John Baumgardner

John Baumgardner is not the most well-known young earth creationist in science, but he may be the most qualified.

Baumgardner not only holds a Ph.D. in Geophysics, but he is employed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the most prestigious research institutes in the country. He has developed a program called TERRA that models plate tectonics (the drift of "continental plates," sections of the earth's crust that float on the magma beneath.

Dr. Baumgardner's computer program is the leading program for modeling plate tectonics. Amazingly, depending on what initial date is programmed into the program, it will allow for both a young and old earth.

So how did a young earth creationist wind up in such a pivotal role in science?

John Baumgardner Rises to Prominence

Dr. Baumgardner was an electrical engineer before he became a geophysicist. While doing a stint in the military, he was converted by Campus Crusade for Christ. (Ministries don't get much better than CCC. That's my personal plug for them.)

Realizing that arguments for evolution were being used as a battering ram against young Christians, Baumgardner decided to do something about it. Picturing himself as David going to slay Goliath, he went back to school for his Ph.D. in geophysics [Note: "David going to slay Goliath" was originally linked to an interview at rae.org. The interview has been removed from their site]. While there, his doctoral thesis was developing TERRA, which became for him an instant step into the spotlight.

John Baumgardner as a Young Earth Creationist

Let's be clear that no matter how eminent John Baumgardner is as the designer of the lead computer model for geophysical convection, as a researcher he is anything but unbiased …

I would say my primary goal in my scientific career is a defense of God's Word, plain and simple. (Interview at rae.org; originally at http://www.rae.org/believe.html, but the interview has been removed)

He has a theory attempting to explain the fossil record in the light of a young earth and a global flood. While all young earth creationists explain the fossil record this way, their theories vary wildly. Obviously, John Baumgardner knows some things about geophysics, so his theory is going to be a bit more reasonable than those of less credentialed young earthers.

Dr. Baumgardner explains on his web site … 

[Evolutionists] appeal to the 'fact of evolution,' by which they mean an interpretation of earth history in which they believe there has been a succession of different types of plants and animals in a drama spanning many hundreds of millions of years. The Bible, by contrast, paints a radically different picture of our planet's history. In particular, it describes a point in time when God catastrophically destroyed the earth with essentially all its life. … This Biblical interpretation of the rock record implies the animals and plants preserved as fossils were all contemporaries, all living on earth at the same time prior to the cataclysm. This means trilobites, dinosaurs, and mammals all dwelled on the planet at once, and they all perished together in this world-destroying cataclysm.

How did this happen?

A key aspect of this catastrophe was the rapid sinking, in conveyor belt fashion, of the pre-Flood ocean tectonic plates into the earth's interior. The energy required for the process was derived from the earth's gravity acting on the excess weight of these cold ocean plates relative to the hotter and less dense mantle rock into which they slid. Decades of laboratory experiments attest to the fact that, under stress, mantle rock, at temperatures estimated for the earth's interior, can weaken by factors of billions or more. My work on this problem has primarily involved computer experiments that apply the properties of silicate rock, as measured in these laboratory experiments, to the setting of the earth's mantle. These calculations demonstrate that a catastrophic instability can indeed occur in a planet with the size and structure of the earth.

Can John Baumgardner Defend His Young Earth and Flood Views Scientifically?

What Are Peer-Reviewed Journals?

Peer-reviewed journals are at the heart of science. Competent editors review submitted articles, making sure they meet journal standards. Once the articles are published, other scientists can review the research.

If a theory or hypothesis is compelling, other scientists will seek to verify the experiment. In this way, scientific data is passed back and forth among scientists until a hypothesis is either accepted, with varying levels of assurance, or falsified.

Well, I think it's telling that the leading modeler of geophysical convection presented his results at the Fifth International Conference on Creationism in August, 2003. John Baumgardner has been published numerous times in accepted, peer-reviewed journals, inluding the prestigious journal Nature. Yet his theory on the global flood made it only to the Fifth International Conference on Creationism?

There's no doubt that anti-evolutionists will argue that John Baumgardner's flood theory is unpublished because it's being discriminated against, and evolutionists will argue that it's because his theory is indefensible. I'll leave that to you to decide since I won't be able to change your mind anyway.

