How Good Are Those Young-Earth Arguments?
A Close Look at Dr. Hovind's List of Young-Earth Arguments and Other Claims
by Dave E. Matson
Copyright © 1994-2002
(Another fatal problem for the vapor canopy idea)
The "vapor canopy," invented by desperate creationists who needed a large source of atmospheric water for Noah's flood, is subject to yet another fatal problem. Nor does it matter whether we are dealing with a vapor canopy supported by the atmosphere or ice crystals in orbit. In either case, carbon-14 dating proves fatal. (I am indebted to Paul Farrar and Bill Hyde for making this point in their Talk.Origins article "The Vapor Canopy Hypothesis Holds no Water.")
A large canopy, be it ice or vapor, would either block out the cosmic rays (needed for the production of carbon-14) or dilute the available nitrogen (a necessary ingredient for the production of carbon-14). C-14 atoms form high in the atmosphere when energetic cosmic rays slam into stray atoms and send out showers of particles, including energetic neutrons. Some of those neutrons collide with the nuclei of ordinary nitrogen, transforming some of them into a radioactive form of carbon. I.e., the neutron is absorbed and a proton is kicked out; one of the orbiting electrons goes with the departing proton, making it a hydrogen atom. Thus, we go from N-14 (ordinary nitrogen, which makes up about 75% of our atmosphere) to C-14 (a radioactive isotope of carbon, which occurs in trace amounts).
If we seek enough water to flood Mt. Everest, then we need to add roughly 900 times the present atmosphere in the form of water vapor! If we adopt Henry Morris' model of the flood, we can do with a more modest figure, say 100 parts of water vapor per 1 part atmosphere. (As pointed out on page 85, pressurized reservoirs, the other source of flood water used by creationists, cannot contribute diddly-squat towards flooding the high mountains.)
If the vapor canopy is attached to the atmosphere, we can see that the atmospheric nitrogen will be diluted about 100 times. It is the best scenario that the creationist can hope for. Consequently, only about 1/100 of the usual carbon-14 would be produced. Therefore, everything dated during those pre-flood times would have a built-in age added to its real age. The amount of this built-in age would be the time it takes for carbon-14 to decay to 1/100 of itself. Well, how long does that take? Given that the half-life of C-14 is 5730 years, and that it takes between 6 and 7 half-lives to get down to 1/100 of the original amount of C-14, we have at least a built-in age of 35,000 years!
In the case of ice crystals in orbit, they would provide a shielding roughly equal to their equivalent depth of water. Here, that means roughly one-half mile of water. I doubt that there are many, if any, cosmic rays that can penetrate half a mile of water! The built-in age factor would be even worse than above.
What all this means is that we have a perfectly good scientific test for Henry Morris' vapor canopy hypothesis. As we date older and older objects, at some point going from post-flood items to pre-flood items, we should see a dramatic and sudden leap of age. Do the ages obtained suddenly jump by an extra 35,000 years or so at some point? No, they do not. Thus, we have scientific proof that there never was any such thing as a vapor canopy during the last 40,000 years or so.