The fatal flaw with radioactive dating methods

posted in: Dating | 66

A swimming race illustrates the simple principles involved in measuring time. This swimmer is competing in a 1,500 metre race and we have an accurate, calibrated wristwatch. We note that at the instant the swimmer touches the edge of the pool our wristwatch reads 7:41 and 53 seconds. How long has the competitor taken to swim the 1,500 metre race?

When I have asked an audience this question they have looked at me incredulously and said, “Starting time?” You cannot know how long the swimmer took unless you knew the time on the wristwatch when the race started. Without the starting time it is impossible to establish the time for the race. Note: Impossible.

Actually, knowing the starting time is still not enough. During the race you have to watch the swimmer and count how many laps he has swum so you know that he has done 1,500 metres. And you have to check to make sure he touches the edge at the end of each lap. Without these observations you cannot be sure that the time is valid. That is why you need at least two, sometimes three judges to measure the time of the race to the standard needed to enter the record books.

It would make no difference how accurate or high-tech the wristwatch was. You could talk about the tiny quartz crystal and the piezoelectric effect used to provide a stable time base for the electronic movement. You could describe the atomic workings of the quartz oscillator and how it resonates at a specific and highly stable frequency, and how this is used to accurately pace a timekeeping mechanism.

But without reliable witnesses the accuracy of the watch makes no difference. You can only establish the time for the race if it was timed by two or more qualified eyewitnesses who observed the start, the progress and the finish.

This illustrates the whole problem with the radioactive dating of geological events. Those who promote the reliability of the method spend a lot of time impressing you with the details of radioactive decay, half-lives, mass-spectroscopes, etc. But they omit discussion of the basic flaw in the method: you cannot measure the age of a rock using radioactive dating because you were not present to measure the radioactive elements when the rock formed and you did not monitor the way those elements changed over its entire geological history.

If you check this educational page by the US Geological Society you will see that they spend all their time talking about the technicalities of radioactive decay. But they do not even mention the basic problem that you cannot know the radioactive concentrations that existed in the rock in the past.

In other words, the fatal problem with all radioactive dates is that they are all based on assumptions about the past. You can get any date you like depending on the assumptions you make. And that is what geologist do, they make up an assumed geological history for rock depending on the numbers that come from the geochronology lab (see Dating secrets).

66 Responses

1. Johan

An illustration I use to explain the assumptions made in terms of the age of the earth:
Imagine I take a jug to fill a glass of water, and somebody enters the room just as the last few drops fall into the glass. I then ask the person how long it took me to fill the glass. That person then starts counting the seconds between the drops falling into the glass, measuring the volume of the glass, and makes the ASSUMPTION that the rate at which the last few drops fall into the glass is the constant rate at which I have been filling the glass all along. He then tells me according to ‘scientific calculations’ it took me so many months to fill the glass. Sounds absurd? Well it’s the same with the age of the earth. We arrive on the scene late, measure certain rates of deposition/erosion of sediments and ASSUME that the rate is constant, then proceed to calculate millions of years for the age of the earth according to ‘geological evidence’.

2. Sanjay

Is there even a single dating method that shows the earth is 6000 years old? If evolution was shown to be wrong, somehow, that does not mean creationism is right.

What evidence do you have that time was NOT constant in the past? It’s time creationists came up with original experiments and evidence.

3. Tas Walker

Sanjay: Yes there is. How do you know your age? Based on eyewitness account and written record. How do we know the date of the Battle of Waterloo? Again, by eyewitness report and written record. That also is how we know the age of the earth.

However, you probably have in mind the so-called sceintific dating methods. As this article demonstrates, none of these methods is objective; all depend on assumptions.

But if you are looking for one example, have a look at this article reporting about the RATE research, which is an example of original evidence and experiments. See the item in that article about helium diffusion from zircons that gives an age of 5680 (+- 2000 years). Also, this article lists 101 evidences for a young earth.

People who do not like these young-age results will argue against the assumptions, which of course is arguing about something that can never be checked. The only reliable method is one based on direct eyewitness evidence, and that is what the Bible provides in its accounts of history and recorded chronogenealogies.

4. phil samways

There are many arguments which are obviously on very shaky ground. For example:
1)Recession of moon from Earth.
I did this calculation in an astronomy class. 400,000Km divided by 4cms per year gives 10bn years.
2)Magnetic fields around mercury, the outer planets, io. europa etc. These objects should be long cooled down etc…
This argument ignores the energy from radioactive decay internal to the planets, and graviatational tidal effects in jupiter’s moons. The same mistake was made in the 1800s when an attempt was made to calculate the age of the Earth by simple cooling.
3) Volcanic activity on Jupiter’s moons
Tidal heating again. This is a well-established cause
There is no paradox. The sun’s energy output is increasing with time, but your figures are seriously incorrect.
This argument also relies on current scientific views on the way the sun has evolved, which would require time scales hugely longer than 10,000 years
5) Giant planets radiating more energy than they receive from Sun (so they must be young and still cooling).
This is simply radioactive heating again
6) The number of type 1 supernobae remnants in our galaxy….
This is a very interesing point, which i looked into more closely. Your argument is weakened by the fact that you haven’t calculated that we could only see less than about 1% within our galaxy. Also, that they fade with time, and their effects become immeasurable (the energy is lost in the background galactice radiation. Allowing for these factors, the number of remnants would be pretty well CONSTANT, independent of the age of the galaxy.
There are many other flaws in the arguments, but these are the most obvious.

On another issue, one of the biggest problem for creationists is that radiocarbon data agrees with tree-ring data (and ‘absolute’method of dating) well back to 10,000 years ago, so nullifying all arguments that radio-carbon dating is fundamentally flawed.
I have not seen any evidence for an Earth that’s only 5,000 -6,000 years old other than “it says so in the Bible”

5. Tas Walker

Phil, you said:

The 101 Evidence article.

There are many arguments which are obviously on very shaky ground. For example:

As you say, these are arguments, not measurements, as is every age calculation. Every age quoted is based on assumptions. When you say they are “obviously on shaky ground” I simply take that as code for, “I don’t agree with the assumptions.”

1)Recession of moon from Earth.
I did this calculation in an astronomy class. 400,000Km divided by 4cms per year gives 10bn years.

The recession rate varies according to the sixth power of distance and would be much faster if the moon was closer (see footnote 8 here). The calculated maximum age, assuming the moon was initially in contact with the earth, is 1.37 billion years, which is 70% less than its generally accepted age of 4.6 billion years. Creationists would assume the moon was created at approximately the distance it is now.

2)Magnetic fields around mercury, the outer planets, io. europa etc. These objects should be long cooled down etc…
This argument ignores the energy from radioactive decay internal to the planets, and graviatational tidal effects in jupiter’s moons. The same mistake was made in the 1800s when an attempt was made to calculate the age of the Earth by simple cooling.

If you follow some of the links you will see that these effects have not been ignored. And the earth’s heat balance is not in equilibrium which means that the age of 4.6 billion years is too old (see Lord Kelvin and the age of the earth revisited).

3) Volcanic activity on Jupiter’s moons
Tidal heating again. This is a well-established cause

Tidal heating is one of the ideas scientists have floated to try to solve all the anomalous information about the moons. Other ways are postulating different methods of formation of the moons and different histories. Saturn’s moon Enceladus is a good example that is discussed in the latest issue of Creation magazine and worth looking at.

There is no paradox. The sun’s energy output is increasing with time, but your figures are seriously incorrect.
This argument also relies on current scientific views on the way the sun has evolved, which would require time scales hugely longer than 10,000 years

It’s not just that the sun is getting warmer but that it would have been cooler in the past. In which case the earth would have been too cold to have liquid water and allow life to survive.

Young-age arguments use the assumptions that the uniformitarian scientists make and show that the calculated age is younger than the currently accepted age. But we don’t accept those assumptions. We just make them as a starting point for the argument. Biblical creationists would assume that the sun was created in its mature condition suitable for life.

5) Giant planets radiating more energy than they receive from Sun (so they must be young and still cooling).
This is simply radioactive heating again

Radioactive heating does not explain the anomaly (see The age of the Jovian planets).

6) The number of type 1 supernobae remnants in our galaxy….
This is a very interesing point, which i looked into more closely. Your argument is weakened by the fact that you haven’t calculated that we could only see less than about 1% within our galaxy. Also, that they fade with time, and their effects become immeasurable (the energy is lost in the background galactice radiation. Allowing for these factors, the number of remnants would be pretty well CONSTANT, independent of the age of the galaxy.

The problem for long ages is worse than you think. See this case study on the Cygnus Loop SNR.

