OK creationists: find me some new oil reserves

OK creationists: find me some new oil reserves March 11, 2015

When I reviewed Ian Plimer’s Telling Lies for God, I mentioned this argument:

Dating of rocks by radioactive decay and fossils is fundamental to oil exploration. Every petroleum exploration program expends large amounts of risk capital dating rocks… Although such dating techniques seem to work because new oil fields are continually being found, it is clear that if creation ‘science’ is correct, then such discoveries are accidental.

I was frustrated because Plimer doesn’t explain why this should be the case, and I wanted to know. And now, thanks to Jonathan Baker’s “Can Young-Earth Creationists Find Oil?“, I do.

Photo by Eric Kounce. Public domain.
Texas pumpjack. Photo by Eric Kounce. Public domain.

I highly recommend reading the post at Age of Rocks if you want to know, because Jonathan explains it better than I can without resorting to plagiarism, and he uses an excellent baking metaphor that anyone can understand:

The actual age of geologic formations—millions to billions of years—is very important to modeling whether or not they could have produced usable oil and gas, for the same reason that you set a timer on the oven. To understand how geologists use the conventional timescale to find oil and gas, you need only know how to cook! And I don’t mean a top chef, just someone that can turn raw food into cooked food.

When Bill Nye debated Ken Ham, he relied on the argument that we need people to know good science so they can become engineers and inventors. Most commentators felt this argument landed wide of the mark, because there are creationist engineers—a couple are quite famous. I’ve attempted to argue that there are five jobs a creationist can’t do, but as David Waldock replied, I actually meant it would be logically inconsistent for a young-Earther to be a linguist or an archaeologist, which is not the same thing.

Whereas using the scientific method to predict locations of fossil fuel reserves is something you literally can’t do based on Flood geology. The old anti-creationist argument “If you hate science so much, why are you using a COMPUTER?” usually misses its target, because there are so many inferential leaps from electronic circuits to an old Earth that it’s perfectly possible to ignore them and build a PC while believing Earth was formed some time after the domestication of the horse. But it isn’t possible to find an oil field while believing all rocks are about the same age, other than by blind chance.

So next time you meet a creationist at a debate, ask them if they drove to the venue.

At this point we confront the existence of Andrew Snelling, a geologist who insists the world is young, and the reason for Jonathan Baker’s post. But the fact remains that the techniques for finding petroleum are based on old-earth assumptions. Someone who had been taught only Flood ‘geology’ couldn’t do it. Snelling is simply a virtuoso at doublethink who can apply the techniques while denying their implications. I suppose this means we’re back to it being logically inconsistent rather than impossible, but it would be actually impossible for anyone given only the education that creationists want their children to have. Many adult creationists themselves had presumably decent educations—like the one that made it possible for Snelling to become a geologist—yet so many of them seek schooling for their own children that will stifle their intellectual development.

In semi-related news, it really would be excellent if we could get creationists to stop using oil, and they’re not going to do it because of global warming. The same people who think the earth is less than 10,000 years old generally think it has less than a century left to go, and that climate change is just the natural process of the Earth getting back to normal after the Flood. Those are two pretty powerful reasons to be complacent about climate change, and they probably represent the most obvious way creationism is a threat to civilisation. The future of our planet is in peril in part because of those who deny its past.

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