Lunar Recession and the Age of the Earth: How Uniformitarianism Works

Guest “geology lessons” by David Middleton

One of the things I love about writing for Watts Up With That, is the fact that reader comments often inspire me to research and write subsequent posts. In my recent post about the origins of the Moon, one commentator suggested that the rate of lunar recession (tidal acceleration) indicated that the Earth was much younger than 4.5 billion years old and/or somehow disproved the geological Principle of Uniformitarianism. I didn’t give much thought to my reply. I simply calculated the distance from the Earth to the Moon 1 billion and 4.5 billion years ago. The Moon is currently receding (moving away) from the Earth at a rate of about 3.8 cm/yr. This has been directly measured with lasers.

At 3.8 cm/yr, the Moon would have been 215,288 miles away from Earth a billion years ago. It is currently an average of 238,900 miles away. At 3.8 cm/yr, it still would have been 132,646 miles away 4.5 BY.

If the Moon did did originate from a collision with Earth, it would have been a lot closer to Earth 4.5 BY than 100,000 miles.

David Middleton

At first thought, 215,288 miles apart didn’t seem problematic. It is well outside the Earth-Moon Roche Radius, however, at a steady rate of 3.8 cm/yr, the Moon’s orbit would have been close enough to Earth, that 1.5 billion years ago, the tidal forces of the Earth-Moon system may yielded catastrophic results:

Tracing the history of Earth’s tidal deceleration and the evolution of the Moon’s orbit is a major challenge for geology. The implications of employing the present rate of tidal energy dissipation on a geological timescale are catastrophic: Around 1500 Ma the Moon would have been close to Earth, with the consequence that the much larger tidal forces would have disrupted the Moon or caused the total melting of Earth’s mantle and of the Moon [Lambeck, 1980].

Williams, 2000

Apart from the classic bad science fiction movie, 2012, or the junk science of Hapgood and Velikovsky, there is no evidence whatsoever, of lunar disruption or the total melting of Earth’s mantle 1.5 billion years ago.

So… How do we solve this conundrum? We solve it by applying the principle of Uniformitarianism.

Most criticisms of Uniformitarianism start out with a fundamental misunderstanding of, or the intentional redefinition of, this basic geological principle.


Initial thinking on earth history was inspired by the bible. The recognition that major rock series are characterized by a distinct set of fossils lead to the belief that the fossils of each rock series were result of a creation and then were subsequently destroyed by some catastrophic event (e.g. the biblical flood). The main proponent of this theory was the French naturalist Georges Cuvier. In the 18th century there was even a case when some unfortunate geologist (Johann Jacob Scheuchzer, 1672-1733) found skeletons of giant salamanders and identified them as the victims of the biblical flood.  The problem was that upon close inspection, these flood victims had long tails and sharp claws.  Thus, it earned the proponent quite a bit of ridicule.  Generally speaking, this way of looking at the geologic record, namely to assume that a series of immense, brief, and worldwide upheavals changed the earth greatly and produced mountains, valleys, and various other large scale features, came to be known as catastrophism.

The theory of catastrophism was challenged by James Hutton in the late 18th century, who in his theory of uniformitarianism proposed that uniform gradual processes (such as for example the slow erosion of the coast by the impact of waves) shaped the geologic record of the earth over an immensely long period of time. He assumed that the acting processes were the same than those that we see in action at present (rivers, volcanoes, waves, tides etc.). Darwin later on based his theory of the origin a species on Hutton’s theory.

The sedimentary structures that we saw earlier in this lecture serve as a good illustration how uniformitarianism works. Cross-bedding for example can be observed to form in modern river channels and also in experimental setups called flumes.  We learn from these observations what kind of current velocities are needed to produce cross-bedding in a given grain size, and we realize that cross-bedding can be used as an indicator of current flow direction.  We can apply what we learn from modern cross-beds to interpret the rock record in terms of flow velocities and flow direction.  Likewise, finding ancient equivalents of modern mudcracks suggests to us that we look at sediments that dried out beneath the air, and were thus deposited on land.

In more modern times, some amendments have been made to the theory of uniformitarianism. One of these would be that it was recognized that catastrophic events are as much part of geologic history as the uniform action of the everyday processes. For example, sediment supply to the oceans is not a constant flux of matter. There is a considerable episodic component to sedimentation, e.g. storms are major agents of sediment redistribution in shelf seas, floods and exceptionally strong rains are responsible for most of the erosion and sediment redistribution on the continents. Undoubtedly, the physical and chemical principles (e.g. gravity, thermodynamics) that govern geologic processes of the present have also applied in the past.  Yet as is visible in the present, frequent small deviations from equilibrium and unstable behavior (minor catastrophes, such as earthquakes, floods, storms) must have been an integral part of these processes. Similarly, the evolution of life was not a single succession of tiny evolutionary steps as originally envisioned by Darwin. We are now able to see that there were episodes of accelerated (punctuated) evolution, usually as a response to a change in environmental conditions, such as climate (ice ages, warming of the earth), the advent or immigration of new predators and the utilization of new food sources. Extremely rare (and catastrophic) events, such as the impact of large meteors, may have had a profound influence on our planet. Yet meteors fall onto the earth on a daily basis, just as it rains every day.  In that sense, meteorite impacts are quite normal and part of the spectrum of everyday processes.  Only very rarely does a “doomsday” meteorite that is 10 or more km in diameter hit the Earth and cause severe disruptions.   To sum it up: The natural laws do not change with time and they have and will determine interior and external processes of the earth. Even the extremely rare event (e.g. meteor impacts) is part of the many geologic processes governed by these laws. Even though something, like for example the December 2004 tsunami, appears to us as a unique catastrophe, over the long run it is a normal and recurring event. It does not follow, however, that the rate of geologic processes is the same today as it was in the past.  Some processes, such as mantle convection do probably stay stable over long time periods, but others, such as glaciation were at times very intense in the past (ice ages), but are presently less significant for continental erosion.  So, a brief definition of Uniformitarianism would be: the natural laws that govern geologic processes have not changed over geologic time, but the rate at which certain geologic processes operate can vary.  Uniformitarianism also has been paraphrased as “The Present is the Key to the Past“.

Indiana University

Uniformitarianism doesn’t preclude catastrophic events; nor does it stipulate that all processes must occur at a constant gradual rate.  And it certainly doesn’t blind geologists to actual evidence of past catastrophic events, like impact features.  Many of the world’s 190 confirmed impact craters (technically 189 because they count Upheaval Dome as confirmed) would be unknown if not for geologists employing uniformitarian methods to identify them.  34% of the confirmed impact craters are not exposed at the surface.  53% of the confirmed impact craters have been drilled, either intentionally or inadvertently while drilling for something else.  The craters without surface expressions were identified by uniformitarian geologists/geophysicists interpreting geological and geophysical data.

Uniformitarianism says “The Present is the Key to the Past.”  Understanding present day geological processes enables geologists to decipher the geologic past. It enables us to translate the language of the rocks.

So, what does this have to do with lunar recession?

Two words: Tidal Rhymites

The sedimentary record in Muir Inlet, a macrotidal fjord in Alaska, is dominated by cyclic silt–mud rhythmites. Couplet thicknesses vary systematically in a vertical sequence and reflect a semidiurnal tidal regime. Semimonthly, monthly, bimonthly, and annual cycles can be identified both visually in cores and by spectral frequency analysis. An average annual sedimentation of 22.5 cmyr-1 occurs over a four-month meltwater season and is confirmed by 210Pb dating. These modern deep-water tidal rhythmites can be used to verify interpretations made on ancient rhythmites in the stratigraphic record, and they also provide a dating tool to interpret high latitude successions for high-resolution climate change.

Cowan et al., 1998

Tidal rhymites are the result of very high frequency depositional cycles. The length of the day, the number of days in the month and months in the year can all be calculated from tidal rhythmites. Fortunately for geologists, Earth was kind enough to preserve at least a few very old tidal rhythmite deposits.


By Sandra Eldredge

This tour begins 1 billion years ago when the area was a tidal environment at an ocean shoreline. The tidal environment is preserved in the now-tilted layers of quartzite and shale that make up the canyon walls for the first 6 miles. In some areas, the shale is metamorphosed into argillite or slate.


Tidal Rhythmites
One-billion-year-old records of the rhythm of ancient ocean tides

One of the best documented and oldest known records worldwide of tidal rhythmites is in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Discovered in the 1990s, this record is enthusiastically being researched, in large part to provide clues to ancient lunar cycles.

Yearly, monthly, and even daily and semi-daily tides are recorded in the black shale of the 850-million to 1-billion-year-old Big Cottonwood Formation.

Within the shale are thin, alternating layers of light-colored sand and dark-colored silt and clay. The sand was carried by peak (strong, dominant) flows and the silt and clay by slack (weaker, subordinate) waters at changing tides. Thus, these thin individual bands record daily tides and can be counted much like we count tree rings.

Because the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun cause tides, the length of an ancient day and lunar month can be determined from these tidal rhythmites. Long ago, the moon took less time to orbit the Earth, the Earth was spinning faster, and thus the days were shorter and there were more of them in a year. These records in stone indicate that one billion years ago, a day on Earth lasted only 18 hours, there were 13-plus months in a year, and about 481 days in a year!

(Information supplied by Marjorie A. Chan, University of Utah and Allen W. Archer, Kansas State University).

Utah Geological Survey

Tidal rhyhmites and other paleontological data tell us that the days have been getting longer, while the number of days per year have been decreasing over the past 500 million years.

Figure 2 from Williams, 2000.

Tidal rhymite formations enable geologists to reconstruct “the history of Earth’s rotation and lunar orbit” (Williams, 1990) over the past 2.5 billion years.

The recent recognition of cyclically laminated tidal rhythmites provides a new approach to tracing the dynamic history of the Earth-Moon system. Late Proterozoic (~650 Ma) elastic rhythmites in South Australia represent an unsurpassed palaeotidal record of ~560 years’ duration that provides numerous palaeorotational parameters. At~650 Ma there were 13.1 ±0.1 lunar months/year, 400 ±7 solar days/year, and 30.5 ±0.5 solar days/lunar month. The lunar apsides and lunar nodal cycles were then 9.7 ±0.1 years and 19.5 ±0.5 years, respectively. The indicated mean Earth-Moon distance of 58.28 ±0.30 Earth radii at ~650 Ma gives a mean rate of lunar retreat of 1.95 ±0.29 cm/year since that time, about half the present rate of lunar retreat of 3.7 ±0.2 cm/year obtained by lunar laser ranging. The rhythmite data imply a substantial obliquity of the ecliptic at ~650 Ma, and indicate virtually no overall change in the Earth’s moment of inertia, which militates against significant Earth expansion since ~650 Ma. Early Proterozoic ( ~2,500 Ma) cyclic banded iron-formation in Western Australia, that may record submarine fumarolic activity triggered by earth tides, suggests ~14.5 ±0.5 lunar months/year and a mean Earth-Moon distance of ~54.6 Earth radii at ~2,500 Ma. The combined rhythmite data suggest a mean rate of lunar retreat of ~1.27 cm/year during the Proterozoic (~2,500-650 Ma); the indicated increasing mean rate of lunar retreat since~2,500 Ma is consistent with increasing oceanic tidal dissipation as the Earth’s rotation slows. A close approach of the Moon during earlier time is uncertain. Continued study of tidal rhythmites promises to further illuminate the evolving dynamics of the Earth-Moon system.

Williams, 1990

The rate of lunar recession was highly variable during the Proterozoic Eon. The closest the closest approach of the Moon’s orbit to the Earth, as estimated from Precambrian tidal rhymites was ~51.9 Earth radii (~206,000 miles) approximately 2.45 billion years ago.

Table 1 from Williams, 2000.

Green et al., 2017 indicate that the modern recession rate is anomalously high, about twice the average of the Proterozoic Eon. However, the rate appears the have even been higher than it currently is, during the Pleistocene Epoch’s Last Glacial Maximum.

It was recently shown through numerical tidal model simulations with higher resolution than in previous studies that the tidal dissipation during the early Eocene (50 Ma) was just under half of that at present (Green and Huber, 2013). This is in stark contrast to the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, around 20 ka) when simulated tidal dissipation rates were significantly higher than at present due to changes in the resonant properties of the ocean (Green, 2010Wilmes and Green, 2014Schmittner et al., 2015). However, the surprisingly large tides during the LGM are due to a quite specific combination of continental scale bathymetry and low sea-level, in which the Atlantic is close to resonance when the continental shelf seas were exposed due to the formation of extensive continental ice sheets (Platzman et al., 1981Egbert et al., 2004Green, 2010). It is therefore reasonable to assume — and proxies support this — that the Earth has only experienced very large tides during the glacial cycles over the last 1–2 Ma and that the rates have been lower than at present during the Cenozoic (Palike and Shackleton, 2000Lourens and Brumsack, 2001Lourens et al., 2001). Such (generally) low tidal dissipation rates may have led to reduced levels of ocean mixing, with potential consequences for the large scale ocean circulation, including the Meridional Overturning Circulation (Munk, 1966Wunsch and Ferrari, 2004).

Green et al., 2017


Science starts with observations (what we know) and then works to form hypotheses to explain the observations. The hypotheses are then tested to see if they can become scientific theories. Ideally, the hypotheses are tested empirically, in controlled experiments. Unfortunately, in geology, most hypothesis can only be tested by gathering more observations. This is why Chamberlin’s Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses is taught by many geology departments. For every given set of Earth Science observations, there are, almost invariably, multiple working hypotheses (non-uniqueness). As more observations are collected, some hypotheses will survive, others will have to be modified or discarded.

