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Polonium Halos (2000)

Lorence Collins


Several patrons have made claims or asked questions regarding the use of "Polonium halos" in granites as evidence of instantaneous creation (see, for example, Halos.com). In response, the Secular Web contacted geologist and petrologist Lorence Collins who had already tackled this complicated issue, and following is his reply for the benefit of our readers.

For your information Robert Gentry does not have a Ph.D. degree in physics, only a master's degree. But he is a competent physicist, and his laboratory experiments dealing with the amounts of radiation necessary to produce halos in mica and fluorite are accurate and acceptable to the referees for major journals. Hence, he has been able to publish in Major Journals and outside the creationists' sponsored journals. His science (at least the experimental part relating to radiation) is not at fault. It is his interpretations and applications of his results that err. As just one example of the problems with his interpretation, in some places polonium halos occur in granite that underlies some fossil-bearing sedimentary rocks and is older than the sedimentary rocks, but in other places polonium halos are found in granites that penetrate sedimentary rocks and are younger than the fossil-bearing sediments, impossible on Gentry's view.

I suspect that Robert Gentry likely claims that he has refuted me. Generally, it has been my experience that no logic exists that will change the minds of the die-hard creationists that instantaneous creation during the Genesis Week is the real truth. There are five articles on my website on Creationism that provide direct or indirect evidence that the Gentry model is wrong. Two of particular note:

As an effort to refute my articles about the natural occurrence and origin of Po halos, a creationist, Mark Armitage, and chemist and co-author Ed Back, attempted to do experimental work on Po-halos to show that they could not have been formed in granite by natural means. Their experimental results and articles are published in the Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal [a creation science periodical] (v. 8, n. 2, 1994, pp. 212-222; "The thermal erasure of radiohalos in biotite") and in American Laboratory (November, 1997, no. 22, p. 25-33; "The effect of thermal stress on radiohalos in biotites").

However, these authors disregarded the anaerobic environment and the high pressures and temperatures that really exist in the granite in which the Po halos are found. They did their high temperature experiments at one atmosphere pressure in air. Their experiments merely demonstrated that biotite will oxidize and blacken under these conditions, becoming opaque, and that released water from the biotite structure will cause the biotite to decrepitate as steam escapes, tearing the mica sheets apart. In either case the Po halos can no longer be seen through the microscope, but they would not have been destroyed by their experiments, although Armitage claimed they were. In no way are their experiments a valid refutation of the model I propose because they have not duplicated the conditions in which the granite once was formed nor the conditions under which the Po-halos would have formed. See my review of their work and another critique by a competent petrologist, Kurt Hollocher, for the expanded answer to their articles. A final article that bears on the issue of Po halos in an indirect way is my article "Equal time for the origin of granite - A miracle!" This article provides evidence that granite cannot have been formed instantaneously during Day 1 or Day 3 of the Genesis Week without breaking all natural laws. All evidence shows that most granites form by crystallization of melts, and some are formed later than Day 1 or Day 3, if the literal interpretation of Genesis 1 is assumed.

"Evolutionists" in various email talk-groups have engaged creationists in discussions of some of the above articles with no resolution. More heat than light is generally produced in these talk groups, and I avoid them and do not get involved. The creationists always claim they are right. They have to be right, or else their theology is based on sand or a stack of playing cards that will fall down. Their belief in literalism is too much to give up, and they will always claim that my articles have been refuted. Mark Armitage was outraged that his science was challenged and said that his article went through the referees for the journal American Laboratory with no problems. That may be true, but I surely question the quality of the review on the basis of my own analysis and that of Kurt Hollocher. Another article by Richard Wakefield, "The Geology of Gentry's 'TINY MYSTERY'," provides additional evidence, but Robert Gentry does not accept Richard's arguments.

Since jousting with Robert Gentry, my own research has resulted in 36 articles demonstrating the validity of the replacement origin of some granites. More will be added. These articles show (among other matters) that granite that contains Po halos does not form from magma. The generally accepted model that all granites of large size must form from a magma is the basis for Gentry's own model for instantaneous origin of granite. Gentry is correct that Po-halos cannot form from granites that have crystallized biotite from magma at the same time that the Po-halos form. The short half-lives of the Po isotopes make this impossible. But if Gentry's initial premise is wrong about the necessity for granites to form from magma where Po-halos are found, then his whole thesis is wrong. There is no better refutation of Gentry's model that I can offer than my own research reported in the above website: (1) Not all granites must be formed by crystallization from melts and (2) granites that contain Po halos do not require instantaneous formation. They can be formed by replacement conditions that allow millions of years for their production and in purely natural environments. Moreover, experimental work is included in articles 36 and 37 on my website that supports the hypothesis that some granites form at temperatures below melting conditions by chemical replacement processes. Thus, my model is not just theoretical but has field, microscopic, and experimental support.

I hope that this information is helpful.

The Secular Web would like to thank Dr. Collins for contributing this information for the benefit of our patrons
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