I get the impression that you are just inventing ideas with a view to preserving the concept of millions-of-years. This sort of brainstorming is normal for scientists as they attempt to explain their data. But their ideas need to be tested by making predictions and looking for other data. Even that does not prove the position because we are talking about things that happened in the past, and someone can think up a different test that could overturn it.

You are actually proving my point: that no scientist will accept any age if it disagrees with what he thinks it should be. He will simply say the assumptions about the past were wrong and then invent different assumptions to give an age that he likes. It’s 100% subjective.

There are many other flaws in the arguments, but these are the most obvious.

And your “flaws” have flaws as I have pointed out. We are arguing about unobserved history.

On another issue, one of the biggest problem for creationists is that radiocarbon data agrees with tree-ring data (and ‘absolute’method of dating) well back to 10,000 years ago, so nullifying all arguments that radio-carbon dating is fundamentally flawed.

No, it is not a problem. Radiocarbon dating is based on assumptions. Tree ring dating is not absolute but based on assumptions too (This article shows that tree ring dating is based on circular reasoning and note too that bristlecone pines regularly yield multiple tree rings per year).
Just recall that all such dating exercises are driven by the million-year worldview of the researcher.

I have not seen any evidence for an Earth that’s only 5,000 -6,000 years old other than “it says so in the Bible”

And how do you know the date of the Battle of Trafalgar? It says so in the history books. What about the date Queen Victoria died? What scientific dating method would you apply to her? The issue is that you don’t believe the Bible. Why not? Don’t dismiss the possibility that the Bible is recording history with flippant one-line secondary hypothesis that pop into your head. At least consider the possibility and think of ways of checking it.

6. Give me a break

The article you rely on and your own ‘education’ and ‘reasoning’ are laughable to begin with. I can lodge an argument that your bible doesn’t mean what you think it does because you weren’t there to understand the words as they were being written and their meaning has categorically changed over time.

This is no different from the ‘criticism’ you apply to radiometric dating. In philosphical terms this is called Cartesian doubt which, sadly, is able to be cast on anything. This is why court rooms determine guilt on ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ terms. I can say there is a giant purple chicken standing behind you and you CANNOT prove otherwise. If you turn around I can say it teleported somewhere else.

A reasonable view of things is what is required. As I have said in past postings, radiometric dating is supported by multiple measures (multiple times of the same and different elements). These correlate strongly. Message is – the evidence is clear that radio metrics are a reliable and objective measure … unless you are proposing that scientists cheat or that “the devil” makes the radiometrics coincide.

Why would you doubt that tree rings evidence convergence with radiometrics can be disputed by claiming the tree rings don’t represent seasonality. It defies all our experience of the world. Really, grow up.

7. Tas Walker

Give me a break, I’ll comment on your post:

The article you rely on and your own ‘education’ and ‘reasoning’ are laughable to begin with. I can lodge an argument that your bible doesn’t mean what you think it does because you weren’t there to understand the words as they were being written and their meaning has categorically changed over time.

If you are going to use that argument how would you be able to understand anything that was written in the past? How would anyone know anything about history, e.g. about Julius Caesar, Napoleon or Winston Churchill?

This is no different from the ‘criticism’ you apply to radiometric dating. In philosphical terms this is called Cartesian doubt which, sadly, is able to be cast on anything. This is why court rooms determine guilt on ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ terms. I can say there is a giant purple chicken standing behind you and you CANNOT prove otherwise. If you turn around I can say it teleported somewhere else.

The difference is that the Bible records eyewitness accounts and that is how court rooms operate. They call eyewitnesses who are required to report what they saw and heard and not what they think or suppose or what someone else thought.

A reasonable view of things is what is required. As I have said in past postings, radiometric dating is supported by multiple measures (multiple times of the same and different elements). These correlate strongly. Message is – the evidence is clear that radio metrics are a reliable and objective measure … unless you are proposing that scientists cheat or that “the devil” makes the radiometrics coincide.

It is reasonable to accept the historical accuracy of the biblical account. Have you read much about the methodology of radiometric dating? Are you aware that all numbers need to be interpreted. That is, they are made to agree with the prevailing big-picture story. It’s the paradigm that drives the process.

Why would you doubt that tree rings evidence convergence with radiometrics can be disputed by claiming the tree rings don’t represent seasonality. It defies all our experience of the world. Really, grow up.

It is well known that trees can form more than one ring a year, depending on the climatic conditions. And anyway, each tree covers just a hundred years or so, which means that the log samples are first ordered by carbon dating. And the two methods do not agree. Tree ring chronologies differ from carbon-14 measurement. This difference is turned into a calibration curve. Again, the whole exercise is driven by the paradigm. It’s not objective like you say.

8. billy bob ray

I am commencing (well now second guessing) a geology degree. It really seems to me that geology is a science heavily influenced by belief systems based on dogma or assumtions. whether the belief system is faithful to the prevailing mainstream indoctrinated dogmatic evolutionary ‘assumption by decree’ or whether the belif system is faithful to a religion that demands a young earth, its got me questioning the whole credibility of the scientific foundations of geologies earth history.
Being an agnostic, well more of a spiritualist, i find myself in no need to defend the young earth theory but it also does not mean i then have to subscribe to the mainstream alternate views of the geological column and such being accurate.
whether they are correct or wrong about the age of earth conforming to their religeous beliefs, Christian geologists have shown many anomolies, contradictions and innacuracies in the methods and concepts that evolutionary geologists widely accept as fact and have used to support their theories! Christian geologists have shown that mainstream geology evolution/geologicial column subscibers support data, theories & methods etc that are questionable to say the least and not water tight.
So although both parties are very talented at proving ones own theory by disproving the oppostion, as is always the case in politics and science, no side of the argument is capable of denying the other with irrefutable evidence!
So as always although it is neccessary to have an opposing stance in terms of the hegelian concepts and to prevent a galileo senario, i feel that belief systems on both side of the fence always seem to ‘get in the way’ of positive collaboration of reviewing and revising on methods, so called facts, scales and times etc. It seems that thesis vs antithesis= thesis & antithesis (instead of synthesis).
But to cut a long winded reply short, i agree with the christian geologists disagreeing that they should accept the mainstream convention of geological timeframes and theories based on the evident number of contradictions and anomolies.
So i suggest both parties (if you havent already) read the wonderfull book by ian taylor called in the minds of men -darwin and the new world order- then once read, see if you can still hold dear your reasoning for upholding particular mainstream conventional beliefs of geology.

9. Tas Walker

Thanks Billy: I hope your course goes well. I’ve read the book by Ian Taylor—as you say it’s a good read. In our search for truth we need to understand where we came from and why we are here. The Bible answers those questions, of course, but is it true? That is where geology is significant. If the world evolved by natural processes over millions of years then we can’t take the Bible as read. But evolution over millions of years is just a story, an assumption, a way of interpreting the evidence. You say, “no side of the argument is capable of denying the other with irrefutable evidence”. You have a point. I think the evidence for catastrophe is overwhelming, but you can’t definitely prove the biblical worldview from the evidence because there are so many possibilities. It’s a worldview issue, and the way you evaluate a worldview is to step inside it for a while. So, we assume that biblical history is true and see how we can interpret the geology through that lens. We find the geological evidence makes sense when view from that perspective.

10. Widden

In short:
This write-up is so wrong that it’s laughable. It may seem convincing to a totally uneducated and ignorant person, only.
(no surprise there)

11. Tas Walker

Widden: It would be nice if you could present some evidence or reason for your opinion.

12. ANDROLOMA

I disagree with the premise that the “Bible” is based on eyewitness accounts. Who was there when the events of Genesis happened? Did Adam, or Noah, or Enoch script as they were living? Kinda dismisses the whole oral tradition idea, no?

Not even the gospels were written until 30-40 years after the fact. Why? Weren’t the events recognized at the time as important enough to be transcribed, instead of relegated as a task for the next generation? And thereafter subject to any elaboration or flight of fancy that couldn’t be directly disproved?

If it’s reasonable to accept the historical accuracy of the biblical account, it’s also more reasonable and accurate to discount the more fantastic and metaphysical elements in the ancient Jewish accounts, which do not correlate with the reality we now experience.

Ultimately, Tas has the right idea. Accept nothing fully; question everything. The cosmic challenge to logic, and the entire idea of why is life, directs down to the assumption that no one can make any absolute conclusions about anything, given the paucity of evidence proffered. In my opinion.

