“I personally think you’re overlooking key aspects of the fossil …

Comment on Dr. Ervin Taylor: ‘A truly heroic crusade’ by Ervin Taylor.

“I personally think you’re overlooking key aspects of the fossil record and geologic column (and even radiometric dating – especially radiocarbon dating), the total weight of which overcome the opposing arguments and strongly favor the SDA position on origins.” Dr. Sean Pitman.

This is certainly one of the topics that I assume Dr. Pitman will be eager to discuss in the public forum to be conducted sometime this Spring at an agreed upon date and place.

Ervin Taylor Also Commented

Dr. Ervin Taylor: ‘A truly heroic crusade’
I’ve been following Dr. Pitman’s pronouncements on two subjects of late: First, he says that “Faith” is not enough and second, he is talking about what AMS technology in 14C dating says about the age of organic life on earth.

With regard to the first, I must say that I have some sympathy with the views he expresses about having “Faith” in something does not make it correct or factual. If I understand him correctly, it seems to me that this position has a lot of merit. But I am sure that Dr. Pitman might not appreciate any agreement I might have with him on this point, so I will not elaborate.

On the other topic, I regret to have to let him know that he fails to understand several key technical characteristics of how AMS spectrometers which do 14C dating function. Because he does not understand these technical features, he makes statements that any second year graduate student in physics working in an AMS lab would know is totally misinformed.

I would offer Dr. Pitman’s statements on this point as an excellent illustration of why the scientific community as a whole has so little regard for the scientific competence of most young earth (YEC) and young life creationists (YEC) advocates. The vast of majority of YEC and YLC pronouncements which I have read over the last 50 years about geochronology in general and 14C dating in particular, at best, often misunderstands the scientific literature and at times, apparently deliberately misrepresents the literature they cite.

I would guess that such writers misunderstand because, with perhaps one or two notable exceptions, YEC/YLC advocates have no direct experience in the specific research environment they are critiquing. I have observed and personally known individuals who start out as YEC/YLC believers. However, when they become professionally competent through graduate training and thus fully acquainted with not only the literature, but also actually acquire research experience in a laboratory setting, they abandon their YEC/YLC positions as scientific untenable.

In contrast, the typical YEC/YLC critic reads about a given topic but lacks an understanding of the details of the technology or the laboratory methodologies employed, a type of understanding required to interpret what is meant when some detail of the results of, in this case, AMS-based 14C measurements are published.

The specific misunderstanding of Dr. Pitman on this issue is what the 14C/12C ratios obtained on samples used as blanks or background samples—e.g., coal or diamonds—allegedly indicate about the actual age of background blanks. (A background blank is defined as a carbon containing sample, e.g., coal or diamonds, which can be reasonably assumed from a scientific perspective to contain no 14C because of their geologic age—i..e, usually millions of years).

Sean and fellow fundamentalists who have commented on this say the results of 14C measurements on coal or diamonds demonstrate that fossil organics actually contain cosmogenic (cosmic-ray produced) 14C and because of this all such organics must be younger than 100,000 years. Therefore, all organics are geologically young and thus all life is less than 100,000 years old. The whole point of this misrepresentation, is of course, is to be able to say that macroevolution over billions of years is therefore impossible. Here is very short and simplified version of why this argument is totally invalid.

AMS spectrometers are complex instruments, much more complex than those used in the earlier decay counting technology used in 14C research. More complexity means that there are more factors that can influence the data you obtain than was the case in decay counting. Back in 2007, a colleague and I published a list of the factors that can influence backgrounds in AMS systems. There were fifteen listed.

The most important factor for almost all samples―including coal backgrounds—is that these samples must be first converted into CO2 and then that CO2 converted into a form of graphite. It has been well demonstrated that even under the most stringent conditions, small amount of contamination from a number of sources—e.g., the walls of the combustion and graphitization tubes, the chemical used as an oxidizer used, etc.—yield very small amounts of 14C contamination. (Some coals apparently also contain in situ 14C through, by example, sulfur bacterial action)

However, with diamonds, you can use them without having to combust and convert them to graphite. In the case of diamonds, the most important factor producing a background count involves the fact that all samples measured including diamonds must be ionized in a sputter source. All sputter sources have slight memory effects due to the presence of trace amounts of ions from other 14C samples that “stick” on the surface of an ion source even if very high vacuums are maintained and even if the source is physically cleaned.

However, this is not the only source of background in an AMS system even with diamonds. There are small amounts of hydrocarbons in the spectrometer beam line which contributes trace amounts of 14C. There are also conditions when non-14C ions in the beam during acceleration acquire mass 14 characteristics and are counted in the detection circuitry as 14C. These and other factors all contribute to slight background counts even with diamonds. All of this is well know to those involved in AMS 14C research and well studied.

