Report on the 5th International Conference on Creationism
August 3-9, 2003
|Author: Eric Blievernicht
Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA
The 5th ICC, conducted by the Creation Science Fellowship, is devoted to developing a coherent creation model of earth history based on the biblical record. It is the pre-eminent young-earth creation forum for research scientists and scholars working on the creationist view of origins. The ICC provides an opportunity for Christian scientists and researchers from around the world to meet face to face and discuss, critique and explore various hypotheses in fields like biology, geology, astronomy, philosophy and biblical scholarship. It is also a superb opportunity for students of origins to meet and talk with some of the leading researchers in their fields.
This is my 3rd ICC conference. Like the previous two the ICC was split into a “technical track” and a “basic track.” The latter runs the last three days of the conference and is intended for non-scientists interested in learning more about the biblical model of origins, and how natural science data fits within it. Leading scholars from a variety of fields are invited to present lectures to the basic track participants highlighting the latest in creationary research in their field.
Hundreds of books on origins, mostly from a creationary perspective, were available for purchase, as were many videos, DVDs and software. Material ranged from research monographs and technical papers to children’s books and creationist science curricula. Other young-earth organizations, such as Answers in Genesis, the Creation Research Society, the Institute for Creation Research, the ARK Foundation, Alpha Omega Institute, etc. also had booths in the bookstore area.
In addition to the technical and basic track lectures during the day, evening activities were also conducted. Three evening sessions were free and open to the general public, attracting hundreds of interested people from the region. The first open session, by ICR president Dr. John Morris, emphasized our success in developing solid answers to defend the Bible and establish the superiority of creationist theories over naturalistic dogmas; however, we are still being “shut out” of government schools, secular media and tax-funded science establishments due to Darwinian control of those institutions. Further successes in spreading the good news of creation will be dependent on overcoming those barriers and leveling the playing field.
The second open session, by Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham, related the work of the ICC to the need to restore decaying western culture. Genesis is foundational to the morality and standards of Christian culture, and current symptoms of that decay (homosexual privileges, denigration of marriage, abandonment of women & children, etc.) need to be fought at the foundational level to reverse the decay. As usual Ham eloquently called for Christians to stand firm on the foundation of Scripture and develop all their thinking from it.
The final open talk, by Dr. Steven Rodabaugh (leader in the field of fuzzy topology in mathematics), was a wonderfully detailed exegesis of Job 40-41. These chapters describe in detail two dinosaurs, the first similar to a brachiosaur, the second being consistent with Tyrannosaurus Rex. Erroneous translations in some modern Bible translations were pointed out and dealt with in detail.
ICC participants had additional opportunities for fellowship. The Creation Research Society hosted a reception the first evening, and a Pittsburgh area river boat cruise proved an enjoyable excursion later in the week. During the cruise many ICC participants who skipped the cruise took the opportunity to conduct a successful fossil hunt, taking home many excellent fossil ferns and other flora from local shale deposits.
Forty three technical sessions were presented. Due to time limitations two sessions were presented at a time in most instances, so I was unable to attend many sessions. The following is an overview of some of the more significant sessions I attended. Each session was taped and the recordings will be made available on CD following the conference. Powerpoint files of the presentations will also be included on the CD. The Proceedings of the conference, composing a book of 597 pages, contain each paper presented at the conference, as well as a CD with the papers in PDF format.
The R.A.T.E. Project
Many of the papers presented were reports on various projects within the Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (RATE) program. This eight year program, jointly sponsored by ICR, CRS and AiG, is two years from completion. The program manager, Dr. Larry Vardiman of ICR, gave the first ICC presentation presenting updates on their work. Other papers by scientists like nuclear physicist Dr. D.R. Humphreys, Australian geologist Dr. Andrew Snelling, geophysicist Dr. John Baumgardner and theoretical physicist Dr. Eugene Chaffin gave detailed reports on projects within the RATE program. Their findings are summarized as follows (from the proceedings, p. 346):
- Conventional radioisotope dating methods are unreliable. There is frequent disagreement between different methods on the same rock, the key assumptions behind radioisotope dating are inaccurate, there is a mixing of mantle and crust source material that disrupts the radiometric “clocks,” and residual C-14 (which decays in only thousands of years) found throughout the geologic record strongly challenges the idea that these rocks are millions of years old.
- Massive nuclear decay has occurred in the rocks. The large quantities of radiometric daughter elements like lead, helium and argon present in rocks, in proximity to parent elements, and other evidence like fission tracks and radiohalos, appear to confirm that a great deal of radioactive decay has occurred in earth history. (Billions of years worth at current rates.)
