Monday, April 12, 2010

Young Earth Theory

On page 24, Coyne mentions the side of a group known as young earth creationists. This group attacks the reliability of carbon dating and other such radiometric methods used to determine the age of fossils. Coyne refutes the young earth creationist arguments about carbon dating that despite extreme temperatures and pressures exerted, the half life of an element remains unchanged. Continue to support Coyne's evidence concerning the reliability of age finding methods and relate how these ages can be used to support evolution, or provide some other evidence that young earth creationists use to support the young earth theory and analyze the possibility of these claims.


  1. Young Earth Creationists believe the story of creation found in Genesis of the Torah/Old Testament. In short, all that exists was created by god in 6 days and all life was created in just 2 days. Their timeline places this week of creation (7th day is Sabboth)between 5000 and 10000 years ago. Therefore, the scientific method of carbon dating fossils to determine how long ago the organism lived is in direct conflict with their beliefs since fossils take thousands of years to form. Most fossils found are determined to have lived over 10000 years ago, which is before life was created according to Young Earth Creationists. They claim the carbon dating is not an accurate method of determining how long ago the organism lived. The do, however, acknowledge that the organism did once live. Their explanation is that the dinosaurs died in Noah's flood. They also claim that the diversity of life today is due to adaptations and divergent paths of the animals on Noah's Ark that occurred in just a few thousand years. Their entire argument requires the Bible to be taken as pure fact.

    Not to go bashing religion, but there are serious flaws and consequences that can come from taking the Bible to be scientific fact. Young Earth Creationists found organisations such as The Institute for Creation Research which attempt to spread creationism by attaching scientific terms onto it, however, there is nothing scientific about their work; as a matter of fact, the organizations are primarily funded by churches. Time after time, in more than just the debate over the origin of life, has these organizations gone against common scientific belief. Other than simply carbon dating proving that life existed over 10,000 years ago, it is a common scientific belief that Earth itself is 4.54 billion years old. This was determined by geologists using radiometric dating (carbon dating is an example of a radiometric dating method). Other conflicts with modern science continue to discredit the organization. In general, Young Earth Creationists are using the Bible to try to explain everything they know, which is flawed because there is no scientific proof that the Bible is historically accurate down to the last word.

    Carbon dating works by comparing the amount of 14C found in an organism compared to the amount of 14C found in the atmosphere. This isotope undergoes radioactive decay, therefore in a period called a "half life" there are expected to be half as much C14 as originally. C14 is determined to have a half life of approximately 5700 years. The accuracy of carbon dating is dependent on the calibration, however, in tests since 1962, carbon dating has allowed scientists to determine the ages of wood (with known ages) to being at worst 700 years off.

    The ability of carbon dating to prove how long ago an organism lived aids in the evolution discussion. It shows the staggered nature of species existence in that not all species live in the same time period. This allows scientists to "connect the dots" by observing how one species might have evolved into a similar species that lived thousands of years after the extinction of the first species. Also, carbon dating allows scientists to create a timeline for species, which helps narrow down when a species might have diverged away from another species. In tracing this timeline back to the point of divergence, it is even possible, in theory, to determine which species is the "missing link" between two modern species.

  2. Young earth supporters have several standing theories. Firstly is the decay of the earth's magnetic field. The strength of the earths magnetic field has decreased slightly over the time that has been measures (approximately 130 years; some creationists have taken this data and found an exponential growth model which yields such a high field strength that even when looked at just 8000 years ago it is impossible for the earth to have such a large field strength. Using this data early earth theorists surmise that the earth must be young else the growth model predicts a number much to large for the actual field at that time. This claim has been refuted by evolution proponents as follows. Firstly there is much evidence (and it has even convinced some early earth theorists) that the field has actually changed direction over time and therefore an exponential growth model doesn't apply as it fails to account for this. Secondly there is the possibility that the field naturally fluctuates but is hidden from measurement (in the earths core) and so the decrease is not a change in the actually field strength but simply a trans location.

    Another such early earth claim is that of He-4 dating. Its proponents state that the amount of He-4 in the atmosphere grows as radioactive particles decay. This proposal (when analyzed with the rate at which He-4 is accumulating) states that earth was formed less that 200,000 years ago. The Evolutionist refutation to this is that He-4 is actually leaving the environment. Evolution proponents claim that creationists that support this argument simply ignore this and thereby have a wrong rate equation.

    Lastly there is ocean floor metal accumulation as a method of dating. Firstly I'd like to state that this, of the three listed here, seems the most unlikely of the three due to its lack of precision. Early earth theorists claim that by looking at the concentration of certain metals in the ocean the age of the earth can be determined. There are a two main refutations to this. The first is that when the data from the separate metals is used to predict age the ages vary between 100 and 260,000 years old. Additionally all the metals are distributed relatively equally among estimated time spans. For example there are about "five are under 1,000 years; five are 1,000-9,999 years; five are 10,000-99,999 years; six are 100,000-999,999 years; and six are 1,000,000 years or above". This alone is enough to disclaim the argument but also is the argument that modern chemistry has shown many of the metals to be in equilibrium . This means they are not changing concentration also disproving the early earth theories.

