A young age for ‘ancient’ granites

When physicist Dr Russell Humphreys was still at Sandia National Laboratories (he now works full-time for the Institute for Creation Research), he and Dr John Baumgardner (still with Los Alamos National Laboratory) were both convinced that they knew the direction in which to look for a definitive answer to the puzzle of why radiometric dating consistently gives ages of millions and billions of years.

picture – Linear accelerator used in radiometric dating.

Others had tried to find an answer in geological processes—e.g. the pattern was caused by the way the magma was emplaced or how it crystallized. This is indeed the answer in some cases.2,3 But Drs Humphreys and Baumgardner realized that in other cases there were many independent lines of evidence that suggested that huge amounts of radioactive decay had indeed taken place. (These include the variety of elements used in ‘standard’ radioisotope dating, mature uranium radiohalos and fission track dating.) It would be hard to imagine that geologic processes alone could explain all these. Rather, there was likely to be an answer that concerned the nuclear decay processes themselves.

From the eyewitness testimony of God’s Word, the billions of years that such vast amounts of radioactive processes would normally suggest had not taken place. So it was clear that the assumption of a constant, slow decay process was wrong. There must have been speeded-up decay, perhaps in a huge burst associated with Creation Week and/or a separate burst at the time of the Flood.

There is now powerful confirmatory evidence that at least one episode of drastically accelerated decay has indeed been the case, building on the work of Dr Robert Gentry on helium retention in zircons. The landmark RATE paper,4 though technical, can be summarized as follows:

  • When uranium decays to lead, a by-product of this process is the formation of helium, a very light, inert gas, which readily escapes from rock.
  • Certain crystals called zircons, obtained from drilling into very deep granites, contain uranium which has partly decayed into lead.
  • By measuring the amount of uranium and ‘radiogenic lead’ in these crystals, one can calculate that, if the decay rate has been constant, about 1.5 billion years must have passed. (This is consistent with the geologic ‘age’ assigned to the granites in which these zircons are found.)
  • However, there is a significant proportion of helium from that ‘1.5 billion years of decay’ still inside the zircons. This is, at first glance, surprising for long-agers, because of the ease with which one would expect helium (with its tiny, light, unreactive atoms) to escape from the spaces within the crystal structure. There should surely be hardly any left, because with such a slow buildup, it should be seeping out continually and not accumulating.
  • Drawing any conclusions from the above depends, of course, on actually measuring the rate at which helium leaks out of zircons. This is what one of the RATE papers reports on. The samples were sent (without any hint that it was a creationist project) to a world-class expert on helium diffusion from minerals to measure these rates. The consistent answer: the helium does indeed seep out quickly over a wide range of temperatures. In fact, the results show that because of all the helium still in the zircons, these crystals (and since this is Precambrian basement granite, by implication the whole earth) could not be older than 14,000 years. In other words, in only a few thousand years, 1.5 billion years’ worth (at today’s rates) of radioactive decay has taken place. Interestingly, the data have since been refined and updated to give a date of 5,680 (± 2,000) years.
  • The paper looks at the various avenues a long-ager might take by which to wriggle out of these powerful implications, but there seems to be little hope for them unless they can show that the techniques used to obtain the results were seriously flawed.

The Bible clearly tells us that God created a mature universe: Adam was a man, not a baby, the trees and plants mature and on day six Adam could see all of the stars in heaven. God tells us that He stretched out the heavens at creation on day four. The Cosmos could only have been created by a being outside of His creation with miraculous powers.

Big Bang from nothing does not explain the complex ordered universe that is so evident, it is certainly not good science.

Taken from an article by Dr. Carl Weiland “Radiometric dating breakthroughs” http://www.creation.com

4. Humphreys, D. et al., Helium diffusion rates support accelerated nuclear decay, icr.org, 16 October 2003. Return to text.

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