Science, Falsely So Called

“Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics because the stakes are so low.”

“Sayre’s Law” — this version found in the December 20, 1973 Wall Street Journal.

“The stakes are so low” seems off, but all of us who ever taught at the college level are intimately acquainted with the bitterness and viciousness of academic politics. It goes along with Lord Acton’s well known “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

We are also aware of the corruptions of large organizations, especially governments. Modern science is the biggest of big businesses. It depends on grants from government, big business and massive endowments. Over 90 percent of Big Science is either military or academic. So over 90% of science is controlled by either academic politics or government politics.

Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled:No Intelligence Allowed (available at and examines several scientists whose careers were ruined just because they believed in and supported Intelligent Design. Not Christianity, not Islam, not creation and not opposition to evolution, these scientists simply presented Intelligent Design as a scientific alternative. What is today known as Intelligent Design is very similar to the Deism of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin’s early years.

Today, the Discovery Institute ( is the most well known of those who publish papers including Intelligent Design. Wikipedia describes it a manner that is more like an attack than an objective evaluation. “Intelligent design (ID) is a form of creationism promulgated by the Discovery Institute. The Institute defines it as the proposition that ‘certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.'”

“ID seeks to redefine science in a fundamental way that would invoke supernatural explanations, an approach its proponents describe as theistic realism or theistic science.”

“The scientific community rejects the extension of science to include supernatural explanations in favor of continued acceptance of methodological naturalism, and has rejected both irreducible complexity and specified complexity for a wide range of conceptual and factual flaws. The vast majority of the scientific community labels intelligent design as pseudoscience and identifies it as a religious, rather than scientific, viewpoint.” (

This type of hatred and bias is what passes for objectivity in the “scientific community.” While using this hatred to accuse others, what is the moral condition of this same “scientific community?”

“Gauging the amount of misconduct in science is very difficult, but last year were 381 journal retraction notices-up from 22 in 2001.-according to the Thomson Reuters database Web of Knowledge. Indeed, 2011 was dubbed the ‘year of the retraction’ by the blog Retraction Watch. Last year also saw 13 misconduct rulings by the US Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in Rockville, Maryland, which oversees misconduct investigations and publishes the findings on its website. Some reports suggest cases of misconduct may be more prevalent than previously suspected.” May 2, 2012 (

The point is that facts are facts, regardless of who uses his authority to pronounce otherwise. “The amount of scientific ‘cheating’ has far outpaced the expansion of science itself.” I do not know if these articles are valid, but they are certainly believable.

Why? Because scientific articles I know about are attacked on a regular basis for unscientific methods and a lack of facts. The only method for dating the age of the earth as millions of years old is radiometric dating; keeping to just one variable, I am simply writing about the age of the earth only.

While this is an old and familiar topic to many people, many others probably have never heard of this. So to those who think this is old, see if you can catch any mistakes. I’m old and I do make mistakes. In 1974 Los Alamos National Laboratory extracted cores from a borehole nearly 3 miles deep in Fenton Hill, NM. In the bore samples was biotite, black mica containing microscopic crystal zircons; (ZrSiO4) zirconium silicate. Using radiometric dating, the samples measured the U->Pb (Uranium to Lead) decay and determined the zircons to be 1,500 million years old plus or minus 20 million years. The decay process left microscopic radiohalos behind.

“The zircons also would be expected to contain helium, which comes from the alpha particles (nuclei of helium atoms) emitted by many of the nuclear decays. This prompted Robert Gentry at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to ask the Los Alamos team to send him core samples from various depths in GT-2 (as well as samples from deeper boreholes nearby). Gentry and his team extracted zircons from the samples, hand-picked crystals between 50 and 75 microns long, and measured the total amounts of helium in them. From the amounts of radiogenic lead in the zircons, they estimated how much helium the nuclear decay should have deposited in the crystals. They found that “an almost phenomenal amount of He has been retained” in the zircons, despite them being small, hot, and allegedly old.”

