Is the crude oil that we drill for, extract and convert into fuel the end product of thousands of millenia of decaying organic matter or is it formed through a different, independent geologic activity? Did, in fact, oil form 'abiotically' from the reaction of carbonates with iron oxide and water in the region called "mantle," deep in the Earth? The late astronomer and Professor Emeritus of physics, Thomas Gold of Cornell University argued in a 1993 paper that it did and explained it all in a book that can be read in its entirety free online here, The Deep Hot Biosphere. Apparently, Gold was only one of the leading proponents of the abiotic oil theory in the West. The theory may actually have had its origin in the work of a group of Ukrainian and Russian scientists. What has all this got to do with atheism?

I was recently reading a joke article about Sarah Palin, "Palintology to study dino bones put there by God 6,000 years ago" that mocked her belief in the age of the universe. Could she explain how crude oil, which we all know unequivocally (or do we?) takes hundreds of millenia to form through decay of pre-historic animal and plant matter, possibly have come about in the mere 6-odd millenia that Judeo-Christians popularly believe is the age of the universe? There are many contradictions to the notion of a 6-thousand-year-old universe. I don't really want to open this can of worms nor divert the discussion to the age of the universe but will quickly ponder two ideas as they have a bearing on the formation of oil. First, right here on earth, we estimate the age of ancient things through carbon14 (potassium-40, uranium-238, thorium-232, etc) dating to be in the order of millions of years of age. Some religions question the authenticity of these methods of dating things and there's an interesting discourse by an organization advocating religious tolerance here. Second and more glaringly, we have the fact of the constancy of the speed of light and a huge collection of celestial bodies further than 6,000 light-years from us. The logic is that if we can see things 6,000 light-years away from us, then light from that object travelled 6,000 years to get here. If there are objects further than 6,000 light years away that we can see, they, hence the universe, have to be older than 6,000 years. Even though time is not constant at the speed of light, nobody with even a rudimentary understanding of physics suddenly has the suspicion that the universe is actually much smaller than we estimate it to be. The known universe is certainly not a sphere 6,000 light-years in diameter with our little solar system at its centre...like Toronto. If it were that small, we would all be sizzling from the effects of Alpha Centauri, a mere 4.37 light years away and we're not talking about the relatively balmy effects of global warming either. A 2004 measure is that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, give or take a few generations, and 156 bil.... Earth itself is older than 4.3 billion years.

So, what does all this have to do with crude oil and what does crude oil have to do with anything? One of the reasons atheists scoff at the biblical implication that the earth is 4,000 - 6,000 years old is that we know that oil exists and take for granted that it would have taken much longer than 6,000 years to form through decaying plant and animal matter. Hence the earth is older than 6,000 years. Hence, we rubbish the idea that the bible is influenced by an infallible God. Ergo: No God! In the world of miraculous creation, however, anything is possible: crude oil could not have formed through decay because that would have taken too long and we know that the earth is no older than 6,000 years. Conveniently, then, we say that oil was either always there from creation just waiting for us to tap into it or formed much more quickly. But what is the implication for atheism if crude oil, like volcanic lava, indeed just happened to be there, formed abiotically through yet-to-be-understood geologic phenomena, either very quickly or over millions of years? What are the implications for atheism if the argument that crude was formed through decay is debunked? Does it lend default credibility to the religious claim of a 6,000-year-old earth? Not at all. The disproof of one theory is not proof of another and the absence of evidence is simply that, unknown until discovered.

A former chemical engineering student, I am embarrassed that I had never bothered to ask how crude oil comes to be formed pre-occupying myself, instead, with how to treat it for use in machinery after it was brought to the surface. I imagine that I am not alone, even amongst engineering students. Nor, for that matter, had I ever consciously accepted that it was through decay. After reading this comic jab at Palin, I started a little digging, no pun intended.

Ugo Bardi, a chemistry professor at the University of Florence in a 2004 paper asks, "Abiotic Oil: Science or Politics?" and concludes:

* If Gold's arguments are correct the surface of the earth through seepage would be awash in oil or;
* Getting to know the truth is irrelevant as it would be too expensive to dig to the depths necessary to prove the abiotic formation of oil.

Although he appears to lean against it, he doesn't go so far as to disprove the abiotic theory of the formation of oil.

Did you know that Titan, one of Saturn's moons has oil? Well, maybe not oil but certainly liquid hydrocarbons? Check out this article: "Titan’s Organic Hydrocarbons Dwarf Earth’s Oil Reserves". I think it's safe to say that these hydrocarbons are not the result of decaying plant and animal matter. I'll share one more link about abiotic oil and that should set the cat amongst the pigeons; check out what Free Engergy News has to say.

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Abiotic oil is a great topic for the entire right, religious or otherwise :D Oil is one of the arguments against YEC, and abiotic oil gives an argument around old oil, and allows oil to be young.
Abiotic oil also opposses the conservation and alternative energy movements- there is no need to restrict hydrocarbon usage if they're in an constantly chemically restoring store.

Alternative theories are great :D If he wants to have a discussion about it, maybe he should post what the theory actually states instead of flowery rhetoric about the age of universe?
I do not see how the origin of oil has any bearing on the existence of God. The grand God of All Creation has been reduced to a puny god of the gaps. However, the elimination of yet another gap will not keep God in his coffin.

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