Radiometric Dating and Creation Science
These young-Earth creationists now argue that radioisotope decay has actually . Aggregated over the billion year history of Earth, radioactive decay has. The topic of radiometric dating has received some of the most vicious attacks by young earth creation science theorists. However, none of the criticisms of young. Is radiometric dating really proof that the earth is billions of years old as evolutionists claim? - Radioactive Dating & A Young Earth.
Evidence of past history of C concentration in the atmosphere is now available through the past 22, years, using ages of lake sediments in which organic carbon compounds are preserved. Reporting before a conference on past climates, Professor Minze Stuiver of the University of Washington found that magnetic ages of the lake sediments remained within years of the radiocarbon ages throughout the entire period.
He reported that the concentration of C in the atmosphere during that long interval did not vary by more than 10 percent Stuiver,p.
Thus, the available evidence is sufficient to validate the radiocarbon method of age determination with an error of about 10 percent for twice as long a period as the creation scenario calls for.
The dipole moment of the earth's magnetic field, sunspot activity, the Suess effect, possible nearby supernova explosions, and even ocean absorption can have some effect on the carbon concentration.
However, these factors don't affect the radiocarbon dates by more than about percent, judging from the above studies. Of course, when we reach the upper limit of the method, around 40, years for the standard techniques, we should allow for much greater uncertainty as the small amounts of C remaining are much harder to measure.
Tree-ring data gives us a precise correction table for carbon dates as far back as 8, years. The above study by Stuiver shows that the C fluctuations in the atmosphere were quite reasonable as far back as 22, years ago. The earth's magnetic field seems to have the greatest effect on C production, and there is no reason to believe that its strength was greatly different even 40, years ago.
For a refutation of Barnes' argument see Topic Therefore, atmospheric variation in C production is not a serious problem for the carbon method. The evidence refutes Dr. Hovind's claim that the C content of our atmosphere is in the middle of a 30,year buildup. Thus, we can dismiss this young-earth argument. The C decay rate is not constant. Several factors, including the year sunspot cycle, affects its rate of decay.
It is painfully obvious that Dr. Hovind knows next to nothing about carbon dating! Changes in the sunspot cycle do have a noticeable, short-term effect on the rate of C production inasmuch as sunspots are associated with solar flares, which produce magnetic storms on Earth, and the condition of the earth's magnetic field does affect the number of cosmic rays reaching the earth's upper atmosphere.
Carbon is produced by energetic collisions between cosmic rays and molecules of nitrogen in the upper atmosphere. Sunspots have absolutely nothing to do with the rate of C decay, which defines the half-life of that radioactive element. Hovind has confused two completely different concepts.
Quantum mechanics, that stout pillar of modern physics, which has been verified in so many different ways that I couldn't begin to list them all even if I had them at hand, gives us no theoretical reason for believing that the C rate of decay has changed or can be significantly affected by any reasonable process. We also have direct observation: That radiocarbon ages agree so closely with tree-ring counts over at least years, when the observed magnetic effect upon the production rate of C is taken into account, suggests that the decay constant itself can be assumed to be reliable.
We also have laboratory studies which support the constancy of all the decay rates used in radiometric dating. A great many experiments have been done in attempts to change radioactive decay rates, but these experiments have invariably failed to produce any significant changes. It has been found, for example, that decay constants are the same at a temperature of degrees C or at a temperature of degrees C and are the same in a vacuum or under a pressure of several thousand atmospheres.
Measurements of decay rates under differing gravitational and magnetic fields also have yielded negative results. Although changes in alpha and beta decay rates are theoretically possible, theory also predicts that such changes would be very small [ Emery, ] and thus would not affect dating methods.
There is a fourth type of decay that can be affected by physical and chemical conditions, though only very slightly. This type of decay is electron capture e.
Because this type of decay involves a particle outside the nucleus, the decay rate may be affected by variations in the electron density near the nucleus of the atom. For example, the decay constant of Be-7 in different beryllium chemical compounds varies by as much as 0. The only isotope of geologic interest that undergoes e.
Measurements of the decay rate of K in different substances under various conditions indicate that variations in the chemical and physical environment have no detectable effect on its e. Dalrymple,p. Harold Slusher, a prominent member of the Institute for Creation Research, claimed that "Experiments have shown that the decay rates of cesium and iron 57 vary, hence there may be similar variations in other radioactive decay rates.
