INSTANTANEOUS CREATION: Part III
Evolutionary Article of Faith; in Section IV.(C) Judge Overton gives what he considers to be the five qualifying characteristics of science:
(1) It is guided by natural law;
(2) It has to be explanatory by reference to natural law;
(3) It is testable against the empirical world;
(4) Its conclusions are tentative, i.e., are not necessarily the final word; and
(5) It is falsifiable.
Judge Overton states that creation science fails to meet these essential characteristics, noting that the Arkansas creation law “asserts a sudden creation ‘from nothing.'” He maintains that “such a concept is not science because it depends upon a supernatural intervention which is not guided by natural law, is not testable and is not falsifiable.” By applying this line of reasoning only to creation science, Judge Overton ignores part of the evidence presented to him. In my testimony I showed that evolution also requires a supernatural beginning.
I testified that the most widely accepted evolutionary scenario of the beginning of the universe, the Big Bang model, begins with an article of faith. Evolutionary scientists postulate that all matter in the universe emanated some 17 billion years ago from a gigantic primeval explosion. The ultimate cause for such a beginning is not a matter capable of scientific investigation. That event is not presumed to be guided or explainable by natural law, nor is it testable against the empirical world. If the court had consistently applied its own description of science, it would have been as critical of “the beginning” postulated for evolution as of the supernatural beginning for creation science.
While writing this book, I found a comment which summarizes my testimony before the court about this mythical event. It was made by the well-known British astronomer, Professor Paul Davies. In one of his books the comment is made that the creation of the universe by the Big Bang
. . . represents the instantaneous suspension of physical laws, the sudden abrupt flash of lawlessness that allowed something to come out of nothing. It represents a true miracle—transcending physical principles… (Davies 1981, 161)
This forthright statement by an eminent evolutionist admits that evolutionary science requires as much of a “miracle” in the beginning as does creation science—”something to come out of nothing.” Such was the essence of my testimony about the Big Bang. If Judge Overton had recognized this fact in his Opinion, it would have invalidated his contrast between creation and evolution.
True Science Defined by the Court
Perhaps the most blatant contradiction in Judge Overton’s Opinion occurs when he criticizes the methodology of creation scientists:
The methodology employed by creationists is another factor which is indicative that their work is not science. A scientific theory must be tentative and always subject to revision or abandonment in light of facts that are inconsistent with, or falsify, the theory. A theory that is by its own terms dogmatic, absolutist and never subject to revision is not a scientific theory. (Overton 1982, Section IV.(C))
This is truly an incredible statement. Apparently the judge decided to ignore a large part of my testimony relating to the proposed falsification experiment. My testimony about this experiment encompassed an in-depth review of the material discussed in the earlier chapters of this book. It included (1) my presentation at the 1978 Louisiana State University symposium on the measurement of geological time (when I presented evidence that polonium halos in Precambrian granites suggested a very rapid formation of those rocks), (2) Professor Damon’s letter about my contribution to that symposium, along with my responses to Damon and York as published in EOS, and (3) a discussion of the comments of Professor Norman Feather concerning the exceeding difficulty of explaining polonium halos in granites by conventional scientific principles. I specifically stated that the synthesis of a hand-sized piece of granite or biotite would suffice to render my creation model invalid. Thus, Judge Overton’s comments that creation science is not testable or falsifiable were contradictory to the testimony presented at length in his own court.
Throughout his Opinion Judge Overton seems to have accepted the ACLU’s position on most of the issues that were argued at the trial. I must pay my respects to the ACLU contingent for that achievement. Admittedly, they won a tremendous psychological victory when the judge ruled in their favor. This was no small accomplishment. They were sitting on Pandora’s box, and throughout the trial they ran the risk of having it come open. Legally, it was an impressive victory. But what an empty victory it was! Scientifically, they were confronted with evidence for creation, and they didn’t even try to refute it. Make no mistake—if the ACLU had found a flaw in that evidence they certainly would have brought it out during my cross-examination. Their only recourse was to treat the evidence for creation presented at the trial as a “tiny mystery.” On this occasion their strategy worked very well. Whether it would ever work again remains to be seen.
By now the reader may realize that the events described in this chapter draw attention to the question arising in my mind when I first encountered the Big Bang concept in a graduate physics course. That question centered on how matter and energy could be formed in the Big Bang when a fundamental law of physics prohibited it. In reality, as Professor Davies’ statement so cogently reveals, the laws of physics have never been sufficient to account for the Big Bang. Thus, ironically, even the most resolute evolutionists are, in the end, forced to admit to an incredible contradiction—a miracle of creation must be invoked to start this mythical scenario.
Effects of Journalism on Research Funding
Government laboratories are sensitive to any evaluation of their staff activities published in respected scientific journals. A positive evaluation of a project or scientist at a national laboratory provides an incentive for the parent agency, such as the Department of Energy, to recommend a high level of support when budgets are prepared for Congress. At the same time, a government laboratory must be wary of supporting a scientist who is criticized in one of those journals. Support of controversial research could produce a negative reaction from the Congress and in turn affect funding for that laboratory. This chapter focuses on two accounts of the trial published in the January 1 and January 8, 1982, issues of Science and how they adversely affected my status as a professional scientist.
This journal had always given my technical reports fair treatment. Their chosen reporter, Roger Lewin, was expected to provide an evenly balanced account of the trial proceedings. But as I read his reports (Lewin 1982a and 1982b), it seemed that the creation position at the trial, my testimony in particular, was considerably minimized for the benefit of evolution. A few months later I learned firsthand of his strong preference for evolution when he was featured as an invited speaker at the American Physical Society meeting in Washington in April 1982 (Lewin 1982c). In that presentation he upheld the standard evolutionary scenario. That same year he authored a book on evolution (Lewin 1982d). Conceivably, some other staff reporter might have given a different perspective of the trial, and this chapter might not have been written.
Reporting from an Evolutionist Perspective
On the surface Lewin’s two reports of the trial appear to be a simple reviewing of the important events. But a close examination reveals a different picture. By omitting and minimizing crucial parts of the trial testimony, while emphasizing other phases, he favors the evolutionary position and leaves the impression that the creation science position was in shambles. Lewin accomplishes this feat by building up the ACLU contention that evolution is truly scientific whereas creation science is religion in disguise.
In his first account Lewin refers to the testimony of one of the ACLU witnesses:
Science has to be testable, explanatory, and tentative, said Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at the University of Guelph, Canada, and he made it plain that in his mind creation science was none of these. (Lewin 1982a, 34)
A few paragraphs later the build-up continues as these witnesses are allowed the privilege of defining the scientific status of their own theory:
Each [evolutionist] testified that yes, evolutionary theory was thoroughly scientific even though there were problems with it; and that no, creation science (Ayala could hardly bring himself to mouth the phrase) most definitely was not. (Lewin 1982a, 34)
Note that Lewin is not content to report the evolutionists’ evaluation of their own theory. Here he uses a parenthetical comment to inject his own appraisal of Ayala’s reaction to creation science. From this one could easily conclude that the ACLU witnesses were intellectual heroes, the brave defenders of scientific truth.
