Review by Greg Neyman
© Old Earth Ministries
On 31 March 2006 Answers in Genesis published their weekly feedback article, in which they answer questions from a person who submitted feedback to their website.1
This one is a bit astounding...the trickery involved on Answers in Genesis part, that is. Actually, since Humphreys works for the Institute for Creation Research, the trickery lies there. In this particular article, a feedback submitter asks if the sea sodium argument for a young earth is still valid. He submitted this article, both to ICR and AIG, several months apart. Humphreys calls this deceptive. However, I see no fault. He got the opinion of ICR (supposedly) last October, and he wondered how a different scientist, who works for AiG would respond. He wanted a second opinion. It is deceptive on AiG's part to publish the exact same response that ICR sent the person.
In the question, the reader says he read an article by Glenn Morton, which says that Dr. Humphreys and Dr. Austin ignored several sodium output sources. The feedback submitter wanted to know if Morton was right. Humphreys response is that Glenn Morton is wrong, and creationists should continue to use the argument. Humphreys claims that Morton showed the reader an early letter in this correspondence series, but did not show him the replies of Humphreys/Austin.
The original article in which Humphreys and Austin claim that sodium accumulates too fast for an old earth is dated to 1990. The first letter I found in this debate from Morton is dated 15 June 1996, and it is located here.
Whether or not this is the letter that the feedback submitter is referring to is unknown, as Answers in Genesis so kindly removed the link to the letter (AiG has a policy that they will not provide a link to any old earth material or websites, as they are afraid of exposing people to the truth, for fear that they might switch sides).
Humphreys continues by saying that Morton showed him an "early letter" in this correspondence, but not their replies. We don't have a copy of these replies, as Humphreys has not posted them anywhere on the internet. However, Morton has posted his letters. Is Humphreys/Austin trying to hide something? Why would Humphreys and AiG withhold this information from their readers?
In the Humphreys response to the feedback submitter, he states that Morton erred when he considered the mineral albite as a method of removing sodium from seawater. He claims that albite decomposes as it gets into cooler water, into the mineral chlorite, and it releases the same amount of sodium back into the water, thus the net effect is zero.
If you look at the earliest letter we have available, linked above, Morton shows in his corrected table at the bottom, that the net effect of albite is zero. It appears that Morton is not guilty of this "albite sink" theory. However, let's now look at the next available letter on the internet, written by Morton in October 1997, 16 months after the letter referenced above.
In the October 1997 letter, albite is brought up as an issue, and Morton here claims that albite does remove sodium from the sea. Perhaps this is the letter that Humphreys, and the feedback submitter, is referring to as an "early letter."
So then, is Humphreys right in his claim that albite decomposes into chlorite? If we were to look for evidence to back up Humphreys claim, we would examine old hydrothermal deposits. Albite (and Chlorite) form from hydrothermal events. One such deposit was easy to find. The Troodos Ophiolite in Cyprus is a mid-Cretaceous (91 million-year-old) ophiolite. It formed in a supra-subduction zone environment, as shown by lava geochemistry, in a small ocean basin within the complex Tethyan ocean domain.2
Humphreys said that it decomposed when it got into cooler water. The rocks of the Troodos Ophiolite have been away from the heat source that formed it for over 90 million years. The question is...is there any albite left, which is retaining the original sodium from when it was formed? The answer is yes, albite is still present.3 If Humphrey's words are true, then maybe some of the albite decomposed into chlorite. The next logical question to ask is...does the Troodos Ophiolite contain chlorite? Since my reading discovered that albite and chlorite can form together, then it is apparent that some should be present. I did find references showing that chlorite is present...but, it is part of the series from smectite to chlorite, and appears unrelated to the albite.4 It is unclear in this reference whether there is albite present at this specific Troodos location, but it does specifically say there is no chlorite-albite alteration.
Thus, from research on the internet, I cannot say for certain whether or not albite decomposed into chlorite. We do know that after 91 million years, albite was still present.
The albite issue is the ONLY issue that Humphreys deals with in his letter to this feedback submitter. This causes Humphreys problems, because albite was not the only issue raised by Morton. Humphreys fails to address the issue of the alteration of basalt, which removes a significant portion of sodium (Humphreys/Austin vastly underestimated it). Humphreys and Austin listed seven outputs (processes) for removing sodium, but Morton identified nine. Humphreys fails to address the two additional outputs in this feedback article.
Neither did Humphreys/Austin address changing landmass. As we go back in time, there is less landmass than there is today. This means less sodium input.
This last point brings up an important issue, one of assumptions. Humphreys/Austin assume that input rates for adding sodium are the same over time. This assumption cannot be tested.
Common Sense Conclusion
The sodium levels in the ocean, in all likelihood, have fluctuated. Some periods of earth's history have more input...others more output. Even if Humphreys is right, and we currently have more input, dating the earth on sodium input into the ocean is something that cannot be trusted because the input varies.
Although there may be concerns here on the validity of the albite sink, I see nothing that would cause problems for the old earth point of view.
NOTES: The most telling part of this debate is the Oct 1997 correspondence, as posted on Glenn Morton's website. It contains a section after the first part, labeled Further Comments. All people reading this article should read this section.
Also of interest is other dissolved minerals in the ocean. The original argument for this was dreamed up by Henry Morris, in Scientific Creationism. He pointed out many minerals which cause problems, or so he thought. His original argument was based on residence times (the average time that an element stays in sea water before being removed). He also left aluminum off his list, which by his reasoning, would mean that the earth is only 100 years old!
For Further Reading
1 Feedback for the week of March 27, by Dr. Russell Humphreys, published at answersingenesis.org/home/area/feedback/2006/0331.asp
2 The Troodos Ophiolite http://ridge.oce.orst.edu/meetings/troodos/Troodos_bckgrnd.html
3 K. M. Gillis, "The Rootzone of an Ancient Hydrothermal System Exposed in the Toodos Ophiolite, Cyprus" Journal of Geology, 110(2002):57-74.
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