Monday, 16 November 2015

Bat guano, bird breath, and limestone cave formation -another argument against 'creation with appearance of age'

The only thing more incredible than denying the avalanche of evidence confirming the reality of an ancient Earth is the attempt to hand wave it away by decreeing that all this evidence was deliberately created by God to give the Earth the appearance of age. Ignoring the fundamental moral problems of a creator God writing a 'superfluous lie' into the very atoms of the Earth itself by creating it with the appearance of age and evidence of a history that never happened, adherents of this 'Omphalos YEC' view appear to be unaware of the scope and nature of the evidence for an ancient Earth, and the absolute lack of any valid reason for God to fake this history. 

Proponents of this view argue that just as Adam was created mature, the Earth likewise was necessarily created with the appearance of a history that did not exist. However, apart from being impossible to falsify, and therefore unscientific, this argument ignores the fact that many markers of age are simply not needed to provide a 'necessarily mature' appearance. Examples include not just the radiometric age of rocks - the ratio of radionuclides having zero impact on any 'necessarily mature' appearance, but the consonance between relative ages and absolute ages as seen by the older radiometric dates in lower strata and younger radiometric dates in higher strata (in areas where the strata are undisturbed). Add to that the evaporite varves and ice cores with hundreds of thousands of layers consistent with an annual process. This barely begins to scratch the surface, but should suffice to show just how untenable Omphalos YEC is.

Joel Duff, writing at Naturalis Historia provides another example which both attests to an Earth much older than 6000 years, and the folly of the Omphalos YEC view. Limestone caves are generally formed by the dissolving of rock as water trickles through. In the absence of this source of water, the humidity from guano and exhaled air can suffice, and as he argues, the known rate of cave formation from this source and the radiometric dates for the guano are in good agreement. The problems for the Omphalos YEC view are not trivial.

In his article, Duff refers to the Gomantong cave in Malaysia where at least 70% of the cave by volume may have been created by water from guano and exhaled breath of the resident living creatures.

Gomantong Cave in Malaysia. (Source)

As Duff notes, this is a very slow process:
Researchers estimated that bats and birds in the cave are responsible for up to 1 meter of rock erosion every 300,000 years in the entire cave system and where their densities are very high they could be eroding 1 meter of rock in just 30,000 years.   This would be a maximum rate based on the highest amount of carbonic acid that can be retained in water and the fastest rate at which that acid can dissolve the limestone of this cave.
Furthermore, the cave formation from trickling water produces a different form of erosion from that which comes from water that comes from guano and exhaled breath. Duff continues, citing research on other caves.
The distinctive form of erosion observed in the cave that the breath of bats and birds cause suggests that many meters of rock have eroded since the cave was formed via watery processes long ago.   Portions of the cave that are not inhabited by bats nor have been since the origin of the cave have a very different surface morphology providing additional evidence that the presence of bats in the cave have had a profound effect on the morphology of the cave.

In caves that have been inhabited by birds and bats, the floors unsurprisingly are covered in guano. However, given that detrivores such as cockroaches consume guano, the effective rate of guano deposition is in the range of millimetres per year. Furthermore, carbon dating of the guano shows that the deepest layers are older than the higher layers. In some caves, the deepest guano layers are around ~40,000 years old.

All of this is consistent with caves that are tens of thousands of years old, with the depth and age of floor guano consistent with that length of occupation, and with varying cave morphology depending on whether trickling surface water or biologically-derived water  was responsible for cave formation. For the Omphalos YEC, such caves pose a massive problem:
  • Why would God create caves 6000 years ago, and create them with guano layers with fake Carbon 14 dates that are older at the bottom and younger at the top?
  • Why would God create these caves with varying surface morphology reflecting non-existent animal metabolic activity or non-existent trickling down of water?
In both cases, if the Earth really is 6000 years old, we have completely needless forging of a history that never happened, complete with correlation of C14 ages with increasing guano depth, and consonance between rate of erosion from biologically-derived water and guano deposition and age. Creating a limestone cave in an instant is one thing. Creating it with a completely fake history of its formation in areas such as guano age / depth, and varying morphology is another thing altogether. In fact, one would be justified in taking an Omphalos YEC to such a cave, pointing to the guano deposition, and asking at what point the real guano deposition ceases and the fictitious guano deposition begins, and how one can reliably differentiate between both.

We are in no doubt as to the reality of an ancient Earth. Furthermore, given the nature of this witness to an ancient Earth, to postulate that it was all created by God to give an appearance of age stretches credulity, and makes God to be a deceiver on a phenomenal scale. Just the theological problems alone are enough to sink both YEC and the belief that the entire universe was created with an appearance of age. Such views dishonour God, and reflect alas a desire to privilege a flawed, human interpretation of reality above the clear witness of creation to its ancient age.