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DUP views

Dear Reader,

It has come to my attention that Mrs May has been talking about the DUP and the Tories making an alliance. Like many people who do not live in Northern Ireland I did not know much about the DUP so I took a look online and asked my legal advisor about them. I found out a list of things which senior members of the DUP have been accused of having said. Newspaper reports support these claims which have been made about their statements. When I searched on line for evidence to support some of their claims, I very quickly found newspaper articles supporting the claims made by others.

  1. Abortion should be “ruled out for rape victims”
  2. The Pope is the Anti-Christ
  3. Gay couples “more likely to abuse children
  4. Homosexuality is an abomination
  5. No gay marriage (also see this)
  6. Gays more vile than child abusers
  7. Attempts to reduce CO2 emissions are “Green propaganda
  8. Man-made climate change is a con
  9. Creationism should be “taught in every school”
  10. The 60 million-year-old Giant’s Causeway is only 6,000 years old
  11. Line dancing is “sinful”

As a scientist I can not deal with many of the points, but 7, 8 and 10 are ones which I can deal with. If we consider 10 then we can address this point using radioactivity calculations. If we examine zircon (zirconium silicate) crystals from rocks we can estimate their age.

Zirconium silicate is a mineral which strongly rejects lead when it forms, so it will be lead free when it forms. Before we start we can look at what is in the unit cell of zircon. The unit cell is an important but tiny building block of a solid. I obtained the cif file from here. The unit cell is tetragonal, it is cube which has been compressed in one direction. Thus it is a box which is 6.607 by 6.607 by 5.982 Å. One Å is 0.1 nanometers. Here is a picture of what is in the cell.

zircon cell balls and sticks

The silicon atoms are yellow, the green ones are zirconium while the red-orange ones are oxygens. When the zircon crystals form the lead content is zero as lead does not incorporate into them but thorium and uranium can incorporate into the crystals.

At the start the lead content of the zircon is zero, as the uranium undergoes radioactive decay lead is formed. Using a simple equation it is possible to work out the age of the rocks by comparing the amount of uranium and lead in them.

For uranium we use

NU = NUo e t

and for lead we use

NPb = NUo (1 – e t)

Now armed with these equations we can work out how the uranium to lead ratio will change as a function of time.

While I do not have data for the Gaint’s causeway, I do have data for south east Ireland, I doubt if the rocks there will be very different to the rocks in Northern Ireland. Here the 206Pb:238U ratio was about 0.07:1.00. The 238U decays into 206Pb via 226Ra. Thus 0.935 of the original 238U is left in the zircon crystals. I got the data from “Select Intra-Ordovician deformation in southeast Ireland: evidence from the geological setting, geochemical affinities and U—Pb zircon age of the Croghan Kinshelagh granite. Intra-Ordovician deformation in southeast Ireland: evidence from the geological setting, geochemical affinities and U—Pb zircon age of the Croghan Kinshelagh granite V.” Gallagher, P. J. O’Connor, M. Aftalion. Geologcal Magazine, 1994, volume 131, issue 5, pages 669-684. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0016756800012450.

The half life of 238U is 4.468×109 years, thus the decay constant for this nuclide is 1.551 x 10-10 years-1. Now we have to rearrange the formula for the fraction of the uranium atoms which are undecayed.

NU = NUo e t


NU / NUo = e t

-ln (NU / NUo) = λt

-ln (NU / NUo) / λ = t


-ln(0.935) / λ = 0,06720874969345005314173683498865 / 1,551 x 10-10 years-1 = 433.325 x 106 years.

So we have a age for a rock formed by a volcano in Ireland which is about 433 million years old. Now while the person from the DUP have made a comment about rocks in Northern Ireland I am sure that rocks from the Republic of Ireland of a similar type will have a similar age. Now I hope that you can understand that the rocks of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are much older than 6000 years.

I also have to ask the question of does it matter to a religious person if the earth is older than 6000 years. I know that Bishop James Ussher estimated that creation occurred in 4004 BC, but how much does it matter. I also have to ask “Is an all powerful God any less able to help the humans sort out their lives if they were descended from monkeys and other lifeforms ?”

I know that many people hold the view that “science has replaced religion”. I would strongly disagree with this statement. Science and religion normally deal with different questions.

In the same way that I think that it would be ridiculous and ill advised to attempt to prove (or disprove) the existence of god by means of a science experiment, I think it would be the height of folly to attempt to solve a chemistry, physics or biology problem by reading the bible. I know some chemists who are deeply religious, for their their faith and their science are able to coexist in their minds.


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