The age of things is crucial in the debate over the authority of the Bible.
Most methods that could be used for calculating the Earth’s age, even though still based on unprovable uniformitarian1 assumptions, give upper limits much less than the billions of years required for evolution.2 Evolutionists widely use radio–isotope (or radiometric) dating of rocks to support the ‘geologic time’ figure of 4.6 billion years. Notwithstanding the inherent unreliability and demonstrated inaccuracy of the radiometric dating techniques (see Radiometric dating), ages of rock formations in the millions (and billions) of years are presented as fact in schools, universities and the media.
However, there is spectacular, but little-known, evidence that is completely inconsistent with the evolutionary timescale, but entirely consistent with the Biblical record of a young Earth and a catastrophic global Flood.
The evidence is provided by radio–halos in coalified wood. This work has been published in some of the best peer-reviewed scientific journals, and its strong case against evolution’s millions of years is so far unanswered by the evolutionary community.
What are radiohalos?
Radiohalos are spherical, microscopic-sized discolourations in crystals. They are found abundantly in certain minerals in Earth’s rocks, especially micas from granites. In cross-section on a microscope slide, they appear as a series of tiny concentric rings, usually surrounding a central core (Figure 1).3
This central core is (at least initially) radioactive. High energy alpha particles, emitted from the core during radioactive decay, damage the mineral and discolour it, with most of the damage occurring where the particle stops. How far this particle travels depends on its energy. Since all the alpha particles from a particular type of decay reaction have the same energy, and the particles are fired in all directions, a spherical shell of discolouration will form, appearing circular in cross-section.
Imagine shooting a bullet into a huge lump of cork. Eventually, the bullet will stop, leaving behind a ‘trail’ of damage, the length of which depends on the speed of the bullet. Different radioactive substances shoot alpha particles (‘bullets’) at different (though specific) speeds, so we can identify the substance from the diameter of the ‘sphere of damage’. The higher the energy of decay, the faster the speed of the ‘bullet’.
Radioactive uranium generates a beautiful, multi-ringed halo (Figure 1) because it decays in a number of steps. Of the 15 isotopes (or varieties of elements) in this ‘decay chain’ (see Radioactive decay series), eight emit alpha particles when they decay, forming eight rings.5 It is a bit like a sequence of guns, each of different power, firing an eight-gun salute. When this salute or decay chain is fired millions of times in every direction, the bullets from the different guns make eight concentric rings.
If, instead of radioactive uranium, the core was composed of an isotope along the chain, there would be fewer rings. Omitting the first few isotopes in the decay series would be like removing the first few guns in our ‘salute’. Thus it’s quite simple to work out which isotope was originally in the core by counting the rings. Polonium-218 forms three rings, polonium-214 forms two, and polonium-210 forms only one.
Radiohalos in coalified wood
Radiohalos have also been found in logs recovered from uranium mines on the Colorado Plateau of Western USA. The logs, partially turned to coal, were found in uranium-rich sedimentary rocks from three different geological formations.
Some of these formations had previously been assigned radiometric ‘dates’ ranging from 55 to 80 million years.6 Scientists Jedwab7 and Breger8 described these halos, and Dr Robert Gentry, a world authority on radiohalos, revisited their work. Following extensive investigation, Gentry published his results in the prestigious journal Science,9 in a book10 and in a video.11
Most of the halos found in the wood had only one ring, indicating that the radioactive cores once contained polonium-210—the last radioactive isotope in the uranium-238 decay chain (see Radioactive decay series). Clearly, the wood had been saturated in uranium-rich solutions, and certain spots attracted polonium atoms (also present in these solutions), allowing small cores of polonium-210 to form. As they decayed, these cores left the characteristic polonium-210 halo.
But the solutions must have penetrated the logs relatively quickly, certainly within a year or so. How do we know that? Because the half-life of polonium-210 is only 138 days. That is, within 138 days, half the polonium-210 present would have decayed into the next ‘daughter’ isotope in the chain. In other words, the solution had saturated the wood within two or three half-lives, about a year. It could not have taken very long, because in 10 half-lives (less than four years) virtually all of the polonium-210 would have gone.
Only one of the three radioactive isotopes of polonium was deposited in the tiny radioactive specks in the logs. We know because only one ring formed. The other isotopes from the decay chain (polonium-214 and polonium-218) were missing. Why? Because they had already decayed away. Their half-lives are very short (164 millionths of a second and three minutes respectively). So all polonium-214 would have disappeared within a thousandth of a second, and all polonium-218 would have gone in an hour—long before the uranium-rich solutions could saturate the logs.
Significantly, the halos were mainly elliptical, not circular (Figure 2). Obviously, after the halos formed, the wooden logs were compressed, squashing the originally-circular halos into ellipses.
Sometimes a circular halo could be seen together with an elliptical halo (Figure 3). This indicated that radioactive polonium-210 continued to decay from the same core after the wood was compressed. Thus, because of the 138-day half-life of polonium-210 as discussed above, there was less than four years between when the solution first infiltrated the wood and when it was compressed. (The presence of the second halo at the same spot shows that much less than four years had passed before the compression event, as there was still time to produce another halo afterwards.)12