In contrast, Lewin pictures the creation science position as being confused and fearful: The attorney general presented six science witnesses, two more than had testified for the ACLU, presumably on the grounds that quantity made up for evident lack of quality. There would have been more had not a serious case of disappearing witnesses set in as the second week wore on. Dean Kenyon, a biologist from San Francisco State University, fled town after watching the demolition of four of the State’s witnesses on day 1 of the second week. (Lewin 1982a, 34)
True enough, one of the planned witnesses for the State did leave town very hurriedly after observing how the ACLU tried to intimidate the State’s witnesses during their cross-examinations. Lewin cannot be faulted for reporting this occurrence. But to imply this was because four of the State’s witnesses were demolished is an opinionated statement. It leaves the impression that creation science was not up to the challenge of the day. Near the end of Lewin’s first commentary my work is described as follows:
Defense witness Robert Gentry, a physicist associated with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, brought the trial to a close with 4 hours of excruciating detail about an anomalous result in the radiometric dating of the age of the earth that Dalrymple had described as a “tiny mystery.”
Judge Overton left the bench at 10:46 on Thursday, still holding his head from Gentry’s massive presentation. . . . (Lewin 1982a, 34)
Readers should note that after Lewin heard those four hours of evidence, which encompassed years of research and many publications in respected scientific journals, the most perceptive comments he can offer in this first write-up are that my testimony was “massive” and involved “excruciating detail” of an “anomalous result.” No mention is made of my scientific publications or of the granite synthesis experiment which I had proposed. Lewin’s greatest assist for the evolutionary position, the one most needed by the ACLU to maintain a posttrial image of scientific invincibility for evolution, is his repeated silence about this critical falsifiability test.
Where is the Science in Creation Science?
The second account of the trial, entitled “Where Is the Science in Creation Science?,” is another deft attempt to establish that creation science is not science. The author sets the stage for his drama in this article by noting that only seven out of sixteen potential creation science witnesses actually testified at the trial. Next he states:
“. . . in their pretrial depositions many creation scientists admitted that what they practiced was not scientific.” . . . (Lewin 1982b, 142—italics mine)
This appears to be a very damaging admission. But there is more than one way to interpret such a statement. In fairness the context should have been included so that the reader could evaluate just what was meant by these remarks. True, the work of many creation scientists involves the observation and interpretation of existing geological data. They also utilize a flood model of earth history in interpreting that data. Since geologists generally exclude a worldwide flood from their scientific perspective, possibly these creation scientists are only admitting their interpretive framework of science differs in some respects from the orthodox view of science. To illustrate, I quote a recent statement from Dr. Ariel Roth, one of the creation scientists who was the target of Lewin’s thrust:
. . . the question of whether creation is science is trivial. It revolves around varied definitions of science and conflicting scientific practices. By promoting the proposition that creation is not scientific, evolutionists are directing their energies to a non sequitur that distracts from the more basic question of origins. C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre! (This is magnificent but this is not the war.) The real question is whether evolution or creation is true. (Roth 1984, 64)
I suggest this statement throws a different light on the issue. This kind of information Lewin could easily have obtained to give a balanced perspective, but he chose not to do so.
Neither does Lewin mention that my views on this topic were necessarily different. As a scientist whose work has dealt mainly with experimental data obtained in the laboratory, I have consistently maintained my work is scientific and have invited my colleagues to test my results. This was made clear in my pretrial deposition and in my court testimony, but Lewin is silent about it. Anyone reading his second account of the trial may erroneously think that all creation science witnesses, including me, had admitted that creation science, even my experimental work, was not scientific. This one misunderstanding alone would have been sufficient to raise serious questions among my scientific colleagues. And the damage does not stop there.
Lewin then refers to an assessment of creation science held by Duane Gish, a well-known creation scientist who was not a witness at the trial:
In admitting that creation science is not a science, Gish and his colleagues are quick to point out that, in their opinion, neither is evolutionary theory scientific. . . . (Lewin 1982b, 142)
The phrase “Gish and his colleagues” suggests that all creation scientists think alike on this point, which again invites a misunderstanding about my experimental results.
In the next paragraph Lewin says:
. . . creationist literature, Act 590, and defendants’ counsel, avoid the term “theory” in reference to creation and evolution explanations, because of its implied property of testability, tentativeness, and explanation. (Lewin 1982b, 142)
This statement implies that creation scientists cannot stand to have their ideas put in the marketplace of science for critical scrutiny. This is just the opposite of what I had done for a decade and a half of research. And it was contrary to the testimony which Lewin heard me give before the court. This is the third instance that Lewin remained silent about my position. And there is more to come. A few paragraphs later we find:
In addition to the pretrial proclamation that creation science is not science, the defense opened its scientific case with a second distinct disadvantage. (Lewin 1982b, 142)
Where is the “pretrial proclamation” Lewin mentions? To my knowledge no such proclamation was made. Is this a reference to the pretrial depositions of the other creation scientists? If so, this was no proclamation. How could it be when my pretrial deposition emphasized the opposite view? This is the fourth instance where the author, by his silence, left a cloud over my experimental results and cast doubt upon my reputation as a professional scientist. As earlier noted, this need not have been the case at all for the other creation science witnesses, who were possibly utilizing a different definition of what is scientific.
The “second distinct disadvantage” in the last quote refers to several creation science witnesses (including me, at that time) who held membership in the Creation Research Society (CRS). Lewin correctly notes that CRS members affirm faith in the Genesis account of creation and the flood as well as in the widely held Christian belief that Jesus Christ is the Savior of mankind. I ask: Is the “disadvantage” Lewin mentions here a reflection of his own attitude toward these beliefs? At the trial I asked my evolutionist colleagues to show where my evidence for creation is wrong and theirs for the uniformitarian principle is correct. This they failed to do either at the trial or since then. Instead of faulting the evolutionists for this failure, Lewin casts aspersion on the CRS members who testified for the State:
One after another these five witnesses agreed that the work they did and the conclusions they felt able to draw were inspired by these beliefs. (Lewin 1982b, 143)
This statement contains factual information, but the whole truth is not evident. As one of those five witnesses, I must take exception to this characterization of my work. As a scientist I have worked to uncover the truth about the origin and history of the earth. At the trial my conclusions unequivocally supported creation, but those conclusions were based on scientific evidence. What Lewin does in the above statement is to confuse the motivation for my research—wanting to know the truth about Genesis—with the scientific results achieved in that search.
MY RESPONSE TO ROGER LEWIN'S TRIAL ACCOUNT
In Roger Lewin’s summation “Where is the Science in Creation Science?” (8 Jan. p. 142), it was clearly his prerogative to report that some creation scientists testified that they did not believe that creation science is testable or scientific. But it hardly does me justice before my scientific colleagues for him not to also mention that I represented a different position at the trial. The fact that I explained how the one-singularity Big Bang Model and the two-singularity Creation Model (ref. 1) both involve prediction and are in theory capable of falsification makes it doubly curious why Lewin chose not to give the readers of Science an opportunity to evaluate my thesis for themselves. (I define a singularity as a set of events requiring more than known physical laws to explain.)