This statement merely reveals Slusher's ignorance of nuclear physics. Gamma decay of an excited state of iron 57 has been studied, but this has nothing to do with the kinds of decays used in radiometric dating.
Brush,p. These changes are irrelevant to radiometric dating methods. They will switch tracks faster than you can say "tiddlywinks. Morris claimed that free neutrons might change the decay rates.
However, Henry Morris, that icon of creationism, only demonstrated that he knew no more about radiometric dating than does Dr.
Free neutrons might change one element into another, but the decay rates all remain true to their elements. Another attempt by Morris invokes neutrinos. Morris [ ] also suggests that neutrinos might change decay rates, citing a column by Jueneman 72 in Industrial Research. The subtitle of Jueneman's columns, which appear regularly, is, appropriately, "Scientific Speculation.
Jueneman describes a highly speculative hypothesis that would account for radioactive decay by interaction with neutrinos rather than by spontaneous decay, and he notes that an event that temporarily increased the neutrino flux might "reset" the clocks. Jueneman, however, does not propose that decay rates would be changed, nor does he state how the clocks would be reset; in addition, there is no evidence to support his speculation.
Those mysterious neutrinos seem to be a hot topic! Slusher and Rybka also propose that neutrinos can change decay rates, citing an hypothesis by Dudley 40 that decay is triggered by neutrinos in a "neutrino sea" and that changes in the neutrino flux might affect decay rates. This argument has been refuted by Brush 20who points out that Dudley's hypothesis not only requires rejection of both relativity and quantum mechanics, two of the most spectacularly successful theories in modern science, but is disproved by recent experiments.
Dudley himself rejects the conclusions drawn from his hypothesis by Slusher and Rybkanoting that the observed changes in decay rates are insufficient to change the age of the Earth by more than a few percent Dudley, personal communication,quoted in 20, p. Thus, even if Slusher and Rybka were correct--which they are not--the measured age of the Earth would still exceed 4 billion years.
Judging from the above, it is easy to see that creationists are indulging in wild fishing expeditions. Compare their flighty arguments to the solid support provided by theoretical work, laboratory testing, and, for the shorter half-lives, actual observation, and add to that the statistical consistency of the dates obtained, including numerous cross-checks between different "clocks," and only one conclusion is left. The radiometric decay rates used in dating are totally reliable.
They are one of the safest bets in all of science. The initial C content cannot be known. Various living samples give very different ratios. With at least one notable exception on the books, plants and animals get their carbon from the atmosphere. Plants take it in directly, and animals eat the plants. Thus, it gets passed up the food chain. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that the carbon in living plants and animals is in reasonable equilibrium with the atmospheric carbon Some creationists, however, have claimed that certain plants can reject carbon in favor of carbon Because of the chemical similarity of carbon and carbon, it is unlikely that such plants could deviate much from the ratio of C to C found in the atmosphere.
Neither freak cases nor small deviations pose much of a problem for radiocarbon dating, which, after all, works well with a wide variety of plant and animal species. Hence, we only have to worry about the initial concentration of C in the atmosphere.
Topic R1 shows that the level of C in the atmosphere has not varied appreciably over tens of thousands of years. Therefore, the initial C content is known for any reasonable sample! The notable exception involves certain mollusks, which get much of their carbon from dissolved limestone.
How Good Are Those Young-Earth Arguments?
Since limestone is very old it contains very little carbon Thus, in getting some of their carbon from limestone, these mollusks "inherit" some of the limestone's old age!
That is, the limestone carbon skews the normal ratio between C and C found in living things. If one dates such mollusks, one must be extra careful in interpreting the data. Not every mollusk shell presents such problems, and the dating of other material might yield a cross-check. Further study might even allow correction tables.
The discovery has strengthened the carbon method, not weakened it! By the way, shouldn't the creationist be worried over the old, carbon age of the limestone?
Why is it that limestone has so little C in it? These methods provide valuable and valid age data in most instances, although there is a small percentage of cases in which even these generally reliable methods yield incorrect results. Such failures may be due to laboratory errors mistakes happenunrecognized geologic factors nature sometimes fools usor misapplication of the techniques no one is perfect.
