The question in the title of this article is one of the biggest questions
in the young-earth/old-earth debate. If you remember from last week's
column, carbon-14 is useless to old-earthers as evidence to help make
their point. However, there are many other radioactive isotopes (atoms of
various elements, that have special differences in their makeup) that have
been useful to old-earthers. Please remember that all of the ages that
these isotopes give are based upon a list of unproved assumptions. Still,
young-earthers have only been able to disprove a few of the assumptions in
some isolated cases. The big assumption has been the speed of isotope
decay. Can it ever be faster? Is it possible that these "radioactive
clocks" were going much faster in the past ... making it now look like these
rocks and the earth are billions of years old instead of only thousands?
This has been the greatest problem for young-earthers (not that
old-earthers don't also have some big problems, too, as you know).
There has been some research that is now opening the door for new theories, discussions, and further research. There are several kinds of radiation that can come from radioactive atoms. One is called beta decay (in addition to alpha rays and gamma rays). In 1987, Takahashi published in the Physical Review Letters (p1522-7) the theory that beta decay can be faster. Jung confirmed this with an experiment (also in Letters, p2164-7) in 1992. Bosch did follow-up research in 1996 (Letters, p5190-3). What did this community of scientists discover?
They discovered that radioactive Dysprosium and Rhenium do decay up to one billion times faster, when they are in what is called the hot plasma state of matter. The temperatures of the plasma state are extremely high, however, like the inside the sun or inside a hydrogen bomb blast. But ... even the evolutionary Big-Bang folks believe that the universe started out in the plasma state! This bit of news is extremely important to the ongoing debate! Takahashi suggests that this could be true for 24 other elements, too! Radioactive Lutetium can decay even up to 10 trillion times faster in this way. This changes things just a little bit.
What if the Creator did begin the universe in the plasma state? That seems reasonable. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. A literal reading of Genesis requires that after the first day that the earth would become cooled to a temperature way below a plasma. That's no real problem all by itself. But, what it does mean is that there was only one day of this super-fast decay that we can talk about even theoretically. And that is not enough to fully support the young-earth position. Maybe the other assumptions in radiometric dating can be wrong enough to make up for the difference between 4.5 billion years and 6000 years. Like I said, this opens the door for further theory and research. Before this, old-earthers could say that this door was closed. Now they can't.
Dr. Glenn Jackson holds four degrees in science and education from George
Mason University and University of Virginia. He has taught elementary
through college level sciences for over twenty years and in four states. He
is a lifetime member of both American Mensa and the Creation Research Society.
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