In support of the Creation Model I referred to my results (ref. 2) on [p. 153] halos in coalified wood as evidence for the Flood singularity. Such data also imply that certain coals should have formed within a few months to a few years (but not instantaneously as Lewin reported). I suggest these predictions about the relative rapidity of coal formation can be tested in the laboratory by subjecting water-saturated samples of wood to elevated temperatures (150-300°C) and then analyzing the residue for coal-like properties. And speaking of predictions, on the basis of this Creation Model I have also suggested that newly developed accelerator techniques should be used to search for small amounts of 14C in coal and amber (ref. 1). Conventional geological theory predicts that the amount of 14C in such materials should be infinitesimally small, and hence undetectable.
As evidence for the initial creation singularity (ref. 1) I referred to my results (refs. 3, 4) suggesting that polonium halos in Precambrian granites are primordial, hence implying that the granites must themselves be primordial rocks, or rocks that were created. This hypothesis would be scientifically meaningless had I not also proposed the following experiment which in theory I will accept as falsifying that hypothesis if it is successful.
Briefly, I testified that since the standard Big Bang Model predicts the Precambrian granites formed slowly over geological time with nothing more than conventional physical laws to govern their crystallization, then it should be possible to synthesize in the laboratory a small (hand-sized) piece of such granite to confirm that hypothesis. My testimony was that I would accept the synthesis of a piece of granite as a falsification of my thesis that the Precambrian rocks are primordial rocks, and further that the subsequent synthesis of a single 218Po halo in such a piece of granite would also be sufficient to falsify my view that Po halos in granites are primordial.
I anxiously await the critical response of my scientific colleagues to these proposals. The issues are clearly too important for them to be ignored any longer.
Robert V. Gentry
- Robert V. Gentry, EOS, Trans. Am. Geophy. Union 60, 474 (1979); ______, 61, 514 (1980).
- Robert V. Gentry et al., Science194, 315 (1976).
- Robert V. Gentry, Science184, 62 (1974).
- Robert V. Gentry et al., Nature252, 564 (1974).
As noted by the following reply from the Letters Editor, my attempt to provide a rebuttal was refused. Such arbitrary rejection was difficult to understand.
|Dear Dr. Gentry: (March 9, 1982)
Thank you for your letter of 2 March, which has been studied by the editorial staff. I regret that we do not plan to publish it.
While it is understandable that you might have preferred a different emphasis or different details in Lewin’s account of your testimony, we do not find that, in this case, his presentation needs clarification or amplification. Science’s staff writers must present material in very limited space and cannot usually include all of the details that individuals featured in articles would like.
We note that much of what you have written has appeared in other publications and has therefore been made available to your colleagues.
Sincerely, /s/ Christine Gilbert
My situation at the Laboratory might have been rectified had I been afforded the customary professional right to defend myself in Science. My credibility as a scientist had been called into question, but obviously this had no effect on the decision not to publish my rebuttal. This letter of rejection seems contrary to the lofty aims of Science as displayed on the editorial page of every issue:
Science serves its readers as a forum for the presentation and discussion of important issues related to the advancement of science, including the presentation of minority or conflicting points of view, rather than by publishing only material on which a consensus has been reached. Accordingly, all articles published in Science—including editorials, news and comment, and book reviews—are signed and reflect the individual views of the authors and not the official points of view adopted by the AAAS or the institutions with which the authors are affiliated.
Lewin’s considerable coverage of the Arkansas trial proves that Science considered the outcome of the Arkansas trial as an important issue “related to the advancement of science.” Why then was not my response accepted for publication? Certainly it qualified as a “presentation of minority or conflicting points of view.” First, it is certain that my rebuttal letter, if published, would have alerted the worldwide readership of Science to the credibility [p. 155] of the evidence for creation. This might have led to some penetrating questions about why such important information was missing from Lewin’s published accounts of the trial. We must also ask whether the official position of the AAAS toward creation science could have been partially responsible for suppressing my response.
AAAS and Evolutionary Presuppositions
At the 1982 AAAS annual meeting, held soon after the Arkansas trial, the Council of the AAAS and its Board of Directors issued a joint resolution condemning creation science. That resolution reads as follows:
Whereas it is the responsibility of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to preserve the integrity of science, and
Whereas science is a systematic method of investigation based on continuous experimentation, observation, and measurement leading to evolving explanations of natural phenomena, explanations which are continuously open to further testing, and
Whereas evolution fully satisfies these criteria, irrespective of remaining debates concerning its detailed mechanisms, and
Whereas the Association respects the right of people to hold diverse beliefs about creation that do not come within the definitions of science, and
Whereas Creationist groups are imposing beliefs disguised as science upon teachers and students to the detriment and distortion of public education in the United States,
Therefore be it resolved that because “Creationist Science” has no scientific validity it should not be taught as science, and further, that the AAAS views legislation requiring “Creationist Science” to be taught in public schools as a real and present threat to the integrity of education and the teaching of science, and
Be it further resolved that the AAAS urges citizens, educational authorities, and legislators to oppose the compulsory inclusion in science education curricula of beliefs that are not amenable to the process of scrutiny, testing, and revision that is indispensable to science. (American Association for the Advancement of Science 1982, 1072)
…This resolution shows the AAAS hierarchy picture themselves as guardians of the integrity of science. In this self-appointed role they assert that creation science has no scientific validity. But was it scientific integrity for Science, the publishing arm of the AAAS, to suppress a letter that directly contradicted that assertion?
The reader should understand that I agreed to Ennis’ second and third questions only because he asked whether the NSF letter had made those criticisms. Yes, “the [Geochemistry] panel did fault the principal investigator [Gentry] and his colleagues for the techniques they used to try to detect superheavy elements” (Hower 1976; Appendix). However, with due respect to the NSF panel—all of whom were evolutionists—nothing was at fault with the technique which we used to generate our published report on superheavy elements. And the NSF’s objection to another method [p. 157] (see Hower’s letter) was just a red herring because our report contained nothing based on it.
The technique used in the superheavy element experiments, proton-induced x-ray fluorescence, is routinely used to determine the elemental composition of an almost unlimited variety of specimens. It is based on one of the most reliable elemental identification methods in experimental physics. In our experiments we did misinterpret some of the x-ray lines, but contrary to the implication of Ennis’ third question, we did check other reactions before publication. I agreed to the third question only because Ennis asked whether the NSF letter made that criticism, not because I believed that criticism was valid. Indeed, the reader may remember from Chapter 6 that some of my associates remained adamant that our original results did show evidence of superheavy elements long after other experiments indicated otherwise. They reasoned that the other nuclear reactions had been so thoroughly investigated that the evidence for superheavy elements still remained. In this respect, it is always possible to misinterpret the results of a single set of experiments, regardless of the technique used. This is why continued experimentation is necessary until a proposed interpretation is confirmed or denied.
