Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Slippery Helium is a Story to be Told

It was a great day for young earth creationists (YECs as some refer to us).

"When was that," you say? It was the day the the RATE Project published their results for helium diffusion in zircons.

"Helium diffusion in zircons?!?!?!" you say? Indeed. Read on.

There was this "tiny mystery" of the unusually high concentrations of helium (a common product of uranium decay) in zircons (special crystalline structures oft found in granite). It seemed that if the zircons embedded in granites were billions of years old, their radiological helium should be substantially lost from the crystalline structures. Institute for Creation Research (ICR) scientists in the RATE ("Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth") Project predicted in the year 2000 that diffusion rates of helium in zircons, if measured, would be found to be so high that it would provide very strong evidence of "recent" accelerated nuclear decay. If verified, this prediction would be a strong blow against the uniformitarian philosophy of "billions of years."

Well, verify it did. If you have not heard, the diffusion rates for helium in zircons tracked spectacularly well with the published RATE predictions. And the diffusion rates suggested by a uniformitarian old-age hypothesis failed miserably, missing the mark by about five orders of magnitude (by a factor of 100, 000). Cool, huh?

Of course, people (pagan and old-earth Christians alike) who loathe YECs will level any criticism they can at this work. Even from the "good guys" there is some bad noise. You may have heard of some criticism of YECs by Christian astrophysicist Hugh Ross ("Reasons to Believe"). After Dr. Ross finished a lecture at Lewis and Clark College in Portland about three years ago, I asked him about the helium diffusion measurement results. I was quite taken aback when he berated the RATE scientists for using such a "slippery" atom as helium, and then launched into a ten-minute non-dialogic diatribe against YECs. I was stunned at his lack of a substantive scientific response. The stories I had heard of his arrogance began very quickly to compute.

A year or so later, I happened to be sitting at a breakfast table with two of the RATE authors, one of whom was principal author Russ Humphreys. I related to Dr. Humphreys the "slippery" comment by Hugh Ross, to which Dr. Humphreys replied, "Well, duhhhh. That is why we looked at helium, exactly because it is so slippery. It should not be retained in the zircons for billions of years."

"Well, duhhhh!" A perfect response to critics of a job well done. My hat is off to ICR and the scientists of the RATE project.

Take a look at the result in the leading figure, then run the link to read the paper if you like the gory details.

Except for the scorn and acid hate language from the doctrinaire Darwinists and from questionable friends, it is a great time to be a creationist.
Respectfully submitted,



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