Not only that, they have to show the flaws in those dating studies that provide independent corroborative evidence that radiometric methods work. This is a tall order and the creationists have made no progress so far.
It is rare for a study involving radiometric dating to contain a single determination of age. Usually determinations of age are repeated to avoid laboratory errors, are obtained on more than one rock unit or more than one mineral from a rock unit in order to provide a cross-check, or are evaluated using other geologic information that can be used to test and corroborate the radiometric ages.
Scientists who use radiometric dating typically use every means at their disposal to check, recheck, and verify their results, and the more important the results the more they are apt to be checked and rechecked by others.
As a result, it is nearly impossible to be completely fooled by a good set of radiometric age data collected as part of a well-designed experiment. The purpose of this paper is to describe briefly a few typical radiometric dating studies, out of hundreds of possible examples documented in the scientific literature, in which the ages are validated by other available information.
I have selected four examples from recent literature, mostly studies involving my work and that of a few close colleagues because it was easy to do so.
Radiometric Dating Does Work! | NCSE
I could have selected many more examples but then this would have turned into a book rather than the intended short paper. The heat of the impact melted some of the feldspar crystals in the granitic rocks of the impact zone, thereby resetting their internal radiometric clocks. The impact also created shocked quartz crystals that were blasted into the air and subsequently fell to the west into the inland sea that occupied much of central North America at that time.
Today this shocked quartz is found in South Dakota, Colorado, and Nebraska in a thin layer the Crow Creek Member within a thick rock formation known as the Pierre Shale. The Pierre Shale, which is divided into identifiable sedimentary beds called members, also contains abundant fossils of numerous species of ammonites, ancestors of the chambered nautilus.
The fossils, when combined with geologic mapping, allow the various exposed sections of the Pierre Shale to be pieced together in their proper relative positions to form a complete composite section Figure 1. The Pierre Shale also contains volcanic ash that was erupted from volcanoes and then fell into the sea, where it was preserved as thin beds.
There are three important things to note about these results.
First, each age is based on numerous measurements; laboratory errors, had there been any, would be readily apparent. Second, ages were measured on two very different minerals, sanidine and biotite, from several of the ash beds. Third, the radiometric ages agree, within analytical error, with the relative positions of the dated ash beds as determined by the geologic mapping and the fossil assemblages; that is, the ages get older from top to bottom as they should.
Finally, the inferred age of the shocked quartz, as determined from the age of the melted feldspar in the Manson impact structure The Ages of Meteorites Meteorites, most of which are fragments of asteroids, are very interesting objects to study because they provide important evidence about the age, composition, and history of the early solar system. There are many types of meteorites. Some are from primitive asteroids whose material is little modified since they formed from the early solar nebula.
Others are from larger asteroids that got hot enough to melt and send lava flows to the surface. A few are even from the Moon and Mars.
How does radiometric dating fit with the view of a young earth?
The most primitive type of meteorites are called chondrites, because they contain little spheres of olivine crystals known as chondrules. Because of their importance, meteorites have been extensively dated radiometrically; the vast majority appear to be 4.
Some meteorites, because of their mineralogy, can be dated by more than one radiometric dating technique, which provides scientists with a powerful check of the validity of the results. The results from three meteorites are shown in Table 1.
Many more, plus a discussion of the different types of meteorites and their origins, can be found in Dalrymple There are 3 important things to know about the ages in Table 1. The first is that each meteorite was dated by more than one laboratory — Allende by 2 laboratories, Guarena by 2 laboratories, and St Severin by four laboratories. This pretty much eliminates any significant laboratory biases or any major analytical mistakes.
The second thing is that some of the results have been repeated using the same technique, which is another check against analytical errors. The third is that all three meteorites were dated by more than one method — two methods each for Allende and Guarena, and four methods for St Severin.
This is extremely powerful verification of the validity of both the theory and practice of radiometric dating. In the case of St Severin, for example, we have 4 different natural clocks actually 5, for the Pb-Pb method involves 2 different radioactive uranium isotopeseach running at a different rate and each using elements that respond to chemical and physical conditions in much different ways.
And yet, they all give the same result to within a few percent. The final bit of evidence for acceleration cited by RATE is the presence of trace amounts of 14C in diamonds and other 'old' objects. Carbon, which has a half-life of 5, years, is constantly created in the atmosphere. All living things contain the same amount of 14C because they constantly ingest it. Upon death, the 14C levels begin to decrease, halving every 5, years.