We now quote Lewin’s version of the superheavy-element part of my cross-examination:
. . . Ennis also established that Gentry had shown poor judgment in using a certain technique in looking for primordial superheavy elements. Q You referred to the grant rejection letter of 11 July 1977. Isn’t it fair to say that one reason the request was turned down was because the panel felt you were to be faulted for using a technique that was known to give false results? A Yes. (Lewin 1982b, 146)
A scientist who uses techniques that are “known to give false results” is incompetent or untrustworthy, and this is the inference that can be drawn about me from the above information. The audio-tape quotes given above show that Lewin’s highly incriminating phrase, “known to give false results,” is nowhere to be found in Ennis’ questions. Neither is it found in the National Science Foundation letter (Hower 1976; Appendix) to which Ennis referred. This means (1) Lewin had no factual basis to claim that Ennis “established” that I had shown “poor judgment in using a certain technique” in the superheavy-element experiments, and (2) Lewin’s version of the superheavy-element part of my cross-examination deviates, much to my detriment, from the actual courtroom proceedings. Lewin has my agreeing under oath to something essentially different from what Attorney Ennis actually asked during my cross-examination; moreover, I would not have agreed to the question if it had been worded as Lewin claimed.
Lewin’s last comment about my work occurs near the end of his second report:
Ennis closed his cross-examination by asking Gentry if other people working in the field thought that conventional explanations would be found for the anomalous results he had. Gentry said “yes.” . . . (Lewin 1982b, 146)
This statement lends great credence to the idea that a conventional explanation will be found for my “anomalous results” because of its appeal to the authority of “people working in the field,” which in this case must refer to scientists doing research on halos. I didn’t recall that Attorney Ennis had made such a reference, for this would have provided me with the opportunity to take exception to their proposed explanations; and I knew this had not occurred. So I highly suspected that Lewin’s version of Ennis’ question was incorrect, and that again he had pictured me as agreeing to something different from what actually transpired in the courtroom.
The audio tapes confirmed my suspicions. They reveal Ennis’ question and my response as follows:
Q And Anders. Is it not true that Wheeler and Anders and other scientists who have read your material think that a conventional natural law explanation will be found for the existence of other polonium halos in granites? A Yes, they do. Q I have no further questions. [Merkel 1981; Appendix—l.223 to l.228]
The above quotes show that the scientists whom Ennis cited are those “who have read” my material. This is quite distinct and different from Lewin’s characterization of them as “other people working in the field,” because obviously this phrase denotes scientists actually doing research. Thus, the “other people” to whom Lewin referred had no tangible scientific evidence which would support a conventional explanation of polonium halos in granites. In fact, it would have been much to my advantage if Lewin had reported exactly what Dr. John Wheeler and Dr. Edward Anders had said about my work (Talbott 1977; Appendix). Indeed, Anders’ evaluation was quoted in the last chapter as evidence to show that Judge Overton had ignored some important information in arriving at his decision. The last part of that evaluation reads:
. . . I think most people believe, as I do, that some unspectacular explanation will eventually be found for the anomalous halos and that orthodoxy will turn out to be right after all. Meanwhile Gentry should be encouraged to keep rattling this skeleton in our closet for all it is worth. (Talbott 1977, 5; Appendix)
Perhaps the publication of this material, showing how Lewin’s accounts deviate from the actual court proceedings, may yet rattle another skeleton buried within the scientific establishment.
A positive account of my participation in the Arkansas trial was published in the January 16, 1982, issue of Science News. It was entitled “They Call It Creation Science,” with the subtitle, “Why would any reputable scientist agree to testify on behalf of the state of Arkansas in last month’s creationist trial? Two [p. 160] who did tell Science News.” These two were Professor N. C. Wickramasinghe, Chairman of the Department of Mathematics and Astronomy at the University College at Cardiff, Wales, and I. The first paragraph of this interview, quoted below, shows that the writer, Janet Raloff, provides a much different perspective of my contribution at the Arkansas trial:
Not everyone in science shares the view that “creation science” has no scientific validity. Among them are two who testified on behalf of the defending Attorney General’s office as its key witnesses during the creation science trial last month in Little Rock, Ark. (Science News: 1/2/82, p. 12). About the only things these scientists have in common are the respect of the scientific community for the meticulous quality of their primary pursuits and their shared belief that life’s grand scheme may be the product of “a creator.”(Raloff 1982a, 44)
I was gratified that my research, when fairly evaluated, was recognized for adhering to the scientific method and that this was published in a national news magazine. But in practical terms, this subsequent account of my research was insufficient to override the negative impact of the articles in Science.
The history of science reveals that certain cherished theories have always been considered immune to criticism. Scientists who refused to acknowledge this immunity, openly challenging those theories, were on occasion “excommunicated” from the scientific establishment. Irrespective of how much evidence I had accumulated, I had openly challenged a superstatus theory which certain scientists felt should be immune from attack. Repercussions were bound to follow.
Conventional Nuclear Waste Containment
It is well known that many individuals within and without government circles perceive the long-term storage of nuclear wastes to be one of the more important technological problems of our time. The goal of nuclear waste research is to determine (1) what type of storage container will best withstand nuclear radiation effects so as to prevent leakage during a several-thousand-year storage period, and (2) the geological site best suited to minimize nuclear [p. 162] waste leakage into the environment in case of accidental rupture of the primary containers. This involves a prediction of the long-term geological stability of the site based on both present-day geological assessment and an estimate of the geological age of the formation.
The standard approach to the problem of site selection assumes that the geological formations best suited for storage are those thought to have remained stable over long geological periods. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates geological age by reference to the presumedgeological development of the earth. Site selection procedures thus depend partly on the assumption of uniformitarian geology. If uniformitarian geology does not provide a correct timetable for the earth’s geological history, then one of the basic criteria for nuclear waste site selection is called into question. We have already discussed how the results on the coalified wood from the Colorado Plateau provide evidence that those formations are only several thousands of years old instead of several hundred million. Professor Kazmann’s article (Kazmann 1978) focused attention on the nuclear waste implications of these results.
Although it is possible to fill metal containers with radioactive wastes and bury them in some underground cavity, common sense tells us we must take additional precautions. There is always the possibility that container rupture might occur, due either to corrosion or to some disaster such as an earthquake. Thus it would be unwise to select burial sites near the earth’s surface, with its higher risk of waste leakage into the environment.
The leakage hazard can be reduced by burial in granite. Granite formations, extending far below the earth’s surface, would obviously permit waste storage at much greater depths. However, at greater depths the temperature rises sharply, again raising the possibility of waste-container rupture. One additional precaution would be to first encapsulate nuclear wastes within some type of impervious matrix, which would resist leakage even at higher temperatures. A most important goal of nuclear waste research is to identify what type of matrix would safely retain radioactive elements under high-temperature conditions.
