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Creation's Tiny Mystery
Chapter 5: Reverberations from Scientists

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A Courageous Editorial Decision

Just a few months after Damon's letter and my response were published, another criticism of my work appeared in the August 14, 1979, issue of EOS (York 1979). The author was Dr. Derek York of the University of Toronto, a highly respected geochronologist who had also participated in the LSU symposium, Time: In Full Measure, mentioned under the heading "Debating the Time Scale" in Chapter 4. His article was not based on any of his own experimental observations about polonium halos. Instead, he promoted Henderson's idea of a secondary origin from uranium and criticized me for not accepting it. He did not mention that he had heard my presentation on halos at the LSU symposium. Initially there was no opportunity for me to rebut York's criticisms, for he never informed me that his article was to be published. My letter of objection (to Spilhaus) concerning this silence is quoted in part below, along with his reply:

[p. 67](October 23, 1979)

Dear Dr. Spilhaus:

I have spent a great deal of time working on the response to Derek York's direct attack on my research. I could have helped York avoid some embarrassing remarks if he had only shared his article with me prior to publication. . . . But whatever the reason for York's secrecy, I cannot let his misrepresentations of my work go unanswered. Actually, there is much more I could have said—and may yet have to say—about his comments on my work.

The length of this manuscript is about half that of York's article, and, in fact, about the same length as my response to Paul Damon's letter.

Be assured that I have high personal regard for Derek York, even though I have had to take exception to his remarks.

Sincerely,

/s/ Robert V. Gentry

(November 14, 1979)

Dear Dr. Gentry:

I have forwarded your article to one of the EOS Associate Editors for review with regard to quality of the substance and for consideration of its suitability for publication in EOS. These will be difficult questions. Our decision will rest on whether your present letter makes any substantive addition to the discussion and on the completeness and validity of the work on which it is based. New material may also be rejected by EOS as it is not an appropriate medium for original publication of scientific results.

Sincerely yours,

/s/ Fred Spilhaus

Months passed with no further word from Spilhaus about my response to York's article. Finally, after five months had elapsed, I received a letter from Spilhaus, stating that he would be willing to publish a shorter version of my response. However, his suggested version did not include enough detail to properly answer all of York's criticisms; so I wrote Dr. Spilhaus again. Quoted below are both his letter to me and my subsequent letter to him:

[p. 68](April 14, 1980)

Dear Bob:

I enclose a cut down version of the letter you submitted in response to York's paper on polonium halos. I would be willing to publish this in EOS immediately.

I believe that publication of this letter would call attention to the principal exceptions you take to his remarks. In the interests of conducting the scientific process in an orderly way, more extended technical discussion should be directed to journals devoted to the publication of original research and/or reviews.

Sincerely yours,

/s/ Fred

(April 28, 1980)

Dear Fred:

As per your suggestion, I would very much hope that Derek York and others will eventually publish some original research material on radiohalos in specialty journals. And for your sake I am willing to make some significant concessions on the length of my reply and not demand that my original version be published. But I would also hope that you could see why my few brief technical comments need to be incorporated into the revised version.

First, to give Derek the privilege of making technical criticisms of my research while denying me the privilege of specifically responding to those comments constitutes discrimination against a minority view. It would be a case of the establishment attempting to suppress unpopular evidence. You have not struck me as the sort of individual who would agree to this sort of thing.

Second, for me not to specifically respond to Derek's technical comments would leave the impression that I don't have a response, or else it would have been published. After all, a rebuttal is meaningless if it simply says I am right and the other guy is wrong.

Third, it would seem that if this question is ever going to be resolved, those few technical comments need to be put in so that when the next fellow comes along and takes a shot at me, he will at least be firing at the right target. Let me explain. It is conceivable, I think, that Derek read my reports but simply did not catch the significance of the difference in the Po halos in granites and coalified wood. This difference is absolutely crucial to any proposed explanation of Po halos in granites and needs to [p. 69] be briefly spelled out so that other researchers won't go down blind alleys thinking they have solved the problem. Here I want to emphasize that my brief technical response to Derek is not a matter of publishing new data; it is simply that of clarifying data which has already been published but which has been misinterpreted.

So, Fred, I am returning to you a revised version of my reply, which is basically the version you sent to me with the technical comments added. The last sentence or so has been modified to make up for the loss of the background material that has been left out. And one very important citation has been restored to the references along with one or two word changes here and there.

In closing let me again remind you that I did not instigate this discussion and I am not trying to turn it into a cause célèbre. I am of the opinion, however, that there are some individuals who may want to do this if they knew about my difficulties in getting this reply published. In this respect, as volatile as this subject is, there is also a possibility it could turn into a mini-Watergate if some within the news media suspected there was an attempt to suppress or coverup my rebuttal evidence. For your sake I am sincerely hoping this does not happen.

As before, I am requesting that you have the galley proofs sent to me before publication. I have come a long way, and I don't even want a misspelled word to come out under my name, much less an inadvertently omitted word that could change the meaning of a sentence.

I know you have been under great pressure about this situation, and I am trying not to make it any harder on you. Your efforts to be fair are greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

/s/ Bob

Certainly I still greatly appreciate his efforts. Much was at stake in my work. It was imperative that I be given the right to respond because York had completely ignored the two main features of my letter in the May 29, 1979, issue of EOS (Gentry 1979), namely, the challenge to synthesize a piece of granite and the reference to Professor Norman Feather's conclusions relative to the origin of polonium halos in micas.

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Part:  A  B  C

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