13. Tas Walker

Hi Androloma: The gospels are much more reliable than you suggest. Matthew was one of Jesus disciples—an eyewitness of many of the events of Jesus life, and friends with all who were involved. Mark was a friend of Peter and Barnabas and he is mentioned many times in the NT. Luke the doctor carefully studied the events (Luke 1:1–4), checking with eyewitnesses. And John was an apostle and eyewitness (John 19:35, 21:24). Other testimony that these are eyewitness accounts are by Paul (1 Cor 15:5–9), Peter (1 Peter 1:16–18), and John (1 John 1:1–2).

A similar case could be made for the reliability of the events of Genesis. Where did you get the idea that they are based on oral tradition? That is an evolutionary speculation assuming that mankind has been gradually improving in intelligence and technical skill over millions of years. However, Noah had the technology to be able to build a huge ocean going Ark. Moses, the traditional author of Genesis to Deuteronomy, was trained in all the skills of educated Egypt, and so was familiar with literature and able to write. Many times we read that he was instructed to write down things.

In other words, there is a good case that the biblical record of historical events is vastly more reliable than the speculations of modern academics who were not there to see what happened and whose conclusions are driven by their secular ideology.

14. Glauron

I think ANDROLOMA was challenging the premise that the (entire) Bible is based on eyewitness accounts and to support the statement, points out there was no eye witness to the creation itself, which is completely valid. Tradition would dictate that the creation account was revealed to Moses by God. I suppose if you accept God’s existance, that eye witness account would be … irrefutable… if you do not, then it would be practically useless.

However I believe Tas’ point was more aimed at demonstrating that eye-witness accounts are more reliable then guesswork. An eye-witness acocunt of a historical event, such as the battlefield conditions at the Battle of Hastings, would carry more weight than a historians conjecture based on circumstantial evidence. I think what Tas was trying to get accross is all of our guesswork on the history of the universe is based on assumptions – no one was there to witness it … therefore there’s reason enough to question the status quo of geological history / scientific methods, which is very much embedded in society & educational standards.

If it’s possible that the, shall we say “secular”, geology is in error, then it make sense to consider alternatives. But as was pointed out, there’s a lot of evidence both ways, and it’s certainly not always clear – it’s very subjective, and I guess the decision to accept one viewpoint or the other rests with the individual.

Personally, I’m very much settled in the Creationist young Earth camp, but always open to logical evidences which I weigh up as objectively as I can (truth be told that is a challenge). I’ve been digging into all this stuff for years however and the further I go, the more I am comfortable with a young earth and the more uncomfortable I am with evolution and so forth – however I do have no professional background in these matters whatsoever 😉

To the general public I say: don’t be afraid of considering alternatives to what is taught in school on these matters … as we can see, there’s two sides to the story and the alternatives are more logical and scientific than you may have originally thought possible!

15. youngtribe

Tas, thank you for initiating this thoughtful and stimulating conversation. I appreciate your patience and gracious replies to some of the posts here. I wish I could add to the scientific discussion but I’m afraid it is a little over my head.

What I can offer is my own experience as it relates to the accuracy of the Bible. The truth found there transformed my life from one of confusion, selfishness, and uncertainty to one of peace, purpose and understanding. 24 years ago God helped me see that His Son had to come to earth to pay for my sin and purchase my salvation (eternal life with God in Heaven). When I realized that Jesus died on a cross because of people like me or more specifically for me, I chose in that moment to surrender my life to Him. From that moment I was filled with peace in knowing that regardless of where the path would lead, as long as God was in control, it mattered very little which direction it took. Only that if God was leading it would be right and good. Well, 24 years later I can say that has been true and so has the Bible. Back then I told my new wife that I wasn’t smart enough to know which part of the Bible was to be believed and which part wasn’t, so until it proved itself otherwise I would believe it all. Since then I must confess I’ve read things that are hard to accept and or understand but never a contradiction or untruth. Yes, believing in a young earth sometimes takes faith but not near as much faith as it takes to believe in evolution. I think one has to work hard to believe that the intelligent design behind even the simplest organism is due to random formations of the elements around us.

Since I have a personal and intimate relationship with the One who gave me new life, and since His Word the Bible has proven itself true over and over in spiritual things, I feel the other facts found there pertaining to creation etc., are equally reliable and true. I know those who have been “educated” by our world system will find my simple faith laughable but I would rather be a fool for Christ than wise in the eyes of those who are willingly walking in the futility of there own understanding. My prayer for them is that the God of all creation will have mercy on them and open their eyes to the glorious truth revealed in Jesus Chist, that they might find peace and eternal life with the One who is love.

16. ANDROLOMA

Glauron got me right. I’m led to disbelieve the metaphysical claims of the Torah and the Septuagint. Their admissions of no eyewitnesses are enough to lead one to presume that these stories have been embellished.

17. Tas Walker

ANDROLOMA: The Torah is the Hebrew name for the five Books of Moses. The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. So I don’t know what you mean by “Torah and the Septuagint”. And the events in the Bible read like they are accurately recorded because they record the heroes of the faith “warts and all”. It reports Noah’s drunkenness, Abraham and Isaac’s lying, Jacobs deceiving, his sons’ violence and despicable treatment of their brother, David’s adultery, etc. If the texts were embellished then you would think that they would have whitewashed their heroes.

18. bmich

Adam was there. He could have easily recorded the events after he was created. And we know from the biblical record that he personally talked with God. He is only six days out from the original creation.

19. Light

ALL recorded history goes back only a little over 6000 years which is also the age of man according to the Bible – there is no older written history. One other argument for the truth of the Bible is what has happened in history SINCE the Bible was written. The march of the major world powers was predicted in Daniel – right down to the final world power which is the Anglo-American – history bears out the march of the world powers in the Bible even though it didn’t name all of them – The Bible’s timetable points to 1914 as a significant year which was the beginning of major changes in the world. Earthquakes in one place after another were all predicted and if you study the statistics for earthquakes you will find that they have increased exponentially starting with 1914. There are many more prophesies that are coming true NOW.
Read Matthew chapter 14 and Like chapter 21 to see the change in conditions predicted for the time we live in and 2 Timothy Chapter 3 for the predictions of the increasing bad attitudes of PEOPLE in this time. many other things in the Bible show it to be inspired – it speaks of the Earth as a circle hanging upon nothing long before man discovered this to be true. Perhaps those that spend so much time and effort coming up with all sorts of arguments to prove the Bible wrong and that God doesn’t exist – (which thereby does free them to do whatever they want but ALSO takes away any real hope for a future except death) – perhaps those should put some equal time into studying what the Scriptures really say and all the evidence for a loving and intelligent creator.
If you found a very primitive little hut made of sticks constructed in the middle of what you thought was an uninhabited island you would conclude that some intelligent being had constructed it – you would NOT ever think that the sticks came together and were tied together with vines to form a roof and walls by coincidence from the wind! Yet you can come to the ridiculous idea that the solar system with it’s predictible schedule, the amazing array of animals and plants and the human brain – all the variety, intelligence, all the systems of the earth, – this all just happened by accident! And you that chose to believe this consider yourselves somehow superior in intelligence compared to those that believe in an intelligent creator?

20. Can't Stop Believing

When you throw in all of the recent scandals of climate-gate, one has to really question the integrity of the scientific community. It is far more “rational” to believe that all the order that we see around us was created than to believe that somehow the random chaotic nothingness magically produced it — by itself, even though it was nothingness and random chaos. Any rational person can see that it’s nonsense.

21. HG

Radiocarbon Dating is used on organic objects only, so the fact that your whole example is based on inorganic rocks and radio carbon dating only suggests that you do not know with any detail or understanding the topic that you are discussing. Your arguments have no research, you have a biased opinion because of your faith, and are not willing to look at the truth, only your version of it.
Yes radiocarbon dating is not infallible, but dendrochronology is extremely reliable and dates back 8,000yrs in the Southwest and in Europe it has been used up to 10,000yrs. It is used to refine and radiocarbon dating up to that amount of time. Radiocarbon dating only can go back 50,000yrs, there are many other dating methods used.

22. Tas Walker

Hi HG,

I did not restrict my discussion to carbon dating. The same fatal problem applies to all dating methods.

I discussed carbon dating and tree-ring chronologies towards the end of my comment above dated July 1, 2009. I included a couple of links to articles about tree-ring chronologies. You do not find one tree with 8,000 or 10,000 rings in it. You find lots of trees in a bog and each has only hundreds of rings. So the long sequence is constructed by arranging dozens of individual pieces of wood into a long sequence and this is one place where the method is highly subjective.