In recent years nuclear waste specialists have investigated a variety of substances which could serve as the primary encapsulation medium. Certain types of glass have been investigated, and initially some of them seemed to hold great promise. The radioactive material was incorporated into the molten glass mixture and then allowed to cool in the form of a cylinder. Subsequent studies have shown, though, that after a few years the radioactive emissions had damaged the glass structure, making it more susceptible to corrosion. This raises questions about the long-term stability of nuclear wastes in this matrix.
An alternative approach is to investigate various types of synthetic minerals whose natural forms contain significant amounts of the radioactive elements uranium and thorium. By ascertaining which natural radioactive minerals have retained these elements over the course of the earth’s history, we can identify the most suitable synthetic counterparts for long-term nuclear waste encapsulation.
There was also the question of where the waste containers themselves would be placed. One plan was to bury the waste containers in deep granite holes. The rationale was: even if the primary container did rupture, the radioactive hazard to the environment would be reduced. Prior to our studies, scientists had only investigated the retention of radioactive minerals taken from granite-rock formations near the earth’s surface. But if nuclear waste containers were to be encased in granite, they would need to be buried in 15,000-foot-deep granite holes, where temperatures would be quite high. How much these higher temperatures would affect leakage of radioactivity from the minerals was a crucial question. The only solution was to analyze natural radioactive minerals from deep granite cores. But where were such specimens to be found? Holes deeper than 15,000 feet had been drilled in search of oil but always through sedimentary rocks such as limestones and sandstones.
An Innovative Approach to the Nuclear Waste Problem
In mid-1981 I learned of a 15,000-foot-deep hole in a granite formation drilled by the Department of Energy in New Mexico in the late 1970’s. The purpose was to explore the possibility of using high-temperature rock at the bottom of the hole as a heat exchanger to generate steam energy. In this hot-dry-rock experiment (as it was called), water injected into one drill hole at the top would cascade to the bottom and be heated to steam. The steam would then return through a separate hole to a power-generating station on the surface.
Core sections were taken at five different depths from about 3000 feet down to about 15,000 feet during the drilling operation. Fortuitously, each of these granite cores contained many small crystals of the radioactive mineral zircon. These cores were exactly the samples needed to determine how well the radioactive zircons had resisted leakage under the increasing temperatures (up to 313° C at the bottom of the hole). My affiliation with the Laboratory proved invaluable in obtaining pieces of each one of these priceless cores.
The advantage of analyzing the zircons from these cores was clear: they had already experienced the exact environmental conditions anticipated for nuclear waste storage in granite. By determining the amount of diffusion or leakage of radioactivity out of these zircons, we could accurately determine whether it would be safe to encapsulate nuclear wastes in synthetic zircons of the same type. These experiments also had the potential of providing critical information about the age of the granites.
Remember that the element lead is the end product of uranium and thorium decay chains (and hence is known as radiogenic lead). Since zircon crystals contain small amounts of both uranium and thorium, there will be a constant accumulation of this element in zircons located on the earth’s surface. That is, lead diffuses out of zircons very slowly at surface temperatures. With increasing depth, however, the temperature rises considerably, and the lead diffuses out of the zircons far more rapidly.
Now the age question enters the picture. If the granites in New Mexico are over a billion and a half years old, as uniformitarian geology supposes, this would be time for considerable amounts of lead to be lost from the zircons taken from the deepest (highest temperature) sections of the drill hole. In fact, in this scenario the lead should steadily diminish with increasing depth (due to steadily increasing temperatures). However, if the earth is only several thousand years old, only negligible lead loss is expected. In this case the amount of radiogenic lead in the zircons should be about the same regardless of depth. Here was a clear-cut test.
Experimental Results Reach the U.S. Congress
The results of our investigations were definitive. We found that the radioactive zircon crystals extracted from the granite cores had lost essentially none of their radiogenic lead, even at the bottom of the hole where the temperatures were highest. This is exceptionally strong evidence that the presumed 1.5-billion-year age of these granites is drastically in error. Specifically, the data are consistent with a several-thousand-year age of the earth. I realized, however, that these startling implications for a young earth would never pass peer review if they were clearly stated in any report submitted for publication. They would have to be de-emphasized and take second place to the implications for nuclear waste in order for them to ever be published.
Thus, when the results were written up, I emphasized that new evidence had been found, showing that nuclear wastes encapsulated in synthetic zircons would constitute a very safe mode of containment. Our report was submitted for publication to Science a month or so before the Arkansas trial and, coincidentally, was being reviewed for publication around the time I was testifying in Little Rock. The report did pass peer review and was subsequently published in Science under the title, “Differential Lead Retention in Zircons: Implications for Nuclear Waste Containment” (Gentry et al. 1982a; Appendix). Later some geologists criticized certain aspects of this report. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to respond (Gentry 1984b).
Janet Raloff, the writer who had published an interview about my testimony at the Arkansas creation trial (Raloff 1982a), now publicized the implications of this report for nuclear waste storage in the May 1, 1982, issue of Science News (Raloff 1982b). Just before this date I learned that the U. S. Senate was considering an amendment to a nuclear waste bill. It would require the Department of Energy to investigate nuclear waste storage sites other than the tentatively selected salt-dome repositories in Louisiana and Mississippi. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi was informed of our recently published report and expressed immediate interest, the extent of which can be judged by his actions when the nuclear waste amendment came before the Senate on April 30, 1982.
On that date he introduced an amendment to the National Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. In doing this Senator Cochran brought our results to the attention of the Senate and had our entire report reproduced along with his comments in the Congressional Record. (I was later informed that his office had also written to the Secretary of the Department of Energy about our report and its implications for alternative storage sites.) Some of Senator Cochran’s remarks before the Senate are quoted below:
. . . There is a great deal of controversy and concern, as has already been expressed, about the [nuclear waste storage] sites the Department of Energy is now considering for possible site characterization. There is no hard evidence that any of them will prove suitable for a permanent repository.
Past problems with hasty site selection have caused delays and undermined public confidence. As an example, Mr. President, in 1972, the Atomic Energy Commission had to abandon a salt site in Lyons, Kans., that they were planning to use for a waste repository because water was discovered leaking into the mine, and scientists decided the mine had too many holes in it.
Salt, despite serious problems associated with it, has been a favorite geologic medium with the Department of Energy up to this point because it has been the most extensively studied medium. Even though many experts believe that granite and other forms of crystalline rock may be very promising media, they are not being aggressively investigated. . . .
The fact is that the time that would be required for characterization of granite falls behind the timetables set by DOE and the schedule that this bill contains as it is now drafted, and it arbitrarily, therefore, eliminates granite from consideration in the selection process.
This decision flies in the face of scientific evidence that granite may be the best possible medium for a site for nuclear waste disposal.
As evidence, Mr. President, I cite an article contained in a recent edition (April 16, 1982) of Science magazine. The article is authored by scientists affiliated with the chemistry division of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory addressing the question of using natural rock granite as a site to insure the maximum possible degree that radioactive material can be stored in a way that would not permit escape or create any hazard.