Though the phrase “an almost phenomenal amount” of helium could have any one of a number of explanations, there are two important overall points in this quote. First, this testing was done by a team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN headed by Robert Gentry, not the Creationist RATE group. The results were published in 1982. Second, the helium is a byproduct of radioactive decay. Since helium is both created and leaves zircons (diffuses) at a known rate, depending on pressure and temperature, it should be just as reliable as the radiometric U235 -> Pb method for dating. Helium Diffusion calculations are more complicated, so there is greater opportunity for human error.

In 2000 the RATE team performed their own experiments on these samples as well as samples from Beartooth Gneiss near Yellowstone, WY. They also included in their report helium diffusion rates performed on Zircons at the Fish Canyon Tuff in Nevada by Reiners (report published in 2002). There were multiple tests over several years.

RATE also used blind third parties, that is, samples were tested and results published by individuals and groups who did not know about the connection to RATE. This is the standard for Peer review, to help keep prejudice and bias out of the published results. Kenneth A.Farley of the California Institute of Technology (Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences measured the diffusion coefficients of the zircon and biotite from Jemez Granodiorite in New Mexico.

The RATE team also used a Russian report using samples from the Ural mountains, the Magomedov report.

The original published results, with documentation, are available for free.

Helium Diffusion Rates Support Accelerated Nuclear Decay

An additional import point brought out in this paper is the total amount of helium in the atmosphere. Though these studies were done in the 1950, the studies are still valid. When helium diffuses out of rock, it goes into the atmosphere. One of the first, and very important discoveries of high altitude unmanned rockets was that the earth’s atmosphere was retaining helium. Up to that time it was assumed that helium light enough to escape into space. According the creationist model, the atmosphere only has .04% of the helium it should have if the earth were billions of years old. Uniformitarians still assume the helium has passed into space. With no way of replicating or testing, these are simply very complex theories of the he said/she said variety. The only science in this is actual measurement of current levels of helium in the atmosphere.

My article is about the published critics of this work.

The first is titled RATE’s Ratty Result: Helium In Zircons. It is subtitled Numerous Fallacies Based on Bad Assumptions and Questionable Data. Without even reading the article, we know that this is a biased journalism piece, not a scientific article.

It opens with a list of people who oppose the RATE paper. As mind-boggling as this seems to me, this is more like the magicians of Pharaoh’s court opposing Moses than science. Truth has never been decided by a majority vote. The entire American form of government is designed to shield the innocent from a mob mentality.

After mentioning many people opposed to the “young earth position” the author of the article, Dr. Kevin R. Henke, then makes some serious charges. “Loechelt (2008c) is a detailed report that argues that Dr. Humphreys’ claims and his underlying assumptions are oversimplistic, inconsistent and erroneous, and that Dr. Humphreys’ helium diffusion data are actually consistent with a date of about 1.5 billion years for the Fenton Hill zircons. Although Humphreys (2008b) and Humphreys (2010) briefly mention Loechelt (2008a; 2008b; 2008c), Dr. Humphreys provides no detailed responses to Dr. Loechelt’s models and his numerous criticisms.”

After claiming “Dr. Humphreys largely recycles the materials in Humphreys (2008b),” Dr. Henke then goes on to make a number of authoritative claims without scientific evidence to back up those claims.

“The old Earth multi-domain model from Loechelt (2008c) better explains helium diffusion in the Fenton Hill zircons than Dr Humphreys’ young Earth RATE model,” writes Dr. Henke. I have three serious questions at this point. 1) Why are the other samples ignored? (Beartooth Gneiss near Yellowstone, WY, Fish Canyon Tuff in Nevada, Jemez, NM) By ignoring these samples, he is implying that the RATE group used a single sample. 2) Though Dr. Humphreys led the zircon project, it was a peer reviewed team effort. Oak Ridge National Laboratories did the original study. Dr Henke is making personal attacks on Dr. Humphreys, not making a scientific evaluation. 3) A jump in the results from 6000 years to hundred of millions of years is difficult or impossible without serious scientific fraud. So under the oft quoted maxim, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof,” Dr. Henke has put himself in a very difficult position.

