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The water level just sits there even though the hose is going full blast.
(The barrel is made deep enough so that we don't have to worry about water overflowing the rim.) Henry Morris argued that if we started filling up our empty barrel it would take 30,000 years to reach the equilibrium point.
Having accomplished that, Morris concluded that the barrel was still in the process of being filled up and that, given the present rate of water coming in and leaking out, the filling process began only 10,000 years ago.
It's a great argument except for one, little thing.
The water coming out of the hose is analogous to the continuous production of carbon-14 atoms in the upper atmosphere.
The barrel represents the earth's atmosphere in which the carbon-14 accumulates.
Could it be that the whole scientific community has missed this point, or is it another case of creationist daydreaming?
This argument was popularized by Henry Morris (1974, p.164), who used some calculations done in 1968 by Melvin Cook to get the 10,000-year figure. Whitelaw, using a greater ratio of carbon-14 production to decay, concluded that only 5000 years passed since carbon-14 started forming in the atmosphere!
To that end, he quoted some authorities, including Richard Lingenfelter.
Thus, the mere fact that the present rate of water coming in exceeds that of the water leaking out cannot be extrapolated back to a starting time. The point is that fluctuations in the rate of C-14 production mean that at times the production rate will exceed the decay rate, while at other times the decay rate will be the larger.
(Strahler, 1987, p.158) Lingenfelter actually attributed the discrepancy between the production and decay rates to possible variations in the earth's magnetic field, a conclusion which would have ruined Morris's argument.
Changes in the environment cause changes in the rocks. Sometimes, the layers are twisted or tilted because of the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates. Scientists study these layers to learn more about the Earth’s history.
For example, a volcanic eruption may create a layer made of hardened ash. Radiometric dating measures radioactive elements in the rocks.
The argument may be compared to filling a barrel which has numerous small holes in its sides.