  3. Young Earth creationists believe that the actual age of Earth is 6,000-10,000 years old, and that all creation has taken place since then. There is a plethora of evidence against this, some provided by Mr. Coyne. Just recently, archaeologists have uncovered the oldest human village remains in Iran, a village that dates back to 9800 BC. Therefore, "Archeologists believe such findings prove that Iran's dwellers moved out of caves around 11,800 years ago and settled in plains." Even if Adam and Eve were "created" 10,000 years ago, they wouldn't have been able to produce a village in 200 years. Greg Neyman reports "the true picture of young earth creationsim's stratigraphic evidence is extremely bleak, and their scientific methods are not scientific at all". Most creationists believe in the old earth theory, for "There is no problem with saying the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and God created it. You only need an alternative if you blindly ignore the evidence for an old earth." Neyman continues to endorse "In reality, there is no threat to Biblical authority…it is all imagined in the minds of the young-earth believers." These are people who have been raised to believe that science is destroying the Bible in our culture, and that their futile attempts to charge a tiny faction against science will actually do something to promote their cause. They face mountains of evidence, such as results from many carbon-tests, that they refute just as creationists are resolute to refute evolution as long as possible.


  4. Young Earth creationism (YEC) is a form of creationism that asserts the Heavens, Earth, and all life were created by direct acts of the Abrahamic god during a relatively short period, sometime between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago. Its adherents are those Christians and Jews who believe that God created the Earth in six 24-hour days, taking a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation myth as a basis for their beliefs. However, this theory clashes with evolution since fossils have been carbon dated to be over 10,000 years old, which is vastly different from their 5700-10,000 estimation.
    This theory is highly depended upon religious funding. Though it is said that 10-40% of Americans believe in this form of creationism (Wiki), only about 5% of the people with a PhD in some form of science accept this theory. Devout believers need their followers to believe that there is a “God” that created the world, as science is often shunned by the most religious communities since they cannot have scientific explanations to the wonders of god. These creationists are using the Bible to explain the world and how it functions, yet, we have no real evidence to back up the claims of the Holy Bible. However, evolution has lots of scientific research and evidence to back up its argument.
    Carbon-14 dating is a way of determining the age of certain archeological artifacts of a biological origin up to about 50,000 years old. It is used in dating things such as bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers that were created in the relatively recent past by human activities. Cosmic rays enter the earth's atmosphere in large numbers every day. For example, every person is hit by about half a million cosmic rays every hour. It is not uncommon for a cosmic ray to collide with an atom in the atmosphere, creating a secondary cosmic ray in the form of an energetic neutron, and for these energetic neutrons to collide with nitrogen atoms. When the neutron collides, a nitrogen-14 (seven protons, seven neutrons) atom turns into a carbon-14 atom (six protons, eight neutrons) and a hydrogen atom (one proton, zero neutrons). Carbon-14 is radioactive, with a half-life of about 5,700 years. The carbon-14 atoms that cosmic rays create combine with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, which plants absorb naturally and incorporate into plant fibers by photosynthesis. Animals and people eat plants and take in carbon-14 as well. The ratio of normal carbon (carbon-12) to carbon-14 in the air and in all living things at any given time is nearly constant. Maybe one in a trillion carbon atoms are carbon-14. The carbon-14 atoms are always decaying, but they are being replaced by new carbon-14 atoms at a constant rate. At this moment, your body has a certain percentage of carbon-14 atoms in it, and all living plants and animals have the same percentage.

  5. As soon as a living organism dies, it stops taking in new carbon. The ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 at the moment of death is the same as every other living thing, but the carbon-14 decays and is not replaced. The carbon-14 decays with its half-life of 5,700 years, while the amount of carbon-12 remains constant in the sample. By looking at the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in the sample and comparing it to the ratio in a living organism, it is possible to determine the age of a formerly living thing fairly precisely. Because the half-life of carbon-14 is 5,700 years, it is only reliable for dating objects up to about 60,000 years old. However, the principle of carbon-14 dating applies to other isotopes as well. Potassium-40 is another radioactive element naturally found in your body and has a half-life of 1.3 billion years. Other useful radioisotopes for radioactive dating include Uranium -235 (half-life = 704 million years), Uranium -238 (half-life = 4.5 billion years), Thorium-232 (half-life = 14 billion years) and Rubidium-87 (half-life = 49 billion years) (Brian).It should be noted that the use of various radioisotopes allows the dating of biological and geological samples with a high degree of accuracy.
    The accuracy of carbon dating is normally thought to be foolproof. By plotting a timeline of when animals existed, and then following the way certain animals changed, we are able to see evolution at work. However, creationists may argue that radioactive activity such as nuclear bombs, nuclear reactors, and open-air nuclear tests will alter the accuracy of these readings and radioisotope dating may not work as well.
    Creationists claim that all fossils are the same age, and are just merely buried by the “divine power” (Benton). Young Earth creationists say that all animals were drowned during a great flood, presumable the one from the “Noah’s Ark” story (Earth Facts). However, these claims could be made by anyone, and they can me neither supported with information or refuted by logic.

    Earth Facts:
    Concepts in the AP Bio book was used but not quoted