- Isotopic mixing between the earth’s mantle and crust has occurred. Lava flows display isotopic characteristics of mantle rock, and isotope data suggests basalts were generated by the melting of old mantle rock. But the data also indicates contamination as the magmas ascended to the surface.
- Residual helium and radio halos indicate there has been rapid, recent, decay. Large quantities of helium gas are still present in radioactive granites; RATE tests confirm that the materials they are found in would not hold them for millions of years. Polonium halos appear to have formed during rapid cooling of granite plutons during the Cataclysm of Noah’s time. Rapid cooling of the plutons also suggests rapid metamorphism of the rocks during the Cataclysm.
- Massive nuclear decay evidence, radiohalos, helium diffusion experiments and deep C-14 all imply accelerated nuclear decay rates. This evidence can be explained by a rapid burst of high decay rates during the Cataclysm just a few thousand years ago.
- Studies in theoretical physics suggest accelerated nuclear decay can occur. Variation in compactified dimensions could affect coupling constants, leading to accelerated decay. A change in potential well depth would change the alpha-particle wave function, changing decay half-lives as well.
It should be noted that each technical presentation was critically reviewed by experts in the appropriate field and that a number of papers did not survive the peer review process. This provides a measure of confidence in the results of each paper. Also, following each presentation a question and answer session was held in which the audience could request clarification on obscure points, challenge claims made or make additional observations for or against the thesis presented in the lecture.
The presentation by Dr. John Baumgardner of Los Alamos, one of the world’s foremost experts in the geophysics of the earth, on carbon-14 was particularly interesting. Carbon-14 is produced when cosmic rays strike nitrogen-14 in the upper atmosphere. Living creatures ingest C-14 along with ordinary carbon (C-12). C-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years, meaning that every 5,730 years half of a given amount will have decayed.
Thus, if you know the original ratio of C-14 to C-12 in a sample when it died (and thus stopped exchanging carbon with the environment) you can measure the present ratio to determine how much time has passed since death. In the biblical model of earth history we must keep in mind the fact that the pre-Flood world contained much larger biomass (living material), much of which was buried and has become coal and oil deposits. It is also likely that there was little C-14 present at the beginning of the world and that it is still building up in our atmosphere. These two considerations mean that pre-Flood organisms would have had little C-14, diluted among much greater amounts of C-12. This means scientists who do not believe in the Cataclysm would badly overestimate the true age of organisms that died in the Cataclysm or shortly thereafter. On the other hand more recent samples (less than 2,000-3,000 years old, roughly) would have similar amount of C-14 at death compared to present, and thus would yield a similar age whether one believed in Genesis or not.
Since the half-life of C-14 is 5,730 years, only ¼ the original material would be present after two half-lives, 1/8 after three half-lives, 1/1024 after ten half-lives, and so on. If the entire earth were composed of C-14 not one atom of C-14 would remain after a million years. It would all decay to C-12. Therefore, rocks that are millions of years old should not contain any C-14 at all.
Dozens of radiocarbon tests have now been performed on coal, oil, and fossil samples from rocks believed by evolutionists to be millions, even hundreds of millions of years old. In every case measurable C-14 is being found, yielding an age of only thousands of years. The data is consistent with the hypothesis that less C-14 had been produced before the Cataclysm, that there was about a hundred times more biomass, and that only about one half-life (5,730 years) has passed since they died. Thus radiocarbon dating has furnished excellent evidence for the Cataclysm of Noah’s time. It should be noted that investigators have ruled out contamination or direct formation of C-14 in these samples.
Dr. Baumgardner reported one discovery made shortly before the conference: a pre-Cambrian diamond, conventionally assumed to be “2.6 billion years old” was found to contain radiocarbon in similar proportion to the other fossil deposit samples. This indicates that not only the fossil record but the very earth itself is only thousands of years old.
Dr. Larry Vardiman, an atmospheric scientist at ICR, also presented a paper on “hypercanes,” super-strength hurricanes that are predicted to form if ocean temperatures were warmer than at present. John Woodmorappe presented the first creationist paper on hypercanes at the 1998 ICC in the context of the Cataclysm. Vardiman’s paper explored the potential for hypercanes in the late stages of the Cataclysm and in following years. It is believed that the geological activity of the Cataclysm would have left oceans substantially warmer than at present for many years after Noah left the Ark, which would have led to hypercanes forming and eroding large quantities of soft sediments on a scale not seen today. He suggested the Appalachian mountains might have obtained their rounded appearance at this time due to their proximity to hypercane tracks.