The authors used an innovative ultrasensitive technique for a lead isotope analysis in a natural site of granite at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
The results showed, Mr. President, that lead, which is a relatively mobile element compared with nuclear waste, has been highly retained at elevated temperatures under conditions that are similar to those that would apply to the storage of high-level nuclear wastes in deep granite holes.
This study is crucial and it is important because it was based not just on laboratory work but on an analysis in a natural site under adverse environmental conditions.
The Department of Energy should be able to incorporate this kind of finding and this research immediately in its review process. But to follow the dictates of this legislation and the predisposition of the Department to continue studying other kinds of formations would result in their not being able to take advantage of this kind of research.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that a copy of this article I have just referred to be printed in the Record. (Cochran 1982, S4307)
Senator Cochran was not the only senator to show interest in this report. On the day prior to the Senate vote on the amendment, I was contacted by Mr. Peter Rossbach, legislative aide to Senator Jim Sasser of Tennessee, about the implications contained therein. Some Tennesseans had expressed concern about the possibility of hauling nuclear wastes across the state down to the salt repositories in Louisiana and Mississippi. According to Mr. Rossbach, Senator Sasser wanted a better understanding of our results so [p. 167] that he could vote more intelligently on the amendment. Even though Senator Cochran’s amendment did not pass, Mr. Rossbach wrote me a letter of appreciation and ended by saying, “If there is anything we can do for you from here, please let me know.”
Appeal to Continue Research
Mr. Rossbach’s offer of assistance was appreciated, and I decided to ask if Senator Sasser would consider appealing to the Department of Energy for a continuation of my guest position. In the next few weeks I received copies of the following letters:
Dear Mr. Heffelfinger:
This letter is written on behalf of Robert V. Gentry, Associate Professor of Physics at Columbia Union College and currently Guest Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Mr. Gentry has been a Guest Scientist at ORNL for the past 13 years. During this time, he has published nearly 20 scientific reports, some of which have received national recognition. I have enclosed two published commentaries concerning Mr. Gentry’s work which testify to the depth and importance of the research he has been able to conduct while at ORNL.
In addition, Robert Gentry has been particularly helpful to me and my staff on energy-related matters, particularly nuclear waste site selection issues. He has provided valuable evaluations and technical expertise, which has assisted us in ascertaining the full implications of various energy policies.
It is my understanding that Mr. Gentry has been notified that his current dollar-a-year consultant contract will be terminated on June 30, 1982. I also understand that he has recently discovered new evidence relating to nuclear waste containment about which he would like to conduct experiments and further research. However, he will be unable to do this if his contract is terminated on schedule.
I wanted to take this opportunity to bring my interest in Mr. Gentry to your attention and to request that he be allowed to continue his work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, if at all possible. I am sure that an extension of his contract would allow him to finish his research and prepare conclusions based on those experiments.
I would greatly appreciate any assistance you can offer Mr. Gentry in this regard, and I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.
Sincerely, /s/ Jim Sasser U. S. Senator
I was grateful for this cordial response, but …it was ineffective in securing a renewal of my research contract…
Dear Senator Sasser:
This is in reference to your letter dated May 18, 1982, on behalf of Robert V. Gentry, a guest scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) operated by Union Carbide Corporation for the Department of Energy. At the time of his assignment at ORNL 13 years ago, Mr. Gentry’s supporting sponsor was Columbia Union College. The original purpose of his research was to study pleochroic halos, an area of interest to ORNL at that time, but a field of less significance to the Laboratory’s mission in recent years.
Mr. Gentry’s more recent efforts in nuclear waste containment referenced in your letter are quite peripheral to the primary thrust of ORNL’s ongoing waste isolation programs.
When ORNL entered into its current subcontract with Mr. Gentry, effective July 1, 1981, it was for him to continue his own research on halos, using Laboratory facilities. It was anticipated that he could finish his work during the year; no other work was authorized under the subcontract. He was advised in June 1981 that he should seek other arrangements under which to pursue his research interests beyond June 30, 1982.
Diminishing ORNL budgets require marked cutbacks in activities not directly related to its priority program areas. Unfortunately, Mr. Gentry’s work does not fall in that category. Accordingly, we cannot be encouraging about an extension of his agreement at ORNL.
Thank you for your continuing interest in Department of Energy programs.
Sincerely, /s/ William S. Heffelfinger
The message in Heffelfinger’s letter was quite clear. The recent attention given my work in the U. S. Senate was not a sufficient basis for the Laboratory to renew my guest-scientist status.
Final Results Support Young Age of Earth
Another report on the safety of long-term nuclear wastes in granite was completed just prior to my contract expiration date. It was based on collaborative research with two colleagues and was published after I left ORNL under the title “Differential Helium Retention in Zircons: Implications for Nuclear Waste Containment” (Gentry et al. 1982b; Appendix). As the title of the report suggests, we again analyzed microscopic-sized zircons from the same five depths as were used in the lead-retention studies. However, in these experiments the zircons were analyzed for their content of the rare gas helium. These experiments provided even stronger evidence for a several-thousand-year age of the earth than did the lead-retention experiments.
To understand this we must remember that alpha particles emitted in the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium, are in reality nothing more than helium atoms stripped of their electrons. So it follows that helium is produced wherever uranium and thorium occur. This is the source of the helium in the zircons. However, being a gas means that helium can diffuse or migrate much more rapidly than the solid element lead. Indeed, studies have shown that helium migrates out of various minerals, such as zircon, even at room temperatures. Because of this continual loss, scientists have generally given up using the helium content to estimate the radiometric age of zircons found at or near the earth’s surface. Thus, according to the evolutionary model, it would be senseless to attempt to measure the helium content of the zircons taken from the deep granite cores. Presumably almost all the helium should have migrated out of the tiny zircons during the billion or so years they were exposed to the higher temperatures at greater depths.
However, on the basis of my creation model I expected something different. That model is based on the occurrence of primordial polonium halos in Precambrian granites as evidence that all such rocks were created on Day 1 of creation week about 6000 years ago. On this basis I thought helium might still be retained in the zircons taken from some of the deep granite cores. Here was one of the clearest and most stringent tests of the creation and evolution models in regard to the age of the earth.
The experiments showed amazingly high retention of helium even at 197°C, directly contradicting the expectation based on the evolutionary model of earth history. These startling results are in complete agreement with my creation model; moreover, they constitute what seems to be the strongest scientific evidence yet discovered for a several-thousand-year age as opposed to a several-billion-year age of the earth.
And they complement perfectly the results of my earlier studies on the Colorado Plateau coalified wood specimens. Those studies provided evidence for a young age of sedimentary formations previously thought to be several-hundred-million years old.
