This month I will complete a three-part review of the RATE project (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth). In October I presented the background considerations leading up to the project. In November I discussed the interpretation of Genesis as history, which was an important biblical basis for the scientific studies. The RATE project found that:
- A large amount of radioactive decay has occurred in earth history.
- Nuclear decay processes were accelerated during episodes in earth history.
- Conventional radioisotopic dates are therefore incorrect by large factors.
These findings led to the major conclusion that the earth is thousands–not billions–of years old. However, RATE left three unresolved problems concerning theology, heat, and radiation.
The Theological Problem
The use of the term “accelerated decay” for nuclear processes during the Creation Week seems to create an apparent conflict for some people with the statement given by God in Genesis 1:31: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” The RATE project was able to show that accelerated decay occurred during the Genesis Flood, but this was not sufficient to explain all the observed daughter products in rocks, such as lead. The production of lead by accelerated decay during the first three days of the Creation Week could explain this, but that would introduce the concept of “decay” during this period that was stated by God to be “very good.” This issue probably merits further study, but could easily be resolved if the term “decay” were understood as “process.” The RATE group suggested that the apparent conflict may only be due to semantics.
The Heat Problem
Of greater concern to both supporters and skeptics of the RATE project is the issue of how to dispose of the tremendous quantities of heat generated by accelerated decay during the Genesis Flood. The amount of heat produced by a decay rate of a million times faster than normal during the year of the Flood could potentially vaporize the earth’s oceans, melt the crust, and obliterate the surface of the earth. The RATE group is confident that the accelerated decay they discovered was not only caused by God, but that the necessary removal of heat was also superintended by Him as well. Dr. Russell Humphreys, a member of the RATE group, has suggested one possible mechanism that may explain this dilemma. He has found evidence, both scientific and scriptural, that cooling of the earth by the expansion of the cosmos may have occurred simultaneously with the heat produced by accelerated decay.
The Radiation Problem
Another consideration is how Noah and his family could have survived the massive dose of radiation unleashed during the Flood. It is likely that the humans aboard the Ark would have been protected from most of the radiation occurring on the surface of the earth by the water covering the planet. It is common knowledge that water absorbs radiation, and an average of 8,000 feet of water covering the earth would have made a very effective shield. However, some have expressed concern that a radioactive element like potassium-40 that is present in the human body may have produced radiation within Noah’s body itself.
These problems and others will be explored as the RATE II program continues in the coming years. Evidence for accelerated decay in meteorites has been identified as one of the most important research projects for the future. We’ll keep you posted on our progress in upcoming editions of Acts & Facts.
*Dr. Vardiman is Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of Research.
Cite this article: Vardiman, L. 2007. RATE in Review: Unresolved Problems. Acts & Facts. 36 (12): 6.