Dr. Steven Austin, geologist with ICR, presented a significant paper on the discovery of billions of nautiloid fossils in a rock formation within the Grand Canyon. Nautiloids are cone-shaped squid-like creatures that are extinct today. The Redwall limestone was known to contain a few nautiloid fossils since the 1960’s but the full extent of the deposits, over hundreds of kilometers in extent, was only recently determined by Dr. Austin and his collaborators. Nautiloids were identified at dozens of sites (catalogued in the Proceedings) at densities of over one per square meter.
The Redwall limestone, once thought to have formed gradually in tranquil seas over millions of years, has been re-interpreted as a catastrophic deposit in the course of this work. The field evidence indicates a hyperconcentrated submarine debris flow from the east swept over the flat landscape produced by earlier events during the Cataclysm, trapping and entraining the swimming nautiloids as it progressed as several meters/second. Dr. Austin has written a monograph for the National Park Service detailing his findings at their request.
David Cavanaugh, a member of the Baraminology Study Group (devoted to identifying the biblical “kinds” of life that God created and formalizing a creationist taxonomy), reported on research into fossil horses. The data indicate that all fossil horses are members of one kind (a monobaramin), with evidence of rapid change and diversification in the post-Flood world.
Dr. Mark Horstemeyer, an associate of Dr. Baumgardner, presented papers on the Ice Age and geophysical modeling of the breaking up of the continental plates at the onset of the Cataclysm (better known as Catastrophic Plate Tectonics). Horstemeyer found that asteroid impacts were unlikely to generate the runaway thermal subduction required to initiate the Cataclysm, their effects being mostly limited to the surface. On the other hand, factors such as increasing mantle temperature, water content and loading rate were found to significantly alter the viscosity of mantle material. Any of a number of subtle effects associated with these parameters could have been used by God to initiate the Cataclysm.
Nuclear engineer Mark Matthews presented a lecture on the Oklo natural nuclear reactors found in central Africa. These uranium deposits show evidence of chain reactions occurring naturally in the past. Matthews pointed out that some of the deposits are too small to undergo chain reactions, but if a period of accelerated nuclear decay had occurred in the past then the Oklo site would have tended to go into reactor mode.
Dr. Alexander Lalomov of Russia was unable to attend due to red tape with his visa, but his paper on the paleohydrology of Jurassic conglomerates on the Crimean peninsula was presented by Dr. Austin. Dr. Lalomov reported that the conglomerate rock material is calculated to have formed rapidly from source material 400 kilometers away, within the biblical time frame.
Meteorologist Michael Oard presented a paper on the Lake Missoula flood that formed the Channeled Scablands of the Pacific Northwest. The original concept of a single massive flood during the Ice Age was accepted after four decades of debate, but geologists later proposed that there were dozens of flood events rather than one, over thousands of years. Oard presented reasons to believe there was only one flood, with no evidence of erosion or time between the features claimed by others to have formed during separate flood episodes.
Dr. Emil Silvestru of Romania, a leading authority in speleology (cave science), now on the staff of Answers in Genesis, presented two papers, one on cavern formation and one on the human use of caves. He noted that cave artists frequently used cave walls while there is no evidence they used speleothems (stalactites and stalagmites for example), even when it would have made good sense to do so. This is evidence the speleothems were not present when early man inhabited the caves, making them younger than conventionally estimated.
In his paper on karst formation, Silvestru pointed out that caves do not tend to be simple channels as if they were formed by flowing water, in most cases. Instead cave passages are much more erratic and maze-like in shape, indicating different mechanisms for their formation. The formation of cavities due to sulphuric acid percolating through rocks in the aftermath of the Cataclysm was suggested as a mechanism of cave formation, with water capture and transport being a later secondary mechanism.
Dr. Kurt Wise, paleontologist and director of the Center for Origins Research and Education (CORE) at Bryan College in Tennessee, gave two fascinating lectures. The first lecture expanded on the hypothesis that the pre-Flood world hosted a “floating forest” ecology composed of enormous mats of trees and plants floating in the seas of the early earth. This model, developed by German creationist paleontologist Dr. Joachim Scheven, helps explain the largely hollow structures found in many trees associated with coal seams, which are postulated to have helped maintain buoyancy in a marine environment. Intermediate fish/amphibian life forms sometimes described by evolutionists as ‘transition forms’ are understood to have lived within the tangled roots of this ecology, uniquely adapted to exist in this now lost environment. “Quaking bogs” of northern regions still provide an analogue that can be studied today. These floating forests would have provided much of the material for the coals seams during the Cataclysm. Destroyed by the turbulence of the event, the flora and fauna associated with the floating forests became largely extinct in the post-Flood world.
