Nuclear physicist embraces biblical creation
Nuclear scientist Dr Brandon van der Ventel shares his creationist faith with Dr Jonathan Sarfati
Dr Brandon van der Ventel obtained his B.Sc. in 1992 and his Ph.D. in 1999, both from Stellenbosch University in South Africa. For 12 years, he has been an academic. He is currently an associate professor of physics at his alma mater1 (Note: in their system, ‘Associate Professor’ is the second highest academic rank, equivalent to “Reader” in the UK).
Most of his research for the past twelve years has been on relativistic descriptions of nuclear reactions, but he also studies problems in mathematical biology. He has published 19 papers in scientific journals, and a number of international conference proceedings. In 2008 one of Brandon’s doctoral students in theoretical nuclear physics was awarded the prestigious Fulbright scholarship. Brandon is married to Tracy-Lee and they have one son, Levi.
Dr Brandon van der Ventel has long been interested in science. He explains that as a young boy he loved comic books, where heroes like Spiderman would often defeat powerful foes with scientific know-how. He also liked to play with all kinds of gadgets to see how they work. However, at university he found that he liked theoretical work even more. So he eventually specialized in theoretical nuclear physics.
Brandon is also a Christian, who says he was blessed to be raised in a family where both parents served God and instructed their children in biblical truth. They attended one of the oldest Churches in South Africa.
Science and Christianity
Many people—ignorant of the biblical roots of modern science2—are astounded that some top scientists are Christians. It is also often claimed (by evolutionists) that creation scientists do not publish in peer-reviewed journals. Prof. v.d. Ventel responds strongly, “This is a complete lie. Creation scientists have published many articles in secular journals.” He is one of them! But he notes that far too often, “the work of creation scientists are ignored and rejected not because it is faulty, but because it rejects the evolutionary (or billions-of-years) paradigm.” This is why we publish our own peer-reviewed journals.3
Dr v.d. Ventel also points out that the Christian faith is not blind: “The Bible is unique in that it places itself firmly within human history. The Bible has withstood the intense scrutiny of generations of scholars (believers and sceptics alike). One of the most well-known is that of Sir William Ramsay who started out as a sceptic and yet, after years of studying archaeology, as well as classical history and ancient literature came to the conclusion, ‘You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment.’”4 He points out the incredibly strong historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus.5
Importance of biblical creation
In 2008, Brandon followed many in academia in believing that “somehow God must have used evolution”. He now says, “In hindsight I see now the level of indoctrination that really goes on.” But what changed him?
It was actually a CMI speaker at church, as he explained: “The presentation challenged me as a Christian in the most fundamental way, namely do I place the Bible as the complete authority over everything, including theories in science?” In particular, he noted that doubting the Bible in Genesis has often led to “a slippery slide to unbelief, where we can end up questioning the inerrancy and infallibility of the entire Bible.”
Also, the whole purpose of Jesus coming to die for our sins was based on the real sin of the first man Adam, bringing death into the world (1 Corinthians 15:21–22, 45 and Romans 5:12–19). So he drew the following drastic logical conclusion:
“If the story of the fall of Man is ‘mythology’ then there is no need for a plan of salvation. This is ultimately an attack on the personage of our Lord Jesus Christ and His redeeming work on the cross. This is the fundamental reason why I oppose the theory of evolution.”
Furthermore, he pointed out, “The Lord Jesus explicitly refers to Noah’s flood (Luke 17:26–27) yet this global catastrophic event is denied by evolutionists and has no place in the theory. This raises the question: if the Lord’s statement about Noah’s Flood is false, then why should we believe His statement concerning eternal life (John 11:25–26)? This has direct relevance to our own salvation” (Romans 10:9).
After this CMI talk, he says, “The website of Creation Ministries International has been an invaluable source for me as I immersed myself into the creation-evolution controversy. As I studied the various articles on CMI’s website I began to realise that there really is no scientific proof for the theory of evolution. Many other experts in the field of biology, chemistry, physics, geology, medicine and other disciplines have abandoned this false theory.”
Furthermore, at a foundational level, “I realise now that we are involved in a battle of world views. Even though the Bible clearly teaches that God is revealed through Nature (Romans 1:20), opponents of Christ choose to interpret the evidence from an ungodly perspective (Romans 1:21) since ultimately they do not want to submit to God as the supreme authority. That is why they are searching for naturalistic causes of the origin of life. We, as Christians, have a great advantage since the Bible provides an eyewitness account of Creation and as scientists we can study God’s creation from this perspective.”
Many people think that decay of radioactive materials proves billions of years, so I asked this specialist in nuclear physics. He pointed out:
“Radiometric dating does not measure the age directly, but rather the ratio of the radioactive (unstable) parent nucleus to the stable daughter nucleus, as well as the present decay rate.6 However, several assumptions need to be made to proceed with the calculation:
“First, one needs to assume that there were no daughter nuclei present at the start; that is, the presence of the daughter nucleus is entirely due to the decay.
“Second, there had to be no leakage of either parent or daughter nuclei into or out of the sample. But how can we be sure of any of these assumptions if no-one was present when the rocks were formed or if the change in the elements were not monitored over the entire geological history?
