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Originally published in Creation 10(2):10-12, March 1988
Has God left evidence for creation in tiny halos in rocks? A creation scientist believes he has. And his work has never been refuted.
The scientific community in general claims that science reveals nothing about the existence of God. The critical approach and careful studies of an American physicist have revealed, however, not only that most scientists are ignorant of the truth but that they want to be ignorant as well.
Robert V. Gentry grew up in a family that believed God had created all things. At university, naturally this was not what he heard from the professors. It nevertheless did not occur to Gentry to doubt the reliability of his educators.
Just as millions of Americans nightly trust their favorite television news commentators to be objective and truthful, my classmates and I trusted that our education was giving us the whole story. Scientific evidence for Genesis was never mentioned; we assumed none existed. (Gentry, Creation’s Tiny Mystery, Earth Sciences Associates, Knoxville, Tennessee, 1986, p.11).
Not until he took a graduate course in cosmology, however, did Robert Gentry become a convinced evolutionist. It fascinated him to think that science could discern the ultimate beginning of the universe. In order to reconcile his early training with this new belief in the Big Bang, Gentry supposed that God had started the whole process.
My university education had transformed me into a theistic evolutionist, one who believed that God intended the Genesis account of creation to be an allegory picturing the total evolution of the cosmos. The pieces of the puzzle now seemed to fall into place—the six days of creation were just six vast indefinite periods of time. The biological evolution of life on earth was intertwined with the geological evolution of our planet, and everything was traceable to the mystical Big Bang. (Gentry, p.12).
Having graduated with a Master of Science degree in physics from the University of Florida, Robert Gentry went into research on the military applications of nuclear weapons. During this time his mental accommodation of faith and science was shaken by a more careful reading of the Decalogue. Surely the context of the fourth commandment indicated six literal days of creation: ‘For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them …’ (Exodus 20:11).
My package plan uniting God and science seemed to have collapsed. Somehow I had to find time to reinvestigate the scientific evidence for evolution. (Gentry, p.13)
But where would one start to re-examine the evidence for evolution? Clearly the crucial question was the age of the universe. Gentry’s acceptance of the Big Bang and all other aspects of evolution theory had hinged on his belief that radiometric dating techniques proved that the earth was exceedingly old. It was time, he decided, for some critical thinking about the assumptions used in the techniques to date rocks.
Age determinations on rock utilize the decay of certain radioactive elements. The rate of this process can easily be measured. Assuming that the process has proceeded at a steady rate, a comparison of the quantity of parent radioactive compound with the quantity of resulting daughter product, should indicate the length of time the process has continued. The calculation is straightforward enough, but the answer is valid only if certain assumptions hold true. Gentry decided to seek evidence about past decay rates. The obvious place to look was at scars in rocks which had been etched by the radioactive decay process. These microscopic spheres in the rocks are called pleochroic or radioactive halos (radiohalos).
Back in graduate school Gentry proposed to the chairman of the physics department at Georgia Institute of Technology that a study of radiohalos might shed light on the reliability of radiometric dating. The professor discouraged him on the grounds that radiometric dating techniques were already known to be reliable.
A year later Gentry found himself out of graduate school. Undaunted, he began his research at home with a borrowed microscope and borrowed sections of granite rock. He well knew that the project would require the latest in expensive laboratory equipment. Though prospects for completing his project were dim, he persevered. For two years Gentry carried out research in his home. Living expenses came at first from part-time work, but later private sponsors contributed to his support.
Working at home Gentry quickly became familiar with the common halos in the granite sections prepared for microscopic examination. Based on the diameters of the various concentric rings, identification of the radioactive element in the centre of each halo was made. The discolorations were made by alpha particles [two protons and two neutrons combined together) which were ejected from minerals as they decayed to a more stable element. Depending on what the radioactive element is, the alpha particles have more or less energy and travel greater or lesser distances. As they travel, the alpha particles leave a trail of damage, a permanent scar.