The RATE group found trace amounts of 14C in ancient coal deposits and diamonds believed to be hundreds of millions of years old based on their position in the geologic record; virtually all the 14C should have already decayed. They argue that 14C has been impervious to the acceleration of decay processes that affected other isotopes. Therefore the 50, year maximum date possible using carbon represents an effective maximum age of the Earth because no truly ancient deposits would contain residual 14C Vardiman et al.
This argument makes little sense. Carbon, like the potassium-argon and rubidium-strontium isotope dating methods RATE indicts, is an example of beta decay. All beta decay rates should be similarly affected by any change in atomic or sub-atomic forces, so 14C would have been greatly accelerated along with 40K and 87Rb. If decay had truly been accelerated, and if million years worth of decay occurred in one real year, then one would never find radiocarbon dates older than the Flood.
There certainly would not be any residual carbon in ancient diamonds. Therefore RATE's discovery of ancient 14C argues strongly against their proposal of accelerated decay, not for it. The RATE team offers two mechanisms for accelerated decay. The first possibility is specific to alpha decay processes e.
The protons and neutrons of an atom are normally held together in the nucleus by the nuclear strong force DeYoung During alpha decay, two neutrons and two protons escape the nucleus as an alpha particle. To do so, the alpha particle must have enough energy to overcome the threshold of the strong force, called the Coulomb barrier DeYoung There is a finite probability that alpha particles will have the necessary energy. The RATE researchers posit that God accelerated alpha decay by weakening the strong force, thereby allowing lower energy alpha particles to escape the nucleus Chaffin What about beta decay?
To explain an acceleration of beta decay RATE looked to string theory, which argues that matter is made up of miniscule knots in space-time that are trillions of times smaller than subatomic particles like electrons. These knots may exist in up to ten dimensions. String theory connects the state of these invisible dimensions to the Fermi constant, upon which beta decay depends DeYoung Carbon, postassium, and rubidium all decay via the beta process.
According to DeYoung, string theory: This might alter the Fermi constant and in turn, adjust nuclear decay rates significantly. There are several "ifs" in this exploration of accelerated decay and it is presented here only as an example of ongoing research The RATE creationists acknowledge two of the most fundamental side effects of any such acceleration: Aggregated over the 4. The acceleration of 4 billion years of decay into the first two days of the creation week and squeezing million years into the year of the Flood DeYoung That amount of energy would have caused rocks, and presumably the entire crust of the Earth, to vaporize DeYoung Aside from the fact that the planet would no longer exist, the geologic evidence RATE cites in support of acceleration would certainly have been obliterated.
In fact, the temperature increase in the zircons would have been an order of magnitude higher than average because of their abnormally high concentration of uranium Snelling Helium diffusion improves rapidly at higher temperatures, so that would seem to contradict RATE's claims about diffusion. Simply put, at the same moment God accelerated radioisotope decay, he also expanded the size of the universe twenty-fold DeYoung This is an application of volumetric cooling, which is how refrigerators work by compressing and expanding gas.
Humphreys argues the Bible contains scriptural evidence for two periods of cosmic expansion that coincide with RATE's proffered two periods of accelerated decay Humphreys For example, Psalms The problem is that volumetric cooling only works for gases, not solids.
It seems clear that even the divine intervention to expand the universe in four dimensions proposed by Humphreys would be inadequate to solve the heat problem Vardiman et al.
Humphreys actually argues that the real problem with his cosmological cooling hypothesis is that it would cool the Earth too much Humphreys The uranium-rich zircon crystals would require tremendous cooling, but if the entire planet was cooled as much as required to preserve the zircon crystals, the Flood waters would have frozen, and everything aboard the ark would have died Vardiman et al.
Nevertheless, because he believes both that accelerated decay occurred and that he is descended from Noah's family who used the ark to survive the Flood, Humphreys is confident that a good explanation for cooling exists Humphreys The presence of radiohalos similarly convinces Snelling that God intervened not only to massively accelerate radioactive decay, but also to miraculously dissipate enormous quantities of heat Snelling One might wonder if that is really the most reasonable explanation.