Wise’s second paper investigated the relationship of pre-Cambrian fossil deposits such as the Ediacaran and Tommotian fossils, stromatolites and bacteria. He proposed that these deposits represent unique Antediluvian marine environments, including a widespread hydrothermal biome that exists only in isolated locations today, that were buried early in the Cataclysm. Down-faulted seafloor regions were protected from the scouring, erosive forces of the early Flood and quickly had material deposited upon them, protecting them from later erosion as further tectonic activity took place. This model explains the unique characteristics of the Vendian fauna and lack of “transitions” between it and other life forms in the fossil record.
Dr. Wise also assisted with the presentation of a student of his, Matthew Croxton, regarding biogeography. Croxton and Wise proposed that modern geographic distributions of many plants and animals could be explained by their survival on rafts of floating plant debris in the decades following the Cataclysm. Ocean currents would have propelled these rafts across the seas. Current biogeographic distributions of many species make sense in light of known ocean patterns if such a rafting mechanism is examined.
Biologist Dr. Joseph Francis gave a fascinating talk on a new concept in creation biology: the “organic substrate of life,” bacteria and viruses. In this concept bacteria and viruses are viewed less as distinct organisms and more as “extra-organismal organs,” that is, means by which higher organisms meet their needs and the entire ecology is supported by a sort of maintenance and repair substrate. Francis noted that only a small proportion of bacteria and viruses are known to cause disease, and these are apparently due to degenerate mutations that adversely affect the symbiotic functions with which they have been designed.
Geneticist Dr. Todd Wood of Bryan College presented his thesis of Altruistic Genetic Elements (AGEs), a theory for rapid diversification of life forms from the few survivors after the Cataclysm. Wood presented evidence that organisms can indeed alter their genetic material in response to environmental stimuli, some changes (such as barley in “Evolution Canyon” in Israel) amounting to thousands of genes difference. It is apparent that higher level programs exist within our cells that can direct genetic alterations along predetermined paths to obtain beneficial results. This is not naturalistic evolution, because the alterations have to be anticipated and programmed in advance or the random results from changing large numbers of genes without specific knowledge of the result would be lethal.
In the AGE model, life forms spreading across the post-Flood earth would have rapidly given rise to distinctive sub-populations as they encountered different environments, leading to diversity such as the fossil horse series mentioned earlier, and current diversity of types of life such as canines and felines.
Dr. Jerry Bergman, well known to creationists for his acquisition of at least nine science degrees (a number subject to change ;-), presented a paper on the phenomena of Flood stories found in cultures around the world. The notion that the Genesis account of the Flood was derived from the Epic of Gilgamesh is rejected as hopelessly naïve. Like most of the hundreds of other Flood accounts, the Gilgamesh account has ample embellishments that have accrued over time, in contrast to the more spartan, concise account in Genesis. The fact that these accounts occur in America, and many other remote regions is evidence that mankind has spread over the earth more recently than conventionally believed. (I was honored to have Dr. Bergman as one of my roommates during the ICC.)
This is only a survey of the papers presented. The level of quality of the papers was the best I have seen yet at an ICC, which bodes well for the future of biblical creationist apologetics. The fruits of this improvement in creationist thinking can be seen in the increasing caliber of recent converts to the creationist cause; men like Dr. Silvestru, and one of my ICC roommates, plant genetics researcher Dr. John Sanford, formerly of Cornell University. Darwinists in the ivory tower can no longer dismiss their opponents as ignorant hicks from heartland America.
Still, work has only just begun on the development of a systematic creation model to rival and overcome the Darwinian worldview of origins. The number of active researchers within creationist circles is small because of the lack of funding; even most creationist scientists are forced to work within Darwinian labs and research centers. Most lack the awareness of how to contribute materially to the creationist cause. I would recommend readers in this position to contact the Creation Research Society, the Institute for Creation Research or other such organizations to learn how to aid in the cause of Christ. Many exciting projects, such as the RATE program, the Baraminology Study Group, and upcoming ideas from ICR such as the GENE project could use widespread support to advance more quickly and achieve their goals.
To the glory and honor of God our creator,