Review by Greg Neyman
© Old Earth Ministries
Published May 2006
In this chapter, DeYoung summarizes the work of Andrew Snelling concerning radiohalos in granite.
FINGERPRINTS FROM RADIATION
DeYoung explains that when decay of uranium, or another radioactive material occurs, it may leave a mark. These marks, or halos, form around the center point of radioactivity, or radiocenter. Since uranium and thorium concentrate in zircon crystals, the zircons tend to be the radiocenter. The alpha particles which form the halos come from the decay series from uranium-238 to lead-206. The radius of these halos is dependent upon the atom that is decaying. For instance, U-238 forms the smallest halo, followed by U-234, and so on. Scientists can tell from the halo what the parent isotope was that caused the halo.
Because biotite forms in sheets, these halos are often preserved in three dimensions. However, these halos can be healed if the rock is heated sufficiently, to about 150 degrees centigrade. This temperature is called the annealing temperature.
A RADIOHALO MYSTERY
However, polonium halos appear all by themselves, with no imbedded uranium halos. This means that the polonium is the only radioactive decay present for that location (the radiocenter). Since the three polonium isotopes have such short half-lives, it is a mystery how they formed without any parent isotope decaying to Polonium.
Interestingly, these polonium halos are found only a short distance away from other halos, which show the decay from uranium-238 and from polonium isotopes. In other words, halos from uranium have the entire sequence of halo rings, whereas these polonium-only halos only contain the polonium isotope rings.
RATE RADIOHALO RESEARCH
The original polonium halo research was conducted by young earth creationist Robert Gentry. His claims have been fully rebutted and shown to not be evidence of a young earth. However, RATE still thinks his claims are valid, and they decided to repeat, and expand upon, his original research. In this new research, they ask two questions. First, do these parentless polonium halos provide evidence for instant, supernatural creation or is there another explanation for their existence. Second, how does the distribution of polonium halos correspond to pre-Flood, Flood, and post-Flood rocks.
To answer this question, the RATE group set out to collect rock samples from each of these three rock groups. Unfortunately, their divisions of what is a Flood rocks itself is an untenable scientific position, but that has been addressed elsewhere on this site (see the Noah's Flood articles). In short, they assumed the following divisions:
Youngest Cenozoic Era Late- and post-Flood deposits
Mesozoic Era Mid- and late-Flood deposits
Paleozoic Era Early-Flood deposits
Oldest Precambrian Era Creation week and pre-Flood deposits
Of course no mention of this division being unworkable is made. For instance, Mesozoic rocks contain every single dinosaur fossil. Not only does it contain all the dinosaur fossils, it contains all the dinosaur trace fossils, such as fossil dung, nest sites, footprints, etc. Clearly the dinosaurs lived on these layers during the middle to late portion of the Flood! And, there is no evidence, footprint or otherwise, of dinosaur existence in what they consider "pre-flood" rocks. Also, most mammal fossils are in the Cenozoic rocks, therefore by the young earth model, most mammals survived until the very end of Noah's Flood!
Using this arbitrary and unscientific division of rocks, they collected the samples, and prepared over 5,000 slides for examination.
RADIOHALO COUNTS AND ANALYSIS
In this section DeYoung gives the total count of halos discovered in the samples, based on the supposed ages of the rocks. They noted a low number of halos in Precambrian rocks, which they attribute to heating/tectonic uplift during the Flood. However, DeYoung clearly states that some of the slides revealed no halos at all, which clearly indicates there are no radioactive isotopes in these samples. The statement about the Flood has no basis in fact.
For the flood rocks, they had a great number of halos, which DeYoung claims is from the year of the Flood. Again, this is a wild guess, as there is no scientific basis for making this claim. And, of course, the post-flood rocks have very little halos.
