Creationism and Variable Radioactive Decay Rates

SOME interesting research from Purdue University has thrown the creationists into a frenzy. Purdue gives us a description of that research: Purdue-Stanford team finds radioactive decay rates vary with the sun’s rotation. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Radioactive decay rates, thought to be unique physical constants and counted on in such fields as medicine and anthropology, may be more variable than once thought.

A team of scientists from Purdue and Stanford universities has found that the decay of radioactive isotopes fluctuates in synch with the rotation of the sun’s core. The fluctuations appear to be very small but could lead to predictive tools for solar flares and may have an impact on medical radiation treatments.

Here’s a link to the paper, or at least the abstract: Power Spectrum Analysis of BNL Decay-Rate Data. Of course you’re all wondering: When they say that the “fluctuations appear to be very small,” what do they mean? Let’s read some more from the Purdue article:

In general, the fluctuations that Jenkins and Fischbach have found are around a tenth of a percent from what is expected, as they’ve examined available published data and taken some measurements themselves.


“The fluctuations we’re seeing are fractions of a percent and are not likely to radically alter any major anthropological findings,” Fischbach said.

What might be causing this? Let’s continue:

Jenkins and Fischbach suggest that the changes in the decay rates are due to interactions with solar neutrinos, nearly weightless particles created by nuclear reactions within the sun’s core that travel almost at the speed of light.


Sturrock said it is an effect that no one yet understands and that if it is not neutrinos that are responsible, then perhaps there is an unknown particle interacting with the atoms. “It would have to be something we don’t know about – an unknown particle that is also emitted by the sun and has this effect – and that would be even more remarkable,” he said.

Okay. That’s interesting indeed. But even more interesting is the effect this is having on creationists. We found a most amusing reaction at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom. They give their impression of the news in this article at their website: The Sun Alters Radioactive Decay Rates. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

Many scientists rely on the assumption that radioactive elements decay at constant, undisturbed rates and therefore can be used as reliable clocks to measure the ages of rocks and artifacts. Most estimates of the age of the earth are founded on this assumption. However, new observations have found that those nuclear decay rates actually fluctuate based on solar activity.

Then they get carried away. Here it comes:

If the assumption of a constant rate is incorrect, then conclusions built upon that assumption are suspect, including certain dates assigned to artifacts and earth materials.

Right! The entire enterprise of science is in chaos! Here’s their conclusion:

The implications of inconsistent decay rates in radioactive elements are vast. And those inconsistencies are real, calling into question evolutionists’ adamant assertions of an ancient age for the earth.

So there you are, dear reader. The earth really is only 6,000 years old. Once again, the creationists turn out to have been right all along.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Creationism and Variable Radioactive Decay Rates

  1. I wonder what actual research the creationists have done to disprove that radioactive dates are pretty much constant. (none of course)

  2. Right. Young Earth Creationism requires that radioactive decay rates were on the order of 750,000 times faster in the past to convert a 4.5 billion years old earth to a 6,000 years old earth. A finding that decay rates vary by 0.1% leaves them with only a factor of 749,250 to go. They’re practically home!

  3. Yep, instead of varying by a fraction of a percent, the decay rate would have to vary by roughly 99.9999% in one direction, constantly, to meet the needs of the creationists.

    When will these people learn that to come out with statements like this is simply an invitation to ridicule?

  4. Of course, the Earth was devastated into nothingness by solar flares many times in the past. This is why we measure 4.5 billion years where 6,000 should do. Even if that means there is no Earth to measure anything.

    Sure what happens here is that god reassembles the planet as it was after each complete destruction by the sun. Only we remain unaware of the destruction/reassembly process. Ups, I had a twitch. I think that is the effect of the destruction/reassembly cycles.

    Maybe the same process is responsible for methods other than radiometry to fail as miserably at giving us the correct 6,000 years for the age of our planet. Silly scientists.

  5. I’m not certain how I feel about the fact that the good research of my alma mater is being misused by these miscreants.
    Okay, I do know. I’m annoyed. Greatly annoyed.
    DI? ICR? It’s on now.

  6. Fellow Boilermaker. At least Olivia wasn’t scampering around on the lawn in front of the Union.

  7. Now come on, why shouldn’t they be thrilled? They’ve been claiming variability of radioactive decay for years with no evidence of any at all (under earth conditions), so to actually have an extremely tiny variance is infinitely better than what they had.

    Now just to stretch it out by many orders of magnitude. Considering the people they’re generally gulling, well, that’s probably not as hard as it would normally sound.

  8. My first reaction to this is that it demonstrates, once again, that scientists are forever testing their assumptions – in this case, the constancy of radioactive decay rates.

    Aside from the small changes that this may indicate, have the creationists established that it would have the desired results for creationist “theory”? Maybe it would make the universe older, for example, if only by a fraction of a percent. Maybe it would undercut the “anthropic principle”, that the universe is “intelligently designed” so that the values of physical constants are not as “finely tuned” as they thought. This presents an opportunity for the creationists to show the calculations on the basis of their “theory”.

  9. Ed: “When will these people learn that to come out with statements like this is simply an invitation to ridicule?”

    They already learned, and simply don’t care. Why should they when 90+% of nonscientists don’t understand that, even if their arguments were correct, would be just as “good” an argument for Last Thursdayism as for YEC? That same 90+%, only a minority of which is hard-line YEC, is content to dismiss it all as “a long time ago,” and will uncritically accept any bogus charge that 99+% of scientists might be wrong about something.

  10. retiredsciguy

    And yet a third Boilermaker chimes in, Gary & Doc Bill.

    That revelation aside, if the dacay rate varies in sync with the solar core’s rotation, that would imply that the rate increases as much as 0.1% for half the rotation, and decreases by the same amount during the other half of the rotation. Thus, the net gain or loss for dating purposes would be zero.

    Of course, even if it did vary by 0.1% in one direction (and in the younger direction), then the earth is only 4,595,400,000 years old instead of 4,600,000,000 years old, give or take a week or two.

  11. Given that solar activity is cyclical in nature, any small variance in decay rates would tend to get canceled out over long periods of time as the cycle would constantly repeat, causing the average decay to be pretty much the same as if there were no variation. So assuming the decay rate is constant would still tend to produce reliable results, even if the assumption itself is wrong.

    Honestly the creotards don’t care about any of this. Did they predict these findings? Did they make the discovery themselves? No. Like everything else, they quote mine. It’s their one and only “research” tactic.

  12. The effect of perturbation of nuclear decay rates during the solar flare is very doubtful.
    A.G. Parkhomov. Effect of radioactivity decrease. Is there a link with solar flares? arXiv:1006.2295v1