In the case of lunar recession, we started out with two observations:

  1. The Moon has been receding from the Earth at a rate of 3.8 cm/yr.
  2. The Earth and the Moon are approximately 4.5 billion years old.

We know the current recession rate from decades of laser ranging. While the ages of the Earth and the Moon aren’t known with as much certainty as the lunar recession rate, radiometric dating precludes them from being significantly younger than 4.5 billion years old.

At first glance, the physical cause of the first observation would seem to contradict the second observation. This means that either: 1) the recession rate was much slower in the past or 2) the Earth and Moon are less than 1.5 billion years old. Since we can’t run a controlled experiment, the best we can do is to see if the rocks can tell us anything about past recession rates. The rocks tell us that modern recession rate is anomalously high, and that the Moon’s orbit has not been catastrophically close to Earth at any point in the past 2.45 billion years. Without the Principle of Uniformitarianism, geologists wouldn’t be able to “translate the language” of the rocks.

Hat tip to hiskorr for his (or her) comments.

I had never given this subject any thought before. I actually found it quite interesting when I started digging into it.

Day 9 of America Held Hostage by CHICOM-19

Yesterday, Dallas County Commissioner Clay Jenkins issued a “shelter in place” order for Dallas County. Judge Jenkins, a liberal Democrat, looks like Howdy Doody and talks like Forrest Gump. The latest numbers indicate that there are 169 CHICOM-19 cases in Dallas County, and there have been 5 deaths. Dallas County has a population of 2,637,772 2,637,767 people.

Dallas CountyCHICOM-190
% of population0.0064%0.00019%

99.9936% of Dallas County does not have CHICOM-19 and 99.9998% of us haven’t died from it.

The shelter in place order means that I get to work from home for at least another two weeks. So, I set up my work station on the island in our kitchen and have the TV on. The other day I watched The Big Lebowsky while I was working in the shorts and tee-shirt that I had slept in, wearing slippers. I could get used to this. Meetings are much more fun this way. Instead of a conference room, we get to WebEx and see our co-workers at home in shorts and flip-flops.

The shelter in place order only allows essential businesses to remain open, which, oddly, includes liquor stores (Hoo-Ahh!). As nearly as I can tell, most white collar workers have been told to work from home, if possible, while the businesses that mainly hire illegal aliens appear to be unaffected.


Cowan, E., Cai, J., Powell, R. et al. Modern tidal rhythmites deposited in a deep-water estuary. Geo-Marine Letters 18, 40–48 (1998).

Green, Mattias & Huber, M. & Waltham, D. & Buzan, Jonathan & Wells, Martin. (2017). “Explicitly modelled deep-time tidal dissipation and its implication for Lunar history. ” Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 461. 46-53. 10.1016/j.epsl.2016.12.038.

Williams, G. E., “Tidal rhythmites: Key to the history of the Earth’s rotation and the lunar o”rbit”, J. Phys. Earth, 38, 475-491, 1990.

Williams, G.E. Geological Constraints on the Precambrian History of Earth’s Rotation and the Moon’s Orbit, Reviews of Geophysics 38 (2000), 37-59.

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Bro. Steve
March 24, 2020 6:19 pm

You say that “The Earth and the Moon are approximately 4.5 billion years old,” and that this is an observation. May I humbly suggest that it’s a conclusion, not an observation?

An observation would be something like your measurements of uranium so many grams lead and uranium in a rock.

And assumption would be something like saying that when the rock was originally formed, it had so many grams of lead and uranium in it.

And the conclusion is that the rock must be at least so many billions of years old.

The neglect of carefully distinguishing what’s measured from what’s assumed, and what’s concluded is one of the chief sins of modern politically tendentious science.

John Tillman
Reply to  Bro. Steve
March 24, 2020 6:31 pm

Radiometric dating is based upon the ratio of uranium to lead. The only assumption is that the decay rate was the same billions of years ago as now. The size of the original sample doesn’t matter, as long as it’s detectable. The ratio is what matters, regardless of sample size.

I don’t know why creationists keep misunderstanding this simple fact, apparently intentionally.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 24, 2020 7:03 pm

You’re both wrong and right about the physical and historical myths, and underlying assumptions/assertions necessary to reach an internally, externally, and mutually consistent conclusion. Science is, with cause, a near-frame philosophy and practice.

John Tillman
Reply to  n.n
March 24, 2020 7:31 pm

Please state about what you think I’m wrong. Thanks.

Pat Frank
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 6:09 pm

n.n. might be a trollbot, John. See the Chomsky botfor what they can do.

John TIllman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 7:25 pm



The sophistication of bots is truly amazing.

More lifelike than some human trolls.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 5:18 am

John Tillman, the simple assumption of radiometric dating is that we know how much of each element there was in the beginning! How much uranium was there and how much lead, for instance.

This is something you cannot know! To say you do is dishonest!

It is the same with each radiometric dating method!

Carbon 14 is increasing in the atmosphere today. In other words it has not reached a state of equilibrium. This means that in the past there was…less! How much less? We don’t know! Therefore this is another assumption.

On the other hand, I have an eye-witness account of the creation of the earth, in Genesis 1-3. Someone who was there gave us His account of what He did. This actually fits the definition of Science!

Conversely, evolution has never left the realm of a hypothesis!

No one has ever observed any natural way for genetic information to increase, and that is what you have to have in order for evolution to be true! If your professor asks you for a 1,000 word essay and you write 500 words, photocopy it, and hand in the 1,000 words will you receive a pass? Well, you shouldn’t, because an extra copy of the same information is not an increase in information! I t is the same with mutations; most are a reduction from the original, but occasionally there is an extra copy. In neither case is there any new information!

Evolution is a naked emperor!

Reply to  Dan Knezacek
March 25, 2020 8:38 am

I have hundreds of thousands of scientific studies indicating that Genesis can not be literally true.
Genesis is an allegory telling why, it does not inform the how.

C12 is increasing, where is your evidence that C14 is increasing?
That the level of C14 has never been constant is not in doubt, however there is no evidence that it has ever varied outside a fairly narrow range.

Beyond that, C14 dating has been calibrated by dating objects of known age.

John Tillman
Reply to  Dan Knezacek
March 25, 2020 9:12 am

Again, the measurement is a ratio. It doesn’t matter if you start with a tonne, a kilogram, a gram or a microgram. There are still enough atoms to measure ratios of the decayed elements and isotopes.

Genesis is not based upon an eyewitnesses account. It’s pre-scientific mythologizing, ie made-up story-telling. The creation account in Genesis 1 irreconcilably contradicts the myth in Genesis 2. Please don’t conflate science and religion. It’s blasphemous to do so.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 26, 2020 9:47 am

JT: would you dare to state what the ratios are?

The age of the earth is guesstimated by lead-lead dating.

Lead-lead dating is a comparison of two rations:

Pb 207 / Pb 204 is the numerator in this ratio, and

Pb 206 / Pb 204 is the denominator.

To date a meteorite that supposedly became solid around the same time the earth became solid
(explain that one: gasseous particles or dust coalescing into solid matter in outer space – sounds totally legit! oh – no, that sounds totally foolish – quick – add semething to the hypothesis – OK – they are pressed together by gravitational waves! um, yeah. Nice HARK),

you have to measure the quantity of these three states or forms of Pb in the sample accurately; if you are “off” at all, your calculation is off.

This is a matter of counting each of three different types of atoms – yes, counting atom for atom – in a sample.

Obviously the specific atoms are not counted. If they were, the sample would have to be incredible small to feasibly be counted.

A grain of salt has a quintillion atoms. If the sample was this size, who counted all quintillion? [yes, Pb atoms are larger than NA or CL.]

Or, was the number guesstimated?

Now, we need the ratios for both the top ratio and the bottom ratio.

What are these two ratios, in terms of GENUINE numbers?

1/10? 1/100? 1/1,000?

So, what ratio has to be counted for each?

JT: please tell us. If you know, and if you dare.

Yes, things have been tidied up some since the days of Harrison / Patterson. But still.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 26, 2020 10:54 am

The ratio obviously depends upon how much time has passed since the uranium was incorporated into the zircon sample. What could be simpler to understand?

Meteorites aren’t dated by the lead-lead method.

And of course other techniques, radiometric and totally separate, are available as checks on the 87Rb/86Sr method.

Please study radiometric data before presuming to comment upon it. It’ll save us all a lot of time. Thanks.

Reply to  Dan Knezacek
March 26, 2020 3:31 am

“Dan Knezacek March 25, 2020 at 5:18 am
John Tillman, the simple assumption of radiometric dating is that we know how much of each element there was in the beginning! How much uranium was there and how much lead, for instance.
This is something you cannot know! To say you do is dishonest!”

A) Your postulation that radiometric analysis require knowledge of the amount of elements is wrong.
Radiometric analysis is based on the ratios of uranium to lead; i.e. the original element and the element after nuclear decomposition. which happens at an extremely well known rate.
That is, any amount of uranium allows radiometric calculation.

B:) Your claim for an eye witness account is false.
Your account is based upon one religion, not upon science.
No person was present during the Judeo-Christian version of creation.

Instead, it was a tale told around campfires.
Just as the Native Americans have versions of creation from their campfires. As do the Japanese, Greeks, Romans, Goths, French, Belgians, Chinese, indigenous Australians, Inuit, many South American tribes, African tribes, etc. etc. etc.

That is not the definition of science. It is pure belief and all too frequently based upon individual interpretation. Individual interpretations which Judeo-Christians refer to as “Translations”.
Each translation is different.
Each translation has errors. Errors that are impossible to correct, unless one has absolute knowledge of the original language for ‘creation’; i.e. very ancient Hebrew.
e.g. Anthropologists are still trying to prove ancient Judean Kings lived; e.g. David.

Evolution is a rock solid pillar of science that has repulsed all attempts by religious fanatics to disprove.

John Tillman
Reply to  ATheoK
March 26, 2020 11:12 am

Archaeologists. Maybe anthropologists, too, but mainly the diggers.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 5:48 am

You forgot a 2nd assumption: the percentage of each isotope in the decay process at the start. Also, as far as the decay rate changing, you assume that the rate of decay cannot change during extraordinary circumstances such extreme heat and pressure. Radiometric dating is not an absolute dating method. It is a relative dating method based on assumptions. Geologists often data rocks using several radiometric dating methods and get very different results. They then pick the result which most closely aligns with whatever theory they are working on.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 25, 2020 8:44 am


You left Dan’s first point unanswered: “the percentage of each isotope in the decay process at the start”. Is the original ratio assumed or not? It is certainly not observed.

If the original ratio is not vital to the date, I would like to know how. No one has ever explained it to me before, and the contributors at WUWT are typically very good at explaining in layman’s terms.


John Tillman
Reply to  David Middleton
March 25, 2020 1:39 pm

OK, I guess I need to explain U-Pb dating in more detail.

The clock starts when rock forms and crystallizes. The method is usually applied to zircon, which mineral incorporates uranium and thorium atoms into its crystal structure, but strongly rejects lead when forming. As a result, newly-formed zircon deposits will contain no lead, which means any lead found in the mineral is radiogenic.

Since the exact rate at which uranium decays into lead is known, the current ratio of lead to uranium in a sample of the mineral can be used to reliably determine its age.

The technique is suitable for zircons and other rocks from about one million to over 4.5 billion years ago, with routine precisions in the 0.1 to 1.0 percent range.

I hope this helps.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 26, 2020 6:41 am

Thanks, John. Very helpful. I can see those skeptical of the dating method saying that you cannot prove the universal negative that zircon will never form with lead in it. I can see those accepting the dating method saying that what we know of physics and all current observations indicate that zircon cannot form with lead in it. Thus science marches on. . . .

John Tillman
Reply to  David Middleton
March 26, 2020 11:18 am


Glad you found the further explanation helpful.

It’s not just that zircon has never been found with lead in it, but that the mineral is always observed rejecting lead when forming. It’s ZrSiO4, which can contain U and Th atoms in its crystal structure, but not lead.

Radiometric dating specialists aren’t idiots, as creationists assume they must be.

John Tillman
Reply to  Dan
March 25, 2020 8:29 am


As I already pointed out, the initial amount of uranium and lead doesn’t matter. Only the ratio between them matters. Why is this simple fact so hard for creationists to grasp?

Some studies have found that the decay rates of certain radioactive elements do depend upon temperature, the material surrounding them, and possibly other factors. But the differences are at most a few percent. However, more precise research has found no differences under varying T, P and other conditions.

I don’t think that any study has found such putative variations for the main radiometric dating elements and isotopes. Even if so, the difference would be within the present experimental margin of error.

That 14C exists all around us doesn’t signiify, either. Dating with carbon isotope decay is based upon when the C was taken up by an organism. Again, the amount in the air doesn’t matter. It’s the isotopic ratio.

Sorry, but evolution is a fact, observed every day in every way. Perhaps you’ve noticed recently that RNA viruses and MRSA microbes evolve rapidly.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 12:39 pm

Hi, John.

I have always been a lurker, and I always appreciate your insights. On this topic of radiometric data, though, could you explain how the initial amounts of uranium and lead don’t matter? I’m not yet seeing it.


