[Thanks to Alan Fox for asking questions about YEC and Elizabeth Liddle for her generosity in hosting this discussion]
YEC part 1 gave some theological and philosophical context to the case for YEC, and part 2 will hopefully focus solely on empirical and scientific considerations. Part 2 challenges the mainstream view that the fossil record is hundreds of millions of years old.
If empirical considerations alone suggest the fossil record is not more than a several million years old, does it matter on balance that the data don’t exactly arrive at 6,000 years old? I think not. As far as I’m concerned, if the fossil record is not anywhere near as old as the mainstream claims, the creationists will have won the essentials of their case independent of whether the universe and Earth are billions of years old. Creationists can afford to lose the issue of the age of the Earth and universe, but Darwinists cannot survive the fossils record being only a few million years old. But as I demonstrated in YEC part 1, time isn’t the friend of evolution anyway, it is an enemy since nature tends to erode complexity, not construct it.
If the age of a skyscraper built with 1 billion year old rocks does not imply the skyscraper was built 1 billion years ago, the age of the fossil record can be formally separated from the age of the universe and age of the Earth and age of rocks. The time of death of someone can be determined forensically and the process doesn’t rely on the age of the Earth or universe or rocks around deceased to make a reasonable inference. The age fossil record is about establishing the time of death of the fossil not the rocks the fossil is buried in. The age of when a strata was formed is independent of the age of the rocks that form the strata.
When I ask geologists how do permineralized or well-preserved fossils form. As a matter of principle, does the entombment happen quickly or slowly? “Quickly” is the usual reply. Why? Rapid burial with minerals and water are the necessary ingredients to effect preservation. If the creature dies and is left out in the open to scavangers and decay processes, it will not fossilize. So as a matter of principle, such fossil bearing formations didn’t take millions of years to form. Thus one can’t argue the fossil record is old because it took millions of years to bury them! In the case of wooly mammoths with undigested tropical vegetation in their stomachs, they’d have to be instantly buried in snow to effect the necessary freezing to preserve the vegetables in their stomachs — not millions of years. That’s the other thing, why are the mammoths in a tropical environment one moment and then buried in a cataclysmic blizzard the next, and then never unfrozen till discovered in Siberia? Hmm…..
So like a detective, we’ve established certain fossils are buried rapidly, not over millions of years. The question remains when it happened, or maybe when it couldn’t have happened.
The mean sea level of the US is here is around 760 meters. Erosion of a mere 10 microns per year would wipe 760 meters into the sea in 76 million years. A sheet of paper, by the way is 100 microns thick. The slowest mean erosion rate I’ve found in literature is 2.5 microns per year, and even that would wipe out the Phanerozoic in many areas.
I point to this empirical study by Princeton geologists Judson and Ritter: Judson and Ritter
Taking the average height of the United States above sea level as 2300 feet and assuming that the rates of erosion reported here are representative, we find that it would take 11 to 12 million years to move to the oceans a volume equivalent to that of the United States lying above sea level. At this rate there has been enough time since the Cretaceous to destroy such a land mass six times. Accepting this figure creates the problem of maintaining a continental mass above high elevations. A problem beyond the intent of this report
Granted, that may only be a mean value for now, but one can’t fight gravity, sediments will tend to move toward the oceans, erasing the fossil record in the process. Even if Judson and Ritter are off by a factor of 50, that would still wipe out the fossil record all the way to the beginning of the Cambrian.
But even more to the point, we have forensic clocks that may put an upper limit to the time of death of the fossil in question. There is the very embarrassing fact that the supposed carboniferous era of 300 million years ago has ubiquitious traces of C14, and this is acknowledged in peer-reviewed literature. 0.1% present day concentration of C14 will yield a presumed age of 57,000 years. That is 1 part in 1000. We have frequent detections of comparable levels, so much so many won’t even try to date with C14 beyond that presumed age because there seems to be a persistent amount in fossils!
Some claim contamination, but this explanation is not as credible as one might suppose.
