Diamonds Aren’t Forever?

| 65 Comments

The Institute for Creation Research has a project called RATE, whose intent was to overturn radiometric absolute dating methods as evidence for an old age of the earth. One of the arguments that they made was that diamonds contain significant levels of the radioactive carbon 14 (14C) isotope, indicating that they cannot be older than about 50,000 years old, and thus point to a young age of the earth. This sort of technical wrangle is something beloved of young-earth creationists (YECs), and indeed one such person going by the handle “tripa” has commented here (n.b., on Austringer, where the original essay was posted) on another thread about the RATE diamond study.

Physicist Kirk Bertsche has responded to the RATE diamond and coal studies with an essay hosted on the American Scientific Affiliation website. Dr. Bertsche notes a number of inconvenient facts that undercut the arguments made by ICR’s advocates, including standard procedures within radiocarbon AMS work that were ignored or not followed properly, and indications from the RATE measurement results themselves whose obvious interpretation points to sample contamination. It is an elegant take-down of yet another antievolution argument whose pseudo-technical gloss is intended to impress rather than to inform.

The ASA also hosts several other essays concerning the RATE project.

(Original article at the Austringer)

65 Comments

“Undercutting the diamond argument,” you say? Maybe they’ll back away from it, and this will be like when Ray Comfort said his fruity banana argument was just to be facet-ious.

One of the most interesting things in the essay is how when discussing the AMS samples, RATE just ignored the two graphite samples that undermined the claim being made there.

Kirk has submitted his paper to the TalkOrigins archive. We responded to a few resonable suggestions and ignored the rest. I was planning to put the final draft up tomorrow.

Maybe they’ll back away from it, and this will be like when Ray Comfort said his fruity banana argument was just to be facet-ious.

or like Dembski’s “Street Theater”?

Do they ever not lie?

Felix Wrote:

Do they ever not lie?

My impression of ICR and most YEC and OEC organizations that they are so affected by Morton’s Demon that they actually convince themselves that the evidence supports their prior conclusion.

The DI is another story altogether. They claim that ID is not “creationism,” but avoid every opportunity to back it up with a technical refutation of YE arguments that they know are bogus. They don’t even need to write their own refutation, but simply express agreement with those of mainstream science.

Prior commitment to the “big tent,” of course, precludes that - for now. If/when the public - and not just a minority of their critics (itself a small minority of the public) - starts demanding details of their differences with YEC and OEC, they will be forced to comply. But for now, it’s a card they don’t need to use.

For sincere YECs (and I think they exist), at least those who elect to be somewhat aware of the world around them, the clear contradiction between scientific knowledge and scriptural decree is a genuine problem.

The common solution to this problem involves the recognition that scripture is Defined As True, and the word of their god, and cannot possibly be wrong. Furthermore, scripture is so transparently clear that it can’t possibly be misinterpreted by True Christians. So it becomes Absolute Truth, an immutable solid rock standing firm in a world of human frailty, error and confusion.

And accordingly, science falls haplessly into that human world. This is obvious: scientists keep changing their minds all the time; new evidence keeps undermining old theories, scientists disagree even among relevant experts. So it’s easy to rationalize that where science and scripture disagree, this can only be where science hasn’t got it right yet.

And so it’s legitimate to cherry-pick only those facts congenial to scripture, and force-fit them into what creationist interpretation (“True Christianity”) requires, while discarding nearly everything. After all, without Absolute Truth as a yardstick, how could we possibly know which scientific theories are correct, or which scientists are right?

Hi Wesley,

Great Post. Reminds me a lot of the abysmal geology being shown in the recently released “Journey to the Center of the Earth”. As a former geologist, I counted at least a dozen mistakes geologically speaking, of which one of the most blatant ones featured diamonds (I’d recommend the film only to see some excellent acting by Icelandic native Anita Briem and some decent Mesozoic monster animation that’s almost to “Jurassic Park” standards.).

Regards,

John

“For sincere YECs (and I think they exist).…”

They do exist. I (voluntarily) have lunch with one every Wednesday (leaving for BBQ in 30 minutes).

I thought of a question concerning YECS that I cannnot seem to find the answer to.