Dr. Henke writes, “Throughout his documents, Dr. Humphreys claims that the Fenton Hill zircons contain too much helium to be 1.5 billion years old. In response, Loechelt (2008c; 2009a) states that his multi-domain models indicate that Dr. Humphreys’ helium diffusion measurements are consistent with the zircons being about 1.5 billion years old.”

“Why shouldn’t they [the RATE team] acknowledge that subsurface minerals (including zircons) could be substantially contaminated with extraneous helium?” If all samples all over the earth are “contaminated with extraneous helium,” then a catastrophic event occurred all over the earth. This level of a catastrophe would invalidate all dating methods.

Most of the arguments Dr. Henke makes could allow for alternate reading of the data up to allow for the earth to be slightly more than half a million years old. Since half a million years is still not enough time for uniformitarianism, and a tiny fraction of 1.5 billion, I will only address issues that allow for a 1.5 billion year interpretation of the same data.

“Even statements in Humphreys (2000) contradict the desperate efforts of the CreationWiki author(s) to conjure up a line with a 15 kcal/mol slope and salvage Dr. Humphreys’ manipulation.”
Dr. Humphreys’ Manipulation of the Magomedov (1970) Data
Without his log base-10 manipulation of Magomedov’s graph, Dr. Humphreys’ methodology provides ridiculous “creation” dates of only a few decades for Magomedov’s zircons.

This is not science. These are baseless personal attacks. Dr. Henke claims that the RATE team manipulated the evidence to arrive at the conclusion they wanted. Based on these statements, I think that any reasonable person would say that is exactly what Dr. Henke is doing. Dr. Henke is making baseless charges because the data the RATE team provides does not give the results he wants.

Dr. Humphreys explains in some detail that the 1970 Magomedov data shows lead (Pb) retention, not helium retention, in zircons. Helium retention is only a side issue. The Mogomedov data must be evaluated very carefully to extract helium retention from the report.

Dr. Humphreys openly admits making a number of errors in the early tests, since there was no literature of anyone doing the exact same type of procedure. Since creationists believe that God could have created the earth any way he wanted to, there is no need to manipulate or falsify data. The tests results could be off by a factor of thousands of a percent, yet the final conclusion would be the same.

The one theme throughout Dr. Henke’s paper is that the RATE team did sloppy research, falsified data and had a preconceived agenda which drove their results. I say these are the driving sins of Dr. Henke’s article as well.

The only evidence in Dr. Henke offered in his entire paper for a 1.5 billion year date for helium retention is an article by Gary H. Loechelt dated March 18, 2009 and titled  “A Response to the RATE Team Regarding Helium Diffusion in Zircon.” Unlike the rant of poor journalism by Dr. Henke, this is a legitimate scientific paper.

Dr Gary H. Loechelt is a 1995 graduate of Arizona State University, where I attended classes and my wife worked in the Carl Hayden library. Though I do not know who he is and we never met, it is possible that somewhere along the line we were in class together.

This is most of the abstract, “I had previously challenged the scientific merits of RATE’s helium diffusion study, to which Dr. Russell Humphreys, a leading member of the RATE team, responded with his own criticisms. This paper responds to Humphreys’ comments. Three topics are discussed: my old-earth helium diffusion model, RATE’s young-earth helium diffusion model, and a test between the two models. Regarding my old-earth model, computational evidence is presented supporting my interpretation of the diffusion kinetics, contrary to Humphreys’ unsubstantiated claims. Regarding RATE’s young-earth model, a case is made that the apparently good agreement between their model and experimental data is the result of adjusting model parameters to fit preliminary data. Finally, regarding a test between the two models, evidence is presented which shows that the initial heating ramp of a diffusion experiment better supports my old-earth model.”