After numerous alpha particles have escaped, a spherical discoloration results around the radioactive centre. Gradually the unstable parent changes to a stable daughter compound. The rate at which this occurs varies with the element involved. Some decay at a much faster rate than others. For comparison of rates, the length of time it takes half a sample of an unstable element to decay is reported as the half-life of that element.
Measurements of alpha ring sizes established that three halo types had originated from three isotopes (forms) of the element polonium. With the use of a special photographic emulsion Gentry was able to record the passage of nearly half the particles escaping from individual halos. He discovered that no alpha particles were coming from the polonium halos. Their radioactivity was extinct.
Now polonium isotopes are interesting; their half-lives are extremely short. These are polonium210 (138.4 days), polonium214 (164 microseconds) and polonium218 (3 minutes). Others had proposed that as polonium comes from uranium decay, the source of polonium halos in granite was the polonium being dissolved away from a uranium source. It was further believed that the polonium could migrate in solution through the rock and collect at certain points where halos resulted.
Gentry established that there was no adequate source of uranium and no way that polonium could have travelled in solution to collection points. With such short half-lives the polonium would have decayed before it could concentrate to leave halos.
The significance of these polonium halos is that they do not fit the evolutionists’ picture of past history.
According to evolutionary geology, the precambrian granite containing these special halos had crystallized gradually as hot magma slowly cooled over long ages. On the other hand, the radioactivity which produced these special radiohalos had such a fleeting existence that it would have disappeared long before the hot magma had time to cool sufficiently to form solid rock. It was a true enigma. Would I resolve it? (Gentry, p.31).
The only logical answer soon became apparent. The time interval between the creation of the chemical elements and the formation of the earth’s granite rocks was at most minutes rather than billions of years. The implications of this for science are astounding:
… an instantaneous creation of the granite collapses several billion years of earth history to almost nothing… . The billions of years believed necessary for the earth to evolve from some nebulous mass simply evaporate when confronted by such evidence. The essential time element needed for evolution to occur just vanishes. (Gentry, p.33)
Gentry had made these basic discoveries in his own time. Now as he began to publish his results, research facilities were made available to him. He became affiliated with a small college in Takoma Park, Maryland. Three years later he joined the staff of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee as guest scientist. There, for the next 13 years, he used the best and newest research equipment to confirm and extend his data.
During the early stages only a few scientists understood the dramatic implications of Gentry’s work. He had soon discovered that when the implications were made plain, publication of his results in scientific journals was refused. But he managed to publish in the most prestigious journals (Science and Nature among them), by allowing his data to stand alone and thus to speak to whoever would perceive the implications.
By the late 1970s, however, these implications came to be widely understood and hostility began to mount. His applications for further research funds were refused, and eventually he lost his affiliation with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the small college. Evolutionist scientists claimed that Gentry’s results revealed a ‘tiny mystery’ which would some day be accommodated in the standard evolutionary interpretation of history.
Robert Gentry took comfort from the fact that the results of his research have never been shown to be in error. Rather than pursue the reason why they have no answers to Gentry’s evidence for a young universe and a young earth, fellow scientists are instead ignoring the whole topic. One might assume that it would be of critical importance to confirm or disprove his evidence. Perhaps they are afraid of what they might find. But when they say there is no evidence for creation, they are either dishonest or uninformed.
With regard to Gentry’s work the attitude of most in the scientific community has been revealed to be not tentative and inquiring (as they claim it is), but firmly committed to one philosophy. This is that nature has no need of God nor, therefore, has scientific explanation. The age-old attitude to God has not changed:
This people’s wits are dulled, their ears are deafened and their eyes blinded, so that they cannot see with their eyes nor listen with their ears nor understand with their wits, so that they may turn and be healed. (Isaiah 6:10 NEB)
Meanwhile, let us derive inspiration from the results of the critical thinking of Robert Gentry.
(Acknowledgment for use of this article goes to Reformed Perspective, Box 12, Transcona Postal Station, Winnipeg. Manitoba. Canada R2C 2Z5.)
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.