[Originally posted 6/13/2007]
An essay review in the June 2007 issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith begins to address the application of guidelines for integrity in science to the question of the age of the earth. This review of RATE II (Radioactivity and the Age of The Earth, a young-earth project co-sponsored by ICR and CRS) is concerned primarily with the integrity of the reporting of the work rather than the claims themselves.
In the comprehensive RATE report, a nearly 800 page compendium, the RATE scientists repeatedly admit that the evidence is overwhelming for a massive amount of radioactive decay, about a half-billion years worth. To reconcile that with a young-earth view, they must assume that fundamental constants, such as radioactive decay constants, changed drastically several times in the past. Not only that, but the change was different for different isotopes. Those with short half-lives like C-14 and Po were not affected while those with longer half-lives like K-40, U-238, etc. changed by a factor of many millions. Stable isotopes were apparently unaffected. Even accepting this audacious assumption, the RATE project team concludes that there are unsolved problems with this approach. They state that there is no known thermodynamic process whereby all the heat generated by the accelerated decay could have been removed. They hope that future ideas may be found to resolve it but that this had not yet been done.
Though it is clearly stated that the young-earth scenario is not consistent with known scientific processes, the result of the conference is being presented at RATE conferences, dubbed "Thousands not Billions", as if RATE has confirmed the biblical message of a young earth. It is this duplicity which the ASA opposed in the article. When a detailed technical report states that no known scientific process supports the implications of a young earth, it cannot be stated with integrity that science has been shown to support that claim. With this statement, the ASA neither endorses nor opposes the young-earth creationist position but does oppose false reporting of conclusions.
Following the discussion of this thread, one could of course say much more about the integrity of the purported science in the RATE project. An age of 4.5 billion years for the earth is a clear consensus of the mainstream scientists in the field. Any alternative claims must be vetted through the rigors of scientific methodology in order to be considered seriously. Assuming arbitrary changes in radioactive decay constants falls far short of that criterion.