At this point, it is important to note that they found what they were looking for. In other words, if one wanted this pattern, one could easily seek out rocks during the Paleozoic/Mesozoic which are known to be high in radioactive isotopes. Also, one could easily seek out Precambrian and Cenozoic rocks which have little or no radioactive isotopes. Just on the basis of sample selection, you could prove your point. If RATE wants to be taken seriously they need to be more forthcoming in the locations of the samples taken, and also they need to show the levels of radioactive isotopes in the samples. With what DeYoung has presented here, it only makes one suspicious of the methods employed.
Of course this is the real issue. How do you get polonium halos with no parent (uranium and thorium) halos? DeYoung mentions that the movement of polonium atoms away from their uranium source has been discussed and debated. To DeYoung's credit, he notes that Radon-222, the parent of polonium, is a gas, and it readily migrates outward. As DeYoung notes, these polonium halos are always found near uranium halos. He also notes that the polonium halos are located along cleavages, cracks, or crystal defects, which can serve as the conduit for moving the gas. However, he then makes an unfounded assumption. He says "The isotope transport activity would take place during the latter stages of crystallization and cooling of the granite magmas." Actually, one must cool the magma, then allow time for the parent Uranium 238 to decay into uranium-234, then allow it to decay into thorium-230, then allow that to decay into radium-226, and finally this decays into radon-222. Only then can this radon migrate, and after its short half-life of only 3.8 days, it decays into polonium-218. This is unworkable, as this model would seem to require the magma to have a cooling period of billions of years.
In reality, the radon being a gas, as DeYoung noted earlier, freely migrates outward, even in a solid granite rock. There is no scientific evidence for DeYoung to claim that this happens during the cooling period.
DeYoung suggests that the polonium formed in the newly-cooled magma, and then left the halos. This forces him to accept the unproved theory of accelerated nuclear decay. With this, the uranium halos are destroyed as the melt is still hot enough to be above the annealing temperature. After this rapid decay, the rock cools, and the polonium halos form. This all requires a very strict timeline. The rock must have accelerated decay, all the way from uranium-238 to polonium-218. With polonium-218's half life of 3.1 minutes, the rock must cool from a melt to below annealing temperature (~150 C) prior to polonium-218 decay.
Look again at the pages describing this (pages 94-95). There is no hint of these strict timelines. DeYoung says that "the magma cooled to solid rock very rapidly." Given that it must cool in under three minutes, this is an extreme understatement! Readers are told bits and pieces, but not a coherent picture.
Another problem exists. As previously discussed, the young earth scientist does not deny that this radiation occurred. Therefore, since you condense billions of years radiation into one week (or one year of the flood), you also condense billions of years of heat from this radiation into the same time frame, which essentially would melt the entire earth. Since you are reading this, your very existence testifies that this accelerated decay did not happen.
RADIOHALOS IN METAMORPHIC ROCKS
In the final section, DeYoung correctly mentions that metamorphic rocks, which were essentially reheated, would destroy all evidences of prior halos. The RATE team examined 21 samples of metamorphic rocks, and they indeed showed large numbers of polonium halos. Unfortunately, DeYoung does not give us all the data. He fails to say if there are uranium-238 halos present, or if there are any halos at all present from any parent material of the polonium series. Why would he omit such information? If there were no halos from a parent, that would support his argument, yet he fails to even mention this. This leads me to believe that there were other halos present.
But what if there are no parent halos present? His basic argument here is that there were hydrothermal fluids circulating the polonium atoms through the metamorphic rocks. Sure, this is a possibility. However, this argument does not prove that the rocks were created only 4,500 years ago during the flood, nor 6,000 years ago during creation. It only means that polonium was delivered to the rocks via hydrothermal fluids. Nothing can be inferred about the ages of these rocks. The rocks themselves could be a billion years old, and the polonium could have been brought in by fluid a year ago. Or, the rocks could be a billion years old, and the fluid brought them in 500 million years ago. This argument is useless to the young earth creationist.
For a more thorough refutation of this topic, see the references below.
For More Reading
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