Friday, April 07, 2006

300 Million Year Old Rock

By Lauren Becker

The summer before my senior year of college I worked as a park ranger guiding hikes in one of the most beautiful state parks in the country. Its central feature was a 256-foot waterfall that plunged down through a gorgeous natural amphitheater, cutting through bands of limestone and sandstone and collecting in a deep pool, the perfect hangout for summer swimming. My favorite program was the hike to the base of the falls. Layers of rock are like chapters in a history book and this canyon, carved so deeply, told an ancient story. Standing at the bottom, calling out over the roar of the falls, I got to teach the exciting conclusion, “The layers of slate and shale beneath our feet tell us that 300 million years ago, this deciduous forest was a tropical jungle.”

“What book d’ya get that out of?” came the reply one day. And thus it began, for this waterfall was not only located in ancient rock, it was also in the heart of the Bible-belt. I had heard there were people who believed the Earth was only 6,000 years old, but I never thought I would actually meet any. That summer, and every other summer I worked teaching science to the public, I met a lot of them. Though most objectors would just walk away from the program, some mothers would cover their children’s ears to protect them from the “blasphemous park ranger.” One man, after I patiently explained how we know the age of rocks, finally just threw up his hands, exclaimed, “The Devil made that rock look that old to turn you away from God,” and led his family back up the trail.

At the time, to a college kid with a summer job, these responses seemed bizarre but relatively harmless – they were local, “everyone’s entitled to their own beliefs”, “no skin off my back”, “whatever”… But now, 15 years later, I understand these taunts to be the threat they truly are: dangerous beliefs made more dangerous because more and more people believe them.

How does believing a 300 million year-old rock is only 6,000 years old become dangerous? It is a reflection of where and how we find answers. A 300 million year-old rock is the answer resulting from decades of observation, research, field study, laboratory testing, comparative studies and critical thinking. A 6,000 year old rock is the answer because God said so.

Is the accurate age of a rock really important? Interesting, yes, but important? Maybe not. But what if the question is about Polio? Should we seek an answer from decades of observation, research and field study, discover a vaccine and destroy a worldwide plague or does the answer lie in God’s plan?

To Read more of this article visit:

Lauren Becker is a science interpreter who has taught at museums and parks around the country. She is Public Relations Assistant for the Center for Inquiry.


Blogger Random-witticism said...

This kind of thing just baffles me. It isn't that I care in particular if someone wishes to condemn him/herself to a life time of ignorance, but rather that they can't reconcile faith with knowledge. It isn't as if the bible actually says that the earth is only 6,000 years old. That's a figure that someone deduced from his interpretation of the bible. So why does someone's belief in god evaporate when someone more knowledgable says that the earth is billions of years old? As if thier god could only act on (relatively) short term goals. I suppose it must utimately come down to the premise that people create their gods in their own image. So those folk's god must not have the imagination to create the world over a four billion year time line. Their god might forget what it was doing if it took that long.

Friday, April 07, 2006 1:18:00 PM  
Blogger Rusko Elvenwood said...

That brings up a good point. Many people believe that science and religion can coexist. They deal with two totally different things. Science deals with things that are observable in nature, whereas religion deals with the spirtual and supernatural world. Just because you are a scientist doesn't mean you have to quit having fun believing in elves, astrology, and big foot too. Here is a segment of a great website that helps teachers deal with issues of evolution.

Friday, April 07, 2006 1:28:00 PM  
Blogger Random-witticism said...

That's a good resource. I particularly like that they firmly demonstrate the difference between knowledge born of epirical evidence and belief born of assumptions. What's depressing, though, is that even when the argument is so clearly laid out, many people will simply refuse to acknowledge it for fear of "straying from god."

Friday, April 07, 2006 7:03:00 PM  
Blogger Rusko Elvenwood said...

quote “The Devil made that rock look that old to turn you away from God,”

nuff said.

Friday, April 07, 2006 7:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon G said...

Hi Rusko and Random, you might find this interesting - it is a part of an article found on the below website - I know you might be tempted to disregard a creationist website, but it really is worth a look:
Particularly relevant to your conversation is this:
11. Too much carbon 14 in deep geologic strata.
With their short 5,700-year half-life, no carbon 14 atoms should exist in any carbon older than 250,000 years. Yet it has proven impossible to find any natural source of carbon below Pleistocene (Ice Age) strata that does not contain significant amounts of carbon 14, even though such strata are supposed to be millions or billions of years old. Conventional carbon 14 laboratories have been aware of this anomaly since the early 1980s, have striven to eliminate it, and are unable to account for it. Lately the world's best such laboratory which has learned during two decades of low-C14 measurements how not to contaminate specimens externally, under contract to creationists, confirmed such observations for coal samples and even for a dozen diamonds, which cannot be contaminated in situ with recent carbon.27 These constitute very strong evidence that the earth is only thousands, not billions, of years old.

Baumgardner, J. R., et al., Measurable 14C in fossilized organic materials: confirming the young earth creation-flood model, Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, vol. II, Creation Science Fellowship (2003), Pittsburgh, PA, pp. 127-142. Archived at See poster presented to American Geophysical Union, Dec. 2003, AGUC-14_Poster_Baumgardner.pdf.

I don't know much about geology, but this seems to upset your 300 million year oold rock idea

Sunday, April 05, 2009 6:36:00 PM  
Blogger Rusko Elvenwood said...

I do have a problem with creationists websites. Most of their arguements, along with the C14 carbon dating issues, have been long settled within the scientific community. I found an article addressing the issues raised in your referenced website. The article that I found was dated 1998, so that means your 'recent' discovery is older than that.

When creationists try to use science to prove a foregone conclusion, it just gets sloppy and thinly veiled.

When Humphreys talks at churches or creationism seminars, he is introduced as a physicist at Sandia National Laboratories, a respected federal science institution. But Humphreys' conclusions on the age of the Earth are not supported by Sandia. His work in an engineering group responsible for designing bomb fuses is completely unrelated to his creationist activities. And Humphreys doesn't present his young-earth arguments to Sandia colleagues, even though many Sandia programs involve radiometric dating and the age of the Earth. In fact, when a Sandia colleague recently requested his data on problems with radiocarbon dating, Humphreys refused to supply it because it was "non-work related." Humphreys' employment at Sandia certainly does not mean that this prestigious institution endorses his radical views on the age of the Earth.

The purpose of this website was originally to enlighten and inform people about the misuse of science to justify mythological world views.

I see now that my work is not finished.

Monday, April 06, 2009 9:27:00 AM  
Blogger Rusko Elvenwood said...

(Reference for above posting.)

Monday, April 06, 2009 9:29:00 AM  

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