23. Aenon

you are completely wrong because you are using a strawmans arguement. carbon dating is not like a clock, and nowhere in the laws of physics does it say that it is impossible to measure time without knowing the start time. you just assumed that. As for radiometric dating,you only assume that there exists a constant half life, and that there have been no flux in the atoms of daughter or parent atoms. then you use mathematics to derive the age from the ratio

24. One

Eye witness accounts are essential to recording credible evidence of history. Since no one was around for the creation and all dating methods rely on a degree of assumption, none would not satisfy the evidence standard in a court of law. I find more compelling the case for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The case for the resurrection of Jesus does meet the courts evidence standards through many recorded eyewitness accounts. It is actually the resurrection that validates by inference the biblical creation claims, because He either is God and did what He said He did, or He is a liar. The recorded testimony of eye witnesses to the resurrection (a task that could be considered equally as difficult as the creation) overwhelmingly supports the former.

25. Give me a break

Or he doesn’t exist and it was all made up. Show me ANY evidence for the existence of your god or jesus.

Tas your arguments are quite definately of the straw man type. Radio metrics proceedures often use two different elements … yet you ignore this. How can they consistently give the same dates?? Thousands of times consistently pointing to a coherent story of an ancient earth?

26. Tas Walker

Give me a break:
To find evidence for the historical reality of Jesus Christ you simply need to Google “evidence for Jesus Christ”. This is the first article that came up: http://www.gotquestions.org/did-jesus-exist.html but there are many others.

We have explained why there is a coherent story; the final step in the dating methods involves “Explain how your results are consistent with all previous work”. It is called “Interpreting the results” and involves changing ones assumptions about the past until all the results are consistent. It is a formal part of developing the “story”.

27. Darren Higgins

Hi Tas,

Thank you for your article. The replies from some of the commentators have been … disappointing. The topic of Radiometric dating always seems to stir up a lively emotional debate.

I’ve recently completed a Geology undergraduate degree in Australia and took units in geochemistry and geophysics. We learned the assumptions, theories and principles behind the varied radiometric dating methods and the mathematics behind these calculations. After teaching the students all this, one particular professor (who is a highly regarded and well published geologist) told us toward the end of a class that now after teaching us all the above, “This is how it works in real life for the practical field/research geologist …” (and I speak loosely from memory). He went on to elaborate:

1. “When the geologist wants to study and date a particular rock strata they first go to the relevant geological map to find what date has been assigned to the area under study. Then a literature search is undertaken to determine what dating has already been attempted for the rock strata under study. This then gives the geologist a date or time frame to expect from their current research.”

2. “After carefully collecting and preparing the rock samples the geologist sends them to various laboratories for analysis. Each sample is accompanied by a lab form which asks various questions concerning the sample. One question asks for the geological time frame or age to be written, based on what the geologist has assumed or pre-determined the rock sample to be. The filling in of these forms are compulsory for radiometric testing to be carried out.”

3. “The lab receives the sample and the technicians read the accompanying form. They then gain a perception of the time frame to aim for in their analysis of the sample so that a suitable date can be reported back to the geologist. Invariable during analysis a very wide scatter of dates are found. The lab technicians reject as aberrations, artefacts or contamination all dates that do not fall into the pre-conceived time frame given by the geologist.”

4. “When enough dates have been recorded in the pre-conceived time frame these are calculated & assigned a certain date +/- an acceptable degree of error (e.g. 355Ma +/- 5Ma).”

5. “This date is reported back to the geologist. If he is satisfied with the date then he will write up his research paper in a scientific journal, including the given date as evidence for the assigned age of the rock, drawing a variety of conclusions in the process including assigning a date age to any fossils in layers associated with the tested sample.”

6. “After reading this reported new date in the literature it is then repeatedly quoted by other geologists in their own papers and becomes entrenched as ‘fact’ in the scientific literature and reported in the popular media as ‘scientific fact'” …. and so the process continues.

I was quite surprised and somewhat shocked at our professor’s candid and honest admission for this process. But he was an honest and somewhat outspoken person who liked to tell it ‘straight’. He certainly wasn’t a Christian or creationist and held to typical evolutionary views. I can recall us students being somewhat stunned and no one had any come-back questions or debated the issue with him, as he is a geologist with extensive practical experience.

Well, all the best and keep the interesting articles coming.

28. MaryAnn

Today, it is common to sign our names at the end of a letter. It is also common to sometimes put our names near the begging of a business letter or a book, in the letterhead or the cover or front pages of a book. Furthermore, sometimes when we produce a series of articles or reports, we briefly summarize or recap the preceeding ones at the beginning of the new section, to tie them together in correct order.
In Genesis, there were signatures of the several men that God used as eyewitness record-keepers; later Moses compiled the records and edited them to the extent of commenting about what a place or event mentioned in the past might be called in his day.
(Genesis 19:37-38) Signatures:
Genesis 2:4, God; 5;1, Adam; 6:9, Noah; 10:1, Noah’s Sons; 11:10, Shem; 11:27, Terah; 25:19, Isaac (includes Ishmael’s short list in 25:12-15); 37:2, Jacob (includes Esau’s list in chapter 36)
(Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., notes on Genesis, p.1-2, Defender’s Study Bible, 1995; he references archaeologist P. J. Wiseman.)

29. AZGeo

Creation scientists fabricate/manipulate data to fit their fancy book. Geologists and other scientists do not have an agenda in the way creation scientists do. I have dated many Zircons using U/Pb series techniques and found STUNNINGLY supportive data that further proves this method to hold true. Open your eyes and learn to accept. I will not denounce the existence of a God, because I do not have evidence that says otherwise. But be rational people.. for the sake of your children

30. Tas Walker

Hi AZGeo,
Your comment submitted on November 24, 2010 at 12:57pm.
Thank you. Creation geologists and uniformitarian geologists both work from an a priori worldview assumption. As you rightly say, creation scientists assume the Bible records true history. Please realize also that uniformitarian scientists (i.e. you) work from assumptions too. (See Earth history is important for geology.) Uniformitarian geologists assume the globe covering biblical Flood did not occur. Your ‘dating’ of zircons is based on uniformitarian assumptions. If you consider critically each step in what you actually did, asking yourself, “How do we know that?” and “Are there any other possibilities?”) you should be able to see where these assumptions are being made (see Dating secrets).

31. anonymous

I strongly disagree with the “eye witnesses are the only reliable source” argument. Ever play the game telephone? Ever talk to one of your old friends about something that happened in your childhoods, but you both remember completely differently? People can easily be convinced and believe something happened to them if they want to believe it, its basic psychology. POV and perspective play a huge role in events. Meanings of words change, stories are twisted and embellished. And we all know its easy to produce research that proves whatever your cause is, it happens all the time with the global warming debate.

32. Tas Walker

Anonymous,

Yes, eye witnesses can be mistaken. That is why we need two or three independent eyewitnesses—to overcome that problem.

33. Clayton

I’m pretty sure that Noah’s ark was discovered and matched the exact measurements that the bible gives. This is a little off topic but just wanted to share that.

34. Tas Walker

Thanks Clayton,
Your comment of 18 February 2011 at 1:10am.
I’m not sure which find you are referring to, but there are several claims of finding Noah’s Ark. I don’t think we could say that any claim has been confirmed.
See:

35. Timothy Smith

I am writing a paper for my final on Creationism vs Evolution. I have been to numerous discussion sites, and educational/report sites, and have seen a pattern. Creationists make a claim on a website, blind followers of Evolution pop up, all in arms, defending their without any evidence. Immediately following a thorough eviceration of their argument. They return and belittle all of the people who hold a belief they do not agree with.
On an Evolutionist forum, fundementalist Christians, who don’t have an argument, just run around spouting nonsense that isn’t helping anyone. Are soon outmatched and respond by condemning everyone to Hell. (which by the way if they read their bibles at all instead of spouting whatever nonsense some fire and brimstone preacher told them they would know they cannot and should not do)

This is no way to hold a constructive argument. Give Me A Break and Aenon, Don’t bother belittling your opponent. It makes you look bad, makes your argument less legitimate, and is especially rude when you don’t bring any resources to the debate. Light, spouting prophecies and claiming to know what will happen does not help anyone, least of all fellow christians. “NONE will know when I will return. I will come like a theif in the night” And it is possible to fit any circumstance to a vague prophecy if you try hard enough. Did you know that early christians thought that Nero was the anti-christ because of how he persecuted them and that the alternate spelling of his name, Neron, added up to the symbolical number?

