By: David Rice
To: Trent Hall
> Trent Hall to Marty Leipzig on 04-11-95 13:32 re: Evidence
>ML> You prefer to believe a hydraulic engineer and a biochemist
>ML> (certainly not among the geological brethren) who claim the
>ML> canyon is the result of a flood a scant few thousand years ag
TH> Try Dr. Austin who hold a PhD in geology.
Try listening to your betters (Marty) instead of pretending to know
what you are talking about like a petulently child.
Author: Chris Stassen
NOTE: Austin has promised to publish all of his data at some point,
and this work cannot really be completed until that happens.
However, since Austin has seen fit to (before publishing a full
paper) make all sorts of claims for his results in non-technical
literature, this FAQ makes use of the information available at the
time of writing.
The Grand Canyon looks something like this:
___\ /__________________ <-- Paleozoic rocks
...\ \ \ \ \ \ .... <-- Angular unconformity
.....\ \ \ \ \ ......
.......\ \ \ ............
.........\ .................. <-- Metamorphic rocks
Steve Austin of the ICR wrote _Impact #224_ (Austin 1991), claiming
that he has derived a Rb/Sr isochron "age" for lava flows on the
Uinkaret Plateau in excess of 1.3 billion years (several of these
flows spill into the canyon). The Cardenas Formation, a tilted layer
at the bottom of the canyon (below the angular unconformity) is
generally accepted as being about 1.1 billion years in age.
Clearly, something is wrong here. Lava flows which spill off the
plateau into the canyon cannot be older than the canyon itself. The
canyon can't be older than the rocks that it is cut into. The flat
sediments can't be older than those below the angular unconformity
(as they were deposited on top). Even young-earthers admit the
validity of such geologic relationships (though they argue for
greatly compressed time-scales.)
Austin's apparent thesis: Rb/Sr dating of the feature which must be
the youngest gives a value older than that which must be the oldest,
therefore the method does not work. (Of course, then, all
radiometric results can "justifiably" be ignored.)
What is going on here? Has Austin really (as he claims) struck a
blow against the "foundation" of isochron dating? Would any
(mainstream) geologist have attempted to obtain an "age" in the
same manner, or attached the same significance to it?
First, let's turn back the clock to _Impact_ #178 (Austin 1988),
an earlier paper on the same lava flows. A slightly different
"isochron" for the same flows is produced, using data obtained
from an earlier study by a mainstream geologist (Leeman 1974).
Leeman's paper contains quite a bit more data (with a lot more
"scatter") than are reproduced in _Impact_ #178. Leeman's entire
data do not fit well enough to an isochron line to lead any
geologist to expect the resulting "age" to be reliable. However,
when the data are narrowed down to a small range of stratigraphic
positions, the remaining data points fall relatively near an
However, the same stratigraphic data (as used for the selecting
process) clearly indicates that the flows did not all occur at the
same time (the flows fall into two different stratigraphic "stages",
according to _Impact_), one of the requirements of isochron dating
is ignored right from the start. The resulting "age" might have
significance -- as the age of the common source material for all
of the flows -- but it clearly cannot be used to date the flows
themselves (the geologic evidence indicates that there IS no
single common "age" for all the flows).
In fact, this sort of "pseudo-isochron" is documented in the
mainstream literature and is relatively well-understood. _Impact_
#178 even contains two references to the mainstream explanation
for such an "isochron," one of them being (Faure 1986, p. 147).
Now, back to _Impact #224_ (Austin 1991), which contains an
"isochron" constructed from rock samples taken by the ICR. The same
lava flows as selected from Leeman's paper in _Impact #178_ are
used, but (suspiciously) any mention of the "mainstream" explanation
for the "pseudo-isochron" has been dropped and two important claims
1) The "isochron" is claimed to be "unexpected." (This is clearly
false, as the paper trail -- _Impact #178_ -- shows that Austin knew
he'd get a pseudo-isochron long before the ICR obtained a single
rock sample of their own.)
2) The "isochron" is claimed to apply to the flows themselves.
(This is clearly false, for reasons described above.)
Those claims form the basis of the key criticisms of the "Grand
Canyon Dating Project."
1) If Austin wished to -- as he claims to -- "test" Rb/Sr dating,
why did he have to "rig" the test by performing it on a formation
where the result was known in advance? Perhaps even he knows that
Rb/Sr dating produces values convenient to mainstream expectations
most of the time?
2) Austin's attempt to apply the dating method is obviously bungled,
and the basis of the error is openly admitted in print. No geologist
would construct an isochron plot from samples of differing
stratigraphic positions and expect the resulting "age" (if the data
points did fall on a line) to represent the age of each individual
Austin, 1992, "Excessively Old ``Ages'' For Grand Canyon Lava
Flows", _Impact_, Number 224, February.
Austin, 1988, "Grand Canyon lava flows: A survey of isotope dating
methods", _Impact_, Number 178, April.
Faure, 1986, _Principles of Isotope Geology_ Second Edition. ISBN
0-471-86412-9. 589 pp.
Leeman, 1974, "Late Cenozoic Alkali-Rich Basalt from the Western
Grand Canyon Area, Utah and Arizona: Isotopic Composition of
Strontium", in _Geological Society of America Bulletin_, Vol. 85,
November, pp. 1691-1696.
... Good news: it's "KILL JIM STAAL FOR SATAN" Week here at HolySmoke!