John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 1:40 pm


As above, the original amount of lead in a zircon sample to be U-Pb dated is zero.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 1:45 pm

PS: And, as mentioned below, the Pb isotopes which result from U decay, ie 206 and 207, are stable. The other stable and decaying isotopes, if present, can be excluded from calculating the ratio.

But zircon works best, since it rejects all lead initially.

Reply to  Dan
March 25, 2020 8:33 am

Do you have any evidence that extreme heat or pressure can change decay rates?

John Tillman
Reply to  MarkW
March 25, 2020 10:03 am

It’s something he fell for from the Discovery Institute or some other pack of professional liars. But I provided a link to actual experiments testing the assumption that elements decay at the same rate whether inside a star or in interstellar space.

Bro. Steve
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 9:54 am

John Tillman,

Very respectfully, the calculation of uranium/lead proportions has to assume initial conditions. There is no other way to solve the equation.

Your post seems to suggest you may not be aware of this, and it is an example of the very thing I am describing — the failure to distinguish carefully between what is measured by direct observation, what is assumed, and what is concluded.

Kind regards,

Bro. Steve

John Tillman
Reply to  Bro. Steve
March 25, 2020 10:53 am

As repeatedly noted, radiometric dating is based upon decay rate and ratio in a sample.

The initial conditions aren’t assumed. Radiometric dating is based upon trace radioactive impurities selectively incorporated into the rock or object being dated when it was formed. The technique compares the relative abundance of a naturally occurring radioactive isotope within the material to the abundance of its decay products, which form at a known constant rate.

Seriously, why is this so hard to understand?

Bro. Steve
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 6:42 pm

John Tillman,

Your statement is “hard to understand” because it isn’t true. To get an age, you must solve an exponential equation where the end state is known, the decay rate is known, and the initial condition is assumed. The most typical assumption is that no daughter products were present in the sample when it was formed, which allows you to “calculate” the time from that initial state until the end state which you measured.

But there are much better ways to make an assumption of initial condition. Geologists and physicists come up with all kinds of clever methods for this, and you can read about them at the link below. All these ingenious methods are necessary because a calculated age is meaningless unless you know the initial state of the sample. It’s fundamentally a problem of having only one equation and two unknowns. One of the unknowns is covered by an assumption.

And once again, the fact that you don’t know this, and the fact that you’re so convinced you’re right about it, just proves my initial point: People aren’t careful about distinguishing measurements from conclusions and assumptions.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 7:22 pm


Please read my description of U-Pb dating. And your own link.

Zircons reject lead. Any lead in zircon comes from radioactive decay of U.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 26, 2020 3:51 am

“Bro. Steve March 25, 2020 at 6:42 pm
John Tillman,

Your statement is “hard to understand” because it isn’t true. To get an age, you must solve an exponential equation where the end state is known, the decay rate is known, and the initial condition is assumed.”

Religious posturing dependent upon denial of knowledge presented while portraying a false view of any knowledge remaining.
A rather common shell game.

Explain to us, in explicit detail how zircons form?
Tell us exactly how Pb lead gets included in the chemical formula for newly formed zircon?

Zircon’s formation is not assumed. It is quite well known and defined.
comment image?dl=0

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 27, 2020 1:16 pm


Talk about not being careful!

Did you actually read the link you posted?

Bro. Steve
Reply to  John Tillman
March 28, 2020 5:42 pm

You clearly didn’t read the link. The whole article is about how to determine the initial states of rocks. Concerning C-14, he says for example, “Knowledge of τ1/2 or λ would then allow us to calculate the age of the material if we knew the amount of original isotope.”

That’s all I’m saying. You have to know the initial state for the method to work. Assuming zero Pb in a zircon has sound reasoning behind it, and I’m not challenging that. I’m merely stating that this initial state is not observed; it is assumed.

Reply to  Bro. Steve
March 25, 2020 11:19 am

Perhaps one can argue about original proportions in uranium-lead dating. But in potassium-argon dating, there’s no such problem: there was no argon in the rock when it solidified. Argon is a gas, and it’ll only accumulate in a solid. The rest of the argon is sitting happily in the atmosphere at about 1%. Measure the potassium in the rock, and the argon, and you’ll know how long that rock has been solid, and thus how old it is.

John Tillman
Reply to  Ellen
March 25, 2020 12:21 pm

K-Ar dating has the advantage of covering a wide range of ages, from billions to tens of thousands of years. However it’s limited by the fact that 40K also decays to 40Ca, and calcium is often present in amounts so large as to mask its isotope 40.

Happily we have lots of different dating techniques for cross-checking, such as U-U and U-Th in the U-Pb series.

If a sample happens to have lead besides that from radioactive decay, it’s most likely of a different isotope. The two U-Pb chains are 238U to 206Pb and 235U to 207Pb. The isotopes, lead-204 and -208 account for 53.8% of all lead, with the 208Pb over twice as common as the two from U decay.

AK in VT
Reply to  John Tillman
March 26, 2020 3:15 pm


a. uranium-thorium-lead
b. potassium-argon
c. rubidium-strontium

These three methods for radiometric dating have serious problems. In samples checked and published approximately half determine ages at least one geologic age in error. Methodology must have major errors for this to occur. Geologists hardly ever subject their radiometric age measurements to “blind tests.” Most likely because they will give errors.

Even evolutionist William Stansfield noted as far back as 1977 that “It is obvious radiometric techniques may not be the absolute dating methods they are claimed to be. Age estimates on a given geological stratum by different radiometric methods are often quite different (sometimes by hundreds of millions of years). There is no absolutely reliable long-term radiological ‘clock.'” (Science of Evolution, p. 84)

Just like carbon-14, radiometric dating is “established” on the assumption that all decay rates have remained the same for x time: this is uniformatarianism. Opposing this thinking, whether creationist or evolutionist, is actually scientific as well all know there is no such thing as “settled science.” Only facts are settled.

Reply to  Bro. Steve
March 24, 2020 11:46 pm

I see figure2 caption begins: “Plot of presumed days per year and length of day …”

“Presumed” does not sound like this is all derived from observational data of rock-rings aas David Middleton suggests.

Interesting subject.

Uniformatarianism has apparently been redefined as punctuated uniformatarianism, like slow uniform Darwinian evolution has to be perforated with very quick changes from which there is no record to account for fact we can’t find out “missing links”.

Uniform , except when it isn’t.

John Tillman
Reply to  Greg
March 25, 2020 5:08 am

Punctuated equilibrium wasn’t hatched because of “missing links”. Please see my comment below on the origin and fate of PE.

Long before Gould proposed his scheme, it was obvious that evolution proceeds at different paces. Human evolution over the past seven million years for instance provides ample instances of both long, slow gradual evolution under natural selection and more rapid jumps thanks to single mutations.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Bro. Steve
March 25, 2020 4:49 am

Bro: Corroborative age dates using other isotopes make these observations pretty certain. K40 (an isotope of pottassium) breaks down to Argon with a half life of
1.251 × 10^9 years is widely used and K is abundant in almost all rocks.

Uniformatarianism is alive and well in this process of age dating. We have been well served in ‘assuming’ physics and chemistry acted the same in the past as in the present. Indeed all of science depends on it. Imagine the chaos if gravity changed willy nilly.

David, I have a big niggle with assuming the rate of moon recession to be constant. Surely the rate is influenced by the change in the gravitational effect with changing distance.

John Tillman
Reply to  Gary Pearse
March 25, 2020 5:15 am

David didn’t assume a constant recession rate. Quite the contrary.

He points out that the current, measured rate is faster than the historical average. But the average is also misleading. The evidence shows that the Moon receded rapidly after its formation, when Earth spun much faster than now, then spent billions of years moving away at a stately pace. During our current glacial epochs, its recession has sped up, thanks to oceanic and tidal resonance.

Don K
Reply to  Gary Pearse
March 25, 2020 8:08 am

Gary, My thought is that you are likely correct about the recession rate. My GUESS would be that if tidal drag is what causes the energy transfer from the Earth’s rotational energy to the moon’s orbital velocity (if that’s even what’s happening), it probably varies with the square of the Earth-Moon distance rather than linearly. But I’m truly awful at physics and could be really, really wrong.

David — truly minor typo I think “The closest the closest approach”.

Also, although I think the laser measurements of the Moon’s recession rate are probably correct, I wouldn’t absolutely rule out the possibility of some sort of problem with them — including, but not limited to — the long-standing bugaboo in sea level rise measurements — mis-estimating local tectonics at the Earth end of the laser observation. There are a lot of things that can (but probably haven’t) gone wrong with trying to measure small changes to very long distances.

Don K
Reply to  Don K
March 25, 2020 12:40 pm

After a bit of searching, I found the following paragraph in Wikipedia that attempts to explain the variable rate of lunar recession.

The notional tidal bulges are carried ahead of the Earth–Moon orientation by the continents as a result of Earth’s rotation. The eccentric mass of each bulge exerts a small amount of gravitational attraction on the Moon, with the bulge on the side of Earth closest to the Moon pulling in a direction slightly forward along the Moon’s orbit (because Earth’s rotation has carried the bulge forward). The bulge on the side furthest from the Moon has the opposite effect, but because the gravitational attraction varies inversely with the square of distance, the effect is stronger for the near-side bulge. As a result, some of Earth’s angular (or rotational) momentum is gradually being transferred to the rotation of the Earth–Moon pair around their mutual centre of mass, called the barycentre. This slightly faster rotation causes the Earth–Moon distance to increase at approximately 38 millimetres per year. Conservation of angular momentum means that Earth’s axial rotation is gradually slowing, and because of this its day lengthens by approximately 23 microseconds every year (excluding glacial rebound). Both figures are valid only for the current configuration of the continents. Tidal rhythmites from 620 million years ago show that, over hundreds of millions of years, the Moon receded at an average rate of 22 mm (0.87 in) per year (2200 km or 0.56% or the Earth-moon distance per hundred million years) and the day lengthened at an average rate of 12 microseconds per year (or 20 minutes per hundred million years), both about half of their current values. The present high rate may be due to near resonance between natural ocean frequencies and tidal frequencies.[19] See also tidal acceleration for a more detailed description.

Color me about 85% convinced. Tidal drag certainly works for the crustal component of tides. But they seem to be assuming that the variation is mostly due to the ocean tide component. Although that’s sort of plausible and certainly facile, it would seem to require water to zip around the equator at speeds greater than 1600kph. So I sort of think there must be more to the story.

I also came across a graph of day length for the past billion years at the end of It looks to be a potentially be a great example of the possible perils of extrapolating from partial data sets.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Don K
March 25, 2020 3:49 pm

It would also suggest, as a conjecture, that Earth’s crustal flexibility has been steadily increasing over the 3 1/2 billion years of tectonic subduction dragging down vast amounts of water into the asthenosphere.

This deep water entrainment to the crustal-mantle boundary decreases viscosity and increases flexibility, thus crustal bulging has steadily increased, and allowing increasing orbital momentum transfer with time. It’s tectonics and our vast deep oceans, a coupled prcess with evolving tidal flexing and iceshields and continents have moved around.

Mike Maxwell
Reply to  Don K
March 25, 2020 6:05 pm

Perhaps you could explain your reasoning for the 1600 kph number. I suspect you mean that’s the speed of travel of the high tide. But the high tide is a wave, not the actual speed with which the water moves.

The water in a wave in deep water does not move at the speed of the wave, as you can observe by watching things floating on the water: they mostly go back and forth. While this is best observed from a boat, you can see the effect on a dock that sits out in the lake or ocean a ways.

Or putting this differently, a wave in deep water is not a current, whether that wave has a short wavelength (like waves in a pond tend to be) or a very long wave (like a tidal wave–by which I mean the wave that constitutes a tide).

Also btw, tsunamis travel at about 500 mph, as can be easily measured because we can detect the earthquake that caused them, and therefore know how long it takes the tsunami wave to travel from the earthquake to a beach. But again, the water in the tsunami wave doesn’t travel that fast, especially in deep water.

Reply to  Bro. Steve
March 25, 2020 4:45 pm

The moon is hollow…An Ancient Aliens spacecraft tuned to mess with tidal ebbs and flows to leave a geologic record certain to confuse us monkeys…it’s sedimentary my Dear Watson….

John Tillman
Reply to  meiggs
March 25, 2020 7:18 pm

Hence the secret N@zi Moon bases!

And of course the Ant People. And green cheese. Presumably Emmental.

Reply to  meiggs
March 26, 2020 7:06 am

Can everything/anything be explained by Ancient Astronauts? Ancient Astronaut theorists say yes. 😉

John Tillman
Reply to  David Middleton
March 24, 2020 6:34 pm

Measurement of the U-Pb ratio is an observation of nature, ie a scientific fact. Same goes for other radioactive decay measurements.

John Tillman
March 24, 2020 6:28 pm

Did you mean because they don’t count Upheaval Dome as confirmed?

Some have speculated that the giant tides of the Late Hadean might have facilitated the origin of life on Earth.

John Tillman
Reply to  David Middleton
March 24, 2020 7:30 pm


Missed that one.

Steve Reddish
Reply to  David Middleton
March 25, 2020 4:51 pm

My photos of upheaval dome display strata in the “crater” sides. Since an impact crater would not have strata, I’m on the salt diapir side of the argument.


Steve Reddish
Reply to  David Middleton
March 26, 2020 10:18 am

I should have mentioned the strata I’m referencing are visible inside the inner depression that surrounds the central spire. These would not exist following a meteor impact big enough to create the outer depression.
Of course there are strata visible in the walls of the outer rim that make up the surrounding landscape. This would be the case for either process of formation.