I do want to point out, however, that science is not one big organization that you have to join to work in. If that were true, John Baumgardner would not have a job at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Science has always included rogue scientists, and there's no better way to make a name for yourself than to prove some theory that goes against scientific consensus.

For example, Dr. Robert Gentry managed to publish "scientific evidence for the earth's rapid creation" in Science, Nature, and Annual Reviews of Nuclear Science (from Dr. Gentry's letter to National Academy of Sciences). It seems hard to argue then, that these journals simply discriminate against such evidence.

My Reasons for Rejecting John Baumgardner's Theories

I have two reasons for rejecting Baumgardner's theories … 

  • The ones I can understand I can prove false myself
  • Alone, his articles can seem convincing, but when confronted by other scientists, he can't seem to hold his own.

Answering John Baumgardner

Random Processes and Probabilities

One argument John Baumgardner makes, in his own words, is … 

No random process could ever hope to find even one such protein structure [a basic protein necessary for life], much less the full set of roughly 1000 needed in the simplest forms of life.

It's amazing to me that a scientist with a doctorate in geophysics could say this. Scientists have agreed with that statement for decades. That is why their theories don't describe random processes. Richard Dawkins describes one theory, suggested by Graham Cairns-Smith, and outlined in Dawkins' book, The Blind Watchmaker. (Yes, I read Dawkins' book, and I'm still here, a believer in Jesus Christ.)

Cairns-Smith's theory is anything but random. It involves clays as the first replicators, moving on to RNA, DNA, and the first complex protein molecules used in life as we know it. If there's any accuracy to this theory, then there was a process of reproduction and adaptation beginning first with clays and crystals.

The fact is, since we're shooting in the dark a bit, we don't know how the first life happened. We can be relatively sure, though, that it didn't happen by a protein molecule randomly coming together in the primordial soup. That's not anyone's theory, so calculating the probability of molecules simply randomly becoming a protein is meaningless.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Far worse, in a letter he wrote to the Los Alamos National Laboratory Newsbulletin, he makes the ludicrous claim that thermodynamics would prevent bacterial DNA from forming spontaneously. Again, no one believes that bacterial DNA forms spontaneously, so it wouldn't matter if Dr. Baumgardner's claim were true. But it's not true!

It is simply astonishing that a geophysicist could believe that thermodynamics has anything at all to do with DNA forming. In fact, it points like this that make others wonder if John Baumgardner is simply dishonest. Assuming he's not, then he's remarkably ignorant of basic science.

The second law of thermodynamics, regularly quoted by anti-evolutionists as saying that order cannot arise from disorder, says no such thing. It's the law says that in a closed system—that being one in which no energy is allowed in or out—everything in that system will tend toward the same temperature and state.

In other words, if you  stopped the sun from shining on the earth and blocked all other input of energy, all storms and currents on earth would eventually stop. The air and water would all end up at the same temperature—eventually—and so both would stop moving.

They won't stop, though, because earth is an open system. The sun heats it up constantly and unevenly, producing lots and lots of "disorder," which simply means uneven temperature.

A very kind reader, who found a bad error on this page and helped me correct it, wrote, "If the Sun stopped giving us energy the earth would most certainly cool and cause an eventual death of all processes on earth." That is a correct application of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Until the sun stops heating the earth, the Law of Entropy is not an argument against evolution.

John Baumgardner in Peer Discussion

As for being confronted by other scientists, it would be hard to do better than to send you to his discussion with Joe Meert.

You're also welcome to make your own judgment of a debate carried on in the Los Alamos National Laboratory Newsbulletin.

Addendum: Nov. 22, 2013

Today I found an article by Glenn Morton. Glenn Morton has pulled all his web sites because he didn't like the way atheists were using them. Glenn is a committed Christian.

Many of his articles are on other web sites, though, including this one (accessed 11/22/2013), in which he explains why abandoned young earth creationism. As an oil company geologist, it was becoming obvious that the earth was old and that the flood did not deposit the strata of the geologic column.

John Baumgardner heard about this and told him, "Your loyalty and commitment to Jesus Christ is shaky or just not truly genuine."

I'd say that statement by itself explains why a scientist like Baumgardner can promote a young earth despite the immense evidence to the contrary.

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