36. Jayster Green

If you look at both sides of this argument they are both to the extreme.
Creationists claim the bible says the earth was created in six days, but what is the length of that day?
Others verses in the bible show 1000 years is as a day to God. Also many people are familiar with sayings such as ‘in my fathers day’.
So is a day 24hrs, 1000 years, or an undetermined length of time.
For me I would choose the last.
As for evolutionists and the claim that evolution is fact. Several arguments can be made against that.
Evolution, while claiming to be scientific, ignores a basic fact that life cannot form on its own. Pasteurization is a principle we rely on for food safety, knowing bacteria is killed and wont grow back.
The other argument is population. The claim is made man has been on the earth for 1 million years. Using the established logorithym for population growth, and assuming man did start 1 million years ago, they would be billions upon billions of people on the earth. Even if there was a life extinction event during that time there would still be evidence of civilization with a population that large.

Hi Jayster, You are correct in your conclusions that life does not form on its own and that human population growth means man did not start a million years ago. You are correct too that day can mean a period of time. But day can also mean a literal 24-hour day as well as just the 12 hours of daylight. The meaning of a word is understood from its context. Consider, “In my father’s DAY it took 10 DAYS to drive across Australia during the DAY.” When day has a number with it, it is always a literal 24 hour day. And the way Genesis 1 is worded it is clear that the days of creation were ordinary 24-hour days. Actually, in Genesis 1 and 2 the word day is used with each of those three meanings but the context makes the meaning clear in each case. Do a search for ‘day’ on creation.com for more.
Tas

37. AlwaysQuestioning

In your “search for truth” comment in an earlier post are you open and willing to except the possibility that there is no god or intelligent designer? What arguments would you make in support of no god or ID?

Tas Walker replies: Evidence to design is a powerful argument that God is the Creator. I think that if the more scientists uncovered about the cell the more obvious it was that it all originated by natural processes, then that would be evidence against creation. However, it seems to me that the more that is discovered the more powerful the evidence is for amazing design. Here is the story of an atheist that was convinced of the Creator in a moment. Antony Flew is another atheist who came to believe in God through the evidence to design, but sadly he did not come to know Christ.

38. Justin Draper

What I find interesting is that creationists believe in God and have faith in what He tells them is true (through scriptures, prophets, etc.). Yet none of the scientists are willing to admit that they have “faith” in their science. Yes, science is a faith of its own. Scientists have faith that since what they observe about the recent past stays constant the long reaching past will do the same. Not to mention that all “facts” about astronomy are derived from equations based on observations and extrapolations. While they may coincide, that doesn’t mean they are true.

Science has written, revised and reinterpreted all kinds of things in the past 200 years – from astronomy to zoology. Science altered the diets of Americans in the middle of the last century and “suddenly” we have thousands suffering from cancer, asthma, diabetes and more. Science needs to understand that at its best, it is just another belief about how the world works. Buy into it if you want, don’t tell me to deny everything that contradicts it.

39. Boss

The most important difference between faith and science is that; faith is stagnant and based on hearsay whereas scientific knowledge is based on evidence. “Evidence”, however, changes with the progress of knowledge – the true essence of science. If you believe in supernatural beings (like God and such) you will never have to worry about looking for proof in nature and will always stay uneducated about the true world.

Tas Walker replies:
Hi Boss,
For a better understanding of how science and faith works check the article Bias and Faith. Biblical geology and uniformitarian geology are both based on assumptions about the past. As the article Bias and Faith says:

The clash between creation science and evolution science is thus not a clash between science and religion at all, but between two competing world views, both of which have access to the methodology and tools of science, and both of which involve elements of faith and bias.

40. Trent

Hey Boss,

In your post you said “‘Evidence,’ however, changes with the progress of knowledge…” This statement in itself is proof that we cannot trust the “evidence” of science today.

When humans believed the earth to be flat 500 years ago their understanding was based on “scientific evidence,” the knowledge available to them at that time. As we clearly know today, the earth is not flat. No more than they should have put faith in their evidence than should we.

Our knowledge of the scientific world today is incomplete. It will never be complete as our knowledge progresses and we learn more about the world we live in. Our “truths” will constantly change.

So to respond to your statement “If you believe in supernatural beings….you will never have to worry about looking for proof in nature and will always stay uneducated about the true world,” I propose that, in regards to our current understanding of the world we live in, we are all uneducated and will always be such.

I am a Christian and fully admit that Christianity requires a certain amount of faith. However, the evidence for creationism is already recorded in the Bible. The evidence for a scientific answer to the beginnings of our world is not. It is constantly changing. The amount of faith it takes to believe in Christianity pales in comparison to the amount of faith it takes to believe that we evolved from apes or that the moon is 4.6 billion years old.

If you choose a path of ignorance, then so be it. Rational thought is clouded by fear. Fear is driven by the unknown. When you think about both sides rationally, you’ll realize that just because you don’t understand something 100% and can probe at it with a microscope does not mean that it does not exist. History tells us that time and time again.

41. Steve

Boss,

It seems that your argument is that God stays the same and that science changes all the time, and thus science is better. I’m having a hard time getting from the premise to the same conclusion.

In any event, please present us with the actual age of earth experiments that you have personally done without any reference to existing established geological ages in a specific location that demonstrates that the earth is older than 10,000 years. Surely you have done this if you believe in your evidence. And I’m not talking about samples you’ve collected and sent to a lab. I’m talking about you, personally, actually measuring radio isotopes. Then provide empirical evidence of what the original state of the matter was and the math you used to arrive at the date you have established.

Or have you not actually done this? Is it possible that, in fact, you merely BELIEVE things that were written in a book somewhere by someone you have never met who claims to have been an eyewitness to a rock as it exists today, despite NOT being an eyewitness to that rock a billion years ago.

Aside from the fact that John the apostle was actually there, with Jesus and observed the events as they happened rather than guessing what might have happened a billion years ago through a mathematical formula that makes assumptions that may or may not be correct; how is this belief in the writing of scientists different than the belief in the writing of the apostle John?

42. bur

I love seeing these types of discussions on the internet. It’s clear that the internet and, overall, dissemination of information will lead to the death of the established religions. Children of the future will read these threads and think to themselves: ‘nobody could have been this stupid’. They will ask themselves why people thought like this, and recognize how destructive religious indoctrination is to the masses and individual minds. And they will fight it until it is gone. Every child today knows that when they look at the stars they are seeing them as they were when those particular photons first started propagating across the universe. They know that when they look at the andromeda galaxy, they are seeing it as it was 2.5 million years ago. When they look through a telescope at the sombrero galaxy they know that it is 28 million light-years away. They have no problems with these facts because they are simply data. They also see, thanks to threads like this, that religion poisons minds. They see that the biosphere is maximized for pain and suffering and that no benevolent god type character could have possibly even conceived of such a horrible, unscrupulous place. Only a sadist could partake in such retarded construction. Please keep putting the “reasons” for your beliefs out in the open. So that even children who have been stultified by their parents will recognize that these are not reasons at all. The first step in overcoming indoctrination is recognizing that you have been indoctrinated. Please keep using the internet as a forum, and for all the serious people out there, don’t try to repress these people. I think we can all agree that the best way to expose them is to just let them talk. Think about the future. This is the way that it will happen. But only if I’m right when I say homo sapiens will always gravitate towards the truth… this could be wrong… in which case we will soon be extinct and the earth will have won it’s battle with us.

Hi Bur,

Concerning the telescope and distant galaxies, there are scientific models that explain what is observed from a biblical perspective. Go to Astronomy & Astrophysics Q&A to find many articles and links to books that answer the issues you raise. Yes, the Bible does report amazing events but it reports them accurately. What happened was just as amazing to the people who saw it. These things are true. The fact is that God is real and he is at work in our world.

43. Jay

As previous commenters like Steve have already pointed out, both evolutionist and creationist scientists aren’t very effective when it comes to dating things. Radiometric dating has a huge margin of error. So much so that when scientists want to measure the age of a sample they simply research what the presumed date of the sample is and set out to prove it. Discarding results that don’t fit into what they want. Unreliable. But creationists saying that the bible is the most reliable source in getting information about our past is just as incorrect. After all The bible claims things that are impossible (according to physics). like a man walking on water or a human asexually reproducing, or a talking snake. The anatomy of a snakes mouth wouldn’t even allow it to speak the language the bible said it spoke, even if it was possessed by the devil. Even though modern physics and logic suggest things that happened in the bible are impossible, I happen to believe that they did indeed happen the way bible said they did. However, my (nor anyone else’s) personal beliefs do not belong in a scientific conversation. So that shouldn’t even be part of the discussion. But I do agree with the creationists in this case because radiometric dating is seemingly unreliable.

Hi Jay,

When discussing what happened in the past everyone presents their personal beliefs. That is all anyone has because we cannot make observations in the past. Biblical history is relevant to these conversations and it is vital to be brought to the table because it is what really happened.