Reply to  John Tillman
March 24, 2020 7:55 pm

Ok John.
According to what you know how old is Earth?

Plus or minus 5billion years is a huge error bar in a ~4 billion years!


John Tillman
Reply to  whiten
March 24, 2020 8:44 pm

The age of the Earth has narrow error bars, at 4.54 +/- 0.05 Ga.

Radiometric dating of meteorites, Moon rocks, the oldest outcrops on Earth and the physics of the Sun all support each other by independent checks.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 24, 2020 9:31 pm

Thanks John.

Sorry for my error.
I meant 0.5billion years error bars. Mea culpa.

But, I asked you for Earth’s age, not Moon’s.

As far as I can tell, and that is from kinda of more than a decade ago,
according to some geologists research, the oldest Earth rocks then found, in Australia if I recall it right, were some ~ 3.5 billion years old, to at most if you like it let’s say 4 billion years.
And according to this evidence the theory of Earth’s formation due to this huge rocks smashing in space incident stands as disproved and falsified, as at that age Earth is quite older than that fancy theory proposes… or at least that was the claim of these researchers then.

Do you know any other evidence from the Earth’s rocks that puts the Age of the Earth at 4.5billion years?

Again please leave the poor Moon out of this if you please.


John Tillman
Reply to  whiten
March 25, 2020 5:25 am

Few rocks on Earth date from the Hadean, but that’s to be expected. Our planet recycles rock. Earth’s surface was molten until about 4.4 Ga, then big parts of it were remeted down to 3.8 Ga, thanks to the apparent Late Heavy Bombardment.

We know the age of the solar system not just from dating meteorites but the physics of the Sun. Earth accreted out of the same protoplanetary disk as the asteroids from which come meteorites.

Given the oldest rocks we do have, you can work back from them to a cooling process starting around 4.5 Ga. Zircons show liquid surface water by 4.4 Ga. Thanks to high atmospheric pressure, boiling point would have been hotter than now.

Laws of Nature
March 24, 2020 6:39 pm

I doubt that the rate the moon drifts away was constant over time.. If you want to do the math, a gravitational slingshot with a particular assumption on the starting point seems like a good starting point to me!?


March 24, 2020 6:50 pm

The secret to successfully working from home is 1) make your bed in the morning and 2) put on a pair of pants. The post was a good one.

Reply to  David Middleton
March 24, 2020 7:21 pm

CHICOM-19…LOL…I have not heard that before….can I steal it?

Reply to  Latitude
March 24, 2020 10:17 pm

I’m rather fond of “Kung Flu.”

Reply to  jorgekafkazar
March 25, 2020 12:04 am

I favour the name Wuhan Flu, especially as it triggers SJW’s.

Reply to  jorgekafkazar
March 25, 2020 12:41 am

Flu Manchu.
Chuck Norris got Kungflu. Despite his age he’s fine.
The virus is not expected to live…..

Reply to  jorgekafkazar
March 25, 2020 11:44 am

My vote is for “ChiCom-19”!

And by the way, I sympathize with your patience with trolls, but at some point you have to remember: DNFTT . It’s like dealing with over-friendly ursines in the National Parks.

old construction worker
Reply to  jorgekafkazar
March 26, 2020 3:43 am

A cousin to the coronavirus is called Corona Long Neck Virus which infected Spring Breakers.

Reply to  Latitude
March 26, 2020 12:44 pm

If you ask first , it’s not called stealing !

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  rocdoctom
March 24, 2020 8:33 pm

#1 is highly optional. #2, sorta optional.

Alastair Brickell
March 24, 2020 6:52 pm

Thanks for this David,

I learn something new almost every day at WUWT:

“Early Proterozoic ( ~2,500 Ma) cyclic banded iron-formation in Western Australia, that may record submarine fumarolic activity triggered by earth tides…”

I had never realised that BIF banding was a result of tidal variations; presumably daily??

nw sage
March 24, 2020 6:52 pm

Has any consideration been given to the postulate that the initial ‘collision’? forming the earth-moon pair MAY have provided the original kinetic energy to place the moon in the lower orbit the older observations and calculations suggest? It could as well have provided the rotational energy the earth now contains – or not?

Ron Long
March 24, 2020 6:57 pm

Good posting, David. I think when geology students understand uniformitarianism they are ready to start understanding other aspects of geology and paleontology. I used this principle to get visiting geologists ready to understand sedimentation in the Mesozoic Basin of Argentina, to wit: I would stop at a river crossing and look at the recent flood record, sand bars, pseudo bouma cycles, climbing ripples in overbank facies, woody debris, and even rib bones from barbecues. This last was interesting because you could tell if the ribs were cut by a butcher shop (saw marks in one direction) or by home sawing (saw marks back-and-forth). Then into the Neuquen Basin to find all of the facies and even fossilized dinosaur rib fragments with arcuate carnivore (tyrannisaurus relatives) teeth marks.

John Tillman
Reply to  Ron Long
March 24, 2020 7:26 pm

Very distant tyrannosaur relatives, in that they’re both averostran tetanuran theropods. The top predators of Early Cretaceous South America were giant carnosaur relatives of Jurassic allosaurs. Tyrannosaurs are monstrously scaled up coelurosaurs.

By the Late Cretaceous, abelisaurs, descendents of Jurassic ceratosaurs, ruled the southern continents.

No one.
March 24, 2020 7:01 pm

Of course radioactive decay is an immutable constant. Voyager told me.

Juan Slayton
March 24, 2020 7:03 pm

… the modern recession rate is anomalously high….

Aw, come on Mr. Middleton, don’t leave me in suspense. What are the hypotheses that could explain this anomaly? : >)

Reply to  David Middleton
March 24, 2020 8:24 pm

Hmm. Looks like I need to dive down yet another world-building research rabbit hole.

Since the majority of the kinetic energy is dumped into the Earth’s core and mantle, I was assuming that major changes in the recession rate are driven by axial wandering (and, to a lesser extent, viscosity variations as radioactives are concentrated and dissipated).


John Tillman
Reply to  Juan Slayton
March 24, 2020 7:39 pm

The Moon’s average recession rate since its formation has been 2.17±0.31 cm/year. The current high rate may be due to near resonance between natural ocean frequencies and tidal frequencies.

S. Hutchinson
Reply to  Juan Slayton
March 24, 2020 9:35 pm

Bretz floods?

John Tillman
Reply to  S. Hutchinson
March 25, 2020 5:38 am

Catastrophic geologic events are now recognized as a common but episodic feature of present, observable processes, so encompassed under the principle of uniformity. Even Lyell admitted as much.

Bretz however did meet objection because geologists of his day still interpreted catastrophism as in opposition to uniformitarianism. Also, regional floods might have smacked too much of biblical myth for their taste.

But today ice dam outwash floods at various scales are considered observed, ongoing processes. Uniformitarianism isn’t just for gradual erosion and deposition anymore. So are intermittent cosmic impacts.

John Tillman
March 24, 2020 7:17 pm

I assume you refer to Step Canyon, formed by a mudslide after an earthquake in 1982. It isn’t much of a canyon, as it’s about 65 feet deep, vs. around a mile for the real Grand Canyon.

Only a creationist would make such a baseless comparison. You’re not even comparing apples with oranges, but fruit with nuts, if that. The debris fields around Mt. St. Helens are made up of uncompacted, unconsolidated rocks and gravels, ash and mud, plus the remains of pyroclastic flows. All this sits loosely atop one other on steep slopes, mostly unprotected by any plant cover, especially so soon after the May 1980 eruption. The area gets about ten feet of precipitation per year, a prescription for rapid erosion. The Grand Canyon, it should be needless to say, is different. Its basement rocks are Precambrian, some 1.7 billion years old.

This extensive geological feature cuts through layers of limestone, sandstone, shale and metamorphic granite, a mile down from its rim to the Colorado River. These rocks are much more resistant to erosion than the unconsolidated debris fields of Mt. St. Helens. Their rates of erosion are much too slow for the Canyon to have formed in 6000 years, or even 60,000 or 600,000. Uranium-lead dating shows that it is at least six million years old, but 60 million is probably more like it, possibly longer.

On the basis of radiometic dating the recent (Cenozoic) lava flows at the very top are around 1.3 million years old. Because they flow over the lip of the Canyon, they must have been laid down after it formed. It was cut at rates of between 180 and 1300 feet per million years, depending upon stratum hardness and stream flow.

There is zero evidence for “intelligent design” in DNA, and all the evidence in the world against it. The replication systems of prokaryotes, and even more so eukaryotes, are such Rube Goldberg apparatuses that only an intensely idiotic designer would have concocted it.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 4:39 am

I can’t think of a much more Entropic process than the formation of life and the multitude of variations. Very Chaotic.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 4:33 pm

With all due respect, John, stick to Geology. That last paragraph reveals your lack of understanding of cell biology if you actually believe what you wrote. Zero evidence of intelligent design? What have you been smoking? Or are you just really angry at a God that you claim doesn’t exist?

John Tillman
Reply to  Eric
March 25, 2020 6:29 pm

Just the facts. There is no evidence of intelligent design. If you imagine that such exists, please provide it.

My background is not geology but biology. I welcome your evidence for design, since no one else has been able to offer any, including the perpetrator of ID, Behe.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 26, 2020 4:54 am

John, you are either delusional or willfully blind if you believe that statement. The evidence is all around us both on a macro and micro scale. Just keep repeating your mantra and go to your safe space and you will be ok..

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 26, 2020 5:26 am

Rather than repeating your delusional mantra, please do as I asked and present what you imagine to be evidence of intelligent design. You won’t because you can’t.

All the evidence in the world shows idiotic design.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 26, 2020 5:31 am

Please provide instances of ID on micro and macro scale, so that I can show how they’re not examples of intelligence. Then I’ll provide cases of intensely stupid “design”.

Thanks in advance.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 26, 2020 6:03 am

A water molecule, any living eukaryotic cell, a living cheetah, a star. Volumes have been written and more new volumes could be written about these things, how they scream “design” and how almost everything about them had to have been a certain way or existence and life would have been impossible. If the designer and the design are so “idiotic”, why is life still around after over a billion years? Surely it would all have been reduced to the dustbin of entropy millions of years ago if it were so “idiotic”. Sorry, but I am leaning towards my former hypothesis about your mental state rather than the latter.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 26, 2020 10:22 am

None of those is an example of design. Please explain how any of them could not have occurred without supernatural intervention.

We live in a universe in which elements above hydrogen are able to form. Why does that require a Creator? The God hypothesis can’t be tested, whereas competing hypotheses, such as multiverses, theoretically could be. Indeed, some cosmologists think they’ve found evidence to support it.

Stars form because our universe has hydrogen and gravity. No magic required. Cheetahs evolved from slower ancestors, but are themselves now endangered. The North Amerian equivalent did die out, which is why pronghorns are so fast, without any predator which can run them down.

Please cite these volumes which make a scientific case for the existence of God. You can’t, because there isn’t one. And, according to at least mainstream Protestant theology, that’s the way God wants it. There’s also a strain in Catholic theology favoring the Hidden God. If His existence is so easily “proven” by reason and evidence, then of what value is faith?

Life has persisted because the conditions for its existence have continued. Life is probably inevitable under these conditions, ie liquid water, energy sources and the needed elements.

Virtually every feature of every organism shows idiotic design, because evolution works with what it has. No divine intervention is evident. On the contrary, life has endured upon the Earth by finding ways of being just good enough and getting better adapted to its environment, not by being perfectly designed. Even so, most species go extinct without leaving daughter species.

The human foot is idiotically designed because it evolved from a grasping foot. A sophomore civil or mechanical engineering student could do much better. Only a moron would design human gonads to arise in the chest, ie in the fish position, from whence they have to descend into the lower abdomen, and in male mammals, out of it, leaving behind easily herniated holes. What kind of incompetent or sadistic designer would let lemurs and lorises make their own vitamin C, like most mammals, but deny this ability to tarsiers, monkeys and apes, like us? Why afflict only some primates with scurvy, but not all or none of them? Diet isn’t an excuse, since the prosimians are herbivores, tarsiers are insectivores and monkeys and apes are herbivores or omnivores.

I could go on, detailing such idiotic design from every lineage of organisms. Design is a delusion, based upon ignorance of reality.

Still waiting for those instances showing intelligent design.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 26, 2020 2:29 pm


Please study the history of biology. Your idea of the perfection of creation in the great chain of being was already shown false over 200 years ago,

Even Thomas Jefferson was forced late in life to realize that extinction was a fact.

John Tillman
March 24, 2020 7:18 pm

The fact that you’re impervious to fact, reason, evidence and reality pretty much says it all.

March 24, 2020 7:26 pm

The moon goes around the Earth and causes tides and stuff. Those processes use up some energy. So, over billions of years of slowly draining energy, why doesn’t the Moon spiral into the earth instead of going away from it?

Reply to  commieBob
March 24, 2020 7:53 pm

The moon creates a tidal bulge. It takes no energy to create a tidal bulge, that’s just the effect of gravity. Then the rotation of the earth drags that tidal bulge in the direction of it’s rotation, always ahead of the moon. The mass of the oceans, being ahead of the moon in it’s orbit creates a pull on the moon that causes it to accelerate. At the same time the friction between the earth and the tidal bulge slows down the Earth’s rate of rotation.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  commieBob
March 24, 2020 8:57 pm

“The moon goes around the Earth”

Can you show how that looks from a vantage point in space high above this pair?

