Sunday, 22 December 2013

Chapter 11: Dendochronology

On pages 196-8 Sarfati discusses tree-ring dating (dendrochronology).  As noted in my overall review of The Greatest Hoax on Earth, Sarfati bases his discussion on an article published by his colleague, Don Batten, on the Creation Ministries International website.[footnote 1]

Batten's article is quite misleading.  For example, he compares the Bristlecone Pine (which is slow-growing, lives at high altitude, and is not known to produce multiple rings per growing season) with the markedly different Monterey Pine (which is fast-growing, has a natural environment that is coastal, and is known to produce multiple rings per growing season) to suggest the Bristlecone Pine could produce up to five growth rings per year.  Even other young-Earth creationist organisations disagree with this approach.  An article on the Answers in Genesis website admits that at present there is no good evidence that Bristlecone Pines can produce multiple rings per growing season.[2]

In my wanderings on the internet I came across a thorough critique of Batten's article:
Paul Smith, 'Dendrochronolgy Fact and Creationist Fraud' (14 Jan 2007) 
I have no idea who Paul Smith is (not that I'm in a position to pass judgement, given that I'm publishing anonymously as Washington Irving!) and I've had trouble accessing any kind of home page for the website.  Nevertheless, Smith's article is well worth a read as it clearly sets out the many problems with Batten's approach.

Here's a good non-technical summary from the end of Smith's article:
False rings, missing rings and other sources of error are relatively rare and random in the growth patterns of trees, even though some species have higher susceptibility than others. Dendrochronologists use the tree species with the fewest known sources of errors, and they work to eliminate all sources of errors. They cross-check the data with other species and other locations. If dendrochronology depended on one lone species, Dr. Batten might have an argument: it doesn't.
That all the different dendrochronologies correlate with each other also refutes Dr. Batten's implication of this being a problem that science somehow has not dealt with already. If Dr. Batten really is a scientist in this field ("As a tree physiologist"), then he is aware of - and used - the techniques used by scientists for identifying false rings. That he doesn't say anything about this speaks to his "honesty" again - his willingness to misrepresent the truth is evident.
It is curious that Dr. Batten wants to be seen as a scientist on this topic, but he doesn't include any information on his methodology or his results in the paper discussed.


[1] Don Batten, 'Tree ring dating (dendrochronology)' (undated) 

[2] John Woodmorappe, 'Biblical Chronology and the 8,000-Year-Long Bristlecone Pine Tree-Ring Chronology' (2009)

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