseemly haste we have all embraced this New Testament as the infallible, unchallengeable source of all stories about the past. We have the correct canonical means to measure past time, so there is no need to look further for a methodology. Any further looking could in fact potentially create the awkward situation of discrediting the current methods of geological time measurement. So we stick with what we know, blinders fully in place.

The twentieth century method of radiometric dating actually didn’t change the imaginative speculations of the nineteenth century. As if by magic, radiometric dating offered a new and utterly infallible way of projecting the imagination backward in time.

This so-called scientific method of dating the age of the earth was and is just as imaginary as the geological timelines developed in the nineteenth century. The “scientifically determined” age of the earth in the twentieth century is almost exactly the same as the speculatively determined age of the earth in the nineteenth century. In a like manner the Biblical New Testament did not wipe away one word of the Old Testament.

Radiometric dating accomplished its purpose: to get all of us to believe there is a physical basis for the creation narratives concerning the age of the earth and the personalities of the great dinosaurs. People want to believe we can see millions, billions of years into the past. They did then, and they still do now. Except now people are convinced that there is a physical basis for their belief.

Even after what I’ve already said, there is still a need to drill down further if I am to convince anyone that geological time is a “creation myth.” Please forgive me if this seems repetitive.

The science of radiometric dating tells us that radioactive materials decay according to a specific timetable. This half-life of such materials means that in x number of years, only half of the radiation will remain in a specified material. In another identical x number of years, only half of the remaining radiation will remain, and so on. (This material is taken from the US Geological Service site cited above.) Using the half-life scale, the parent isotope Uranium-238 will degrade into the daughter isotope Lead-206 in 4.5 billion years. The formula for computing the age of a particular piece of rock is as follows:

Geological Time Formula034

This formula is the Eucharist of the New Testament of geological science. We are asked to believe that these words and numbers on a paper are the same as, or even identical with, the actual passage of billions of years of geological time. In the Eucharist, the substance of bread and wine changes into, and is identical with, the body and the blood of Jesus. No one pretends that this faith-based religious myth of the Eucharist is based on fact. Scientists are, however, through the rigors of education, indoctrinated in the belief that numbers spread on paper in a certain order are identical with the actual, factual, passage of time.

Can we really know that the rate of decay of an isotope is the same throughout all the supposed past time period, or even if there is such a time period? Even if we know the rate of decay of an isotope over a period of a very short time, or even several years, this doesn’t really tell us anything at all about the previous billion years. Nor does it tell us if there is a previous billion years. We really don’t know anything about how long our planet or our universe has existed. We cannot know the past beyond the written historical record, or perhaps for fifty or sixty thousand years past with Carbon-14 dating (which contains very few assumptions). The deep past simply does not exist.

Radiometric dating is a little like asking an accountant to audit a fund consisting of 4.5 billion dollars. The auditor, though, is only allowed to examine five cents of this fund, which is all that’s left at the time of the audit. From this examination the auditor is expected to certify that all of the money was used for the intended purposes of the fund.

Can we say Bernie Madoff? Yet this is the sort of accounting our geological scientists do on a daily basis, and have done since the beginning of the twentieth century.

Once again we are faced with the prevailing myth: The entire history of the planet can be found by examining only the most superficial surface portions of the bulk of the planet, by using a pencil and paper formula. The utter triviality of even our present geological observations as to the history of the earth is stunning.

People want to believe we can see millions, billions of years into the past. Our scientists give people what they want, so they are believed. Thus the myth is perpetuated. And so it goes. The theories of geological time are no more worthy of scientific credence than is Creationism.

Please permit me to quote again from Dr. Murray Gell-Mann’s book, The Quark and the Jaguar. This brilliant Nobel Laureate in Physics took the time to contemplate the nature of superstition and myth in the scientific world:

People are scared by the unpredictability and especially the uncontrollability of what we see around us…. [Much of the] unpredictability comes from the restricted range and capacity of our senses and instruments: we can pick up only a minuscule amount of the information about the universe that is available in principle…. The resulting scarcity of rhyme and reason frightens us and so we impose on the world around us, even on random facts and chance phenomena, artificial order based on false principles of causation. In that way, we comfort ourselves with an illusion of predictability and even of mastery. We fantasize that we can manipulate the world around us by appealing to the imaginary forces we have invented…. People want or need to believe…. Their main characteristic is the dissociation of belief from evidence…. They are alleviating their fear of randomness by identifying regularities that are not there.

In conclusion, please understand that I am not attacking or attempting to embarrass any researcher who has worked in the field of geological dating. The flawed method of looking back in time by examining rocks has been a standard of science for a hundred fifty years. I only ask that these researchers look at the evidence and the proof and re-evaluate what it is they are doing with their time and intellect, and move on to other more realistic and creative endeavors.

I started with Charles Darwin, so, at the risk of repeating myself, I will end with the wise words of this groundbreaking nineteenth century scientist, who was a cautious observer of reality and spoke of what is, not what might be, in his masterwork, The Origin of Species:

But we continually overrate the perfection of the geological record…. We continually forget how large the world is, compared with the area over which our geological formations have been carefully examined…. It seems to me to be about as rash to dogmatize on the [ancient] succession of organic forms throughout the world, as it would be for a naturalist to land for five minutes on a barren point in Australia, and then to discuss the number and range of its productions…. We should not forget that only a small portion of the world is known with accuracy….. I look on the geological record as a history of the world imperfectly kept…. Of this history we possess the last volume alone, relating only to two or three countries. Of this volume, only here and there a short chapter has been preserved; and of each page, only here and there a few lines.

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