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Indicators that the Earth is young

Indicators using radiometric
dating, along with rebuttals


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About radiometric dating:

This is a group of measuring techniques used to determine the age of materials.

There are two main radiometric dating methods:

  • One type measures the sample's inventory of Potassium (in the form of 40K) and Argon (in the form of 40Ar). The former is unstable and decays over time to the latter. The half life of this process is about 1.3 billion years. 1,2 That is, after 1.3 billion years, half of the original 40K has decayed to 40Ar. After 4.2 billion years -- roughly the age of the Earth -- only one-eighth of the original 40K would be still present. By measuring the ratio of the two, one can estimate the age of the sample. Scientists have reached a consensus that, with care, such measurements can accurately date rocks in excess of four billion years of age.
  • The other dating type is similar but uses the unstable Carbon isotope 14C that decays into 12C. 3 This process has a half-life of 5,730 years. Of course, it can only be used on samples containing carbon -- e.g. plants, coal, and natural textiles. Carbon 14-dating is extensively used in archeological research. It was used to support the belief that the linen that forms the Shroud of Turin was made during the Middle Ages. Thus, the shroud could not have been the burial shroud of Jesus.

    Initially, carbon dating involved counting the actual number of 14C decays. Unfortunately, cosmic rays tended to inject false counts with this method. That limited how far back dates could be measured. Initially, the limit was about 40,000 BP (years before the present). Circa 1980, a new technique was developed that uses an ion beam accelerator and a mass spectrometer (AMS). It sorts the various carbon isotopes by mass, and the atoms are individually counted This extends the useful range of the method back to about 90,000 BP.

Six indicators of a young earth using radiometric dating:

  1. Involves circular reasoning
  2. Is inaccurate because of events during the flood of Noah
  3. Failed on a Hawaiian lava sample
  4. Failed on Grand Canyon rock samples
  5. Failed on Mount St. Helens samples
  6. Carbon dating is totally discredited

Indicator 1: Radiometric dating involves circular reasoning: This technique gives meaningless results. Scientists who measure the age of rocks generally ask in advance what the age of the rocks is expected to be. They then tweak the measuring process to give the anticipated results. Measurements are not scientific; they are self-fulfilled prophecy.

Rebuttal: This is a misunderstanding of the process of radiometric dating. It is true that the scientist who measures the sample will often ask the probable age of the rock supplied. But this is done in order to maximize the accuracy of the measurement.  Some techniques give most accurate results for 2 million year old rocks; others give best accuracy for 3 billion year old rocks. 


Indicator 2: Radiometric dating is inaccurate: During the worldwide flood of Noah, there were massive pressures on the earth's rocks which caused major changes to their isotope content. Since uranium-lead, potassium-Argon and similar radiometric dating methods rely on the content of isotopes in the rock samples, they will give totally erroneous results.

Rebuttal: Water pressure may cause unusual accumulation of an isotope or may cause some degree of leaching of an isotope away from the sample. This is why multiple samples are used in critical age determinations. But these are relatively small effects -- not something that would increase the apparent age of a rock from 10,000 years to 3.6 billion years as in the case of samples "from outcrops in southwestern Minnesota are believed to represent some of the oldest rocks in North America." 4 Incidentally, external pressure has no effect on the processes of radioactive decay.


Indicator 3: Radiometric dating failed on Hawaiian sample: Many creation scientists state that carbon dating and potassium argon dating methods are faulty. A sample of lava from Hawaii that was know to be less than 200 years of age tested between 160 million and 3 billion years of age.

Rebuttal: The testing was done properly. The readings were accurate measurements of inclusions of OLD rock in the NEW lava flows. They are called "xenoliths."


Indicator 4: Radiometric dating failed on Grand Canyon rock samples: We received an Email stating:

"A slab of stone from the bottom of the Grand Canyon and one from the top were dated radiometricly. The one on the bottom was millions of years younger than the one on the top. This proves that radiometric dating is inaccurate and should not be relied upon."

Rebuttal: One wonders whether the "slab of stone" from the bottom of the canyon might have simply fallen from the top within the last few centuries? But let's assume that the rock was properly selected. Suppose that the bottom stone's age was determined to be 2,000 million years old and the top stone was 2,003 million years old. Results from any measurement contain a degree of error. Suppose that radiometric analysis of this type of stone is typically accurate within 2%. That means that the age of the bottom stone was probably between 1,960 and 2,040 million years, and that of the top stone was between 1963 and 2043 million. The bottom stone could in fact be almost 80 million years older than the top stone, and still give the results cited.

In this particular case, the radiometric measurement was apparently made on whole rocks. No scientist would normally do this, because a whole rock will typically contain various crystals from different environments with different histories and ages. Thus, the data is almost meaningless. 