Don’t we have a contiguous historical record that dates back farther that 6000 years?

lee asked:

Don’t we have a contiguous historical record that dates back farther that 6000 years?

The YEC answer is “No, we don’t.”

For them, a historical record consists of written documents, specifically from Southwest Asia. Disagreements with the received chronology - such as Egyptian records - are explained by by truncating time frames (“Pharaoh N really ruled only two years, instead of the twenty recorded, because the Egyptians always inflated the importance of their rulers.”)

Records from China are obviously totally unreliable, since the word for “flood” is eight people on a boat and that proves Noah’s ark. {insert image of head butting into wall, here.}

fusilier James 2:24

Contamination? Bah! Poppycock! What are you smoking Wesley? Everyone knows that ubiquitous C14 is real, and is evidence the Designer was carpet-bombing the Earth with nuclear weapons 50,000 years ago. In remorse He cleaned up all the (other) contamination, but He left the C14 in rocks to represenet His promise to never nuke His people again.

:)

Seriously, good article. The whole RATE study seems to be a typically myopic creo exercise. They ignore much simpler C14 experiments in favor of complicated ones and ignore the multiple, independent lines of evidence for the age of the earth.

Flint Wrote:

The common solution to this problem involves the recognition that scripture is Defined As True, and the word of their god, and cannot possibly be wrong. Furthermore, scripture is so transparently clear that it can’t possibly be misinterpreted by True Christians. So it becomes Absolute Truth, an immutable solid rock standing firm in a world of human frailty, error and confusion.

Except that is interpreted in mutually contradictory ways, all of which are claimed to be literal by Biblical (classic) creationists.

lee Wrote:

Don’t we have a contiguous historical record that dates back farther that 6000 years?

Of course, and that may be in part why there are so many OECs, both old-life and young-life variants. The honest YECs and OECs at least debate their different interpretations. Although most in the last ~10 years have been running for shelter under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” big tent of ID.

Reminds me a lot of the abysmal geology being shown in the recently released “Journey to the Center of the Earth”.

A little off-topic, but does anyone have a rule-of thumb formula for air pressure at the bottom of a deep hole (like a mile-deep gold mine)?

The topic came up during a discussion of “Journey” and how it relates to real things like deep mines. The formulas I found use sea level as a baseline and fall apart when height goes negative.

I was curious because, air being compressible, you’d expect the function to get rapidly exponential as you go down in to a deep hole.

stevaroni said:

Reminds me a lot of the abysmal geology being shown in the recently released “Journey to the Center of the Earth”.

A little off-topic, but does anyone have a rule-of thumb formula for air pressure at the bottom of a deep hole (like a mile-deep gold mine)?

The topic came up during a discussion of “Journey” and how it relates to real things like deep mines. The formulas I found use sea level as a baseline and fall apart when height goes negative.

I was curious because, air being compressible, you’d expect the function to get rapidly exponential as you go down in to a deep hole.

The gravitational force on a mass within a tunnel goes to zero linearly as one approaches the center of a solid sphere. Therefore, anything with mass will have no weight at the center if it lies within a hollow chamber at the center.

On the other hand, a fluid that is connected through the tunnel all the way to the surface will transmit its surface pressure to the center. If the fluid were non-compressible, the force (weight) per unit length of the fluid within the tunnel drilled to the center would be constantly decreasing as it approaches the center. And since air is compressible, it wouldn’t follow the same exponentially decreasing pressure gradient that a compressible fluid does above the surface of the sphere.

And this is even further complicated by the fact that the temperature within the Earth is increasing significantly with depth. We need to figure out whether or not this increase in temperature offsets the increase in pressure do determine if the air would liquefy or not.

I think I know in principle how to do the calculations, but they are complicated and highly non-linear, and I would have to write a fairly extensive program to do the calculations on my computer.

I doubt that a rule-of-thumb calculation would come out of it.

None of these calculations addresses the issues of keeping such a tunnel and chamber open in extremely hot molten rock and iron. Nor does this address the issues of radioactivity from decaying heavy elements within the core. That movie “Journey to the Center of the Earth” was indeed abysmal. :-)

Frank J:

Except that is interpreted in mutually contradictory ways, all of which are claimed to be literal by Biblical (classic) creationists.

