This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/deborah-haarsma-the-presidents-notebook/light-matters-galaxies-are-telling-the-story-of-our-ancient-universe
Thanks for reading along. Just as before, I’ll be available here for discussion. Further questions and remarks are welcome .
Thanks for this astronomy lesson, Casper! It was very clear in good lay-person terms.
Related to the “looking back through history” part of your article:
I recently saw an online article that speculates that a possible reason we haven’t spotted any life elsewhere is that we are looking “too soon”. I.e. if it is possible for a habitable zone to exist around red dwarves, which are much more common and will live to be much older, then perhaps our development around a young hot (and relatively short-lived) star could actually be the more exceptional case than what might turn out to be the norm.
Since we are looking so far back into history the farther away we look, who knows how much interesting history may have unfolded “already” (whatever “already” means in our relatavistic space-times) that we would never be able to see unless somebody was around billions of years from now to still be looking when the light from those “present” events finally reaches us.
It is fun to speculate what all is up God’s sleeve, and to exercise our God-given ability to at least peek up that sleeve as much as we can.
Astronomy also confirms radiometric dating. The fact is, radiometric dating works. In contrast, YECs haven’t come up with any reliable dating methods of their own to provide evidence for a young earth.
The creationist approach of focusing on examples where radiometric dating yields incorrect results is a curious one for two reasons. First, it provides no evidence whatsoever to support their claim that the earth is very young. If the earth were only 6000–10 000 years old, then surely there should be some scientific evidence to confirm that hypothesis; yet the creationists have produced not a shred of it so far. Where are the data and age calculations that result in a consistent set of ages for all rocks on earth, as well as those from the moon and the meteorites, no greater than 10 000 years? Glaringly absent, it seems.
In this short paper I have briefly described 4 examples of radiometric dating studies where there is both internal and independent evidence that the results have yielded valid ages for significant geologic events. It is these studies, and the many more like them documented in the scientific literature, that the creationists need to address before they can discredit radiometric dating. Their odds of success are near zero. Even if against all odds they should succeed, it still would not prove that the Earth is young. Only when young-earth creationists produce convincing quantitative, scientific evidence that the earth is young will they be worth listening to on this important scientific matter.
The whole dating issue is one reason I think the RATE 2 project actually wasn’t just a waste of time. In it we see those rare concessions (and yes, I think they do consider them concessions), that there are problems (even if these are referred to as “as yet unexplained phenomena”) with the young-earth view. They may be willing to invoke miracles as placeholders for these things, but it is telling that they do not do so by choice.
Sorry about my snarky former reply here that I have now replaced.
Thank you @Mervin_Bitikofer , I’m happy that it came across clearly! Good job on sneaking in the topic of extraterrestrial life via the idea of “looking back through history”. If the evolution of intelligent life is as inevitable as some people claim these days, there should probably be someone else out there!
Thanks, but isn’t the topic of radiometric dating completely unrelated to this post? Radiometric dating has become somewhat of a mental dead spot for lay audiences mainly because they are being spammed with information about it (from both sides). People’s minds often go either completely blank or on autopilot when that topic hits the table.
That’s why I think it might be better to let the beast of radiometric dating methods sleep sometimes, in order to emphasize other completely independent lines of evidence for deep time, such as distant starlight . I think Joel Duff also does a good job at that, for example when he focuses on the insanely large numbers of stone age tools found in Africa.
One Dutch EC (René Fransen) described the evidence for deep time and evolution as a densely woven carpet. Often people discuss a single small thread A or thread B. But it’s not the individual thread by itself which makes the evidence firm. It’s how the whole collection of threads is organized, tightly packed, supporting each other. Zooming in too much on a single thread (such as radiometric dating) can distract from the bigger picture… Even when that thread is extremely important.
They’re actually completely related. Through astronomy, we can examine the light from stars millions of light years away. The electromagnetic radiation from those stars is only reaching us now, and is millions of years old. So we are actually viewing the stars as they existed millions of years ago; we are literally looking back into the deep time of the past.
Examination of that electromagnetic radiation proves that the half-life of elements used in radiometric dating has not changed over millions and millions of years.
Creationists also attack radioactive dating with the argument that half-lives were different in the past than they are at present. There is no more reason to believe that than to believe that at some time in the past iron did not rust and wood did not burn. Furthermore, astronomical data show that radioactive half-lives in elements in stars billions of light years away is the same as presently measured.
This confirms the radiometric dating of elements on Earth.
On several occasions, astronomers have been able to analyze the radiation produced by supernovas. In a supernova, the vast amount of energy released creates every known nuclide via atomic fusion and fission. Some of these nuclides are radioactive. We can detect the presence of the various nuclides by spectrographic analysis of the supernova’s radiation. We can also detect the characteristic radiation signatures of radioactive decay in those nuclides. We can use that information to calculate the half-lives of those nuclides. In every case where this has been done, the measured radiation intensity and the calculated half-life of the nuclide from the supernova matches extremely well with measurements of that nuclide made here on Earth.
Now, because light travels at a fixed rate (a bit under 300,000 kilometers per second), and because stars are so far away, when we look at a distant star we’re seeing it as it was when that light left it and headed this way. When we look at a star in the Andromeda Galaxy, 2,700,000 light-years away, we’re seeing that star as it was 2,700,000 years ago. And when we look at a supernova in the Andromeda Galaxy, 2,700,000 years old, we see nuclides with the exact same half-lives as we see here on Earth. Not just one or two nuclides, but many. For these measurements to all be consistently wrong in exactly the same way, most scientists feel, is beyond the realm of possibility.