44. Nate

I think on some level each of us can only bring our personal beliefs to the table when it comes to discussions related to the origins of the earth and the purpose of life. Whether you choose to believe in the latest estimates of science or in the story recorded in the bible you are accepting some things on faith. I’m not sure whether all scientists (or adherents to their theories) would admit to it, but they too are putting their faith, so to speak, in incomplete facts and theory to some degree. Quite frankly, we just don’t know everything. There could be some vital bit of yet undiscovered information that changes everything, requiring theories to be revised or replaced. Even things we think we understand could, in reality, turn out to be completely different if we really knew everything.
But we do not know everything, and so we rely on whatever evidence we can gather to decide what to believe. Scientific evidence is important to be sure. So much of modern life has been made possible through science, of which we are all beneficiaries. However, there are other kinds of evidence for truth. The Bible has been argued in this thread to be a valuable source of historical evidence and eyewitness accounts. Yet there is still another kind of evidence, which is more important – spiritual evidence. In my experience spiritual experiences are powerful and convincing forms of evidence of such things as the existence of God and the truth of the scriptures. Spiritual evidence can be more real and more convincing that seeing with your own eyes and hearing with your own ears. It also can transcend the problem of not having all the facts. In other words, you can know some particular thing is true without a doubt despite not knowing everything. If you have not had such an experience it undoubtedly sounds “foolish” and “irrational”. Yet there are many who have had them and their testimonies are evidence to you. I invite you to try an experiment: read the Book of Mormon. If you do (with an open mind), I’d wager you have as good a chance as any to experience your own spiritual evidence.
And if you do, you may come to believe as I do that the greatness and importance of the bible is not whether or not we can discern from its pages exactly how old the earth is, but that it can lead you to God and His Son Jesus Christ, who is the source of all truth.
I really like the intent of the original post in this thread, which, as I take it, is aimed at promoting faith in the bible by defending it against the idea that modern science proves it to be false. To be honest, it (and subsequent comments) helped strengthen my faith and I’m glad I found it.
But I just wanted to add that I think the only lasting way any of us will be convinced of the truth of the bible is by individually seeking God and experiencing the undeniable spiritual evidence that can come in the process.

45. Seriously guys

Why is it that everybody is so hellbent on trying to prove each other wrong. Anti-creationists, if you think that the Bible and the people who follow it are so stupid and uneducated, then why do you argue with them? Creationists, if you think the exact same thing about them, then why do you argue with them? This is the problem with arguing. Both sides come to the table, yet after all is said and done, no one has changed their mind.

Comment from Tas:
It’s all about truth. Claiming that the Bible is true has huge personal implications, which is why people get so emotionally involved. I agree that it is not good to argue, but it is helpful to discuss the issues. And people do change their minds (see Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand for an example of where I updated information as a result of feedback from a reader).
.

46. David Robinson

Wow! What I don’t understand is how the creationists reconcile their beleifs with…..anything. The bottom line is if the creationists are right then all of science is wrong. Every last bit of it. The scientists and researchers who study cosmology, astronomy, geology and biology all arrive at the same answer for the age of the earth, sun, moon, etc. independently of one another by using the laws of chemistry and physics. Faith has nothing to do with it. Facts, however, do. I don’t believe in evolution, but I do accept it as the best explanation of how life has changed over time. Someone commented that evolution says we came from apes. That’s wrong. Evolution explains how changes in the DNA of a poulation change over time. This definition is from the modern synthesis of evolution that combines the observations of Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin. The irony is Joseph Stalin of Soviet Union fame decided Mendelian/Darwinian theory had to replaced with something else, because the Christian West (USA, Great Britain, etc.) used evolutionary theory for agriculture and genetics. He replaced genetics with a variant of Lamarckism, known as Lysenkoism, and it was a spectacular failure. Is this what the creationists want? Complete failure of all of science? Evolutionary theory is a combination of biology, geology, cosmology, chemistry and physics. The laws of those disciplines are the building blocks of all science theory. If any one of them were wrong, then all are wrong. Why can’t you creationsists understand this? It’s like you’re saying “I accept algebra, but reject exponents”. The DNA science that is used to convict or exonerate someone in a court of law is the same science used to track the changes in DNA in humans over time. Humans are not an exception to the laws of science. The chemistry and physics that cause the changes in the DNA of a virus, bacteria, fly, toad, human or blue whale are the same. There cannot be any exceptions. You can’t have it both ways, so either all of it is right or all of it is wrong.

47. Tas Walker

Hi David, I respond below to your comment submitted on 26 October 2011 at 1:57am. Tas.

What I don’t understand is how the creationists reconcile their beleifs with…..anything.

That means you need to do some reading and research. One good place to start is the Q&A pages of Creation.com.

The bottom line is if the creationists are right then all of science is wrong. Every last bit of it.

No, this is not correct. You need to understand the difference between the speculations of scientists and the facts of science. One helpful concept is to appreciate the difference between ‘experimental’ science and ‘historical’ science. See It’s not science.

The scientists and researchers who study cosmology, astronomy, geology and biology all arrive at the same answer for the age of the earth, sun, moon, etc. independently of one another by using the laws of chemistry and physics. Faith has nothing to do with it. Facts, however, do.

Actually, it is not like that. For an example of how it works see The dating game.

I don’t believe in evolution, but I do accept it as the best explanation of how life has changed over time. Someone commented that evolution says we came from apes. That’s wrong. Evolution explains how changes in the DNA of a poulation change over time. This definition is from the modern synthesis of evolution that combines the observations of Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin.

The word ‘evolution’ has at least two different meanings (see Defining terms). See also the page Question evolution.

The irony is Joseph Stalin of Soviet Union fame decided Mendelian/Darwinian theory had to replaced with something else, because the Christian West (USA, Great Britain, etc.) used evolutionary theory for agriculture and genetics. He replaced genetics with a variant of Lamarckism, known as Lysenkoism, and it was a spectacular failure. Is this what the creationists want? Complete failure of all of science?

This shows what happens when science is determined by government decree or some scientific ‘authority’ and not on evidence and logic. See this review of Jonathan Wells’ book Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. “Today, Wells says, Darwinism would crumble quickly in the face of free inquiry, so it, like Lysenko, is propped up by power plays, politics and money.” The best safeguard against this serious problem is a free market place for ideas. There is a worrying trend in the west to censor ideas and this is the real threat to science. Did you see the DVD Expelled?

Evolutionary theory is a combination of biology, geology, cosmology, chemistry and physics. The laws of those disciplines are the building blocks of all science theory. If any one of them were wrong, then all are wrong. Why can’t you creationsists understand this? It’s like you’re saying “I accept algebra, but reject exponents”. The DNA science that is used to convict or exonerate someone in a court of law is the same science used to track the changes in DNA in humans over time. Humans are not an exception to the laws of science. The chemistry and physics that cause the changes in the DNA of a virus, bacteria, fly, toad, human or blue whale are the same. There cannot be any exceptions. You can’t have it both ways, so either all of it is right or all of it is wrong.

As I said above, this is incorrect. Another article that deals with this issue is Evolution & creation, science & religion, facts & bias.

48. Scott H

This article is painfully misleading. Radiometric dating is generally restricted to cases where rocks have been melted and reformed (e.g. igneous rocks, or ash from volcanic eruptions found in sedimentary rocks). Melting a rock resets its isotope proportions back to “zero”, (and we can test this with “reliable eye witnesses”) so no guessing is involved. Also, most modern isotopic dating uses dating. Isochron dating, which specifically eliminates the need to know the original ratio of parent and daughter products in a rock.

Tas Walker responds. Hi Scott, For the K-Ar system it is assumed that melting a rock resets its argon proportions back to zero but there are ubiquitous problems because that does not work in practice—the problem is given a name—excess argon. For other systems the isotopic proportions are definitely not reset. And isochron dating does not eliminate the need to know the original ratio. It assumes that the initial ratio of each rock sample is the same as the ratio of each other sample. And there are huge problems with that. These problems are discussed in this response to Roger Wiens.

There’s another very serious problem with your watch analogy. In many cases you can use multiple different radiometric dating techniques, and they provide the same range of answers! If geologists were wrong about their assumptions, then using Potassium/Argon, Argon/Argon, and Lead/Uranium dating should all give us different answers (since they decay at different rates). Instead, when they can be applied to the same rocks they always yield the same dates. The same applies with all other overlapping isotope dating methods, including fission dating, and of course Carbon dating.

Scott, the dating methods are made to agree. When they don’t the ones that are believed to be off are rejected or the differences are incorporated into a calibration curve. Have you heard about the step in the dating process called ‘interpretation’? See How dating methods work.