First consider in-site contamination. To maintain a background persistent concentration of C14, one needs to keep adding more carbon from atmospheric sources into the fossil to maintain 0.1% concentraion. The problem with this scenario however is that the added C14 will decay away, and one needs to add even more carbon contaminants the next iteration to maintain a background C14 level of 0.1%. One ends up with something analogous to the compounding interest rate problem. Say I added a mere 0.1% contaminant every 50,000 years, over 300,000,000 years, the fossil will either gain 402 times in mass or be diluted from the original material by that factor. Maybe in-site contamination might work as an explanation for isolated cases, but not for repeated discoveries in diverse geographical locations, otherwise one would have to argue nature conspired to fool us by contaminating the entire world recently for no good reason.
Consider contamination during processing of the fossil. 1 part in 1000 might seem like very little, but consider contaminating a hard piece of fossil marble or shell or bone. Just to illustrate, take a 1 gallon (not quite 4 liters) sample of something hard. A little less than a small teaspoon (4 milliliters) of contaminant to 1 gallon would be 1 part in 1000. Do you think you can force that much contaminant into something relatively hard? 🙂 Even 1 teaspoon into 10 gallons wouldn’t exactly be easy (1 part in 10,000). So this is not as credible an explanation as would be supposed either. Are experiments and analysis actually done to determine the source of contamination? No, because the fossils C14 is primarily due to contamination, it is due to the fact the fossils are young. And few are willing to stick there neck out to point out they can’t demonstrate the source of supposed contamination.
Radioactive decay chains have be also ruled out unless of course one assumes 99% Uranium and less than 1% of fossil!
Lowe points out:
Many (super 14) C dating laboratories have established that coal samples exhibit a finite (super 14) C age, apparently caused by contamination of the specimens before any laboratory preparation is undertaken.
He then points out the contamination cannot be due to radioactive decay of other products:
Because coal is formed over geological time scales at depths providing excellent shielding from cosmic rays, its 14C content should be insignificant in comparison to the 14C introduced by even the most careful sample preparation techniques used in 14C dating laboratories. How is it then, that a material, which should show a14C age indistinguishable from that produced by a combination of machine background and contamination during careful sample preparation, routinely produces a finite 14C age?
One suggestion is that radium, which is present in some coals at the sub pm level, as a decay product of the uranium/thorium series, may produce 4C during an extremely rare decay event (Rose & Jones, 1984). Jull,Barker and Donahue (1987) have detected 14C from this process in uranium/ thorium ores. Blendowski, Fliessbach and Walliser (1987) however, have shown that the 14( decay mode of 226Ra is only of the order of 10-11 of the preferred a decay channel to 222Rn. Thus, the amount of 14C produced by such events derived from radium in coal must be considered as insignificant.
and finally capitulation at the ubiquity of the problem
There are many other unpublished accounts by 14C laboratories in which the use of coal as a background test material has been investigated. In many cases, the samples were found to contain 14C, and further studies were discontinued. The AMS and gas counting facilities, DSIR, in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, eg, have observed apparent ages for coal specimens ranging from 25-40 kyr, and the NSF Accelerator Facility at Tucson, Arizona has determined ages of anthracite samples ranging from 30-40 kyr (AJT Jull, pers commun, 1988).
Lowe invokes bacterial contamination, but I pointed out why such in site contamination is contradicted by the “compounding interest” problem, not to mention, bacteria in deep parts of the Earth would be feasting off C14 depleted carbon, not atmospheric carbon!
Next is the fact of biological materials with half-lives that preclude their persistence in fossils. DNA has a half life 521 years give or take, homochiral amino acids have half-lives on the order of hundreds or a few thousand years. The state of these biological materials in fossils is inconsistent with the time of death hundreds of millions of years ago.
Additionally, we have ancient fossil DNA that looks like modern DNA, breaking the biological molecular clock hypothesis. See: Pardox of Ancient Bacterium. But detractors bring up the contamination complaint yet again.
The actual forensic clocks refute old age fossils in the fossils themselves (C14, DNA, homochiral amino acids, inconsistency with biological molecular clock). The well preserved variety of fossils could not have been buried in a process taking millions of years as a matter of principle, and there should be serious doubt the fossil record would still be around after hundred million years, maybe not even 11 million years.
Finally, I keep hearing assertions about all the mounds of data that prove the fossils are old. Actually it’s mounds of publication not mounds of actual facts. The amount of words dumped out does not necessarily make claims any more credible than Kairos Focus being verbose proves Kairos Focus’ FYI/FTR are correct. It’s the physical facts that count. The tons of fossilized material themselves do not indicate an age that is as old as most presume.