A Chronology of the Moon Dust Argument

by David C. Wise

I had written the following to a creationist who had misunderstood my original moondust page. He thought that it was a question of how much dust we had actually found and, having "a strong leaning (on occasion) to conspiracy theories", "consider[ed] it 'bad science' to take as fact what has been measured or observed by only one party (i.e. NASA) and cannot be independently verified or reproduced."

I had to explain to him that it was actually about the lack of truthfulness that creationists have displayed in this entire matter. The actual dust measurements taken by the Apollo missions is an entirely different question and totally independent of how the ICR had handled its sources and its errors. A secondary issue is raised by the effects of the shoddy scholarship of other creationists who continue to circulate this false claim more than a decade after the ICR had recanted it.

Subj: RE: Moon Dust
Date: Tue, 3 Jul 2001 11:17:43 PM Eastern Daylight Time

>>Before we have any discussion about moon dust or the amount thereof we may need to have another discussion first.<<

No, that's not really necessary, because this was presented as a case of misrepresentation of a source (the "truthfulness" question) and of shoddy scholarship on the part of leading "creation science" promoters (whom I shall hereafter refer to as "the creationists" for brevity sake). Besides, the only thing that it has to do with landing on the moon is the creationist claim that we should have found much more meteoric dust there (Slusher's conclusions were something to the order of 284.8 feet thickness, if I remember right).

As I said on that topic, even though we may not be completely sure of the truth of a claim or of its sources, we can at least be quite sure of the TRUTHFULNESS with which the claimant has represented his sources. This moon dust claim and the funny business surrounding it is a clear case in which the creationists had NOT been truthful.

Refer to my web pages:

  1. As of 27 Feb 1985, Harold Slusher had formulated his moon-dust claim, in the process misrepresenting his source, the NASA document "Meteor Orbits and Dust (NASA SP-135, Smithsonian Contributions to Astrophysics Vol. 2)". Either Slusher initiated the misrepresentation or he had gotten the information from another creationist source and had himself neglected to research back to the primary source.

  2. The same year, Henry Morris' book, Scientific Creationism, 2nd edition, is published with a footnote on page 152 refering to Slusher's claim but refering to the NASA document with the misrepresented date as the source of the conclusions stated. Obviously, Morris just borrowed it straight from Slusher and had not bothered to verify any of it.

  3. On 28 Sep 1985, I attended a debate at which Henry Morris responded to his opponent's (Frank Awbrey) criticism that creationists quote out-dated sources and ignore new findings by telling of a recent "1976" NASA document, written "well into the space age," which shows that if the moon were really as old as we think (about 4.5 billion years), then there should have been much more meteoric dust on it than we had actually found.

  4. Some months afterwards (in 1986/1987), I wrote to the ICR for more information about that NASA document. Duane Gish responded with the reference and included a copy of Harold Slusher's letter.

  5. Within a month after that, I was browsing through the university's NASA document stack for any meteor-dust studies when I stumbled upon the referenced document and immediately saw that the date had been misrepresented. I verified that it was indeed the document in question by locating all the passages quoted by Slusher's letter on the referenced pages. Examination of the material referenced by Slusher's letter revealed that he had misrepresented the content of his source and had thus inflated his results by a factor of 10,000 for the moon.

  6. I wrote to Slusher at the University of Texas, El Paso. He has never responded and I have read that he has a reputation for not responding to anyone who is at all critical of his claims.

  7. I wrote to Gish to alert him to the problem and included xerox copies of pertinent pages. His response was to insist that the document's date was indeed "1976" (despite the clear facts staring him in the face) and he suggested that I wait to hear from Slusher.

  8. I wrote back to Gish with the same xerox copies pointing out yet again the true date of the source and asked that he respond in kind with xerox copies of his source's date. I also informed him that Slusher was not forthcoming with a response and asked that he help us get a response out of Slusher. I received no response from Gish and my follow-up letter was also ignored.

