Robert V. Gentry

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Robert Gentry
Born 1933
Fields Nuclear physics
Alma mater University of Florida
Known for Young Earth creationist interpretations of radiohalos

Robert V. Gentry (born 1933) is a nuclear physicist and young Earth creationist, known for his claims that radiohalos support his religious belief in an Earth that is thousands of years old in defiance of the measured age of the Earth. He is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[1]


Gentry received a masters degree in physics from the University of Florida, and thereafter worked in the defense industry, in nuclear weapons research.[1] In 1959 he was influenced by Bible verse while looking at polonium halos, and subsequently converted to Seventh-day Adventism and creationism. Thereafter he entered the doctoral programme at Georgia Institute of Technology, but left when he was refused permission to work on the age of the Earth for his dissertation.[2]

By this time he was convinced that radiohalos might be "the key" to determining the age of the Earth, and vindicating flood geology. He continued to work on the subject at home using a small microscope, publishing his results (minus his creationist conclusions) in prestigious scientific journals. In 1969 while Gentry was affiliated with an Adventist college in Maryland, Oak Ridge National Laboratory invited him to use their facilities, as a guest scientist, in the hope that his work on radiohalos might lead to discovering super-heavy elements. This relationship was terminated as a result of his participation in McLean v. Arkansas.[1]

Claims and criticism[edit]

Gentry has had strong disagreements with other creationists over some details of flood geology.[3] A number of creationists, including fellow Seventh-day Adventists, have criticised his work.[1]

In the late 1970s, Gentry challenged the scientific community to synthesize "a hand-sized specimen of a typical biotite-bearing granite" as a test of his claims. The scientific response was dismissive, with geologist G. Brent Dalrymple stating:[1] "As far as I am concerned, Gentry's challenge is silly. … He has proposed an absurd and inconclusive experiment to test a perfectly ridiculous and unscientific hypothesis that ignores virtually the entire body of geological knowledge."

In 1981 Gentry was a defense witness in the McLean v. Arkansas case over the constitutional validity of Act 590 that mandated that "creation science" be given equal time in public schools with evolution.[4] The defense lost and Act 590 was ruled to be unconstitutional (a verdict that was influential on, and upheld by, the Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard).

In 1984, the US National Academy of Sciences published a booklet with criticisms of creation science which stated that ‘when the evidence for creationism has been subjected to the tests of the scientific method, it has been found invalid.’.[5] On August 4, Gentry wrote to the academy and requested a copy of any report they may have had which supposedly invalidated his results but none came. He invited the academy’s president to bring as many evolutionists as he could to a scientific presentation of Gentry’s work at the International Conference on Creationism in Pittsburgh in August, 1986. They were asked to bring any evidence which they believed invalidated his scientific research, or phone if they could not come but the academy’s president and his invited team did not respond to Gentry’s challenge until after eight months have passed, and after Gentry’s third letter. In his reply, the president of the National Academy of sciences presented no refutation of Gentry’s evidence but he reaffirmed evolution. Another invitation to refute Gentry’s work was made to the academy, this time at the University of Tennessee on April 13, 1987 but no one from the academy appeared.[6]

Gentry has devised his own creationist cosmology and filed a lawsuit in 2001 against Los Alamos National Laboratory and Cornell University after personnel deleted ten of his papers about his cosmology from the public preprint server arXiv.[7] On 23 March 2004, Gentry's lawsuit against arXiv was dismissed by a Tennessee court on the grounds that it lacked territorial jurisdiction, as neither defendant in the case was considered to have a significant presence in the state of Tennessee.[8]

His self-published book Creation's Tiny Mystery was reviewed by geologist Gregg Wilkerson, who said that it has several logical flaws and concluded that "the book is a source of much misinformation about current geologic thinking and confuses fact with interpretation." He also noted that the book contains considerable autobiographical material and he observed that "[i]n general I don't think educators will find its worth their time to tread through this creationist's whining."[9] This criticism of Gentry's "frequent whining about discrimination" has also been made by fellow creationists, who concluded that "his scientific snubs resulted more from his own abrasive style than from his peculiar ideas", according to Ronald L. Numbers, a prominent historian of science.[1]

Scientific Challenge[edit]

Gentry states that his critics are not able to supply actual scientific evidence to combat his work. This causes Gentry to conclude that there is no real scientific evidence against Polonium Halos proving creation by fiat, so his critics resort to character assassination and insults [citation needed]. This was his reason for issuing a challenge to any scientist to prove that Precambrian basement rocks could be formed, with Polonium 218 halos within them, from the elements that comprised it. In his book, he details this statement:

"The experiment being proposed is quite straight forward. The basic chemical elements of a granite, which are well-known, are to be melted, and then allowed to cool to form a synthetic rock. If my colleagues do this experiment so the synthetic rock reproduces the mineral composition and crystal structure of granite, then they will have duplicated or synthesized a piece of granite. By doing this they would have confirmed a major prediction of the evolutionary scenario – they would have demonstrated that granites can form from a liquid melt in accordance with known physical laws. I will accept such results as falsifying my view that the Precambrian granites are the primordial Genesis rocks of our planet. Furthermore, if they were successful in producing a single 218Po halo in that piece of synthesized granite, I would accept that as falsifying my view that the polonium halos in granites are God's fingerprints."[10]

The challenge has yet to be successfully met.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Robert V. Gentry, (1986). Creation's Tiny Mystery. (Knoxville, Tenn.: Earth Science Associates) Page 66 ISBN 0-9616753-1-4


  1. ^ a b c d e f Numbers, Ronald (November 30, 2006). The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, Expanded Edition. Harvard University Press. pp. 280–282. ISBN 0-674-02339-0. 
  2. ^ Numbers, Ronald L. (2006). The creationists: from scientific creationism to intelligent design (Expanded ed.). Harvard University Press. p. 280. ISBN 978-0-674-02339-0. 
  3. ^ Exchanges, Earth Science Associates
  4. ^ McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education
  5. ^ Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences
  6. ^ Letters,
  7. ^ Lawsuit Filed, Earth Science Associates
  8. ^ Retribution denied to creationist suing arXiv over religious bias, News in Brief, Nature, 1 April 2004
  9. ^ Gregg Wilkerson, "Creation's tiny mystery Review" in Reviews of Creationist Books ed Liz Rank Hughes, National Center for Science Education, 1992. page 55 ISBN 0-939873-52-4
  10. ^ Robert V. Gentry (1986). "Creation's Tiny Mystery", (Knoxville, TN: Earth Science Associates), Page 66. ISBN 0-9616753-3-0

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]