Yes, of course. I was trying to describe a thought process, not a real-world condition. In the real world, there are, what, 20,000+ Christian sects, all differing on their interpretation of the same texts, and without any useful means of reconciliation (there being no reality as final arbiter). In reality, scripture is the worst sort of quicksand science could never aspire to match.

But hey, there must be SOME reason science differs from Absolute Truth (my version), and my being wrong about anything isn’t on the table, sorry.

While I rarely spend time in such cess-pits*, there are some marvelous takedowns of RATE, and “Dr” Bertsch (who fled from the discussion) at TheologyWeb. Glenn Morton, recovered YEC and creator of the notion of ‘Morton’s Demon’ contributed heavily, and was the primary cause of Bertsch’s disgraceful flight from the scene.

Hugs, Shirley Knott *As theology sites go, TW is one of the best. But, as a theology site, well, it’s still a cess-pit.

Shirley Knott said:

While I rarely spend time in such cess-pits*, there are some marvelous takedowns of RATE, and “Dr” Bertsch (who fled from the discussion) at TheologyWeb. Glenn Morton, recovered YEC and creator of the notion of ‘Morton’s Demon’ contributed heavily, and was the primary cause of Bertsch’s disgraceful flight from the scene.

I believe you are confusing me with Dr. Baumgardner, the originator of the RATE radiocarbon claims?? Though we both have Swiss-German surnames, we have very different perspectives on the age of the earth and on the reliability of radiocarbon dates.

a “radiocarbon-of-the-gaps” theory

Marvelous!

stevaroni said:

A little off-topic, but does anyone have a rule-of thumb formula for air pressure at the bottom of a deep hole (like a mile-deep gold mine)?

The topic came up during a discussion of “Journey” and how it relates to real things like deep mines. The formulas I found use sea level as a baseline and fall apart when height goes negative.

Except, as a rule-of-thumb for such small depths, they don’t. Just be careful with your exponential sign around your sea level reference.

For example, for a 3 km (2 mile) hole I get that the pressure disregarding temperature change will increase 50 %, using the barometric scale height of 7.4 km.

Wikipedia claims continental crust at 35-40 km and upper mantle temperature at 500 - 900 Celsius, say ~ 20 K/km and ~ 80 Celsius at 3 km depth, or ~ 30 % temp increase. Linearizing the hell out of this rule-of-thumb calculation, the total pressure will roughly be 1.5*1.3, or double sea level.

Checking with reality, the pressure doubles and the temperature is ~ 80 Celsius for a 2 mile mine.

Hmm. I’m always suspicious when it’s too good.

Don’t we have a contiguous historical record that dates back farther that 6000 years?

Not sure about written records, early written records are not my field. But we have ice core chronologies from Antarctica and Greenland that go back 100,000’s of years. Very important for ancient climate studies. IIRC, one from Antarctica goes back 400 kyr.

We also have tree ring chronologies that go back 1000’s of years. There is in fact a clump of trees in N. Europe that are still alive after 8,000 years. Pretty amazing, trees growing 2 kyr before Adam and Eve.

A quick google search revealed that at 1300 feet below sea level - i.e. the dead sea - the barometric pressure is 800mm mercury.

Sea level is 760 mm.

Extrapolate at will :)

eric

Mike Elzinga said:

stevaroni said:

Reminds me a lot of the abysmal geology being shown in the recently released “Journey to the Center of the Earth”.

A little off-topic, but does anyone have a rule-of thumb formula for air pressure at the bottom of a deep hole (like a mile-deep gold mine)?

The topic came up during a discussion of “Journey” and how it relates to real things like deep mines. The formulas I found use sea level as a baseline and fall apart when height goes negative.

I was curious because, air being compressible, you’d expect the function to get rapidly exponential as you go down in to a deep hole.

The gravitational force on a mass within a tunnel goes to zero linearly as one approaches the center of a solid sphere. Therefore, anything with mass will have no weight at the center if it lies within a hollow chamber at the center.

On the other hand, a fluid that is connected through the tunnel all the way to the surface will transmit its surface pressure to the center. If the fluid were non-compressible, the force (weight) per unit length of the fluid within the tunnel drilled to the center would be constantly decreasing as it approaches the center. And since air is compressible, it wouldn’t follow the same exponentially decreasing pressure gradient that a compressible fluid does above the surface of the sphere.