Carbon of course can only be used on geologically more recent items (the last few tens of thousands of years), but here’s the thing: we can use carbon dating on items which also have reliable historical dates from human history! For example, carbon dating can be applied to manuscripts from ancient Egypt, and match up with the known dates of those documents. That means we aren’t “guessing” if it works, we can test the method against reliable human observers! Of course you’ll probably want to trot out the same tired examples where people misapplied carbon dating (e.g. to items that are too recent).

Yes, carbon dating can be tested against historical artifacts, but we don’t have reliably dated artifacts beyond about 2½ to 3½ thousand years ago. And when it is tested there are often problems and historical dates always have precedence over carbon ‘dates’. Beyond that sort of a time scale the carbon ‘dates’ need to be corrected to account for the upset of the earth’s carbon balance as a result of the global Flood.

It actually gets even worse for you: we aren’t “assuming” that radioactive decay is constant. Lots of things have shorter half lives that we can observe in a laboratory. Depending on the isotope, has at most a half-life of just over two minutes. That means that chemists and physicists can run thousands of experiments, subjecting them to heat, pressure, or any other sort of force, but the reliable human witnesses always find that the radioactive decay happens at a constant rate.

That’s three independent ways now we can test radiometric decay, and all of them involve human observers and eliminate your objections. And no one you should be surprised, because the same subatomic physics behind this is what lets us design nuclear power plants, create new materials, and of course design better semi-conductors. If the physics behind radiometric dating didn’t work, you wouldn’t be reading these words on a computer screen or smart phone right now.

Your argument does not follow. The decay rates of some radioactive decay systems have been observed to have varied in the laboratory and some seem to be connected with solar phenomenon. We don’t know what causes an atom to decay so we do not know under what conditions decay may be stimulated.

There is no such thing as “radioactive dating.” The mere use of this phrase implies the lack of understanding of the processes involved when dealing with various methods of direct dating. I would suggest focusing on the process of isotopic decay dating methods and refresh yourself on them. “Radiocarbon” dating is, as some commenters above have noted, a process restricted to very recent times and are unreliable or impossible to project beyond a given time frame including recent time simply because the isotpes decay into other elements and leave no Carbon behind after that time period.

No, really, go look it up. Try not to use creationist source material, but physics textbooks.

Tas Walker responds: Hi Jaime, The article applies to all methods of dating, not just to carbon dating. I prefer the term ‘radioactive dating’ because people have an impression of what that is. A more accurate term would be ‘radio-isotope dating’. Some use the term ‘radio-metric dating’ but I don’t like it because, as the article explains, the method is not measuring age. Even Gunter Faure in his book on isotopes says he does not like the term ‘radio-metric’.

50. francis beacon

I find it odd that you are perfectly happy to utilize the science that was necessary to create the watch you describe, but just as happy to discard the science used to determine the age of the Earth. I will guess you are not trained in watch technology and used some other source for your information. Expert sources, people who take years to understand and develop the science behind a wristwatch. Certainly, you are free to pick and choose what you want to believe, but simply choosing what fits your beliefs doesn’t make you any less ignorant of reality. It is, in fact, becoming more dangerous to do so as parents with errant beliefs and a distrust of science are passing this ignorance along to their children. And guess what? We end up with part of an entire generation who fall behind their peers, are largely mocked by less ignorant cultures and contribute to the growing mediocrity of the U.S.

Tas Walker responds: Hi Francis, The key is to understand the difference between experimental science and historical science. The first is based on observation; the second on speculation. Do a search on creation.com for these key words. Keep reading.

51. Tim

If I missed someone’s comments to this effect please accept my apologies… I couldn’t stomach reading everything above.
I don’t know why both camps (evolutionists & creationists) always miss this obvious point. The bible doesn’t say that everything was created in 6 24 hr “days”. It simply says such and such happened, then another day begins. We’ve all heard people say things like “well, back in my grandfathers day”, well that’s obviously not a 24hr period but rather could be talking about decades of time as a “day”.
So, as regards the age of the earth since each of the 6 “days” could have been millions of years long the earth itself may very well be billions of years old. The age of man… well that’s a different story now isn’t it. The bible says man’s been here for about 6,000 years & science would disagree. As for me I firmly believe that carbon dating is untrustworthy as their assumptions are laughable. If there were say… a global flood partially caused by a collapsing water canopy that to that point surrounded the earth creating a green house effect (hinted at in Ge 7:11). Or if the magnetic poles used to be reversed, something scientists agree is a real possibility than every carbon date concocted is worthless.

BTW- Here somethings that always bothered me… if evolution were true wouldn’t our brains be just the right size or maybe slightly less than we currently need? Evolution doesn’t not explain why we have way more than we need. Oddly enough, if we were originally designed to live forever (the Genesis account) we would need some place extraordinary to store all of those memories. Nuf said.

Hi Tim: Yes, the word ‘day’ can mean a long period of time but it can also mean a literal 24-hour day. Further, it can mean the daylight part of the day. So how do we know what its meaning is? By its context. And the context of Genesis 1 is that the six creation days were six, literal, 24-hour days. Read How long were the days of Genesis 1? And, Tim, what experience do you have with designing brains, let alone with designing a person to live forever?

52. Brian Gardner

A swimming race illustrates the simple principles involved in measuring time. This swimmer is competing in a 1,500 metre race and we have an accurate, calibrated wristwatch. We note that at the instant the swimmer touches the edge of the pool our wristwatch reads 7:41 and 53 seconds. How long has the competitor taken to swim the 1,500 metre race?
I agree if you only saw the time at the end of the race you would not know how long he took to complete the race. If you were able to measure how long he took to complete 1 lap or even timed a measured distance you would then be able to calculate approximately how long the race took. I accept he could have rested halfway or swum the first half much faster but if you took enough of these measurements (without seeing the start or even the finish) you would get a reasonable idea of how long it takes to swim 1500 meters. That is how carbon dating works. The dating is calibrated against how long the carbon 14 takes to decay in a certain known period. As I am sure you are aware radioactive carbon 14 is formed by the action of solar radiation on nitrogen in the atmosphere. So the concentration of carbon14 is relatively constant. The chemistry of C14 is identical to C12 so all living matter has the same proportion of C14 due to constant exchange of carbon between plants, animals, atmosphere etc. Once the plant or animal dies this exchange is cut off and the proportion of the decaying radioactive carbon 14 begins to decrease. So after about 4000 years there is only about half the the original C14 left and about 4000 years later half again. By about 50000 years there is probably too little to be measured accurately. C14 has too short a half-life for measuring but other radioactive elements like Uranium (half-life about 10 to the power 8) have much longer half-lives. Using mother daughter methods it is possible to date rocks that solidified out of their molten state billions of years ago. Also your assumption that scientists collude is nonsense. Scientists love nothing better than to tear some other scientists pet theories apart. No scientific article is worth much until it has been thoroughly peer reviewed.

Tas Walker responds:
Hi Brian,

If you had only seen the last bit of the race you would not have seen how many laps he had done. The point of that illustration is to show it’s impossible to measure the age of anything in the past objectively. You need to observe the beginning and the end and all the way in between. It’s called history, and that is what the Bible records. All age results using isotopes and other scientific methods only make observations in the present and are based on assumptions. I don’t think you appreciate that fact of life yet.

I am well aware of the theory behind carbon-14 dating. One of the big assumptions is, as you put it, “So the concentration of carbon14 is relatively constant.” But how do you know that to be true? In fact, those who use carbon-14 for dating things know that assumption is not true, so they have developed ‘calibration’ curves using other ‘dating’ methods. I’m not going to tell you what they are but you can find so-called calibration curves if you do a search with Google.

I’ve not said that scientists collude. Where did you read that? What I am saying is that they all make the same assumptions about the past history of the globe. They are all singing to the same tune. Thus they assume that carbon-14 is basically constant (uniformitarianism) but discovered with experience that it is not. Thus the need for a calibration curve, but every other dating method has the same problem. They ignore the reality of the global Flood which upset the carbon balance of the earth and so they get answers that agree with their original assumption.

The Bible is a reliable history of the world and I encourage people not to dismiss it because most scientists assume it is not true. Do you have a copy? I would recommend that you spend some time to read it.

All the best,

Tas Walker

53. ashere

An analysis of their similarities and differences should show either a genetic branching tree, or, if the original biblical story was preserved unchanged, the differences should be greater the further one gets from Babylon. Neither pattern matches the evidence. Flood stories are best explained by repeated INDEPENDENT? origins caused by separate independent flood incidents. People usually live by bodies of water. Bodies of water flood. People write those stories down. Problem solved.

Tas Walker responds:
And these floods always cover the highest mountains and last for many months? You seem to be grasping at straws here.

