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The Myth of the Missing Moon Dust

By David Wise
Posted on: 8/20/2003

All correspondence received by Skeptic Friends Network or its staff becomes the property of Skeptic Friends Network, and may be printed without the consent of the author.

A supporter contacts the Huxleys with interesting details of a creationist farce.

Re: SFN Article “The Myth of the Missing Moon Dust

To:   Dawn Huxley
From: David Wise
Date: January 30, 2002

I found that your page, "The Myth of the Missing Moon Dust," is
incomplete. Please refer to my page on the subject.

The real issue here is not that they had gotten the science wrong.
After all, anybody, even a scientist, can make mistakes and proceed
from false assumptions. Rather, the real issue is in what they do when
they discover their mistakes. The real scandal about creationist Moon-
dust claims is their dishonest response to learning of their mistakes.

My page details how I had contacted the ICR after having heard Henry
Morris claim at a 1985 debate that a NASA document written in "1976,"
"well into the space age" (a common refrain sung by creationists using
this claim) showed that there should be a very thick layer of meteoric
dust on the Moon. Duane Gish responded with a copy of the letter
written by Harold Slusher detailing the claim and which I have posted
on my site.

When I found that document in our university library, I found that
Slusher had misquoted and misrepresented it - it was a 1967 printing
of papers presented at a 1965 conference and Slusher had included
extraneous factors in his calculations that had inflated his results
for the Moon by a factor of 10,000. When I mailed Gish copies of the
title pages and informed him of the problem, he insisted emphatically
that the date was still "1976." When I mailed him more copies and
requested that he mail me copies to prove HIS date, he immediately cut
off our correspondence on the matter.

At the same time, Tom Wheeler and somebody else (the name slips my
mind at the moment) were doing the same follow-up research with Henry
Morris, who also cut off their correspondence. Dave Matson does an
excellent job of describing what had happened in his critique on Kent
Hovind's claims; I provide a link to it on my page.

When a friend followed up a couple years later, an ICR graduate
student responded that they had given up on using Moon-dust claims
because they found that they are unreliable and he quoted from the
preface of a 1989 H. Morris book that makes that statement. So, we
have a retraction of the claim from the ICR.

Go into just about any Christian bookstore and check the ICR books
(AKA "Master Books"). Henry Morris' Scientific Creationism should
still have that very same NASA claim in a footnote, unchanged from the
mid-80's. Almost every other one will have a "Uniformitarian Estimates
of the Earth's Age" appendix, which contains the Moon-dust claim,
though referenced to an "unpublished manuscript" by Harold Slusher.
This means that, over a decade after having retracted the claim, the
ICR is still making it - a neophyte creationist picking up a brand-new
book on the subject would think that that claim was still current and
would not know that it had been "disowned" by the ICR years ago.

Kent Hovind still uses the Moon-dust claim. Check his page on the age
of the universe and you will see about half-a-dozen references for
that claim, with ALL of them from creationist sources. The Ackermann
source uses Slusher's "1976" NASA document claim as the only reference
and it dishonestly cites the "original" document instead of the
creationist source he had gotten it from. I'm sure that the rest,
which I have not been able to find copies of yet, do pretty much the
same - uncritically drawing claims from other creationists without
doing the research back to the cited sources. On my site, I condemn
Hovind for his sloppy scholarship.

In a related matter, I am working on a page detailing the "Fundamental
Differences between Scientists and Creationists" and have posted a
beta copy on my site. Basically, scientists need to be sure that their
sources are correct and so are motivated to root out error in their
own and in other scientists' work.

On the other hand, creationists just want very convincing-sounding
claims and arguments and so they borrow from each other such claims
that they are not motivated to verify - effectively, they end up
swapping urban legends.

I hope that this will be of some help for your and your work.

To:   David Wise
From: Tommy Huxley
Date: Unknown
Thank you very, very much for your letter.

I admit that our mention of the creationist “Moon dust” argument isn’t very comprehensive, but we just wanted to cite that as an example of a creationist “Piltdown hoax.”

You’re also correct that despite the ICR’s claim that it no longer “uses” the Moon-dust argument, its literature still does. The ICR also claims it doesn’t use the “shrinking Sun” argument anymore (although its recent literature still does), and the ICR still says that the rarity of short-period comets proves that the universe is only six thousand years old.

The ICR alleges that evolutionists “invented” the concept of the Oort Cloud to explain the “hypothetical” origin of short-period comets, but they’re wrong on that point, too.

Short-period comets originate from the Kuiper Belt, and this belt isn’t a “hypothetical” feature, either. Astronomers David Jewitt and Jane Luu have discovered hundreds of individual Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) and plotted their individual orbits. You can see their results at:You’re also correct that creationists frequently swap urban legends. Last year, a creationist named Mark Purchase wrote to tell me that Japanese fishermen caught and photographed an extinct plesiosaur off the coast of New Zealand, when it was actually the rotted carcass of a basking shark. Even “Answers in Genesis” reluctantly conceded this.

Kent Hovind is another story. On a radio interview, he once claimed that scientists found two radically different carbon-14 dates on a single woolly mammoth, but when Karen Bartelt looked at the original scientific paper he cited, the radiocarbon dates actually came from three (3) different woolly mammoths and a musk ox! (See my pages that spoof his religious tract, and read my response to Hovind when he challenged me.)

I also appreciate the fact that you tried to bring the ICR’s mistakes to the attention of Duane Gish, but Gish won’t acknowledge the ICR’s (or his own) errors and inaccuracies. Joyce Arthur wrote a very scathing article of Gish’s reliance on garbled and obsolete quotes. (You should also read Gish’s response to Arthur, and her reply to him.)

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