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
March 25, 2020 12:44 am

They both orbit the centre of mass, being pedantic.

Reply to  commieBob
March 24, 2020 9:33 pm

Initial conditions determine if the tidal effect is one of acceleration (transferring the primary’s rotational energy into the secondary’s orbit) or deacceleration (transferring energy from the secondary’s into the primary’s rotation). The boundary is synchronous orbit, if the secondary starts out above, it gets pumped further away, if below, it spirals into the primary.

Reply to  LarryD
March 25, 2020 1:12 am

Thank you. The energy required to boost the Moon’s orbit is stolen from the Earth’s rotation. That reminds me of how an electric motor works. Hmmm. I wonder if the moon has anything to do with the Earth’s magnetic field. Apparently so. OMG, I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole.

John Tillman
Reply to  commieBob
March 25, 2020 4:44 am

Yup. To restart Mars’ geodynamo, we need to move a large asteroid into orbit around it.

The Moon’s mass is one percent Earth’s, while Mars is hundreds of times more massive than even Ceres, so the asteroid will have to be closer to Mars than is the Moon to Earth.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 8:27 am

Now *there’s* an idea! Actually jumpstarting the magnetic field of Mars! What are the chances of something like that working?

Thanks, John, for that, and all the other very interesting information you contribute on so many subjects. It is much appreciated.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 9:59 am

You’re welcome!

Glad you find comments worth reading.

I don’t know. Mars’ core might be beyond reviving. But maybe we could equip Venus with a moon by moving Mercury. With a magnetic field, it might be able to hold onto hydrogen and build up some water. With water, the scorching planet might start tectonics, burying its abundant CO2 to achieve a thinner, nitrogen-dominated atmosphere, albeit still thicker than ours. Spinning faster would also cause its temperature to drop.

March 24, 2020 7:46 pm

Two problems with your claim.
1) There’s a big difference between digging a trench in the soil around Mt. St. Helens and carving through rock.
2) There’s a known source of water for the feature on St. Helens. There is no source of water capable of generating enough water to carve the Grand Canyon in a mater of days. Beyond that, the St. Helens feature is a single canyon, the Grand Canyon is a system of a major canyon with numerous side canyons. A single flood could not create such a feature.

John Tillman
Reply to  MarkW
March 24, 2020 8:01 pm

The GC has also been dammed at various times in its history. Some of its rocks are very hard. Various strata are also missing from its column. It includes rocks laid down both under seas and on land.

It clearly required millions to tens of millions of years to cut.

Reply to  MarkW
March 25, 2020 11:34 am

When you consider a short-lived, catastrophic flood, think of the channeled scablands of southeastern Washington. During the Ice Ages, there were repeated cataclysmic floods as the ice dams creating a glacial lake would melt. But you didn’t get canyons. You got a landscape with all the soil scoured off down to the rocks.

Steve Reddish
Reply to  Ellen
March 25, 2020 5:17 pm

Aren’t the coulees canyons? Isn’t Dry Falls an example of a rapidly carved canyon?


John Tillman
Reply to  Steve Reddish
March 25, 2020 6:35 pm

IMO a coulee is a ravine, not a canyon.

But nomenclature doesn’t matter. Clearly the Grand Canyon was not created rapidly, by a flood or earthquake, but over millions of years.

Creationists invented the fake name “Little Grand Canyon” for Step Gulch or Canyon downstream from Mt. St. Helens. Creationism relies upon telling lies to the gullible, disposed to fall for them.

Steve Reddish
Reply to  Steve Reddish
March 26, 2020 10:33 am

Ravines are defined as eroded in unconsolidated sediment and silt, basically large gullies. Grand Coulee is carved 900 feet deep out of basalt bedrock.

John Tillman
Reply to  Steve Reddish
March 26, 2020 12:59 pm


Grand Coulee formed as a result of repeated outburst floods. Basalt is easily eroded, as shown by the Columbia Gorge and many other features in my native region.

Nobody knows how many times waterfalls of super Niagara volume worked away on the Grand Coulee, but certainly dozens. The figure of 70 such ice dame breaks has been suggested. And that’s just for the last glaciation. We’ve had 2.6 million years’ worth of NH glaciation for the Columbia Basin flood basalts to have been eroded.

March 24, 2020 7:47 pm

So you have no interest in any data that doesn’t support the position you wish to take?

John Tillman
Reply to  MarkW
March 24, 2020 7:58 pm

Precisely. Why comment here with no intention of replying?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  John Tillman
March 24, 2020 8:32 pm

Some people just can’t let go, lest their world come crashing down on top of them.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 5:26 am

So it would seem.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 8:42 am

To be fair, I have the same feeling regarding some atheists.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 9:47 am

In my experience, most atheists won’t say that they are 100% positive that there is nothing like a God. Even the most famous atheist, Dawkins, admits that, as a scientist, he can’t be sure that God doesn’t exist. He’s 99.9% certain, but, since the God conjecture isn’t a testable hypothesis capable of being shown false or confirmed, he can’t categorically state that there is no such Being. Maybe you know some atheists who are absolutely sure that there is no Creator, rather than technically being agnostics.

This differs from young earth creationists, who are 100% sure that God exists, because the Bible told them so. They ignore or try to explain away the glaringly obvious errors and contradictions in the Bible, written, edited and copied by fallible men.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 3:03 pm

Maybe the atheists you have dealt with aren’t the same one’s I’ve been dealing with.
I remember one who declared that believing that God could have played a role in evolution is no different from believing that the earth is 5000 years old.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 6:26 pm


Well, just goes to show that creationists have no monopoly on brain dead.

Easy to show that earth is closer to five billion than 5000 years old. The God hypothesis, to include intervention in life on Earth and human history cannot be confirmed nor shown false.

Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 8:53 pm

John, two examples of the type of atheist that I was referring to have cropped up in the latest COVID-19 article.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 26, 2020 5:23 am

I used to tell fundamentalist college students that you can inject God into the histories of the universe and life on Earth at any point you want. But it’s the role and goal of science to seek natural explanations for observations of nature.

Looking for possible supernatural interventions and miracles is not a scientist’s job, as Behe’s career or lack thereof so amply shows. Instead of hatching anti-scientific ID to replace creationism, he should have investigated how bacterial flagella evolved. Working that out offers new antibacterial pathways.

March 24, 2020 7:50 pm

It is not likely earth has had a constant rate of entropy, so I would expect mass and gravitational effects would have not been consistent either.

Jean Parisot
March 24, 2020 8:04 pm

Science starts with observations (what we know) and then works to form hypotheses to explain the observations. The hypotheses are then tested to see if they can become scientific theories.

What wizardry is this, science is building models with spaghetti code, hidden data, and strict adherence to consensus. Multiple working hypothesis, bullsh_t science should be settled.

Seriously, the worst misunderstandings of uniformitarianism are those in the climatology who confound it into a justification for the consensus hivemind

Reply to  Jean Parisot
March 24, 2020 11:30 pm

When a catastrophe is another example of Uniformitarianism, then the word no longer has any meaning beyong “natural process,

What natural processes on earth are not examples of Uniformitarianism?

J Mac
March 24, 2020 8:16 pm

A truly fascinating topic, David! I really enjoyed reading this trip though lunar tidal influenced sedimentation, to look a few billion years into the past and work out the temporal orbital mechanics of both moon and sun. I’ve gained a new perspective and and an ancient perspective! Thanks for that!

J Mac
Reply to  J Mac
March 24, 2020 9:14 pm

Dang! S/B “…of both moon and earth…”
Brain/hand disconnectia – Ugh!

Len Werner
March 24, 2020 8:29 pm

Aw darn.

For my Master’s thesis in the 70’s I ran a bunch of Rb/Sr dates; now they all have to be re-calculated because the years were shorter? Might be important, some were right around the Permo-Triassic boundary.

And I suppose now we have to calculate whether a closer moon and different earth rotational rate could have affected continental land masses, formation and break-up of Pangea, and pole-ward migration of continents over time. I think I see some excellent thesis projects.

(I’m way too old.)

Reply to  David Middleton
March 25, 2020 8:51 am

The same process that is moving the moon away from the earth also operates between the earth and the sun. Of course it’s billions of times weaker.
The sun is also getting lighter as hydrogen gets fused into helium.

All in all, the earth’s orbit has probably increased by a few hundred miles compared to 4 billion years ago.

Jeff Alberts
March 24, 2020 8:35 pm

“Hat tip to hiskorr for his (or her) comments.”

Can’t forget the “its”.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
March 24, 2020 10:24 pm

Just don’t let me catch you saying, “it’s.” 🙂

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  jorgekafkazar
March 25, 2020 8:03 am

You should know me better than that 😉

Jeff Alberts
March 24, 2020 8:36 pm

“99.9936% of Dallas County does not have CHICOM-19 and 99.9998% of us haven’t died from it.”

All of the inhabitants of Dallas Counter have been tested?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  David Middleton
March 25, 2020 8:04 am

Right, which means you can’t make the statment “99.9936% of Dallas County does not have CHICOM-19” with any seriousness. You just don’t know.

Curious George
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
March 25, 2020 7:56 am

Time to upgrade to COVID-20 Pro?

John Tillman
Reply to  Curious George
March 25, 2020 10:16 am

RNA viruses bring out upgrades with disturbing frequency.

They put hardware and software developers to shame.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 3:13 pm

Nucleic Acid computing has long been contemplated.

But more to Curious George’s point about next season’s possible genetic shifts in coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)—the virus that causes COVID-19, as the virus tries to “upgrade” itself.

Our adaptive immune system consists of two arms, the humoral response (the antibody response of B-cells) and the mostly cytotoxic response of T-cells. The coronavirus as an RNA virus easily undergoes antigenic drift in its structural surface proteins mainly because of strong immune pressure selection from the humoral immune response of the antibodies that bind the virus surface proteins with very high affinity (like glue) to inactivate the virus and blocks its ability to uncoat its RNA package into a cell’s cytosol. By slecting for slightly altered surface patterns the virus can greatly reduce or eliminate the stickiness (affinity) of antibodies that would otherwise neutralize it.
The humoral immune responses of intact immune systems are usually poly-clonal (meaning many different pattern specificities) globulin (Ig) antibodies produced by complex dance of affinity-matured B-cells and their differentiated daughter cells called plasma cells. This is the antibody/humoral immune memory response. These B-cells and plasma cells then continue to crank-out large amounts of Ig (immunoglobulins, mostly gamma globulins, but also some A-globulins) for months to years to maybe several decades to protect against future infection by that same pathogen. Usually there are only one or several highly dominate (immunodominant) IgG-pathogen patterns recognized, so that the virus can evolve new surface patterns to then re-infect next season as a slightly surface altered version of its previous self, but… our immune system has an Ace-up the sleeve to use… the cytotoxic T-cell response from a memory pool of virus patterns poised to recognize very highly conserved viral patterns if they should re-occur, patterns that the virus cannot easily change. Our memory T-cell response helps to ensure the next re-infection by a drifted virus quickly be attacked and shutdown within a few days. So the secondary infection with an antigen-drifted coronavirus will be shorter-lived and likely much less severe, or even noticed at all by the infected host because the memory T-cell response to conserved coronavirus interanl patterns is poised to restart under constant surveillance from memory T cells positioned throughout the body.
The T-cell response, both CD-8 and CD-4 T-cells, respond to much more highly conserved poly-peptide sequence (snippets of amino acids from the viruses structural and non-structural proteins) like the RNA-encoded polymerase and the protease proteins, that are extremely difficult for the virus to alter/change without severely degrading viral fitness. These memory T-cells disperse after the primary infection to sites throughout the body and in the lymphatic lymph nodes, survellianign constantly for a secondary viral challenge, ready to attacks infected cells with much greater speed than the original primary infection. All corona viruses (the 4 common seasonal cold cornaviruses and this SAR-CoV-2 virus) use similar or identical non-structural proteins for polymerase functions (polymerases are enzymes that string together individual nucleic acids (A,U,G, and C) to make long strands of poly-RNA), and protease protein that specifically cleaves the poly-protein made by the positive strand viral RNA after it is translated (tmanufactured a protein from the RNA code sequence by the ribosomes.

Thus, this T-cell memory experience to highly conserved coronavirus non-structural polypeptides is a leading candidate hypothesis to explain why so many people have symptom-less or few symptom infections by SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The asympotmless infected (positive result from very sensitive PCR testing) simply may have had a somewhat more recent related-coronavirus cold than those who present more serious symptoms. This hypothesis also strongly explains the age-related nature of the increasing severity of the COVID-19 pathologies with increasing. As we age, our memory T-cell responses, primed in our youth, may had faded. That waning T-cell memory along with the naive T cell repertoire with ever shortened chromosomal telomeres, is less able to replicate and thus respond (produce many copies of itself) to fighting the infection (identifying and killing infected cells before they can release more virus).

John Tillman
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 26, 2020 1:47 pm


Worth waiting for.

We all have the waiting problem. It seems that comments posted closed to the sweep period appear soon, but those late in the approval cycle, not so much.

John Tillman
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 26, 2020 1:50 pm

Great, highly informed comment.

But may I plead for more paragraphs?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Curious George
March 25, 2020 3:15 pm

A long, but detailed comment of mine is stuck in moderation because it extensively uses the “k” word. Thanks for any assist here.

