Author: Tim Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Title: Creation Science and Magnetic Fields
In his report on the CalTech "Evolution and Creation" seminar,
Wayne Broughton mentioned Thomas Barnes' study claiming that analysis
of the earth's magnetic field proves that the earth cannot be over
10,000 years old. I have studied Barnes' claim, and I feel qualified
to talk about it.
Barnes published his study in the monograph "The Origin and Destiny
of the Earth's Magnetic Field", published in 1974(?) by the Creation
Research Society. No doubt there is a more recent "updated" edition,
but I have not seen one. Everything I say is based on the first
Thomas Barnes is emeritus professor of physics and planetary
science, University of Texas at El Paso. He has a B.A. in physics from
Hardin-Simmons College (now University), in Abilene, Texas, and an
M.A. in physics from Brown University. His doctorate is an honorary
degree, conferred by Hardin-Simmons University. He's an old timer, as
I recall his B.A. dates from the early 30's. He is the author of a
college textbook on electricity and magnetism. I cannot recall the
title, but I have seen it, and it looks like any other ordinary upper
division type E&M text, lots of Maxwell's equations, nothing peculiar
that I saw. This would lead on to believe that he should know what
he's talking about.
A brief outline of Barnes's claim goes like this:
1. Only the dipole component of the Earth's magnetic field is
generated in the core. All other components are either
ionospheric, telluric currents, or magnetic rocks.
2. Cowling's Theorem specifically prohibits the dynamo
maintenance of the Earth's magnetic field.
3. The dipole component of the Earth's magnetic field is
generated by circular currents in the core.
4. The dipole component is decaying along an exponential
5. The extrapolated exponential shows unacceptably high field
strengths upwards of 10,000 years ago.
Barnes never produces a satisfactory explanation of the first
claim. In his terminology, it's obvious that evolution scientists are
confusing "signal" (the dipole component), and "noise" (everything
else). Personally, I find it hard to believe that exploration
geophysicists would overlook a field of magnetic rocks big enough to
affect the quadropole moment of the earth's magnetic field. Also, the
spherical harmonic expression of the earth's magnetic field, as
produced by Gauss himself, clearly seperates field sources above and
below the earth's surface. That means the ionospheric components are
eliminated right from the start (they have been shown to average out
over long time periods anyway). Likewise, telluric currents should
average out over long time periods. And, of course, rocks don't move
much faster than the continents they ride on.
Cowling's theorem (Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical
Society, vol. 94, pp 39-48, 1934), by Thomas G. Cowling, proves that
dynamo generation will not support an axially symmetric field, nor one
that is similar, in the mathematical sense. Indeed, this would apply
to a pure dipole. Since the Earth's field is neither dipolar, nor
similar, Barnes must make claim number 1, in order to make any sense
at all. Barnes glosses over his first claim as if it were almost
trivial, and spends a great deal of time on Cowling's theorem. He is
quite ostentatious, in fact, and proud of his adherence to hard
mathematics, unlike the sloppy evolution scientists.
The whole thing is a setup. If he can't prove that ONLY the dipole
component is generated in the core, then his reliance on Cowling's
theorem is irrelevant. Neither proof, nor evidence are offered. In
fact this weakness destroys the entire concept at once. All the rest
of the work hinges on the acceptance of "dipole only" in the core.
The fun part is where he talks about exponential decay of the
field. Barnes fits an exponential function via least-squares, on a
CDC 6600, to 150 years of dipole data. I note in passing, his attitude
clearly implies that using the then giant CDC computer virtually
guarantees that his results can hardly be wrong. In comparing this
exponential fit of his to a standard linear fit, the probable errors
in the fitting coefficients are a few percent better for his
exponential. He immediately assumes the linear fit is wrong, the
exponential is right, and proceeds to the next step.
Having satisfied himself of the exponential fit, to 150 years of
data, he then extrapolates the curve back 10,000 years, derives an
enormous magnetic field strength, denounces it as ridiculously large
(at least that much is true), and then dismisses the idea that the
earth can be more than 10,000 years old.
I found the book in the library at Cal State L.A., along with a
number of other creation science texts. A lot more could be said.
Barnes fills pages with irrelevant ramblings, including his ability to
re-write equations found in older works (Horace Lamb, and Maxwell) in
more recent notation.
I think I have covered what is relevant, enough to show that
Barnes's work lacks merit, and substance. I see no reason to believe
that the earths' magnetic field implies that the earth canot be over
10,000 years old.
However, like any good research, Barnes's work has sparked further
inquiry. If you don't have a sense of humor, quit now and don't read
I draw your attention to the paper "The Creation of Planetary
Magnetic Fields", by D. Russell Humphreys, Quarterly Journal of the
Creation Research Society, vol. 21, December, 1984. Recieved 3
January, 1984, revised 14 August, 1984. This is a refereed, scientific
journal. It says that Humphreys has a PhD in physics, and is (was) a
physicist at Sandia National Laboratories. Here is the abstract of the
"God could have started magnetic fields in the solar system in a
very simple way: by creating the original atoms of the planets with
many of their nuclear spins pointing in the same direction. The small
magnetic fields of so many atomic nuclei add up to fields large enough
to account for the magnetism of the planets. Within seconds after
creation, ordinary physical events would convert the alignment of
nuclei into a large electric current circulating within each planet,
maintaining the magnetic field. The currents and fields would decay
steadily over thousands of years, as Barnes has pointed out. The
present magnetic field strengths of the Earth, Sun, Moon, and planets
agree very well with the values produced by this theory and a
6000-year age for the solar system. The theory is consistent with all
the known data and explains many facts which have puzzled
Humphreys presumes that God made the sun, and all of the planets
out of water, which has a strong dipole. Line up enough dipoles, get a
big field, then God changes everything from water to the silicate/iron
type stuff we see now, leaving behind decaying magnetic fields.
For those of you who still think scientific creationism is
scientific, I leave you with a paragraph from Humphreys' "conclusions"
"The Bible is scientifically accurate. A straightforward reading of
Scripture supplied the essentials of this theory: the possibility of
initial alignment, the water composition, and the short time scale.
The fact that the theory fits the facts shows that the scientist can
rely on the Bible for new insight into the natural world."