54. Olly

Helioseismic dating tells us that the sun is billions of years old.

And you want me to believe that the earth only just formed 6,000 years ago?
How could a planet this large and dense, suddenly be formed a few thousand years ago from the accretion of matter that had been suspended in orbit around a massive star for billions of years? I tell you how, by not doing that.

It formed at the same time as everything else in the solar system. Billions of years ago.

Tas Walker responds:
All dating methods have the same problem. They all depend on assumptions and the assumptions are always made such that the answer is acceptable to preexisting beliefs—the paradigm. Your Helioseismic dating claim is not evidence but just an interpretation to fit within the long-age view.

55. anthonyrj

Interesting discussion. I agree, as several people have mentioned here, that individuals can and do change their minds. I was raised in the Christian church and faith (my dad’s a pastor), so I’ve spent time intimately with the Bible – mulling over ideas, discussing them with my father and other faithful people. I have also spent time pursuing higher education and learning things from a non-Biblical perspective. On balance (and this is just for me), Biblical history and the Christian view of the world doesn’t hold water. I think the Bible can offer invaluable moral lessons and I still read it today for moral guidance. I also believe in a creator, but I believe that the creator created the universe with rules and that we operate within those rules. I don’t buy the idea that fundamental reality has changed since the time the Bible was written – we don’t see talking snakes today, I don’t believe there were talking snakes after creation; individuals don’t die and become re-animated after three days today, I don’t believe that it happened then either; blindness can not be reversed with a touch of hands today…you get the idea.

Look, I have no problem with anyone believing whatever it is they want to believe and I expect the same consideration to be given to me. So long as one group’s faith (scientific, religious or otherwise) does not have a negative personal impact on individuals who do not accept that faith we’re all good.

Tas Walker responds:
Hi Anthony, You seem to be saying that we can believe what you like as long as its nice. Does truth, logic or evidence play any part in this? How can we know what happened in the past?

56. yinyang

i have been researching various history of the bible,the bibles details,along with other published books as far as chariot of the gods and things like that.i have read that there is over 500 historical readings that the earth once had a great flood.i try to use science and history to both rationalize creationists and evolutionists.one way i have proposed this is if thinking outside the box.if it is indeed truth that we had a great flood and it is recorded in over 500 historical documents,where did all this water come from scientifically.some would say the melting of polar ice caps,but lets try to scientifically validate what was said in the bible prior to the great flood.for one people use to live to be hundreds of years old.also if earth is indeed only 6000 years old dinosaurs should have lived during the time of man since we have their fossils evident.now consider this, what if we had an extra ozone layer before this flood and the ozone layer collapsed somehow,we would now have a great flood and more radiation could now enter our atmosphere,all living organisms die much quicker now.also all reptiles grow from the time they are born till the time they die,meaning reptiles would have been much greater in size do to there age.also it could explain why we find fossils in the first place bc the sediments from the great flood settled on the dead organisms burying them.but would this hinder carbon 14 dating? i am not trying to favor one side or the other. im just trying to get some more educated feedback on this possibility.

Tas Walker responds:
You are quite right about dinosaurs and man. Use the search box on creation.com to search for lots of articles on dinosaurs.

57. othisicoter

systems are capable of coming into existence spontaneously else there would be no systems to exercise creativity furthermore systems existing which are functioning through non-creative means are obviously the result of spontaneity.

Tas Walker responds:
You can identify those systems that have come into existence through intelligent design and those that are the product of natural processes. Hence the disciplines of archaeology, forensic science and SETI.

58. John

Hey Tas,

Enjoyed the article and the comments. Even went to creation.com and read how can we see distant stars in a young universe? Enjoyed that, though most of it went over my head. The idea of time being the variable was interesting(or at least that is what I summed it up as).

It made me think of another possibility that I thought I might share. I will admit this is not scientific, but bare with me.

When God was creating the universe and earth is it not possible that the universe was very small, at least compared to what we see now? So light from the stars would have been visible to an observer on earth, and then God spread out the universe in such a fashion and at such speed that the light has not yet caught up with the stars. In other words, the light from the stars is moving away from us(kinda like in star wars when they make the jump to light speed and the light hangs around for awhile after the ship disappears), and one day we will no longer see the light( Joel 3:15 says one day the stars will no longer shine).

I understand that we can measure whether stars are moving towards us or away from us, but can we measure whether the light from those stars is moving towards us or away from us? Again, just a thought, maybe its foolish, but I am one who believes in using the bible to prove/disprove man’s ideas rather than the other way around.

Tas Walker responds:
Hi John, Your suggestion is a possibility but would need more development, of course. Humphreys has produced a model that is a bit similar in that it involves a stretching out of the universe. You can find his ideas on creation.com by searching for “distant starlight” or “starlight and time”.

59. craig

You have all missed the point. The Bible is what we get all our laws, morals and time from. We don’t live in the year 2 billion and something. We live in 2012 after the death of Jesus. If we have been around for more years than the Bible says then we are a pretty stupid race judging by what has happened in the past 100 years. To even suggest we have come from apes is stupid. Why are there still apes? Or are we just smart apes that look different and have completely different make up to the others?

60. william beech

Those of you who insist on saying we “descended” from apes are operating from a false premise. The correct premise is that H. sapiens and apes evolved from a common ancestor and that line of evolution had many branches. Apes and man are two different branches of that evolutionary line.
B.BEECH

Tas Walker responds:
Hi William,
Yes, that is the story that evolutionists now tell but it is not supported by the evidence. Check out “human evolution” on Creation.com.

61. Rick shepler

Tas , thank you for the forum and for offering up this discussion. It s good that differing opinions can converse and offer up their respective views but more important to me is why do they hold those views. The bible in my experience is a reliable record with many clues almost hidden init. for example in the book of isaiah 40: speaks of god sitting on the circle of the earth and spreading the stars out as a tent, anyone else think that sounds like a round earth? by the way it was written 600 bc more or less. when was Christopher Columbus paid to sail? 😉 more evidence how about God casting sins as far away as east is from the west. think about that for a minute if you travel east and continue when will you be going west? never! now go north, when do you go south? at the noth pole. the point is you can onlt do that on a spinning sphere. so when science dissmisses the bible out of hand they do science a grave disservice and denigrate science into their own little religion.

62. Rick shepler

and as for the ages of the stars by the distances involved etc etc etc, why if God created Adam and Eve as mature adults able to reproduce why couldnt he create the tars in place with the light already in place, a mature system in effect? just a thought. perhaps we shouldnt get so caught up in the time space continuim that doesnt bind the God of the bible.

63. Sean

Your analogy is flawed. Carbon dating would be more like a runner running in a straight line. The runner would start at a rate of 60 miles per hour and slow down at a specific rate of speed over the course of her run. For the sake of this example lets say she slows down 1 mph every 5 minutes she is running. If we measure her rate of speed as 55 mph and we know she slows down 1 mph every 5 minutes she is running we know she has been running for 25 minutes.

Not a perfect analogy but it is in the ball park. Your example isn’t anything like carbon dating.

Hi Sean:
So, you see a runner running and you look at your watch and it is reading x hours. With a speed gun you measure their speed and it is y km/hr. That is the first you have seen her. So, how long has she been running for?

64. Patristic Saint

Tas — Great work. I have really enjoyed reading your article and your insightful responses. Keep up the great work and may the Lord bless you.

65. Freeman

Hello Tas,

I was wondering if you have ever thought of adding incidents where living animals or recently animals have been dated and generated ‘dates of death’ much greater than the true date of death (or in the case of living animal, a incorrect date period), or does this not fit the purpose of this article?

Tas Walker responds:
That’s a good idea. I’ll try to find time to do an update.

66. jesse

Explain this. The speed of light travels at 299 792 458 m / s. This is a proven and known fact that can’t be argued. 13.23 billion light-years from Earth lies the furthest galaxy we have observed…to date. So…this light clearly has been traveling for 13.23 billion years. Now…I know that doesn’t explain the age of the earth…but clearly the universe and all of its laws(which are the same laws we follow here on earth) were happening 13.23 billion years ago. I’d venture to say the earth is in fact older than 10,000 years.

Your theories and opinions are designed to shackle people to an ancient theory that has long been proven incorrect. If we don’t move on and keep evolving the facts and ideas that keep being discovered…then we would still think the earth is flat…or the universe revolves around us….or that solar eclipses are some magical revelation that has meaning beyond what it really is.

I hope you free your mind someday.

Tas Walker responds:
Hi Jesse, For information about distant starlight see the articles on creation.com. You have bought into a particular worldview and you will be interested to read material from another perspective.