Paradoxically, just when my research opportunities were about to be withdrawn at ORNL, my long-term goals were being realized with more certainty than ever before. To outward appearances I was losing everything I had worked so diligently to gain—friendship and respect of scientific colleagues and access to the finest of research facilities. In reality, I was succeeding in discovering striking evidence for a young age of the earth; evidence which accords perfectly with the view that the Precambrian granites were all created about the same time. My first and latest scientific discoveries were complementing each other, and my two-decade quest for truth about the origin and age of the earth was being fulfilled. The cost was high in loss of friends, and my financial support remained erratic until it completely disappeared soon after my departure from ORNL. My long association with Columbia Union College came to an end as well. Providentially, I believe, concerned persons made it possible for this book to be written.
End of an Era—A Summary
My original 1969 appointment as guest scientist at the Laboratory was prompted by my research on unusual types of radiohalos. At that time, several laboratories around the world were gearing up their research facilities to search for chemical elements heavier than any previously known. Theoretical studies suggested the existence of superheavy elements, and the search for them was to intensify over the next decade.
The invitation to join ORNL had provided an exceptional opportunity not only to search for superheavy elements but also to utilize their unparalleled research facilities in the investigation of polonium halos. My research endeavors continued to warrant publication in respected scientific journals; thus I was invited year after year to continue as a guest scientist until the time of the trial, twelve and one-half years after beginning my affiliation with the Laboratory. If my research endeavors had been inferior, if my work had not been published in the open literature, or if I had shown prejudicial bias in my publications, the Laboratory management rightly would have terminated my research contract long before they did on June 30, 1982. I had not found superheavy elements in my research efforts, and the Laboratory was justified in terminating my research contract. However, had it not been for the negative reporting of my testimony at the Arkansas trial, I think my most recent research activities regarding nuclear waste storage might have been deemed of sufficient value to warrant continuation of my research at ORNL.
And so my work at ORNL came to an end. My hopes of continuing the search for the elusive superheavy elements apparently had evaporated. I had invested many years looking for them, and despite the ill-fated results of the giant halo experiments at Florida State in 1976, I am still convinced that superheavy elements do exist.
The Case of the Unmailed Letter
A few weeks before my departure from ORNL I learned that Steve Clark, the Arkansas Attorney General, was considering writing a letter to several Congressmen about my situation. A year and a half later, in the spring of 1984, I asked the former Deputy Attorney General (who handled the State’s case for the Arkansas creation trial) to investigate whether such a letter was ever sent from the Attorney General’s office. In his investigation this former Deputy Attorney General found a letter to Senator Bumpers in the state archives in Little Rock. According to him, the plan was for identical copies of this letter to be individually addressed to each member of the entire Arkansas Congressional delegation after the copy to Senator Bumpers was signed and the date affixed. Curiously this letter, which was apparently signed about the time of my departure from the Laboratory, was never dated or sent. No one seems to know exactly how this happened. The letter is copied below so that readers may ponder for themselves what events may have transpired had it been sent.
|The Honorable Dale Bumpers
United States Senator
New Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Senator Bumpers:
In my recent defense of Act 590 of 1981 (better known as the Creation-Science Law), I had the opportunity to become acquainted with several of the world’s leading scientists who testified on behalf of both the State and the American Civil Liberties Union. Of all the scientists involved on both sides of the lawsuit, no one impressed me anymore than Robert Gentry, who for the past several years has been a guest scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This letter is written to bring to your attention Mr. Gentry’s work and to enlist your aid on his behalf.
Mr. Gentry’s testimony at trial concerned the presence of radioactive polonium halos in granite. The significance of these halos is that their presence in the granites is fundamentally inconsistent with the conventional wisdom that the granites underlying the earth’s structure cooled over thousands of years. Mr. Gentry is acknowledged as the world’s foremost authority on this particular subspecialty.
From every indication available to me, Gentry’s work at the National Laboratory has been of a uniformly high quality and has added significantly to the progress made at the facility. Furthermore, as a guest scientist, Gentry has been paid only $1.00 per year by the government. (A college of which he is a faculty member has paid his salary.) Thus, the government has been able to avail itself of his services essentially free of charge.
However, Mr. Gentry has recently learned that his contract as a guest scientist will not be renewed for next year. As one admittedly viewing these events from afar, it appears to me that Gentry is being penalized for his generous offer of assistance to help the State of Arkansas and his own religious beliefs. Bob Gentry is very frank and forthright in stating his religious beliefs, of that there can be no doubt. His religious beliefs are, however, irrelevant to the work which he performs at Oak Ridge. His work in studying granites was recently quoted in the Congressional Record in connection with a discussion of possible sites for storage of low level radioactive wastes. Obviously, this is an important issue and one on which Gentry has been on the cutting edge.
I want to ask for your assistance to assure that Robert Gentry will not be a victim of religious discrimination at the hands of his supervisors. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory, although operated by a private corporation under a contract, is, as I understand it, under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Energy. I solicit your help in contacting the Energy Department through appropriate channels and requesting that the decision to not renew Gentry’s contract be reviewed personally by the Secretary of Energy to assure that this decision was based solely upon the merits of his work, and not upon the subjective prejudices of his supervisors. It will be a sad day, indeed, if the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion and the supposed freedom of scientific inquiry have both become hollow promises for men like Bob Gentry.
If I can supply you with any additional information regarding this matter, please call upon me at your convenience.
Yours truly, /s/ Steve Clark
Final Inquiry by a Member of Congress
Attorney General Clark’s letter never reached Congress. However, in 1984, Don Strother, a Baptist minister in Johnson City, Tennessee, whom I did not know, wrote to U.S. Representative James H. Quillen, First District of Tennessee, and asked for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding my departure from the Laboratory. The following letter relates the outcome of the investigation by the U. S. Department of Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee:
Dear Mr. Quillen:
This is in reference to your letter dated August 6, 1984, to Secretary Hodel concerning Dr. Robert V. Gentry, a former guest scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
Our records reflect that Dr. Gentry’s association with ORNL began in July 1969 with Columbia Union College as his supporting sponsor. The original purpose was to conduct his own research on radioactive halos, which was an area of interest to ORNL at the time, but during the late 1970’s became less significant at ORNL.
Since his work in the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Program involved moderately low priority supporting research, Dr. Gentry was advised in June 1981 that he should seek other arrangements under which to pursue his research interests beyond June 30, 1982. This decision was the result of diminishing ORNL budgets that required a cutback in activities not directly related to high priority program areas. We have found no evidence to suggest that Dr. Gentry’s religious beliefs influenced this decision in any way.
We appreciate your interest in this matter.
Sincerely, /s/ Joe La Grone
This is a carefully worded letter. I never said that my religious beliefs per se were responsible for my termination, but I do believe that the negative publicity from the Arkansas trial was a factor.
After this letter was sent, I had a cordial visit with two officials at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory whom I hold in the highest esteem. I expressed gratitude for the thirteen years I was allowed to remain at ORNL and asked about the possibility of resuming my search for superheavy elements. While the response was negative at that time, nevertheless a change in circumstances may yet result in a favorable decision. In the meantime my research continues using other facilities.