Stuck in moderation: comment-2947285


Joe Crawford
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
March 25, 2020 9:40 am

A slight correction: “99.9936% of Dallas County does not have confirmed CHICOM-19 and 99.9998% of us haven’t died from it.”

March 24, 2020 8:38 pm

Mr. Middleton, John Tillman mentioned “giant tides of the Late Hadean.” Could you discuss the tide question in the early history of Earth? I imagine them to be horrendous, perhaps thousands of feet high, crashing ashore twice or thrice per day or more. Is there geological evidence of such tides?

John Tillman
Reply to  DHR
March 24, 2020 9:50 pm

Twice per day then as now, but the day was shorter, so less time between tides. However the Moon receded quickly at first, and Earth’s day lengthened rapidly. By the time Earth cooled enough for water to condense on its surface, the Moon was already well on its way toward its present position.

At the Hadean-Archean boundary, 4.0 Ga, the Moon might have perhaps reached 80% of its current distance, so that ordinary tides would have been in the Bay of Fundy class, but not 1000 feet high and crossing continents at supersonic speeds. Still you wouldn’t want to fall asleep on the beach with your oxygen tank.

John Tillman
Reply to  David Middleton
March 25, 2020 4:25 am

Yup. The most giant tides were in the early magma ocean.

John Tillman
Reply to  DHR
March 25, 2020 10:29 am

Although not everyone agrees that the Moon receded that rapidly during the Hadean. This paper, based upon the Moon’s too large equatorial bulge, concludes that it might have receded only some 32 Earth radii by the end of the Hadean, vs. ~60 now.

Formation of the Lunar Fossil Bulges and Its Implication for the Early Earth and Moon

The authors speculate that Earth’s liquid water was then covered in ice, to account for the apparent lack of truly gigantic tides.

March 24, 2020 8:47 pm

Hi David
This old geo has been working at home since 1980.
It rocks!

March 24, 2020 8:47 pm

On the topic of Mount St Helens I would add a couple of personal observations. One is that for a smallish volcano this was a damn hot event. I observed the first big event from about 60 miles away, near Hood River, and aside from the massive plume of steam and ash (over 60,000 feet) there was a constant barrage of lightening within the exhaust column about10 a second. These strikes were not hitting the ground, but provide some measure of the static built up by ash friction in the exhaust column. The second observation is that the mountain had significant summit snow/ice cap and to the NNW a large glacier, Forsyth (which I had climbed several times in the 70’s). The summit ice cap and Forsyth would have all melted in minutes after the initial blow-out and turned to steam that entered the column or flooded down the glacier path carving the canyon. This happened in a matter of seconds, minutes and hours due to large amount of snow and ice, tremendous pressure and extreme heat.

John Tillman
Reply to  Rouster
March 24, 2020 9:17 pm

I viewed the eruption from NW Portland, then in early June flew over the devastated zone aboard a WAARNG Chinook. Unforgettable scenes.

A former college student of mine was killed in the May eruption.

March 24, 2020 8:55 pm

…and how does the accumulation of water over the billions of years affect the moon-ocean resonance?
Is there not also tidal resonances with the earth’s molten core?

Reply to  noaaprogrammer
March 25, 2020 3:09 pm

Once the moon became tidally locked, tidal resonances on the moon wouldn’t have been possible.

Chris Hanley
March 24, 2020 8:57 pm

… I was working in the shorts and tee-shirt that I had slept in, wearing slippers. I could get used to this …

comment image

March 24, 2020 8:59 pm

So they found the lizard people = “The problem was that upon close inspection, these flood victims had long tails and sharp claws.”.

Clyde Spencer
March 24, 2020 9:05 pm

First block quote, “… a lost closer to Earth .. ”

Other than that, I’m sure that Jimmy Hutton would be pleased.

March 24, 2020 9:18 pm

Loss of atmospheric gas density accounts for an increase in the escape speed of the moon.

It IS that simple. The current velocity is not original.

By the way, the Millennium Falcon completed the Kessel Run in less than five hours because it had a massively powerful drive that allowed it to delve deeper into the tidal spaces off the sides of the known space-way. It was supposed to push barges in hyperspace.

So now you know George Lucas was smarter than you too.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Prjindigo
March 25, 2020 8:10 am

12 parsecs is 5 hours?

Reply to  Prjindigo
March 25, 2020 3:11 pm

“Loss of atmospheric gas density accounts for an increase in the escape speed of the moon.”

More explanation please.

March 24, 2020 10:23 pm

“These records in stone indicate that one billion years ago, a day on Earth lasted only 18 hours, there were 13-plus months in a year, and about 481 days in a year!”

So what does this say about the age of the Universe, currently estimated at 13.7 billion years old. Is that age of 13.7 billion years based upon current time keeping as a present year is equal to one orbit of the Earth around the Sun in 365.25 days, (with 24 hours in a day) or all of the averaged time that the good Earth spent revolving around the Sun at the orbital time that would have been in effect at the time and changing over vast periods of time including all the time before there was a present Earth orbiting the Sun as our present time keeper? Just a billion years ago, there was 481 days in a year and a day only lasted 18 hours.

It would seem to me that the current 13.7 billion years old could be out by a factor of 25% younger if just accounting for time keeping relativity since the last billion years. Please explain, if there is a credible explanation? Or is 13.7 Billion years old for the Universe just a WAG or fudged to try and match current time keeping which is just the arbitrary orbital time with a variable speed spinning of our planet while orbiting around the Sun which has also been highly variable over vast periods of ‘time’? Given the Earth, Moon and present Sun are all only about 4.54 billion years old.

March 24, 2020 10:33 pm

1st – thank you for an extremely interesting post in the current covid climate
2nd – I just wish you’d choose to use either metric or the Yankee doodle dandy units so comparisons are easier rather than converting from miles to kilometres.

for example, cm is metric but miles is old school for me – as an Aussie – we’ve converted to the metric systems
thus suggest if using cm units (metric) – please use kilometres rather than miles and I know u guys spell kilometres – kilometers – goodness sorry maybe it’s google classroom that has exhausted me today

cheers to all

March 24, 2020 10:50 pm

Great reading. I thank you for that and have emailed the link to someone I would like to get hooked onto this site.

John Bruyn
March 24, 2020 11:30 pm

Point well made David. Uniformitarianism is what drives the issue of anthropogenic global warming too. What people are forgetting is that although the physics and the chemistry of the processes we observe today must be the same now as they were in the distant past, the rates at which they happen vary all the time. Earth having the 5th largest moon of the solar system while having just 0.2% of the planetary mass is quite anomalous. It would seem that the only process by which this could have happened is by Jupiter with its enormous gravity having pulled apart an antecedent planet and by doing so creating the inner solar system from the remnants, as well as the beginnings of Saturn.
Another point to be made is that the lunar orbit is changing all the time. Like most other things we’ve only been able to measure that for a short period of time, without knowing which part of the curve we are measuring. The facts that Earth currently has an equatorial rotational velocity of around 1,677 km/h and Venus has a reverse rotation of just 6 km/h suggest that the moon has everything to do with that. Jupiter and Saturn continuously vary the speed and distances of Earths orbits, vis-a-vis the speed of its rotation. I recently plotted Earth’s orbital anomalies. It shows that Earth’s orbits change dramatically over time and have changed enormously since the Appollo missions. All we can really do is to continue to make observations for a long enough period of time so we can recognise the respective cycles. Projecting short period trends of a curve is of little value.

Reply to  John Bruyn
March 24, 2020 11:59 pm

Current variations in the moons orbit are modelled by vulgar polynomial fits, frequently adjusted to observation. IAU would like to get back to deterministic modelling but so far this has been illusive.

IOW we fundamentally don’t understand it so we just curve fit for practical short term needs.

Reply to  John Bruyn
March 25, 2020 3:20 pm

Where did all of that come from?

There is no need for Jupiter to tear apart anything, current theories have the inner planets forming from gas and dust that existed in the inner solar system. They lost most of their gas when the sun started fusing and blasted most of the gas out of the inner solar system.

The only way for Jupiter to tear apart a planet would be for that planet to get within Jupiter’s Roche limit. Any object that close would have remained in the orbit of Jupiter.

While the gravity of Jupiter can influence the orbit of the earth, there is no way for it to influence the rotation rate of the earth. It’s physically impossible.

There have been “enourmous” changes in the orbit of the earth since the Appollo (sic) missions? And not a single astronomer (or calendar maker) noticed?????

Doug Huffman
March 25, 2020 2:04 am

Rhymite; 4 occurrences. Rhythmites; 16 occurrences. Spiel-checker induced error?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Doug Huffman
March 25, 2020 8:14 am

I noticed that too. It looks like David always used the former, the quoted texts always used the latter.

melbourne resident
Reply to  Doug Huffman
March 25, 2020 11:56 pm

Damn I was about to point that out as well – says Old Geologist!

Moderately Cross of East Anglia
March 25, 2020 2:36 am

Great posting David, thank you.

Has the term “punctuated equilibrium” fallen out of fashion or did I miss something?

John Tillman
Reply to  Moderately Cross of East Anglia
March 25, 2020 4:34 am

PE was a Marxist ideological construct with no valid place in science. That evolution occurs at different paces in different times and places was understood long before Gould and his coconspirator tried to hijack biology for “Critical Studies”. His secular religion led him fundamentally to misunderstand the Cambrian Radiation, for instance. He has not worn well.

Joel O’Bryan
March 25, 2020 4:12 am

The shelter in place order is not a legally enforceable mandate that people can’t assemble in public if they so chose to do so, or be out and about if they so choose. The First Amendment has NOT been suspended, much to socialist Democrat’s displeasure. Quarantine orders for individuals can be made by public health authorities and legally enforceable when an individual has a medically diagnosed contagion. This has been done in the past with infections such as TB. Typhoid Mary ignored legally enforceable “do not work in food services” and spent the rest of her life in forced quarantine for her behavior endangering public safety in the pre-antibiotic era, as another example. But these are individual orders once a person is diagnosed with a contagion. As such, general “quarantine” orders for masses of undiagnosed people are unenforceable. They are merely recommendations.

Juan Slayton
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
March 25, 2020 9:08 am

I, too, have been wondering about the first amendment right to assemble. I think yours is the first mention of this I have seen. Not sure what our judicial system would say if some trouble maker were to make a legal challenge to restrictions being arbitrarily imposed right and left by politicians at all levels. Even though I hope the public complies, if only to be able to assess, after the fact, how effective social distancing really is, I have real concern about the precedent that is being set.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Juan Slayton
March 25, 2020 10:57 am

All those college kids in Florida last week on the beaches, nothing the cops could do. The cities can close parks they own and operate of course. They can force businesses that need license and inspection to close temporarily to public access. But they cannot, in the US, deny the right of the People to peaceably assemble. No quarantine order of un-diagnosed people is enforceable by law enforcement.
No other country has 1st Amendment guarantees of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition though. The Libs and authoritarian mindset of Big Government types hate the US 1st Amendment, and even more the 2nd Amendment as the final check on an abusive government put in place to protect the 1st. The men who wrote the Bill of Rights understood the need for those rights reserved to the People, both in concept and in practice.

The fact that the “shelter in place” order “exempted religious gatherings” is both an affront to the first amendments guarantees of religious freedom and peaceable assembly. The government has no right or authority to either “permit/grant” or “deny” those assembly rights reserved to the People.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Juan Slayton
March 25, 2020 12:40 pm


If you stop and think about the viral epidemic situation we are now in, we have now governments across the spectrum in the US, several states, many counties and municipalities have declared public health emergencies over COVID-19 cases and issued “remain/shelter in place” orders to the masses who are un-infected/un-diagnosed for the SARS-CoV2 virus.
These cannot be legally enforceable in our Republic. If we allow those “public health and safety general orders” to be enforceable, then there would be no stopping an abusive government down the road.

Climate Change: We see everyday how the Socialist-Totalitarians are using junk climate change science as a Trojan Horse. They want governments to declare a fake “climate crisis” to empower more political power grabs. All they would have to do next then is declare climate change is public health crisis to begin suspending 1st Amendment guarantees, like free speech and the right to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances. If they could do it for COVID-19 (the Right to peaceably assemble), then what would prevent the same for their fake climate crisis after declaring it poses an existential threat to humanity?

We see all the time totalitarian regimes like China and Russia, where those constitutional rights do not exist, and when the people try to do them anyway (protest and write on-line opinions in the press) the government sends in troops and police to crush them or uses the police powers of the State to make them disappear. Here in the US, the Left in their quest for total political power, would love to come after climate skeptic blogs like Anthony’s WUWT (here), or Tony Heller’s RealClimateScience blog and his videos exposing the climate shake-down scam of NASA/GISS and NOAA making intentioanl alterations to climate temperature records to try and keep up with junk climate model projections.
You can bet they (WUWT, RealClimateScience, and others) are on the Left’s radar, both in the US and at the UN to further their fake “climate crisis” Trojan Horse to acquiring raw power over the people of the Western democracies. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both openly stated their first day in office as US President would be to declare a “climate emergency” using the fake climate change alarmism. And if you don’t think a befuddled, feeble-minded, dementia-ridden Joe Biden wouldn’t be manipulated into the same declaration by his owners (Bloomberg and Soros) you’re being naive and foolish.