  9. In the meantime, as I was putting together a report on the incident, somebody else published first: Thomas Wheeler and Frank Lovell in Creation/Evolution Newsletter, 7:4, Jul/Aug 87, pp 14-15. Their ICR point-of-contact was Henry Morris who also sent them a copy of the calculations (apparently taken from the same Slusher letter sent to me by Gish). Wheeler had them verified by an astronomer, who also found Slusher's calculations to be erroneous and greatly inflated through the inclusion of extraneous factors that clearly did not apply. Wheeler wrote back to Morris with these findings and asked him whether he had an active astronomer verify that the calculations had been performed correctly and produced reliable results. Morris wrote back that he had not followed up on the reference and that he would correct the error in future editions. Then he went off on a tangent with a variety of young-earth claims (similar to what Gish had done to me). Another letter from Wheeler to Morris on the same subject was never answered.
    NOTE: That same second edition is still the one being sold, WITH the error still in it and apparently without anything to notify the reader of the error. Yet another case of their lack of truthfulness.

  10. Sometime between 1990 and 1992, my subscription to the ICR's Acts & Facts told me of a presentation that Gish would be giving at a local junior college, so I attended. Afterwards, I asked Gish about the moon-dust claim, whereupon he claimed that he was not at all familiar with it, but if I would give him my name and address he would look it up and write to me. IMMEDIATELY THEREUPON, my subscription to Acts & Facts was abruptly cut off! Even Dr. Eugenie Scott was shocked to hear that Gish had done such a thing.

  11. After I had written my account of the events (1990), I told a friend about it and he wrote to the ICR. This time, a graduate student replied by saying that they had found moon-dust claims to be too unreliable and so they no longer use them. To support his statement, he sent a xerox of a page from the preface in Morris' "Science, Scripture and the Young Earth" which says basically the same thing. NOTE: More than a decade after that was written, the ICR's books still contain the moon-dust claim in the ubiquitous "Uniformitarian Estimates of the Age of the Earth" appendix. The cited source for most of the claims listed there is an unnamed and unpublished work by Harold Slusher. Also makes it impossible for anyone to research those claims, doesn't it?

  12. For his book, "It's a Young Earth After All", Paul Ackermann bases his chapter on meteoric dust almost entirely on that same NASA document, "Meteor Orbits and Dust". However, he also uses the fictitious "1976" date and also intones the liturgy, "well into the space age". This indicates that he had not researched his source, but rather had just borrowed it from another creationist source, most likely either Slusher or the ICR. 13. Kent Hovind bases HIS moon-dust claim on four creationist sources, one of which was Paul Ackermann's book. We know that Ackermann's book is in error and based on a hoax (the hoax being that the document dated AFTER Apollo 11, the very point that Morris was trying to make by using it in that 1985 debate). Kent Hovind did not catch that error, which indicates that he had not researched back to the primary source. Furthermore, Hovind should have been aware of the problem had he actually read Dave Matson's essay which he "critiques" elsewhere. At least Hovind did not try to claim the NASA document itself as a source.
In summary, somebody -- either Harold Slusher or his source or his source's source -- misrepresented the NASA document. Whether intentionally or not, that individual was not being truthful.

Everyone along the subsequent chain of claims who claimed the NASA document as their source, even though it is very painfully obvious that they had never actually examined the document (the date is the first thing that you see on the cover), was not being truthful. Furthermore, they are guilty of shoddy scholarship for not bothering to verify their source.

Those who did not claim the NASA document as their source but instead presented the intermediate source's conclusions without bothering to verify that source's sources are also guilty of shoddy scholarship.

And the ICR is guilty of having been untruthful for a number of reasons:

  1. For insisting on the false claim even in the face of the truth.
  2. For continuing to use the claim even after having stated that they would no longer use it.

So, [...], as you can plainly see, this matter is about truthfulness and scholarship. Any question about whether we had actually landed on the moon is purely incidental and has no direct bearing on the issue.

Return to DWise1's Creation/Evolution "Moon Dust" Page
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First uploaded on 2001 October 19.
Last updated on 2011 July 20.