Indicator 5:  Radiometric dating failed on Mount St. Helens samples: Radiometric dating of brand new rock from Mt. St. Helens revealed an age of billions of years. This also proves that radiometric dating cannot be relied upon.

Rebuttal: Before St. Helens blew its stack, the top of the mountain was solid rock, probably billions of years old. After the explosion, some of the top of the mountain became pumice; some became small rock particles, pebbles, rocks and boulders. The age of the rock did not change because of the explosion. Chopping a 2 billion year old piece of rock in two pieces produces two pieces of rock, both 2 billions of years old.


Indicator 6:  Carbon dating totally discredited: An article by John Baumgardner of the Institute of Creation Research titled: "Carbon Dating Undercuts Evolution's Long Ages" destroys the credibility of carbon dating. 5 It points out that if coal were hundreds of millions of years old -- perhaps on the order of 50,000 half-lives of carbon, there should not be any detectable C-14 left in the samples. Yet substantial amounts have been found, giving the coal samples an apparent age of about 50,000 years.

Rebuttal: Carbon 14 dating is currently only capable of estimating the age of samples containing carbon, that are less than about 90 millennia old. For samples older than 90 millennia, almost all of the 14C that was originally in the sample would have decayed into 12C. There would very little of the original 14C left to measure.

However, it is quite possible for a sample to adsorb "new" 14C from various sources, including:

  • Background radiation originating in material adjacent to the sample, and/or
  • The atmosphere itself, and/or
  • Modern microorganisms in the form of fungi and bacteria growing on the sample.

Geologists believe that most coal was formed during the Carboniferous period, about 300 million years ago. It is common for coal that is millions of years of age to adsorb sufficient contaminants from the surrounding rock to give an apparent age of perhaps 50 millennia using Carbon 14 dating. 6 Even though this age is still five times the limit of 10,000 years ago for creation that most young Earth creationists claim, many of them are using these findings in an attempt to discredit Carbon-14 dating.

Kathleen Hunt, who wrote an essay on Carbon-14 in coal deposits for TalkOrigins.org, exchanged Emails with Dr. Harry Grove, an expert in the development of the accelerator mass spectrometer (AMS) method of Carbon-14 dating. She reports that some physicists have:

"... discovered that fossil fuels vary widely in 14C content. Some have no detectable 14C; some have quite a lot of 14C. Apparently it correlates best with the content of the natural radioactivity of the rocks surrounding the fossil fuels, particularly the neutron- and alpha-particle-emitting isotopes of the uranium-thorium series. Dr. Gove and his colleagues told me they think the evidence so far demonstrates that 14C in coal and other fossil fuels is derived entirely from new production of 14C by local radioactive decay of the uranium-thorium series. Many studies verify that coals vary widely in uranium-thorium content, and that this can result in inflated content of certain isotopes relevant to radiometric dating. ... I now understand why fossil fuels are not routinely used in radiometric dating!" 6
Ms Hunt discussed a 1989 paper by D.C. Lowe. 7 She says that Lowe:
"... makes a reasonable case for fungi and bacteria - there are fungi that can degrade lignite (Polyporus versicolor and Poria montiola), as well as autotrophic "thiobacillus-like" bacteria that oxidize pyrites in coal, and he points out that bacteria have been found 3km underground apparently living on granite. Lowe states that fungal and bacterial activity is particularly likely in warm, damp coal exposed to air, and he points out that microbial action only has to result in the deposition of ~0.1% by weight of modern carbon in the coal to produce an apparent age of 45,000 years for the specimen." 7
It appears that essentially all of the 14C of coal has long since disappeared. However, some coal has had its 14C replenished by radioactivity contributed by surrounding rocks, and/or by the action of microorganisms. It is the 14C from the latter sources that is detected in the Carbon-14 measurements. The coal remains hundreds of millions of years old.

References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Geological Time," Evolution for Teaching, at: http://sci.waikato.ac.nz/
  2. "Chronological Methods 9 - Potassium-Argon Dating," University of California, at: http://id-archserve.ucsb.edu/
  3. I. Higham, "Radiocarbom WEB-info," at: http://www.c14dating.com/
  4. The "Creation 'Science' Debunked" Home Page is at: http://www.geocities.com/
  5. John Baumgardner, "Carbon Dating Undercuts Evolution's Long Ages," Institute for Creation Research,  undated, at: http://www.icr.org/
  6. Mark Isaak, "The Counter-Creationism Handbook, University of California Press, (2007), Item CD001.6, Page 151. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
  7.  Kathleen Hunt, "Carbon-14 in coal deposits," TalkOrigins, 2002-MAY-22, at: http://www.talkorigins.org/
  8. D.C. Lowe, "Problems associated with the use of coal as a source of 14C-free background material."  Radiocarbon 31(2):117-120 1989.

Copyright © 1996 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated: 2008-AUG-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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