The same situation would exist for the 2nd Amendment if fake public crises could be contrived to suppress freedoms reserved to the People by an abusive government. We see all the time the Leftists in this country want to declare gun violence as public health emergency/crisis, and thus order all privately held/owned guns turned-in (as happened in New Zealand last year and in Australia before that), in an order to suspend “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” All it takes is a properly conditioned public to think these are rights the Government has given to the People, rather than these are rights reserved to the People, and thus a place where the government shall not infringe.

The Democrats are desperate to grab total political power at the Federal level this November. They know they next 4 years are going to see the departure of at least 2 maybe 3 sitting Liberals on the Supreme Court. If Donald Trump , in their view, is allowed to replace them with jurists faithful to the written US constitution, then all their work of 40 years of subverting the US to Socialism will be set back by at least a generation. Their 40 years of efforts on the Trojan Horse climate scam will collapse if Trump is re-elected, they know that. Everything they have fought for is at stake, and that is why we cannot let this COVID-19 “shelter in place” orders to be publicly accepted as enforceable on a us. Use common sense. Avoid crowds voluntarily, wash your hands frequently, call your elderly mom and dad and talk, but don’t visit. Make those your common sense decisions, not the government’s forced on you.

Juan Slayton
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 25, 2020 3:01 pm

I agree with much of what you write. However, I think we are in danger of being called for being off-topic. Even though DM did kind of open the door by sharing his work-at-home experience. Since these political topics are now recurring, I think I’ll just go back and hide in the bushes until I spot the next target of opportunity.
js : >)

March 25, 2020 4:31 am

well done
Why not try whipping up a bit more racial hatred so the “Cletus’s ” can horse whip and stone a few Chinese back to “their” country.

There is no need to assign any country to any virus there is a more than adequate name for the disease covid-19
Spanish flu was not even Spanish!!!!!

Reply to  ghalfrunt
March 25, 2020 4:46 am

You dumb bugger. Do you even know what COVID-19 Stands for? You are right though as the Spanish flu had very little to do with Spain apart from them being honest about the reporting of it.

John Tillman
Reply to  ghalfrunt
March 25, 2020 4:57 am

But the Asian flu was Asian and the Hong Kong flu as well. MERS came from the Middle East. They’re just labels of origin. No ethnic slur intended.

The Spanish flu was misnamed since neutral Spain was not under wartime censorship, so its press covered the outbreak. King Alfonso XIII’s serious sickness was widely reported.

Nobody knows for sure where and how the H1N1 pandemic arose, but it’s an avian flu.

John Tillman
Reply to  ghalfrunt
March 25, 2020 5:01 am

PS: We have the Chinese Communist Party to blame for the pandemic, due to its coverup and barring of Western researchers from Wuhan. ChiCom-19 is this justified, but IMO as a name for the virus Wuhan works. The disease isn’t a flu, so SARS-2 might fill that bill.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 9:26 am

I object to you using the term “Chinese” in front of “Communist Party.” It is racist of you to associate the Chinese ‘race’ with the derogatory “Communist Party.”

John Tillman
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
March 25, 2020 10:59 am

Can’t tell if your comment is meant to be facetious or not.

The Peoples’ Republic of China is a country, not a race. “Chinese” refers to China, the state, in this case, not to a group of people. China includes many subject ethnic groups besides the majority Han. Compare “American” citizen for citizen of the USA, for instance.

The ruling tyranny calls itself in English the Communist Party of China, commonly abbreviated CCP, for Chinese Communist Party, rather than CPC.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  John Tillman
March 28, 2020 5:47 pm

I’ll give you a hint as to whether it was sarcasm. Trump was accused of being racist for blocking travel from China.

John Tillman
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
March 25, 2020 11:19 am

In short “Chinese” is an adjective describing the Communist Party of the country China.

There are Labour Parties in countries other than Britain, hence, the British Labour Party.

Not racist. In any case, as noted, Chinese isn’t a “race”. In the biological sense, humanity has no races. We’re all genetically remarkably similar, much moreso than common chimps, though they’re limited to a swath of central Africa.

Ken Butcher
Reply to  John Tillman
March 27, 2020 7:13 am

[What’s our policy on posting blatant propaganda from Communist China? Leaving this post in “pending” for now for Charles or Anthony to decide. -mod]

“PS: We have the Chinese Communist Party to blame for the pandemic, due to its cover-up and barring of Western researchers from Wuhan.”

I am afraid you are repeating neocon globalist propaganda. I don’t blame you personally, as Western media have been saturated with it, and anyone who is not already monitoring non-MSM media on the topic is likely to think that what you said is uncontroversial – just as everyone in the West knows that ‘bat soup’ is part of Chinese cuisine, and might have been a vector for inter-species infection. In actual fact, bat-eating is practically unknown in China. True, there are videos of Chinese people eating bat soup, but those people are tourists, who are gingerly trying out a traditional local delicacy in their holiday destination. Ironically, considering the way that American media have been using the story to induce anti-Chinese disgust, that destination is usually the Pacific island nation of Palau, which is a US protectorate. And it turns out that many Chinese, having ordered the dish thinking that it is just a soup made with bat-meat, are so disgusted when presented with a whole bat that they send it back untouched. (Details at .)

The narrative that the Chinese were incompetent or nefarious in the early stages of the outbreak is equally unsubstantiated. It seems to be designed to deflect away from our rulers the blame for wasting the month or two that the discovery of the outbreak in Wuhan should have given us to prepare. ( .) With that warning, we should have been able to fight the epidemic even better than the Chinese, and prevent it becoming a pandemic. In fact, the Western reaction has been abysmal in comparison.

The Chinese proactively traced all possible contacts, and tested and quarantined them. In contrast, the USA has actually been forbidding concerned medics from testing suspected cases, instead restricting testing to those recently returned from China and to contacts of confirmed cases. (See – but the author is wrong about what happened in Wuhan. For the truth, see , especially section 12 and appendix 2. Sorry about the mentions of global warming – nobody can be expected to see through all of the fake narratives immediately.) This American policy mirrored an early Chinese mistake of only testing people who had visited the wet market, but it was left in place for weeks, rather than days. The result is that community infection is now rife throughout the West, but has been practically eliminated in China; Chinese people now fear Westerners as possible sources of infection. (Daniel Dumbrill, a Canadian living in Shenzhen, describes this here: . I don’t agree with his criticism of such fear of putative sources of infection – the Westerners who were avoiding Chinese people in January were rational and considerate of the population as a whole, while those who ‘virtue signalled’ by participating in a ‘hug a Chinese’ publicity stunt potentially spread the disease and killed people.)

In Wuhan, there was certainly some initial confusion, as might be expected when a novel disease first appears. Especially with hindsight, some people are open to criticism, for instance for not passing concerns up the hierarchy quickly enough. They have been disciplined. ( ) But there is zero genuine evidence of any organised ‘cover-up’. The ‘evidence’ presented in the NYT, Guardian etc. depends on lies of omission in detailing time-lines, confusion of epidemiological terminology, and outright lies of commission. (See . The article mentioned earlier gives further evidence, including a detailed timeline of events. A timeline of possibly connected events is given at .)

I admit to myself occasionally calling COVID19 ‘Wuflu’ as it is such a mellifluous name, but the practice of naming epidemics after their place of discovery has long been officially deprecated. (The 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, which killed up to 575 000 people, was not called ‘San Diego flu’.) This is partly for the politically-correct reason of avoiding stigmatisation, but mainly because it is so easy to get it wrong – ‘Spanish flu’ probably originated in Kentucky, and ‘San Diego flu’ in Mexico. The true source of a pandemic is often only definitively established long after the peak of the crisis, by detailed epidemiological study. Americans who insist on calling COVID19 the ‘Chinese virus’ or ‘ChiCom-19′ are demanding that such research is not needed; their narrative about its origin can be taken on trust, because, well, Americans never lie or make a mistake. In the real world, epidemics often turn out to have started in a small way many months before they are first noticed, and sometimes in a different country. New diseases can hide among the larger numbers of victims of similar old diseases for a long time as they gradually build up numbers, especially if the first few generations are among people with habits giving a low R0, or in a fairly isolated group of individuals who tend to have no, or limited, symptoms. (Healthy young soldiers or athletes, for instance.) Unless someone is proactively looking for new diseases (as the Chinese have been doing since SARS), the new disease may only be discovered when its exponential growth means it is no longer plausible to put its effects down to a particularly bad year for seasonal flu. Once the disease is identified and tests designed, it may then be hard to distinguish between an exponential increase in the disease and an exponential increase in testing, and therefore confirmed cases – though of course both will typically be occurring.

It is therefore perfectly plausible that the virus did not jump species to humans in Wuhan, but was brought to the city by one or more of the teams in the world military athletics games which were held there at about the time the virologists calculate the Wuhan infection probably started. It would then be discovered not because the outbreak there was initially more intense than in its place of origin, but because the Chinese are paranoid about SARS-like viruses, and Wuhan is a high-tech city which is the centre for research into them. The subsequent explosion in cases that initially overwhelmed Wuhan’s hospitals arose there, rather than at the origin, because of a high big-city R0 value, which becomes even higher at Chinese New Year, when everyone visits everyone.

The plausibility of this hypothesis is increased because the failure of the case-tracing which would normally have been expected to track down Patient Zero if he or she was a Wuhan resident. Also, it is known that five of the foreign athletes at the games came down with a serious fever, and were treated with chloroquine, in the belief that they had malaria. The treatment helped, which is consistent with the disease being non-pneumonial COVID19. (The Chinese informed all other nations’ health authorities that chloroquine was a promising treatment early this year; a month later the Americans proudly announced that they had discovered that chloroquine was a promising treatment.) Also, there are reports coming in from several parts of the world that a particularly nasty flu-like illness was going around very shortly after, simultaneously with, or even before the disease was detected in Wuhan. My wife and I had something that fitted the symptoms of the non-pneumonial form from mid-January to the end of the month. At the time we assumed it couldn’t be Wuflu, as it was more than seven months since we’d been in Wuhan, and nobody had suggested that the disease could have reached Britain from there in the short time since its supposed recent origin. Now, I am not so sure.

The Chinese have not officially said who they think brought the disease to Wuhan, nor (more-or-less equivalently) have they given the nationality of the sick soldier-athletes. Semi-officially, it’s the Americans. It is also rumoured that they have proof that the earliest (though not earliest-discovered) nexus of infection was not at the famous wet market, but at the Oriental Hotel, which is one (big) city block away from the market. It would be natural for guests at that hotel who wanted to sample the local colour to wander into the wet market. (I didn’t resist a similar temptation in Xi’an, and saw something somewhat similar inside a Walmart in Shanghai. Wet markets are far from the hell-holes presented in Western media.) Apparently the American team stayed at the Oriental hotel. Also, it seems, before leaving for Wuhan at least some of them trained at a facility close to Fort Detrick, Maryland. Which is the USA’s main bio-warfare facility. And which was temporarily closed down last August because of concerns about lax bio-security. To sum up, the Chinese strongly suspect that America’s attempt to popularise the name ‘China virus’ is intended to preclude the names ‘Maryland virus’ and ‘Detrick virus’. They think that the enforced American policy of testing only those recently returned from China and those who were contacts of confirmed cases was designed to guarantee that any epidemiological study based on American data would point to China as the source of infection. (Studies in other countries have tended to point the same way to begin with, as travellers from China were being tested preferentially. But more recently, there has been evidence that in many countries the bulk of the subsequent infections are descendants of varieties of the virus found in the USA but not in China. See, for instance, )

I am not committed to this account of the start of the pandemic. There are other candidate explanations, such as a species-jump in the wet market or somewhere else near Wuhan, accidental release of a bioweapon or of a research-tool from the Wuhan virology research facility (which is also quite close to the wet market), deployment of a bio-weapon against China by a foreign power, and deliberate release by China in the belief that their more cohesive society would be less damaged than would their more fractious Western rivals’. All explanations have problems. The question is very much open. Your terminology tries to close it prematurely. I suspect that similar terminology is being promoted in the USA for three reasons. To divert possible blame. To stoke hostility to China in order to promote a desired ‘decoupling’ of the two economies. And, judging by Senator Cotton’s ravings, to justify a selective default of America’s debts to China under colour of law.

Reply to  ghalfrunt
March 25, 2020 8:58 am

More projection from a socialist. Who’s surprised?

Once again, ghalfrunt is eager to prove to the world that it has nothing intelligent to say.

Steven Mosher
March 25, 2020 6:54 am

“Unfortunately, in geology, most hypothesis can only be tested by gathering more observations. This is why Chamberlin’s Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses is taught by many geology departments. For every given set of Earth Science observations, there are, almost invariably, multiple working hypotheses (non-uniqueness). As more observations are collected, some hypotheses will survive, others will have to be modified or discarded.”


J Mac
Reply to  David Middleton
March 25, 2020 10:15 am

Don’t mess with the consensus, David! The Climate Seance is Settled! };>)

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  David Middleton
March 25, 2020 12:55 pm

In case, the working hypotheses of geologic sciences have falsifiable predictions in them. Mainstream Climate Change science descended in the realm of junk science when it discarded falsification.

Tom Abbott
March 25, 2020 7:16 am

From the article: “Many of the world’s 190 confirmed impact craters”

David, I get a “404 (Page Not Found) Error” at that link.

I would love to see a world map of the locations of all these craters.

Thanks for this great article.

