Creation in the physics lab
An illuminating interview with physicist Dr D. Russell Humphreys
Dr Russell Humphreys is a physicist working for the prestigious Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Winner of several scientific awards, he is currently involved with the laboratory’s particle beam fusion project, concerning thermonuclear fusion energy research. This work involves advanced nuclear physics, both theoretical and experimental. He is also an adjunct professor of the Institute for Creation Research, and a board member of the Creation Research Society. [Ed. note: Dr Humphreys has since retired from Sandia National Laboratories and is now working with ICR.]
CW: Dr Humphreys, Australian audiences were thrilled to receive the tremendous amount of information you gave them on your recent lecture tour. You know, some of the vocal opponents of creation science in this country have been going around saying that creationism involves abandoning ‘all of atomic physics’.
RH: Well, actually I find just the reverse. I find that my work in creationism involves getting information from Scripture that relates to nuclear physics, and I have used that information to generate several theories which have proved remarkably successful.
Well, a good scientific theory is one which makes predictions, and it was exciting to hear about several models of yours, based on creation, which generated successful predictions.
One model was based on 2 Peter 3:5, which talks about how God made the earth, and I applied that. I took that as a clue, and had an idea about how God might have started out the earth’s magnetic field. And then I found that worked fairly well and it gave the right strength for the earth’s magnetic field.
So I then asked myself, ‘Perhaps God used the same method to make the other bodies in the solar system, the sun and the moon and the planets?’ So I calculated the fields of all the planets that we had already explored up to that time, which was 1984, and the theory gave right values for those planets also.
I published these results in a Creation Research Society Quarterly article in December, 1984, and in that article I said that a good test of my theory would be to check out what the strength of the fields of the planets Uranus and Neptune were relative to my theory. For Uranus, the evolutionary predictions were generally about 100,000 times less than my published predictions, so I thought it was a good test.
So, what was the result when Voyager finally made the measurements?
The result was smack in the middle of my prediction, and 100,000 times greater than the evolutionary predictions. So the creation model was the clear winner in that case.
And for Neptune as well.
Yes, that’s right.
Did you get any comments from evolutionists about these fulfilled predictions?
Yes. Stephen Brush, a fairly well known anti-creationist in the United States, wrote to me after the first prediction came true and I had mentioned this in an ICR Impact article. He said he was basically trying to find some way around the fact that I had made a prediction, and I wrote him a polite letter back and tried to explain things to him. He wrote another letter back and that was the end of the correspondence.
But about six months later, an article by him appeared in Science magazine. The gist of it was that ‘Well, predictions are not really a way to do good science’, so he was basically backing down from the classical scientific view that predictions are a good way to validate a theory.
I remember reading an article of yours some time ago and being impressed by the way in which you didn’t just accept the then prevalent idea in creationism that the alleged magnetic reversals of the earth’s field weren’t for real, but instead you actually investigated the matter for yourself in-depth.
That’s correct. I took a graduate-level college course in it from a fairly well-known expert in palaeomagnetism and I read lots of books and did field studies for myself. I found that the evidence that these reversals had happened was overwhelming.
Your model of rapid fluctuations and reversals during the Genesis Flood is now becoming much more widely accepted in creationist circles. There was another prediction that came out of that, wasn’t there?
Yes. Basically when I did the first study and published it in 1986 at the International Conference on Creationism, I said that these reversals had to have happened about every week or two. And I also said, at the end of the paper, what would be good evidence for this model—namely, to find a thin layer of lava which had recorded a good chunk of a reversal. When lava cools down it freezes into itself information about the direction and strength of the earth’s magnetic field at the time. If a lava layer is fairly thin, it will cool down within a matter of weeks. And so, if you found in such a thin layer a large amount of reversal, that would be strong evidence for the theory.
And was that prediction then fulfilled?
Yes, it was. In April 1989, a paper appeared in Earth and Planetary Science Letters by Robert S. Coe and Michel Prevot, and basically, while I don’t think they had read my paper, they did exactly what I had suggested. They found a thin lava layer which had 90 degrees of reversal recorded continuously in it and they calculated that the layer had to cool down within a matter of 15 days or less.
Actually they were very conservative, and it was probably more like only three to seven days. Their paper is filled with statements like, ‘astonishingly fast change in the earth’s magnetic field’, and ‘truly strains the imagination’, and other such comments that indicated that this was a very surprising result to them.