“Third, the equation is valid only if the decay rate (λ) is a constant, and there is much evidence against this.”
So it’s no wonder, as Dr v.d. Ventel pointed out, that a radiometric “date” for rock layers near a fossil “is accepted only if it fits into the grand evolutionary scheme of things. If this is not the case then either new samples are taken or a different dating method is used. Notice, this is not akin to a system of ‘checks-and-balances’ but rather a situation where results are ‘reinterpreted’ in order to obey the evolutionary dogma. Also, radioactive ‘dating’ methods have also been known to give incorrect ages for samples of known age. ”7
He also points out “that radiocarbon dating of coal samples and diamonds actually points to a young earth.” This is because carbon-14 has a half-life of between 5,000 to 6,000 years. “Yet, the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth) research group has found coal and fossilized wood containing carbon-14 (yet ‘dated’ to be millions of years old). Carbon-14 is also present in diamonds, although diamond is the hardest substance on Earth, thus impervious to contamination.”8
As a ‘Coloured’ South African, Brandon has had first-hand experience with racism in that country. He points out that the rise of apartheid was not dissimilar to the rise of theistic evolution. Both began from ideas totally foreign to the Bible, and both resorted to “totally convoluted arguments to make it seem as if they were intended by God. Instead, the Bible should be our point of departure and should not be used as a motivation for our own (often sinful and selfish) desires. What atheists and other opponents of Christ also conveniently forget is that the Church in South Africa in actual fact formed the vanguard of the resistance to apartheid. In contrast, nations who had completely adopted evolutionary thinking or atheism, such as Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, knew no bounds to the levels of depravity or the suffering they inflicted upon others.”
He strongly recommends Dr Carl Wieland’s book One Human Family: “If the notion of one human family, all descendants of Adam, can find its way into all spheres of society, then discriminatory practices based on race will never be able to find a foothold.”
Advice for young scientists
Prof. van der Ventel says, “Now more than ever, Christians should enter the science field. This is really one of the frontlines of the battle since the evolutionary paradigm is pushed so strongly. Many young people at college or university reject the Bible based (amongst other things) on the belief that evolution is true and the creation account in Genesis is a myth. There is always work to be done, providing the scientific evidence against evolution and for creation; we can take the first steps in reversing the tide.”
Christians should thus enter all academic fields. But “always you commit yourself to upholding God’s Word as the ultimate truth, even if it means enmity with the world” (James 4:4).
Quantum mechanics and relativity
We often receive questions about these branches of physics, in which Dr v.d. Ventel is an expert. Much of his recent research has combined both of these to describe nuclear scattering experiments.
First, he explains:
“It is common to speak of the ‘Laws of Physics’ but this is not really true. All that is really done in physics is to provide models of the natural world to explain certain observed physical phenomena. The term ‘Law’ is a bit misleading and creates the impression that it is always applicable.
For example, he explains that we talk of ‘Newton’s Laws of Motion’, but what we really mean is that the Newtonian equations of motion have been very successful in describing the motion of large objects.”
But he points out that they are not applicable to atoms and their component particles. For that, QM explains their properties. And nuclear reactions involve matter and energy converting as per Einstein’s most famous formula from his Theory of Relativity, E = mc². So we must use a combination of quantum mechanics and special relativity, called quantum field theory (QFT).
Dr v.d. Ventel points out:
“Even though QFT has some problems, it has been very successful in describing a range of experiments performed at many of the world’s leading accelerator centres. The Standard Model of physics is for example, a quantum field theory. One branch of QFT, for example, Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), has been called the most successful theory in physics, because it has been enormously successful in predicting physical observations at the sub-nuclear level. The final judge of any theory (or model) is if it is in accordance with experimental results, and this is precisely where evolution fails dismally. Thus Christians should not see physical theories such as quantum mechanics and special (or general) relativity as being a threat to the Bible.”9
References and notes
- The views expressed in this interview are those of Prof. van der Ventel, not necessarily those of his university or department. Return to text.
- See Sarfati, J., The biblical roots of modern science, Creation 32(3):32–36, 2010; creation.com/roots. Return to text.
- See Kulikovsky, A., Creationism, Science and Peer Review, J. Creation 22(1):44–49, 2008; creation.com/peer. Return to text.
- Ramsay, W.M., (1851–1939), Luke, The Physician (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1908), pp. 177–179. Return to text.
- See for example Kumar S. (with Sarfati, J.), Christianity for Skeptics, chapter 1(IV), Creation Book Publishers, 2012. Return to text.
- The exponential decay formula where is the initial number of nuclei present and λ is the decay rate, which is related to the half-life (t½) of the radioactive parent nucleus by half life by λ = ln2/t½. Return to text.
- See for example Walker, T., How dating methods work, Creation 30(3):28–29
June 2008; creation.com/dating-flaws. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., Diamonds: a creationist’s best friend, Creation 28(4):26–27, 2006; creation.com/diamonds. Return to text.
- I agree, but good to have further confirmation by a specialist. See Sarfati, J., Should creationists accept quantum mechanics? J. Creation 26(1): 116–123, 2012; creation.com/qm. Return to text.