Chapter 14: Creation Confronts Evolution
A climactic event in the twenty-year history of my research was the invitation to speak before the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in June 1982. “Evolutionists Confront Creationists” was the title of a symposium held at the Santa Barbara campus of the University of California. Two biologists from San Diego State University, Drs. Frank Awbrey and William Thwaites, organized the symposium and invited eight scientists to present the evolutionary view. Two scientists from the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego were originally scheduled to present the creation perspective. Subsequently, one of them withdrew, and I was invited to take his place. This was a new day in the annals of the AAAS, for creation scientists had been excluded from a similar symposium held at the AAAS annual meeting in 1981. Dr. Rolf Sinclair later justified their exclusion from this meeting, saying that the organizers were at a loss to know whom they should choose to represent the creation position (Sinclair 1981).
Creation/evolution symposia were similarly held at the American Physical Society (APS) meeting in Washington, DC, (April 1982) and the Geological Society of America (GSA) meeting in New Orleans (November 1982). Again only scientists representing the evolutionary position were allowed to speak. My request to contribute a paper was turned down by the organizers of both meetings.
But the forthcoming Santa Barbara meeting was different, and the prospects were exciting. The very title of the symposium suggested that all evidences for creation would be confronted by opposing scientific evidence. If my work was to be refuted, the most likely speaker to do so would have been Dr. G. Brent Dalrymple of the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, [p. 176] California. Seven months earlier he had been the main ACLU witness at the Arkansas creation trial in support of a 4.5-billion-year age of the earth. There he had labeled the evidence, which I had presented in behalf of creation, a “tiny mystery.” What would be his position at this symposium?
A Geologist Evaluates Creation Science
The title of Dalrymple’s presentation, “Radiometric Dating and the Age of the Earth—A Reply to ‘Scientific’ Creationism,” suggested his views about creation science had not changed. In his presentation Dalrymple essentially repeated what he said at the Arkansas trial—that radioactive decay rates have been “effectively constant through time” and hence that radiometric dating methods are “the most reliable sources of geological information available today” (Dalrymple 1982, 4).
As noted earlier, evidence for creation invalidates the uniformitarian principle—the basis of the constant decay rate assumption used in radiometric dating. However, despite the title of the symposium, none of the speakers chose to “confront” the evidence for creation. There was no explanation given for polonium halo formation in granites, nor was there a response to the challenge of duplicating a piece of granite. Neither was there discussion of the evidences for a young earth obtained in the coalified wood and the zircon investigations. Instead, Dalrymple chose to (1) focus on what are perceived to be weak arguments for creation, (2) again label polonium halos in granites a “tiny mystery,” and (3) define creation and science as being mutually exclusive. His feelings about creation science were vividly expressed at the end of his talk:
I think that it will be a sad day for civilized humanity if science, that magnificent field of objective inquiry whose only purpose is to decipher the history and laws of the physical universe, is allowed to fall victim to the intellectual fraud of the creation-science movement. (Dalrymple 1982, 27)
I do not defend everything that is called creation science. Nevertheless, those who condemn all of creation science on the basis of weak or irrelevant arguments advanced in its favor should consider that their perceptions may not be entirely without bias. They should also remember that most creation scientists have been shut away from obtaining the research funds and equipment which would have allowed them to do better work. Often they have had to rely on the data that evolutionists have collected and placed [p. 177] in the evolutionary framework. True, the process of fitting those same data into a creation science framework may at times be in error. But there is no field of science without some errors and misconceptions in its formative stages, and efforts to develop a practicable creation model are no exception. The progress of science depends on proposing and testing ideas and hypotheses in support of various theories. Scientists do not discard a theory just because weak or erroneous arguments were once used to support it. On the contrary, if they are genuinely interested in knowing the truth about a theory, they seek to test the strongest arguments in its favor.
Were those in attendance at the AAAS symposium seeking to do this? Or were there attempts to dismiss creation science on other grounds? The answer is found in Dalrymple’s introductory remarks of his published contribution to the symposium:
. . . Even a cursory reading of the literature of “scientific” creationism, however, reveals that the creation model is not scientifically based but is, instead, a religious apologetic derived from a literal interpretation of parts of the book of Genesis. Indeed, this literature abounds with direct and indirect references to a Deity or Creator, and citations of the Bible are not uncommon. . . . (Dalrymple 1984, 67)
Here my colleague advocates a great loophole for evolution. To disqualify the creation model because it refers to Genesis means that no amount of data supporting that model would ever be accepted, regardless of its empirical foundations. On this basis evolutionists would never have to respond to any scientific discoveries for creation—they may choose to relegate all such evidence to the confines of a religious apologetic. Followed to its logical conclusion, this reasoning would permit scientists to label these evidences as mysteries which will someday be found to fit into the evolutionary framework. This is precisely how Dalrymple referred to my work near the end of his presentation:
The exact way in which the enigmatic Po halos were formed is not yet known. The Po halos are, I’m afraid, one of science’s abundant tiny mysteries. As a scientist, I am confident that the halos will eventually be explained as the result of natural processes. Certainly, I see no logical reason whatsoever to seek explanations outside of physical processes, or to entertain for even a moment Gentry’s creationist model, which requires us to suspend the laws of physics and chemistry, to call upon intervention by an unknown and unknowable supernatural agent, and to ignore overwhelming and conclusive evidence that the Earth, as we see it now, formed and evolved by natural processes over billions of years. (Dalrymple 1982, 26)
In Chapter 11, I quoted Professor Davies’ description of the mythical Big Bang to show that even evolutionists recognize it to be beyond explanation by the laws of physics and chemistry. That my respected colleague would mention the suspension of those laws as a criticism of the creation model is therefore inconsistent with his own acceptance of Big Bang cosmology. True enough, creation cannot be explained by known laws of physics and chemistry, and it does require the intervention of God. In this respect a faith factor enters the picture. But the same is true with evolution. In fact, in the evolutionary scenario all the important events—the Big Bang, and therefore the origin of galaxies, stars, the sun, the earth, and life on it—have always been a matter of faith. In a number of instances faith in evolutionary origins is held even when evolutionists themselves have been unable to find the crucial evidence to support their beliefs. To illustrate, in a book review a noted astrophysicist has recently commented on the origin of stars:
The universe we see when we look out to its furthest horizons contains a hundred billion galaxies. Each of these galaxies contains another hundred billion stars. That’s 1022 stars all told. The silent embarrassment of modern astrophysics is that we do not know how even a single one of these stars managed to form. There’s no lack of ideas, of course; we just can’t substantiate them. (Harwit 1986)
Not being able to substantiate those ideas is an understatement. As Harwit’s review explains, the fundamental premise of all modern theories of star formation involves the contraction of interstellar dust clouds into dense, massive objects. This violent process should be marked by three distinct astrophysical processes. Harwit notes that astronomical evidence for those processes has not been found.
I suggest that astronomers have failed to find the critical evidences predicted by their model because stars did not originate with evolutionary processes—but instead were called into existence by the same God who created the earth.