Evolutionists have always taught that these reversals take hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years, haven’t they?
Yes. In fact they had even thought that it was physically impossible for reversals to take place faster than a few thousand years.
Well, they are not reckoning with a catastrophe like the Genesis Flood, are they?
No. They are not reckoning with that kind of catastrophe and what it might do in the Earth’s core.
Could the evolutionists argue that this is a one-off fluke?
They can’t, because Robert Coe has done it again. Just recently, he has found some more data of the same sort, but it indicates a change even faster than the first one that he found and it is in a different stratum. So it would be extremely unlikely for him to find the second one if it was just a fluke. [Ed. note: see The earth’s magnetic field: Evidence that the earth is young.]
Can they come back with any sort of excuses—you know, maybe that the lava was unusually insulated and took thousands of years to cool down instead of weeks, or anything like that?
No, because Coe and Prevot, both very well-respected in this particular field, did an excellent job in their paper. They checked their results in several different ways and covered all the angles. So the response of other people in the same field has been cautious acceptance. There was a cautious review in Nature which basically accepted the work, but rather reluctantly.
Have you spoken to any evolutionists about this?
Yes. I spoke to Coe directly in several phone calls, and we have corresponded by letter a few times. I didn’t explain to him that I was a creationist because I found that that can cut off communications rather abruptly. I asked Coe one time how others in the field were receiving it, and he said, ‘They don’t want to believe it.’
Across the world recently there has been a lot of brouhaha about the ‘bumps’ in the ‘big bang’, saying that they have proved the ‘big bang’, there is no room for God, or else it is ‘like looking at God’, and so on. What’s the reality? What are in fact these ‘bumps’ or ripples about which the media is talking?
The bumps are tiny fluctuations in the intensity and wavelength of microwave radiation that is coming to the earth from all directions. This radiation is characteristic of heat waves from a very low temperature object, about 2.74 degrees above absolute zero. This radiation is very uniform and it is almost too uniform to allow the ‘big bang’ theory to work. Recently, they found tiny variations of about 30 millionths of a degree from point to point in the sky and that may be enough to allow them to redeem that aspect of the ‘big bang’ theory, though it still has some serious problems.
It always strikes me that many people don’t realize that just because you find something that agrees with a particular prediction of one model, even though that’s encouraging for the model, you can’t really talk about ‘proving’ something that happened so long ago.
Yes, and it depends on what the competition is. If there is another theory that makes the same predictions, then it is not proof of either theory at all. It merely says that both theories are still in the running. And there happens to be another theory which is coming up fast as the main contender—it is a creationist theory that I have been working on for a number of years, and it also predicts this microwave radiation, with its tiny bumps. [Ed. note: see his book and dvd, both produced after this interview, for an explanation of his theory, at both a popular-level as well as technical explanations for those interested. For the lastest on the cosmic microwave background irregulaties, see Surprise? NASA ‘confirms’ the big bang.]
Yes, I remember the audience in Melbourne who heard of your theory was fascinated. One man said ‘I’ve had my horizons stretched—by about 20 billion light years.’ It was particularly exciting to see the potential for explaining the progressive red-shift, the problem of how light gets to us from distant galaxies in a short time and so on.
It’s a theory which starts from taking the Bible very straightforwardly and, in particular, some often-overlooked verses which relate to how God made the cosmos. And I take that information from the Bible and crank it into Einstein’s general theory of relativity and out comes a completely different cosmology than the accepted cosmology of the ‘big bang’. I’ve been working on this theory for a number of years and the mathematics is part-way done but not complete. Furthermore, it’s not been peer reviewed officially by other creationists or anyone else. So, this is still preliminary information. But it is very encouraging to see the way things are coming out, and I hope to present this theory at the International Conference on Creationism in Pittsburgh in 1994.
Sandia National Laboratories’ Particle Beam Fusion Accelerator II in action. At 30-billionths of a second, the 100-trillion-watt pulse is stronger than the world’s total generating power.
I recall your also saying that some Russians have an alternative explanation (for the bumps) that was published some time ago?
Yes, two astrophysicists named Sunyayev and Zeldovich in 1971 published a theory suggesting that there might be bumps in the microwave background—the same size as the ones observed—which would not be produced by the source of the radiation, but would be produced by large clouds of gas in the cosmos through which the radiation would come. This would mean that the bumps are actually a very ordinary mundane thing—and would mean that the radiation itself would be much smoother at the source than the ‘big bang’ theorists would like.