Given Dr. Pitman’s way of dealing with uncomfortable facts, I am sure he will have some way of explaining away all of this.

Dr. Ervin Taylor: ‘A truly heroic crusade’
An Apology
My attention was just called to the PS at the bottom of one of Sean Pitman’s previous postings on this thread. He said: “Little does Dr. Taylor realize his own significant contribution to this particular “crusade” within the SDA Church in support of Creation. Without the antagonism of Dr. Taylor, this effort, to include this particular website, would most likely never have gotten off the ground much less have achieved the level of exposure that it currently enjoys within the SDA Church. So, for that I am deeply grateful and most thankful.”

What a terrible piece of news! According to Dr. Pitman, I have been directly complicit in fostering his “crusade” and even more serious, in his creation of this web site. If this is even a little true, may I offer my profoundest apology. He said that “without my antagonism,” he would not have embarked on his tirades against La Sierra University. I wonder if he might be exaggerating just a wee bit. What might give it away is the “I am deeply grateful and most thankful” part. Also, others have told me that he has had a habit of doing this on other topics for some time. However, if his statement is even a little bit true, I guess all I can say is “Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”

Dr. Ervin Taylor: ‘A truly heroic crusade’
I wish to express my appreciation to Dr. Kime for his very kind (I think) words. He takes me back many years to what I like to recall as the first Free Adventist Church in modern Adventism (Or is that just the projections of an aging memory?). I still recall (I think) the cover Dr. Kime created for a predecessor magazine to Adventist Today and Spectrum published out of that church—it was called Perspective. (And, of course the old Dialogue magazine of the old Claremont Church of ancient memory can be viewed as the predecessor of those two magazines.)

Just one minor comment: Dr. Kime suggests that my view is that the “Bible is to be seen as allegorical, not inspired.” May I offer a demur in opposing or contrasting “allegorical” with “inspired.” They sometimes go together. In this connection, two alternatives stated many times before come to mind: “The Bible is too important to be taken too literally too often.” and “The Bible is to be taken seriously, but not literally.”

A final note to Dr. Kime: Your comments would be very welcomed over at the rational end of the Adventist blogosphere—at the Adventist Today web site.

Recent Comments by Ervin Taylor

What does it take to be a true Seventh-day Adventist?
I just noticed Sean’s comment some time ago that “John’s “Revelation” has very little to do with the Roman Empire.”

Perhaps Sean was just trying to be funny or something. If he was serious, then I guess I will have to revise my assumption about his knowledge of the Bible. That was the entire context of the Book of Revelation. But I guess someone who rejects evolution must also have some problems with history.

La Sierra University Hires Another Darwinist
LSU should be congratulated for standing-up against the reactionary forces who wants to turn it into a Bible College. May LSU live long and prosper — as it is doing now with enrollments continuing to increase and new buildings going up.

What does it take to be a true Seventh-day Adventist?
It would appear that Dr. Pitman aspires to be the modern Adventist version of Girolamo Aleandro.

For those a little hazy about the history of the Reformation, Girolamo was the individual appointed as papal nuncio by the Pope to be the theological point person opposing Martin Luther and his theology at the Diet of Worms. (The Diet of Worms was an assembly of churchmen and political elites of the Holy Roman Empire in Germany which met in 1521, not a list of things to eat to reduce your weight. And Worms was not an item on the menu, it was a town).

Girolamo argued that Luther had no right to challenge the church’s theology. That theology had been settled for hundreds of years and had been agreed upon by scores of theologians. It was the truth.

Girolamo wrote the denunciations of Luther that were embodied in the Edict of Worms which declared Luther to be a heretic.

After attending the Diet of Worms, Girolamo went to Brussels and was instrumental at having two monks who had adhered to the teachings of Luther burned at the stake.

Sean, like Girolamo, appears to view his role is to root our heresy where ever he finds it in the Adventist Church.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Sean,
unlike Girolamo, has no power to carry out what he would to see happened to those he denounces as Adventist heretics.

Southern Adventist University opens Origins Exhibit
I’m sure that the vast majority of scientifically-informed Adventists will thank Dr.Kent for his every effective and rational approaches to the views expressed by Dr. Pitman and others on this misnamed web site. There is little that needs to be added. Dr. Kent has done a masterful job of exposing the misunderstandings of scientific data dealing with geology and evolutionary biology that has been offered by Dr. Pitman on this and his own web site.

Southern Adventist University opens Origins Exhibit
I see that Professor Kent has been casting pearls of logic and reasonableness before certain types of individuals on the educate truth (sic) web site again. I share with him my amazement at the new insights about inspiration revealed here.