Len Werner
Reply to  Tom Abbott
March 25, 2020 8:11 am

Be creative–simply do a search for ‘earth impact database’.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Len Werner
March 26, 2020 4:52 am

There’s a map!

Including “database” in the search gave the results. Using just “earth impact” didn’t show anything useful as far a map, on the first page, anyway. Thanks.

March 25, 2020 7:38 am

covid=corona virus disease!
the virus defined by
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)

“Official statements by the Chinese government to the World Health Organisation reported that the first confirmed case had been diagnosed on 8 December. Doctors who tried to raise the alarm with colleagues about a new disease in late December were reprimanded. Authorities did not publicly concede there was human-to-human transmission until 21 January.”

So the world had from 21st January to prepare. On 12 march Trump still says US has it all controlled and it will go away!!!.

with this attitude would the US have been better prepared if they had known a month earlier?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  ghalfrunt
March 25, 2020 8:18 am

Any chance to bash Trump. You’re pathetic.

John Tillman
Reply to  ghalfrunt
March 25, 2020 8:40 am

Trump limited flights from China on January 31. The ChiCom regime which you so admire knew about the outbreak at least in November, but suppressed the news.

Had Trump been alerted sooner, he could have restricted flights on December 31 or earlier, saving the lives of the WA nursing home patients and others. He also could have ramped up test kit production and discovered the CDC’s tests’ flaws and its inability to meet demand as well as quality.

The Red Chinese government is responsible for deaths around the world.

Reply to  ghalfrunt
March 25, 2020 9:00 am

Are you actually claiming that the world should go on a war time footing everytime a disease is recognized as being able to pass from human to human.

Your pathetic attempts to pass the blame away from China are duly noted.

Chris Hoff
Reply to  ghalfrunt
March 26, 2020 8:17 am

That bring up the question, why would the Chinese government suppress information of a new dangerous pathogen? If it was simply a product of a naturally occurring mutation to an existing virus in the environment there’s no reason to suppress information. At the very least the proximity to a bio-weapons lab would have made them hedge on getting blamed.

John Tillman
Reply to  Chris Hoff
March 26, 2020 1:07 pm

1) They might want to suppress the news if the new virus was spawned in Wuhan wet markets.

2) But even more so if it escaped from a bioweapons lab.

Either way, the natural tendency of a Communist regime is to cover up and deflect blame.

John Tillman
Reply to  Chris Hoff
March 26, 2020 1:09 pm

PS: All governments have the CYA tendency. The difference in a totalitarian state is that there’s are no independent organs, such as a free press, to call BS on their lying Commie a$$es.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  John Tillman
March 28, 2020 5:52 pm

Yes, I wish we had a free press here in the US to call BS from the liberals. /sarc

March 25, 2020 8:48 am

Thank you, David, for a most informative response to my challenging post. It was the kind of information I was hoping for. Having spent many years dealing with satellite orbits and the forces necessary to modify them, I focused on the balance of forces necessary to achieve the current lunar recession rate. Briefly, I was delighted to find that the tidal bulge, caused by the gravitational force of the moon, and offset by the earth’s rotation, provided just the right energy transfer from the earth to the moon to cause the moon’s current precession and the earth’s slower rotation ( conservation of angular momentum, and all that). That being so, what would have happened in the past, when the moon’s gravitational force was larger (inverse square of the distance) and the rotational offset of the tidal bulge was increased. The result– disaster not too long ago (1.5 billion years).

The solution: science (observation) to the rescue! The tidal forces half a billion years ago were not nearly what we would expect them to be. Why would that be–let me count the ways. Let’s start ~20,000 years ago. The oceans 450 feet below current level, the continents bigger, ergo the tidal bulge much less than currently. For that matter, would there be any tidal effect at all during “iceball earth” periods? On the other hand, during ice-free periods, especially with a panghea single continent, the tidal effect must have been much greater than today. In short, we have no way of knowing the precise orbital history of the moon, except for occasions when we can determine the rotation of the earth (e.g., half a billion years ago- 484-day year) which allows us to calculate what the moon’s orbit must have been (energy conservation). Therefore, precession must have been highly variable in the past, and calculations such as “average precession” over an extended period have about as much utility as calculating the “average temperature” of the earth.

However, the conclusion that the moon could not long have existed in a stable orbit lower than 200,000 miles does have much to say about the theory of an impact origin of the moon.

Abiotic Hydrocarbon guy
March 25, 2020 9:43 am

David, thanks for an interesting post and you and I actually
agree on somethin. I had to verbalize Kung Flu several time
but I now use it.

Abiotic Hydrocarbon guy
March 25, 2020 10:03 am

Based on my very scientific experience with my yoyo, I always
assumed that orbital speed slowed as distance increased.

March 25, 2020 10:16 am

“Green et al., 2017 indicate that the modern recession rate is anomalously high, about twice the average of the Proterozoic Eon.”

AAAAHHHHHH!!!! Anthropomorphic moon recession! We’re all gonna die!!!!!!

March 25, 2020 10:28 am

David Middleton – My set of rocks arrived yesterday, and a lot of them do not look like I was imagining them from Press & Sievers. Looking forward to going back to the beginning of the book with the set in hand. Also looking forward to identifying some of the rocks around me. One thing I get from today’s post is how important cross bedding is. I will pay much more attention to that now.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  David Middleton
March 28, 2020 5:55 pm


Jerry Henson
March 25, 2020 10:40 am

Why did you censor me?

(You had ZERO posts approved, which automatically place you into the Moderation bin, I have approved two comments a minute ago, but under a different name than what you use here, which is a violation of board policy, don’t use your name again, use the other one to avoid trouble) SUNMOD

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Jerry Henson
March 25, 2020 12:49 pm

You might have used banned words.
Anthony has several words in his moderation filters that will send your comment lost to moderation. Two words I know will send your comment to the moderation bucket, “k1ll” and “m-ur der”, spelled correctly of course. You cannot even use the word “sk1ll” as the filter will catch that “k” word embedded in that commonly used word to refer to the ability of a weather model to be accurate.

Also using more than 4 URLs, or too much HTML markups in a comment will send your comment to moderation bucket and likely lost for hours, days, or forever until a moderator reviews it for approval.

John Tillman
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 25, 2020 1:32 pm

That’s some switch, that k!ll switch!

Ken Butcher
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
March 27, 2020 3:14 pm

The problem with that policy is that it disadvantages those who are arguing against a commonly-held position, and feel that they have to cite appropriate factual references in order to overcome the general assumptions on a topic. You end up encouraging lots of more light-weight conversational stuff instead.

For instance, my quip about Noether’s Theorem and perpetual motion machines (which frankly anyone could do without) appeared immediately. But I have almost given up hope of ever again seeing my long and heavily-referenced answer to John Tillman’s calumnies against China, which was infinitely more important. (John seems to be excellent on anything not China-related, but he seems like a different person once the topic of China pops up.)

P.S. I usually post here using my own name, but I occasionally forget and use the nic that I made up yonks ago for use on the ironically-named “Comment Is Free” facility on the Guardian. If that might count against me, I’ll be more careful in future. (Needless to say, I eventually got thrown off CIF for taking their name literally. No, come to think of it, it was worse than that. I was thrown off for posting facts, not commentary. The whole quote from their editor back in the time when the Guardian was an actual newspaper was “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. He must be turning in his grave, whether he is thinking about the first half of that sentence or the second.)

Ken Butcher
Reply to  Ken Butcher
March 28, 2020 8:59 am

It now transpires that Maatje Benassi, of the American Women’s cycling team at the World Military Games, is married to Matthew Benassi of Fort Detrick.

(But the significance of that statement will not be clear to readers here until my reply to John Tillman comes out of moderation, or it becomes the crucial fact in a major international conflict. Remember – you heard it here first.)

March 25, 2020 12:24 pm

Uniformitarianism works 95% of the time…..

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Sunsettommy
March 28, 2020 5:59 pm

That claim is right except when it isn’t.

March 25, 2020 1:28 pm

If the Moon is retreating from the Earth at 3.79 cm/yr, it will have less influence over the tides. Given that the sea level is reported as increasing at around 1/10 that rate, is there the chance that the Moon’s retreat is creating conditions that are misinterpreted, in whole or in part, as a change in sea level?

Reply to  commieBob
March 25, 2020 3:26 pm


Reply to  MarkW
March 25, 2020 6:30 pm

How far away do you think the Moon has to move in order to reduce peak tides by 1mm?

John Tillman
March 25, 2020 2:17 pm

PS: DNA and RNA aren’t “digital”, if by that you mean binary. Each nucleic acid stores protein-making information in packets of three, using four signifiers.

Mike Maxwell
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 6:09 pm

I’m not sure what the argument here is about, but concerning digital: digital =/= binary, it just means discrete, as opposed to continuous.

John Tillman
March 25, 2020 2:21 pm

PS: Three of the signifiers are the same in both DNA and RNA (A, C and G), and each nucleic acid has a unique fourth nucleobase (T and U), which are methylated and unmethylated versions of each other.

In most cases, the first two of the three letters coding for an amino acid determine it, but not always.

James F. Evans
March 25, 2020 4:03 pm

There are anomalies in the geologic record. There are geologic formations which don’t conform to the idea of Uniformitarianism.

Sometimes called geologic unconformities, although often times geologists still try and fit a square peg in a round hole.

The Dolomite Problem is another type of situation where geologists “just don’t know”.

Geologists often omit discussion of these geologic formations for the reason they contradict their hypothesis, which is over 150 years old, they simple can’t explain them because their presence contradict their intellectual framework.

It isn’t just geology, there are other so-called “theories” which are hundreds of years old, have been falsified numerous times, yet, group-think, professional pride, and psychological inertia, keep them going.

Example: The Ptolemaic Model. with epicycles and all that/

Galileo found out the hard way when you go up against a well established group-think.

But finally there was a paradigm shift.

But sadly, many believers in the old paradigm never change their mind, they pass away and their ideas pass away with them.

By the way, definitions which are hard to understand so that most people miss state them or misuse them aren’t useful or good.

James F. Evans
Reply to  David Middleton
March 25, 2020 9:13 pm

I always appreciate the links,

From your link: “Unconformities are gaps in the geologic record…”

Also, from the link: “They are surfaces between two rock bodies that constitute a substantial break (hiatus) in the geologic record (sometimes people say inaccurately that “time” is missing).”

That “time” is missing is not necessarily inaccurate, but can be a valid criticism.

Of course, the link is from a perspective which wants to dismiss criticism without addressing the examples which aren’t so neatly explained, of which there are a number.

James F. Evans
Reply to  James F. Evans
March 25, 2020 10:11 pm

The “time” that is missing from the geologic has been explained by the idea of Catastrophism.

Mr. Middleton, you are not the only geologist, there are many geologists that do subscribe to the idea of Catastrophism.

It’s rather simple, while there seem to be numerous epochs that fit with the idea of “gradualism”, there is also evidence of violent upheaval in the geologic record, upheavals that are unlikely today because conditions have changed. Forces from without the planet and within the planet which are not present and acting today.

James F. Evans
Reply to  David Middleton
March 26, 2020 9:38 am

Mr. Middleton: “Time isn’t missing. Section is missing.”

But it takes “time” and an action for the section to be missing.

How much time and how violent an action is the question.

Mr. Middleton: “In many cases, the missing section is present in areas away from the uplift.”

First, by your own statement there are cases were the section is “just gone” and geologists can’t account for it’s disappearance other than relying on an assumption that fits their idea of Uniformatarianism (for those geologists who reject the idea of Catotrophism).

Mr. Middleton: “The erosion and/or non-deposition occurred over a ~200 million year period of time.”

Your time frame is an assumption, you weren’t there and neither was I. But “something” happened over a time period, however long it was (it could have happened in a sorter time period under violent circumstances).

That”s part of the difficulty with Uniformatarianism, it assumes a time period for geologic formation based on conditions, today, when geologists have little or no actual knowledge of what conditions were, say, millions of years ago.

Again, you weren’t there and neither was I, and you know what assumptions can make us look like.

From Wikipedia: [Uniformatarianism] ” is the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in our present-day scientific observations have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe.”

Note, “is the assumption”

Wikipedia: ” From 1830 to 1833 Charles Lyell’s multi-volume Principles of Geology was published.” Lyell had limited observations, while it wasn’t unreasonable at the time, 1833, to claim that nothing had changed in conditions without the planet or within, it’s nothing short of a WAG. (in science that;s known as a “wild ass guess”)

Over a 150 years ago.

John Tillman
Reply to  David Middleton
March 26, 2020 10:28 am

Complete Phanerozoic and even earlier geologic columns exist in a surprisingly large number of places. But in most of the world, sections are missing, no surprise.

I wonder if these supposed “catastrophist”, biblical Flood geologists have been able to find petroleum and gas deposits.

John Tillman
Reply to  James F. Evans
March 25, 2020 7:12 pm

Dolomite is forming today in a variety of environments. Please state what you imagine it is that geologists aren’t able to observe, ie “know”, about dolomite now. Thanks.

James F. Evans
Reply to  John Tillman
March 25, 2020 9:15 pm

The Dolomite mountains in Italy. If you haven’t heard or read about The Dolomite Problem, look it up on google.

John Tillman
Reply to  James F. Evans
March 26, 2020 10:25 am

I’m familiar with the non-existent problem, already solved, to the extent that it ever was a problem.

Please point out to me recent research which states there’s a problem. The onus is on you, since you claim that such a problem remains.


John Tillman