11-Nov-2015 01:51

How to solve a radiometric dating problem

Radiometric dating of rocks and minerals using naturally occurring, long-lived radioactive isotopes is troublesome for young-earth creationists because the techniques have provided overwhelming evidence of the antiquity of the earth and life.

In most instances, these efforts are flawed because the authors have misunderstood or misrepresented the data they attempt to analyze (for example, Woodmorappe 1979; Morris HM 1985; Morris JD 1994).Only rarely does a creationist actually find an incorrect radiometric result (Austin 1996; Rugg and Austin 1998) that has not already been revealed and discussed in the scientific literature.The creationist approach of focusing on examples where radiometric dating yields incorrect results is a curious one for two reasons.First, it provides no evidence whatsoever to support their claim that the earth is very young.If the earth were only 6000–10 000 years old, then surely there should be some scientific evidence to confirm that hypothesis; yet the creationists have produced not a shred of it so far.Where are the data and age calculations that result in a consistent set of ages for all rocks on earth, as well as those from the moon and the meteorites, no greater than 10 000 years? Second, it is an approach doomed to failure at the outset.

Creationists seem to think that a few examples of incorrect radiometric ages invalidate all of the results of radiometric dating, but such a conclusion is illogical.

Even things that work well do not work well all of the time and under all circumstances.

Try, for example, wearing a watch that is not waterproof while swimming. A few verified examples of incorrect radiometric ages are simply insufficient to prove that radiometric dating is invalid.

It will probably fail, but what would a reasonable person conclude from that? All they indicate is that the methods are not infallible.

Those of us who have developed and used dating techniques to solve scientific problems are well aware that the systems are not perfect; we ourselves have provided numerous examples of instances in which the techniques fail.

We often test them under controlled conditions to learn when and why they fail so we will not use them incorrectly. For example, after extensive testing over many years, it was concluded that uranium-helium dating is highly unreliable because the small helium atom diffuses easily out of minerals over geologic time.

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