Dr Loechelt originally wrote on September 11, 2008, “Two fundamental flaws are usually seen in these arguments.  [For a young earth] First, they fail to demonstrate in the common case that experimental uncertainties result in errors of sufficient magnitude to completely invalidate the dating methods in question.  Second, and perhaps more importantly, no credible alternative is given which can adequately explain the well-documented patterns in isotopic ratios which are repeatedly observed in terrestrial, lunar, and meteoric samples (Dalrymple, 1991).”

Dr. Loechelt is correct that all experiments have experimental uncertainties of sufficient magnitude as to invalidate the experiment. The data needs to be examined very carefully. He is, however, in error in saying that just because he does not like the conclusion (the earth is young) therefore the data is invalid.

His is second point, “no credible alternative,” is based on the religious belief in uniformitarianism. Without a worldwide catastrophe, there is no credible alternative. However, a worldwide catastrophe is a very credible alternative.

With the phrase “Perceiving this weakness in the young-earth position” Dr. Loechelt leaves the realm of science and enters religion and politics. Like Dr.Henke, Dr. Loechelt establishes a religious bias in his introduction. While accusing ICR and RATE of manipulation of data to achieve desired results (the earth is young according to the Bible), Dr. Loechelt believes the earth to be old because “mainstream science ha[s] known since the early 20th century, ” His trust is in the bulk of his colleagues worldwide, “mainstream science.”

The RATE team exists because many people worldwide do recognize his next statement to be scientifically valid. “Nuclear decay [i]s the best and perhaps the only viable explanation for the isotopic patterns observed in rocks and minerals today, as well as other related phenomena, such as radiohalos and fission tracks.”

The next statement of Dr. Loechelt’s introduction is simply not true. ” Conceding the occurrence of billions of years’ worth of nuclear decay created a major dilemma for people believing in a 6000-year-old earth.  Since questioning a young-earth position was unthinkable (DeYoung, 2005, p. 174), the only remaining alternative was to postulate that nuclear decay rates were accelerated by many orders of magnitude in the recent past.  The goal of the RATE project was to find scientific evidence to this end.”

So the foundation of Dr. Loechelt’s scientific paper are several religious beliefs. He believes that the earth is not 6,000 years old. While I do not know Dr. Loechelt, others who share that belief manipulate evidence to prove their point. The written goal of the RATE project is “review the assumptions and procedures used in estimating the ages of rock strata.”  It is actually the opposite of Dr. Loechelt’s statement.

Attributing something to your opponents which they do not believe is both a logical fallacy and dishonest. Nuclear decay has never been any kind of dilemma, major or minor, for understanding geology. It has been, however, a major tenet  of the secular humanist religion.

This antiscientific prejudice which invalidates Dr. Loechelt’s entire paper is shown by the following statement “Most of the cases documented by the RATE team proved to be weak tests for their hypothesis because the other clocks were not independent (i.e.they were also based upon nuclear phenomena) and showed very little difference in time (i.e. 10-20% instead of 5-6 orders of magnitude).

Let me reword this; “Because we KNOW that the RATE project conclusions are in error by a magnitude of 5-6, anything the RATE project uses as support but only shows an error rate of 10-20%, we know that to be in error also.”

Though there are many technically accurate details included in Dr Loechelt’s paper, it is an exercise in the very fallacy he accuses the RATE team of: believing in a conclusion so strongly that they falsify the evidence to support it. His multi-domain model achieved the results he wanted; therefore it is the correct model. He did not run tests of his own; he simply criticized the work of others.

Those of us who understand the earth to be young do not need the evidence of the RATE project. God could create the earth any way he wanted to. Also, the worldwide catastrophes since the original creation altered the geologic data. There is no accurate record of the past in a mythical geologic column. It is secular humanists who desperately need some type of scientific evidence to shore up their religion.

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