And this is even further complicated by the fact that the temperature within the Earth is increasing significantly with depth. We need to figure out whether or not this increase in temperature offsets the increase in pressure do determine if the air would liquefy or not.

I think I know in principle how to do the calculations, but they are complicated and highly non-linear, and I would have to write a fairly extensive program to do the calculations on my computer.

I doubt that a rule-of-thumb calculation would come out of it.

None of these calculations addresses the issues of keeping such a tunnel and chamber open in extremely hot molten rock and iron. Nor does this address the issues of radioactivity from decaying heavy elements within the core. That movie “Journey to the Center of the Earth” was indeed abysmal. :-)

Just skimmed the IRC bafflegab and why it is wrong essay.

Looks like all the IRC dates for diamond and coal are at or near background indicating ages of around somwhere between 50,000 years and infinity.

If their YEC theory is right, the oldest carbon on earth should be around 50% modern carbon 14. 6,000 year old earth and half life of C14 of 5,000 years.

Not seeing why they are bothering with their pseudoscience. It proves that the earth is no way 6 kyr old. They’ve narrowed it down to somewhere between 50 kyr and infinity. The proper isotope series for longer time spans isn’t C14 as everyone here knows, there are quite a few others, argon argon, argon potassium, uranium lead and so on.

Btw, if the pressure doubles (or more, I google mines deeper than 5 km) I understand why deep mine workers would need pressure acclimatization.

But if you get the bends from popping too fast from water, what do you get from reeling too fast from rock? The yields?

Eric said:

A quick google search revealed that at 1300 feet below sea level - i.e. the dead sea - the barometric pressure is 800mm mercury.

Sea level is 760 mm.

Extrapolate at will :)

Linearizing is a good idea on this part of the exponential. Your numbers of ~ 10 mm Hg for 100 m gives 300 mm Hg or ~ 40 % pressure increase instead of ~ 50 (at constant temp).

raven said:

There is in fact a clump of trees in N. Europe that are still alive after 8,000 years. Pretty amazing, trees growing 2 kyr before Adam and Eve.

That’s Sweden actually - so it would be Askr and Embla. And in the Prose Edda they were trees originally (ash respectively elm).

Guess it is easier to be a viking YEC than a christian YEC. Unless you start to wonder which of the two different viking creation stories is correct …

Not seeing why they are bothering with their pseudoscience. It proves that the earth is no way 6 kyr old. They’ve narrowed it down to somewhere between 50 kyr and infinity.

Wow! Do you know what this means? ID research has actually produced a correct answer!

Now, I’ve seen everything.

sciencedaily.com:

World’s Oldest Living Tree – 9550 years old – Discovered In Sweden ScienceDaily (Apr. 16, 2008) — The world’s oldest recorded tree is a 9,550 year old spruce in the Dalarna province of Sweden. The spruce tree has shown to be a tenacious survivor that has endured by growing between erect trees and smaller bushes in pace with the dramatic climate changes over time.

Seems the oldest living thing is a tree of 9550 years old, a spruce tree in Sweden. The tree itself doesn’t seem that old, but it is part of a clump that grew sequentially from root suckers.

At any rate it predates the garden of eden by 3550 years. Back to the drawing board for the YECs.

Torbjörn Larsson, OM said: But if you get the bends from popping too fast from water, what do you get from reeling too fast from rock? The yields?

Every 10 metres down in water increases the pressure by one atmosphere. By your numbers, every 5KM down in air, does the same. At 10 metres in water I believe you don’t need to depressurise.

Steve

Hi Steve and Torbjörn,

These are good points:

Steve said:

Torbjörn Larsson, OM said: But if you get the bends from popping too fast from water, what do you get from reeling too fast from rock? The yields?

Every 10 metres down in water increases the pressure by one atmosphere. By your numbers, every 5KM down in air, does the same. At 10 metres in water I believe you don’t need to depressurise.

Steve

If the producers and the director of “Journey to the Center for the Earth” were interested in scientific accuracy, then they would have shown the characters portrayed respectively by Brendan Fraser, Anita Briem and Josh Hutcherson would have suffered from acute cases of the bends after their rapid descent and ascent from the center of the Earth. However, these are the least of some rather glaring scientific errors I noticed - and cringed - while watching it. However, I suppose Young Earth Creationists would find the science quite credible to say the least.