Yes I realize that radiometric dating is a blind spot for many Christians. But as a few people have pointed out here several times, there are many different dating methods which all converge on the same results, providing a vast collection of corroborating data demonstrating radiometric dating is reliable. The point is that it’s just not possible to turn a blind eye to radiometric dating and think that you’ve dealt with the age of the Earth and the universe.
Ignore one dating method and you still have dozens more staring you in the face. It is just impossible to avoid this massive pile of corroborating data. If people want to ignore radiometric dating they have to ignore a huge amount of science, and throw out most of what we know about physics and chemistry. That shows that turning a blind eye to radiometric dating simply isn’t a viable option.
Everyone here knows that I am a 6-day creationist but they also know that I have so enjoyed these articles! They are authentic, with nothing to hide - just like God is - no matter if we understand it all or not. Thanks to Casper for being transparent, knowledgeable, and humble all rolled into one. And shame on creationists for being sneaky, divisive, arrogant*, and unauthentic - but I forgot to mention deceptive (and even trying to make God the same). I don’t know how God did it, but I am big enough to admit that it is a massive, intoxicatingly beautiful universe that appears to be so ancient it’s almost scary. All praise to Him!
*This statement by Casper alone, “For the ASC model, observed differences between distant and nearby galaxies form a mere nuisance,” reveal both desperation and arrogance on the part of 6-day creationists in their haste to explain what they so misunderstand.
I was aware of the connection and why distant starlight confirms the reliability of radioactive dating methods. Still, your comment struck me as going off on a tangent. I do concede that “completely unrelated” was formulated too strongly on my part though.
It may be interesting to remember that in Lisle’s ASC model, all light is believed to arrive instantaneously. So in his model, those supernovae observations would not prove that radioactive decay rates have remained constant over the course of the history of the universe. Considered within the ASC model, those observations only show that the present day rates of radioactive decay are the same everywhere.
In any case, I agree with you about radiometric dating in all respects. Turning a blind eye to it doesn’t solve the inconsistencies in the YEC paradigm. I view evidence from astronomy as an opportunity for young-earth creationists to have a fresh look at the topic (without being burdened by their distrust of radiometric dating).
Thank you @r_speir for your presence here and your positive comments. Don’t be too harsh on your fellow YECs though ;). While I agree that they are making serious mistakes, all of us are on a journey as we try to make sense of the world. All I can do is pray that the Church as a whole will embrace a coherent view of God’s creation, one in which God Himself can rejoice. All of us Christians are already “fools for Christ” in the eyes of the world. I believe God never intended us to become “fools for young-earth creationism” in addition to that.
That’s really impressive. I think it’s very humble to admit something like that, it’s something I don’t see often. Thank you so much, and indeed: All praise to Him!
As an aside, have you ever explored the exegetical reasons for why the Bible doesn’t need to be tied to six solar days and young earth beliefs? I found the ideas of John Walton to be very helpful in that (see, for example, http://biologos.org/blogs/archive/reflections-on-reading-genesis-1-3-john-waltons-world-tour-part-1).
I don’t think it’s a tangent given that astronomical observations are one of the key data points used to verify the reliability of radiometric dating.
Yes of course they can pull out all their ad hoc explanations, but it just reinforces these three points.
- They are conceding that the universe consistently looks very old.
- They are conceding that the element half lives predicted by scientists, were confirmed by experimental observation.
- They are conceding that the only way to argue that these observations are false, is to simply make things up.
No YEC predicted the radiometric findings which were revealed by astronomy. None of them. It’s the same with IDers, they never actually contribute unique accurate predictions, they just invent ad hoc explanations for the accurate predictions of non-ID scientists.
I see it slightly differently; I see it as an opportunity for YECs to be confronted with the fact that they can’t actually compartmentalize all these different dating methods in a “divide and conquer” attempt to discredit them individually. They are all intrinsically connected and mutually corroborating. In order for YEC to be true, we need to literally throw out most of what we know about science, including virtually all the laws of physics and everything we know about chemistry. That is simply not credible.
Casper these articles are almost certainly hitting the mark with Creationists. For a year, this well-known Creationist blogger had adopted Lisle’s cosmology at face value https://biblescienceforum.com/2016/08/17/mature-creation-and-false-information-in-starlight/ yet now he wants to back-peddle and turn Lisle’s model into a literal billions-of-years paradigm. He writes “Or even using the ASC time-convention model of Jason Lisle, viewed from the perspective of the ESC time convention, billions of years would have passed in the cosmos but only one day passed in Earth.” For those who have studied Lisle, this is not just a departure from Lisle’s premise - this is a downright forced reinterpretation. Lisle is abundantly clear that his paradigm is intended to secure a young Universe both near and distant for Creationists - no exceptions. The only reason billions of years even come up in Lisle’s model is out of concession; that is, he must perform - whether legitimately or illegitimately - some semblance of an “ASC to ESC” conversion. So much does he hate doing it, that afterward he makes sure his reader knows that be believes the billions of years to be only imaginary and that no physical processes were occurring. The blogger I am now referring to clearly intends Lisle’s billions of years to include very real physical processes because he adds, “All the light we see today has travelled from the distant reaches of the cosmos. It all represents real events that occurred on the stars that it originated from.” What you have written and so simply pointed out in these articles has undoubtedly produced angst and turmoil among those who would try to adhere to a thousands of years old Universe. Reasonable men must admit such a view to be utterly irrational. Moreover, it would make God a deceiver - something Creationists, of all thinkers, seem to most easily fall headlong into.