My on-line critique SMOKE, BUT NO FIRE”, a technical evaluation of the Polonium halo hypothesis put forth by Dr. Robert Gentry, is frequently brought into blog discussions concerning the age of the Earth. This leads to the young Earth creationist bloggers asking two pointed questions: 1) what are my qualifications to critique Gentry's work; and 2) has this critique ever been peer reviewed?

First, my credentials:

I have a Master of Science degree in Geology from the University of Massachusetts (1976) where I focused on Mineralogy and Geochemistry. My thesis, published by the Department:
Baillieul, T.A., 1976,
The Cascade Slide: A Mineralogical Investigation of a Calc-silicate Body on Cascade Mountain, Town of Keene, New York: Contribution No. 27, Department of Geology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, 128p.

Professionally, I have worked in mineral exploration in different parts of the U.S. and in southern Africa, and as an environmental scientist for the U.S. Government.

I was Principal Investigator for three major uranium resource investigations as part of the National Uranium Resource Evaluation (NURE) Program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was during this time that I first delved into the behavior of uranium and uranium daughter products in the natural environment. During this employment period I also conducted several smaller studies related to radon, radon emmanometry, and radon migration. My publications from that period (all peer reviewed) include:

Baillieul, T.A., and Indelicato, G. J., 1978, Uranium in the Glen Wild Area, Woodridge, New York 7.5 Minute Quadrangle: U.S. Department of Energy Open-File Report GJBX-46(78), 15p.

Baillieul, T.A., Indelicato, G.J., and Penley, H.M., 1980, National Uranium Resource Evaluation, Scranton Quadrangle - PA, NY, and NJ: U.S. Department of Energy Folio Report GJQ-003(80), 39p.

Baillieul, T.A., and Indelicato, G.J., 1981, Uranium in the New Jersey - New York Highlands of the Reading Prong: Economic Geology, v. 76, no.1, p. 167-171.

Baillieul, T.A., and Zollinger, R.C., 1982, National Uranium Resource Evaluation, Grand Canyon Quadrangle, AZ: U.S. Department of Energy Folio Report PGJ/020(82), 36p., 8 illus., 16 plates.

Baillieul, T.A., and Daddazio, P.L., 1982, National Uranium Resource Evaluation, Charlottesville Quadrangle, VA and WV: U.S. Department of Energy Folio Report PGJ/F-114(82), 53p., 27 illus.

Baillieul, T.A., and Daddazio, P.L., 1982, A Vein-type Uranium Environment in the Precambrian Lovingston Formation, Central Virginia: Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Publication 38, Charlottesville, VA, 12p.

Popper, G.H.P., and Baillieul, T.A., 1982, Patterns of Uranium Mineralization in the Reading Prong (abs.) presented at the AAPG-EMD Session, Dallas, TX, April, 1983.

Baillieul, T.A., and Dexter, J.J., 1982, Evaluation of Uranium Anomalies in the Hylas Zone and Northern Richmond Basin, East-Central Virginia, in Goodknight, C.S., and Burger, J.A. (eds.), Reports on Investigations of Uranium Anomalies: U.S. Department of Energy Open-File report GJBX-222(82), pp. 1-16.

Following my time as a contractor with the NURE Program, I joined the Department of Energy and spent 6 1/2 years as a project manager in the High-Level Nuclear Waste Program. In addition to overseeing efforts to identify qualified sites for a high-level waste repository in Texas, Utah, and the Gulf Coast Region, I also directed aspects of the geochemical research program related to waste form stability, and migration of radionuclides in the natural environment. It was during this time period that I first encountered the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's work on Synrock as a potential waste form (Gentry assisted in some of the Oak Ridge studies).

The final phase of my career with the Federal Government included - participating in the site selection for the Superconducting Super Collder; - leading the effort to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact
Statement for construction of the Collider; and - directing the multi-year effort to decontaminate and decommission the nuclear research laboratories operated by the Battelle Memorial Institute in and around Columbus, Ohio. I have publications from this time period as well, although they do not relate directly to my critique of Robert Gentry's polonium work.

I retired from the government at the end of 2003, but still consult on matters of nuclear waste and environmental remediation. I am a long-time member of the Geological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Secondly, was my critique ever peer reviewed?

I find the questions and comments about my critique having undergone peer review interesting. My critique is intended to be a peer review of Gentry's polonium halo hypothesis - which itself was never published in its complete form in a mainstream scientific journal nor subjected to peer review. None of Gentry's short papers to Science ever presented the full scope of his study or his conclusions. Most scientific journals do not peer review the comments of their peer reviewers, as those individuals are well known to the journal's editors. In the case of my critique, though, it was reviewed extensively prior to posting.

The original manuscript was submitted for publication in the
Reports of the National Center for Science Education. The paper was reviewed by the journal's editor, Andrew Petto (senior lecturer in anatomy and
physiology at the University of Wisconsin), and Lorence Collins (Emereitus Professor of Geology at California State University Northridge). An additional scientist with nuclear radiation background also reviewed the manuscript for the journal, although I was never given his name (science journals seldom identify their reviewers to the prospective authors for a variety of reasons; Collins self-identified himself to me). All reviewers agreed with my arguments and felt the work warranted publication. However, they felt that the material was technically too complex and lengthy for the average readership of the Reports of the NCSE. Looking to present the critique to the widest audience possible, I chose instead to submit the revised paper to the Talk Origins Archive. Prior to posting, there was additional technical and editorial review by Talk Origins' coordinators. Following initial posting on the Talk Origins page, I received technical comments from a specialist in radiation effects on biological materials, leading to an expansion of my discourse on the Bragg Effect in minerals. I also had extensive correspondence with 2 creationists which resulted in expanding and clarifying several sections of the paper to make the arguments clearer to a lay audience.

Subsequent to the original discussions with the National Center for Science Education, I was asked if I would agree to having a more summary version of my critique appear in their "Reports" along with related critiques of the polonium halo hypothesis and one of helium diffusion in the mineral zircon (also a young-Earth creationist argument). The summary article appears in the Winter 2010 issue.

At the end of his 1974 paper in
Science, Gentry asks the question about Po halos: "...can they be explained by presently accepted cosmological and geological concepts relating to the origin and development of the Earth?" I believe my critique answers that question in the affirmative as well as showing Gentry's work to be flawed and incomplete.