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Flaws in a Young-Earth Cooling Mechanism (NCSE)

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In an article published by the National Center for Science Education titled Flaws in a Young-Earth Cooling Mechanism Glenn Morton and George L Murphy present four criticisms of Russell Humphreys' cooling mechanism, by way of a rapid expansion of space. Below is a response to each criticism.

Flaws in a Young-Earth Cooling Mechanism by Glenn Morton and George L Murphy. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 24.1, 31, 2004.

Criticism #1

First, one of us has developed a simple classical model for a harmonic oscillator (like a particle oscillating in a crystal), and in this model the particle does not lose energy to the cosmic expansion. While other force terms could be used in the equation of motion to give different results, the one used here seems to be the simplest and most natural generalization of the ordinary linear restoring force. The fact that energy is not lost here suggests that Humphreys's qualitative argument is incorrect. A mathematical model developed by George Murphy that calculates the magnitude of the forces involved is available [by clicking the link above].

Their model and calculations seem to be accurate for a classical oscillator but it is not an accurate model for a particle bouncing around inside a crystal.

The force formula for a classical oscillator is \,\!F=-kx=-mxw^{2}

This is based on a weight on a spring.

Graph of the forces for a classical oscillator.

A particle bouncing around inside a crystal is not a weight on a spring but it is moving between atoms whose electrical forces are trying to repel it. Furthermore the force of each atom varies by the square of the distance from the atoms. The simplest force formula for a particle bouncing around inside a crystal is

F={\frac  {k}{(X+x)^{2}}}-{\frac  {k}{(X-x)^{2}}}

Forces of a particle bouncing between two atoms.

The result is that their model is totally wrong for a particle bouncing around inside a crystal. Note from the above illustration that the forces involved are only significant at the extremes and the modeled of particle in a box is best. This means that the particle spends most of it time as a free moving particle and would loose energy to the expansion of space.

Criticism #2

Second, we would criticize this idea on the basis that it is too slow to be useful to the creationist agenda. Today the expansion of the universe is of the order of 1 part in 10^{{10}} each year. This is the percentage of expansion of the present size of the universe that occurs each year. As we have shown in calculations elsewhere, doubling the expansion rate, R (Humphreys 2000: 372-3), would decrease the kinetic energy (mV^{2}/2) of a free particle by a factor of 1/4. But even if this were true for a bound particle (and it is not), the 25% of the thermal energy that would remain would still wreak havoc during a global flood.

It is too slow now but Humphreys’ theory involves a significant increase the expansion rate during the Flood. Humphreys’ reference to a twofold increase in the expansion rate was given as an example only and not intended as an absolute figure. The real increase in the expansion rate would probably be a several order of magnitude increase over the present rate.

Criticism #3

Our third criticism of the concept is that there would be visible effects in the spectra of light emitted during the Flood, including those from stars a few thousand light years away in our own galaxy. A change in the energy levels of atoms (which this idea would entail) would change the frequencies at which light is emitted in a fashion that would be observable. The lack of such observations rules out Humphreys's cooling mechanism as a reasonable possibility.

This ignores the effect of time dilation on Earth.

One option involves God causing time dilation in the area around Earth. In such a case the increased expansion rate would only be an effect of Earth’s time dilation and not seen outside the affected area.

Under Cosmological relativity, if the Earth is at the center of the rapid expansion, then time dilation would occur in the area of the solar system such that the rapid expansion would only be noticed locally.

The result in both models is that in deep space the expansion rate would seem normal, and thus there would be no visible effects in the spectra of star light.

Criticism #4

This is a pathetic attempt at making an issue where none exists.

Fourth, we would criticize this concept on theological grounds. In Humphreys's article in the RATE book, he postulates that God performs lots of miracles in order to explain things. God is supposed to have changed the mass of the pion, changed the parameters of gauge bosons to accelerate beta decay, and changed the effective distance of the strong force to alter alpha decay. With all these miracles, why then does God switch to a naturalistic solution to the heat problem — albeit one that requires a rapid cosmic expansion of unexplained origin?

The authors seem to be equating miracles to magic; there are several miracles described in the Bible where God is clearly manipulating nature rather than doing something more magical in appearance. By definition God stretching out space more rapidly than the normal expansion rate would qualify as a miracle.

Like all the items mentioned in the above quote, the rapid expansion of space is a description of a physical event that involved God miraculously manipulating nature to accomplish his ends. The shift from the miraculous to the naturalistic is only an invention of the authors to created a conflict where none exists.

All of this raises two serious theological questions.

Both of which are were made up by the authors to created a conflict where none exists.

Why does God dance to Humphreys's whim, performing a miracle each time Humphreys requires one? Demanding miracles of God raises certain questions of who is the master and who the servant.

There is nothing in this idea that requires God to perform to either Humphreys’ or anyone else’s whim. Humphreys is not demanding miracles from God, but simply postulating what God did, based on the available evidence.

And why does Humphreys insist on any naturalistic approach at all, given all the miracles he postulates? Why not simply remove the heat miraculously?

The authors show a flawed view of miracles here. They are equating miracles to magic when that is not the case. God manipulating natural forces is just as miraculous as God acting in direct opposition to natural laws.

A miracle that causes a physical effect has physical processes going on. The authors are assuming that miracles involve no physical or physical like processes, when in fact they do.

Once again by definition God stretching out space more rapidly than the normal expansion rate would qualify as a miracle. So the authors’ argument here is moot.


For these reasons, we reject Humphreys's cooling mechanism: because it is wrong, it is ineffective, it is falsified by observational data, and it is theologically flawed.

All four of their criticisms are based a flawed representation of Humphreys’ model. The first incorrectly models the forces on the particles involved. The second misapplies an example used by Humphreys. The third ignores time dilation which is part of the model. The fourth is based on a flawed understanding of miracles, and accuses Humphreys of demanding actions from God, when Humphreys is only postulating what God did in an event (The Genesis Flood) that the Bible describes as an act of God.

The authors’ flawed representation of Humphreys’ model shows a poor understanding of the model. This along with a simplistic view of miracles resulted in flawed criticisms


  • Humphreys DR. 2000. Accelerated nuclear decay: A viable hypothesis. In: Vardiman L, Snelling AA, Chafin E, editors. Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth. El Cajon (CA): Institute for Creation Research and Creation Research Society. p 333-79.