Cheers,

John

During the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, the “bends” was called “caisson disease.”

See Decompression sickness

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decomp[…]ness#History

Steve writes…

Every 10 metres down in water increases the pressure by one atmosphere. By your numbers, every 5KM down in air, does the same. At 10 metres in water I believe you don’t need to depressurise.

Actually, I thought that Torb’s numbers indicated that a 2 mile ( 3km ) hole would be at 2 atmospheres at the base. The thing is, as Torb pointed out, it’s going to be a weird function, since air is compressible, so the more pressure you have the greater the density of the air lower in the column, which is going to drive the pressure delta higher as you go deeper… OW. my head hurts.

But you’re right, I seem to remember from scuba diving in my younger days that above 60 feet (3atm) there was no decompression time necessary.

Of course, there was a natural limit to how long you could stay down since you only had 25 cubic fee of air or so available. IIRC, that was about 40 or 50 minutes max, but it’s been a while.

If you could spend extreme lengths of time deep in a two mile hole, you might be able to build up enough stored nitrogen that things might be different.

stevaroni Wrote:

Actually, I thought that Torb’s numbers indicated that a 2 mile ( 3km ) hole would be at 2 atmospheres at the base. The thing is, as Torb pointed out, it’s going to be a weird function, since air is compressible, so the more pressure you have the greater the density of the air lower in the column, which is going to drive the pressure delta higher as you go deeper… OW. my head hurts.

I just finished a crude calculation in which I assumed the atmosphere is an ideal gas (density proportional to pressure) and that the gas in the tunnel would remain at the temperature of the surface of the Earth all the way to the center of the Earth.

In this calculation, I allowed for the fact that the gravitational acceleration, g, increases linearly from zero at the center to 9.8 meters per second-squared at the surface.

The pressure increases as we go toward the center as exp(const*depth2).

When you plug in the numbers, you get that the air pressure at the center of the Earth would be approximately 10328 atmospheres. Now, technically an ideal gas does not liquefy, however, at these pressures, the density is so high it might as well be called a super dense liquid. Not only would you get the bends, you would be ascending from the size of a point to an exploding balloon.

Obviously such a pressure would have already liquefied any atmospheric gases in spite of the increasing temperatures of the molten core.

And keeping a tunnel open in the convection currents and pressures of molten rock and iron would not be easy.

In addition, when you keep feeding gas from the atmosphere into the tunnel to compensate for its compression as you go deeper, you start taking significant amounts of it from the atmosphere.

midwifetoad said:

How is carbon dating relevant to the age of the earth?

Simple.

By the transitive property of whatever, if you can show that C-14 dating has issues, then all radiometric dates must have issues.

The fact that C-14 isn’t used to date rocks, doesn’t matter in the least.

Joshua Zelinsky said:

One of the most interesting things in the essay is how when discussing the AMS samples, RATE just ignored the two graphite samples that undermined the claim being made there.

Well, they are just cherry picking the results they wanted, just like the evolutionists do. I bet if you took any two samples, exactly alike save that a dog peed on one, their ages would differ by ten orders of magnitude and the evolutionists would choose the older one. (I think I will try this experiment next.)

HR puffs…

I bet if you took any two samples, exactly alike save that a dog peed on one, their ages would differ by ten orders of magnitude and the evolutionists would choose the older one.

Um, don’t forget, HR, that in your world “the older one” can’t possibly exist, seeing as the entire Earth was supposedly created on a sunny afternoon in 4004 BC.

From AvantNews

New creationism law flaws diamond markets

www dot avantnews dot com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=222

:-)

I read the American Scientific Affiliation article cited, and the conclusion was that contamination was probably the cause of the odd readings. Although an interesting answer, it does not actually use the scientific method to reach a reasonable conclusion. Offering up many possibilities to explain a difficulty makes fodder for use in the application of the scientific method, but is not in and of itself a conclusion that has put the objection to rest. Unless the answer is that all coal and diamond samples are contaminated, I think that the problem still exists and has not been satifactorily addressed.

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This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on August 5, 2008 9:56 PM.

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