Posted by: Barry Bickmore | April 29, 2017

Facepalm: The Universal Model and Radioactive Lava


This is part of a series of articles responding to the claims made in Dean Sessions’ Universal Model.  Click the link to see the introduction to the series.

In the Universal Model, Vol. 1, Dean Sessions says that if current scientific theories about the interior of the Earth (i.e., that it’s hotter down there) are correct, then we should see highly radioactive lava erupting from volcanoes.  However, that’s beyond wrong–it’s ludicrous.  Let me explain.

As noted in the UM, the standard theory is that the interior of the Earth was originally hot because of heat generated when the planet formed from the solar nebula (a cloud of space debris coalescing by gravity) around 4.5 billion years ago.  Things smashing together, friction creating heat–you get the idea.  The problem is that geologists figured out quite a while ago that if this “residual heat” were the only source, then the Earth should have completely cooled off a long time ago.  An apparent solution was found when scientists discovered radioactivity.  Certain elements (most notably uranium, thorium, and potassium) include isotopes (atoms of that element with different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei) whose nuclei can decay over time, creating atoms of different elements, releasing fractured nuclei and/or subatomic particles, and releasing heat.  So here’s the logic.

“Hey, we need another source of heat to explain why the Earth’s interior is still hot!”

“Oh, look!  We found out that some elements in the Earth are radioactive, and they produce heat!  Maybe that’s it!”

Not too complicated, right?  But Dean Sessions wants the core of the Earth to be a giant ice ball, so he tries to dismiss the idea that radioactivity could provide an explanation.

However, naturally occurring radioactive rocks are weak and generate very little heat. The most abundant, naturally occurring radioactive rock is uranium, which is found only near the surface of the Earth.  Moreover, there are no known radioactive lava flows.  (p. 97)

Let’s take that apart.

First, ALL rocks are radioactive.  ALL OF THEM.  All it takes to make a radioactive rock is a single radioactive atom, and with modern mass spectrometers, we can measure small amounts of radioactive atoms.  And if a little heat is generated by every single radioactive decay event that occurs, then that heat can add up to quite a lot throughout the entire Earth.

Second, uranium is an element, not a “rock”.  (Seriously, it’s like Sessions is trying to give rage aneurysms to geochemists.)

Third, it’s true that the most abundant radioactive isotopes tend to concentrate most in the crust of the Earth, but that really doesn’t matter.  Suppose you have a sphere with heat sources spread throughout, but especially near the surface.  Heat energy is generated, and spreads out.  Some of it flows toward the surface and is radiated out into space, and some of it flows toward the center, because heat tends to flow, on average, in the direction of colder temperatures.  When the heat energy gets to the center, where does it go?  The only way to flow is toward the surface, but if the temperature is still warmer on the outside of the sphere, the net heat flow will still be toward the center.  Therefore, the center will keep heating up until it is hotter than the outside of the sphere and heat can flow back the other way.

(Think about this, UMers.  If the Earth is actually colder in the center, then there must be some kind of black hole sucking heat out of there.)

Fourth, geologists don’t think magma is generated in places where it is way hotter than other parts of the interior.  Rather, magma is mostly generated in places where the local pressure, temperature, and composition favor melting.  For example, in subduction zones, waterlogged oceanic crust gets shoved down into the mantle.  Since water is KNOWN to lower the melting temperatures of many minerals (yes, this has been experimentally verified), the mantle rocks above the subducted crust will be more likely to melt when exposed to more water, and that’s how geologists explain the fact that lots of volcanoes occur above subduction zones.  When the crust (lithosphere, actually) cracks open at a divergent plate boundary (mid-ocean ridges, mainly) that drops the pressure on the mantle rocks just below the crack.  Since lowering the pressure is KNOWN to lower the melting temperatures of rocks, that’s how geologists explain the fact that there are lots of volcanoes at mid-ocean ridges.

So basically, the idea that lava should be more radioactive than other Earth materials if geologists are right about the interior of the Earth is nonsensical.





  1. The killer question for him is “Why is it still so cold in there, then?” 4.5 billion years of sunlight should warm it up. And when it coalesced, where did the heat go when it was forming? Or does this universal model say that the earth was formed entire and whole and has been slowly ablating ever since?

    And why is Jupiter warmer than the radiation from the sun would make it because of the energy of the compressing centre?

    Last, was it ice to begin with, solid and unformed, or did it condense? If the latter, where did the latent heat go when it condensed? If the former, where did it form (and how big) originally, since the sun’s radiation will melt ice quite nicely, see comets for an example of what happens to ice when it’s within the orbit of Jupiter.

    Like Scott Adam’s “idea” (probably from someone else, even if he’s not remembering where, memory is a patchy thing) that gravity could be the result of everything expanding in size, he only considers the questions of “how does it work if it were that way?”, not “How do I tell it doesn’t work that way?” or even “What are the awkward questions about how it works that I can’t answer?” so they can be worked out and answered (or the hypothesis dropped).

    It’s armchair science. Plato thought this good enough, but he was so massively smart and so he was far more often right than this half-assed way of theorising would otherwise have been. He only got several things wrong with this “method” rather than almost (or actually) everything. He was a VERY smart chappie. Just about everyone else needs some way to weed out the dumb ideas. It’s called the scientific method.

  2. “Or does this universal model say that the earth was formed entire and whole and has been slowly ablating ever since?”

    That is probably the assumption. The author appears to be trying to interpret Earth from a particularly strict, somewhat unusual application of Mormonism blended with born again Christianity and New Age mysticism.

    Since the bible says the Sun was created on the third day, everything created before the third day is going to be cold, like absolute zero cold. Of course God could have created everything at room temperature (or any other temperature).

    One of the weirder theories in Brigham Young’s day was that the Earth already existed in some other solar system and was brought here entire, wiped clean (leaving only dinosaur bones) and started fresh. After all, Genesis starts with the Earth already here, just “void”. I allow for the possibility that 65 million years ago it was “time” for mammals to rise; so kaboom, goodbye dinosaurs. Whether it is purely accident or helped along there’s no way to tell, but as a consequence, here we are having this conversation.

  3. […] an internal heat source, or sources, to keep the outer core from solidifying.  As I explained in another post, radioactive decay of some elements is the most likely candidate.  Japanese scientists recently […]

  4. […] I explained in another article, “Facepalm:  The Universal Model and Radioactive Lava“, geologists do not, in fact, think that there are local concentrations of radioactivity in […]

  5. […] the earthquake faults melts the surrounding rock, which can then be ejected out of volcanoes.  In another post (see Facepalm:  the UM and Radioactive Lava), I explained why, even if the source of heat in the […]

  6. […] is that he believes it supports his idea that the Earth is cooler in the center.  I explained in another article that if a spherical body had heat generated in an outer layer, heat would still build up in the […]

  7. […] one of the arguments listed above is complete bullpucky, as I’ve shown before in detail.  1) Just because a certain thing is a heat source, it doesn’t follow that the source has to be pre…. 2) Quartz demonstrably DOES grow from molten rock. 3) Quartz regains its piezoelectric properties […]

  8. Barry–Do you believe that there was a universal flood such as Sessions describes in chapter 8 of the Universal Model (pp. 476-698)?

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