In view of the near-religious fervour with which this ‘big bang’ news was greeted, I suppose that the sort of information you just gave us, pouring cold water on it if you like, wouldn’t be too popular?
Yes, I sent a little article to the journal Nature for their technical correspondence section. Basically it said, ‘Hey fellows, haven’t we forgotten about this much more mundane explanation that Sunyayev and Zeldovich raised?’. I corresponded back and forth with them several times, but the bottom line seems to be that they are reluctant to publish it for reasons that they do not want to explain.
Australian audiences were fascinated to hear you say that about 90 per cent of all the processes that one could use to measure the age of things actually favour a young world. [Ed. note: see Evidence for a Young World.]
Yes. That’s true. I estimate that there are probably several hundred processes that one could use to get an idea of the age of the earth. Only a few dozen, at most, of these processes seem to give you billions of years. The other 90 per cent of those processes give you ages much less than billions of years. So it seems like it would be good science to go with the flow of the 90 per cent of the data, and use as a working hypothesis that the Earth really is young and then to try to find explanations for the other 10 per cent of the data.
That whole process seems to be a much more scientific approach than the one that is taken by evolutionists. Basically, they concentrate on the 10 per cent of the data, and that’s the data you’ve always heard about. Such as the light travelling from distant galaxies and the radiometric dating techniques, and a few other things like that.
The paper by yourself and geologist Dr Steve Austin, showing that the sea would be many times saltier if it was really as old as evolutionists say, seems to have been particularly carefully worked out. What do evolutionists say to that?
Well, Steve and I corresponded and spoke with many different evolutionists as we were writing the paper, and the bottom line, after much dust was raised, was always that they did not have a good explanation as to how the bulk of the sodium needed to get out (to preserve the ‘long ages’ idea), could have left the ocean.
There was a commentary (in the conference proceedings) on our paper by Dr Clarence Menninga [a theistic evolutionist geologist associated with Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan]. He has written on this matter of the sea’s salt. He was almost our ideal critic. Basically, it seemed to both Steve and me that Dr Menninga made a very serious mistake in logic and we attempted to show that in the published rebuttal. So if the reader wants to know just what kind of responses evolutionists have made, I think Dr Menninga’s was fairly typical, and I invite them to check that out. It was not well thought out in our opinion.
So no evidence has been forthcoming to refute your conclusion about the young age of the oceans?
Right. In our article we specifically challenged Dr Menninga and other people like him to produce hard data which would tell us how sodium might get out of the ocean. And there was not a shred of such data in Dr Menninga’s reply when he discussed this matter either formally or informally. He was unable to provide such data.
This is the same Dr Menninga who co-authored the well-known theistic evolutionary book, Science Held Hostage (with Howard Van Till and Davis Young as his co-authors) which heavily denigrated the young-earth creationists. I recall the chapter on sea salt in which they claimed that it wasn’t possible to obtain a date from salt accumulation.
What I would say is that I wrote Clarence Menninga a letter, and Davis Young also when I found out about that chapter in their book, and I challenged them on it, to produce data. After considerable going back and forth, Dr Menninga acknowledged in a letter to me that he had no data, and that he had basically been going on statements of other evolutionists. But Steve and I had already talked to the other evolutionists and we found that they had no data either! So basically, that whole chapter of that book, which rather arrogantly chastised young-earth creationists for not doing their scientific homework, was written by a person who had not done his scientific homework. [Ed. note: see Salty seas: Evidence for a young earth.]
It’s sad that such a book, which turns people away from trusting the Bible, has been written. You would state that the facts of science don’t contradict the Bible’s account of a young world?
Oh, not only do they not contradict it, but they strongly support a recent creation and go very strongly against the idea of billions of years that the theistic evolutionists uphold. So, both the facts and the Bible are on the same side and they are on the side of the young-earth creationist.
Finally, how many professionally active scientists would also hold to Genesis creation?
I’m part of a fairly large scientific community in New Mexico, and a good number of these are creationists. Many don’t actively belong to any creationist organization. Based on those proportions and knowing the membership of the Creation Research Society, it’s probably a conservative estimate that there are in the US alone around 10,000 practicing scientists who are Biblical creationists.
That’s encouraging. Dr Humphreys, thank you very much.