Chapter 12 - Creation Stopwatches.
Dr Ackerman seems unable to resist a rather silly swipe at 'evolutionists' (i.e. people who accept that the Darwinian Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection explains the observable fact of evolution of life on Earth) with this:
If the Genesis account is regarded as historical narrative, then Adam and Eve are seen as sudden and "mature" creations. They are also seen as inhabiting a mature world that is finished and waiting for them. From a creationist viewpoint, it would be very misleading to try to estimate the age of the world by examining the developmental level of Adam and such other primary features of the creation as size of trees, amount of foliage, and so on.
On the other hand, with the passage of time, certain secondary features would come into existence as a result of interactions taking place between primary aspects of creation. For instance, Adam might carve "Adam loves Eve" inside a heart on a tree. This carving would be a secondary feature, and if it could be dated by some scientific process, a creationist would have a relatively high degree of confidence in the outcome. Such dating would not, of course, tell us how old the world is, but it would tell us that it must be at least as old as the tree carving. In contrast, the evolutionist would maintain that everything existing in the universe had to come about through a regular developmental process. Since no distinction between primary and secondary features is recognized, the developmental age of Adam would be given equal weight with the tree carving.
Um... well, I can't see any sane person not accepting that Adam would need to exist before he could carve his name on a tree actually, so I'm not sure what Dr Ackerman's point is here. Maybe it speaks to his target customers who probably like to comfort themselves with the thought that they are a lot cleverer than those stupid scientists but need to be given simplistic ideas to toy with.
Briefly, Gentry claimed to have found examples of coal from the Colorado Plateau which had, in the course of their submersion as water-logged trees, become impregnated with tiny particles of radioactive uranium which then became locked when the wood became fossilised as coal. As these tiny radioactive particles decay they leave a distinct coloured 'halo' around themselves as the radiation they emit affects the adjacent material. As the uranium undergoes radioactive decay it becomes an isotope of lead, so, if we know the rate of radioactive decay of uranium, by measuring the ratio of lead to uranium we can get a fairly good estimate of how long ago the uranium became locked in the coal.
Gentry claimed this showed the coal was only a few thousand years old.
In addition, Gentry also claimed to have found similar radiohalos caused by radioactive polonium, also from the Colorado Plateau which gave similar results. Quite a problem for mainstream science, you might think. How can we account for coal measures being only a few thousand years old?
Well, that's what you're supposed to be asking yourself, of course and Dr Ackerman certainly does nothing to correct that error. In fact, it's an essential part of his argument.
But actually, the presence of radiohalos merely tells us how long the isotopes causing them have been in the coal, not how old the coal is.
What any real scientist would have done would have been to look at other samples gathered from other sites around the world, or compared his findings with those of other researchers in other locations using different samples. He would also have taken pains to ensure his samples had not been contaminated in recent geological times with younger material.
But of course, as a Creationist, Gentry had the required result - the one he had started with - and would not have been allowed to publish these results in the normal Creationist journals had they not supported a literal interpretation of the Christian Bible, so what would have been the point of risking a lucrative book and all those guest speaker invitations on the Creationist lecture circuit by actually making sure your findings were valid?
This article by J. Richard Wakefield, entitled The Geology Of Gentry's "Tiny Mystery", originally published in 1988, comprehensively refutes Gentry's claims. Gentry has been invited to respond to these criticisms but has not yet done so.
Thomas A. Baillieul of Talkorigins.org has also published a detailed refutation of Gentry's claims in Polonium Haloes Refuted (2001, updated April 2005)
So here again we find Dr Ackerman citing a Creationist source which is not only not accepted as valid by real scientists but has been comprehensively refuted by them, yet Ackerman sees no reason to mention these serious shortcomings in his one and only source but instead presents them as established scientific facts. It's becoming quite noticeable how much Dr Ackerman relied on other Creationists for his material and how he has not seen fit to check with real science. His obvious disdain for real science and real scientists is puzzling considering his claim to be writing about science. Of course, one of the great things about being a creation 'science' writer when you have no professional scientific reputation to protect is that you don't need to worry about things like accuracy, professional integrity and objectivity. You're free to chase the money.
As I said about the previous chapter, Creationists quoting Creationists and so constructing a world with only an incidental connection with the real one.
But this is good enough for the largely ignorant and credulous market they are catering for and for whom the least of their requirements is good science, critically and objectively presented.