What Evolutionists Say – About Radiometric Dating

This article is not about “radiocarbon,” or “carbon,” or “carbon 14” dating. These descriptive names all apply to a dating method that can be used only for things that have carbon in them, were once alive, and are now dead. Theoretically, carbon dating can be valuable for dates less than 100,000 years. Carbon 14 has a half-life of just 5,730 years. I will address carbon dating in a later article.

The moniker “radiometric dating” (also called “isotopic dating”) is used primarily for dating methods using isotopes with very large half-lives compared to carbon 14. Radiometric dating has been used by secular scientists to date the age of rocks to be many millions up to billions of years old. In fact, using these methods, evolutionists now estimate the age of the earth to be 4.6 billion years. These deep time dating methods are applied to igneous rocks and cannot be used for dating sedimentary rocks, those that have all of the fossils.

Figure 1: Various types of rocks in the Grand Canyon

Here is what I wrote in my book, The Creation Dialogues* in 2010: “Radiometric dating methods developed in the 20th century are usually cited by evolutionists as scientific proof for the supposed 4.6 billion year age of the earth. But radiometric dating and other uniformitarian dating methods are all based on unproven and unprovable assumptions. These assumptions are basically as follows:

  1. The amount of parent material is known at the beginning of the time segment.
  2. The rate of change (or decay) of the measured process is constant and is the same as the current measured rate.
  3. No contamination of the parent or daughter materials has occurred during the time segment.

“Scores of these types of uniformitarian estimation methods exist that can be, and have been, used to attempt to determine the earth’s age. These methods are all fundamentally flawed because of the inability to scientifically test the assumptions. In addition, the different methods do not come up with the same estimated age of the earth. One list compiled by the Institute for Creation Research displays 68 different processes with resulting estimated ages ranging from ‘too small to measure’ to a maximum of ‘500,000,000’ years. All of these processes result in ages far less than the secularly accepted 4.6 billion year age of the earth. In fact, two-thirds of these estimates result in an age of a million years or less, and one-third result in an age of 10,000 years or less.

“The fact that evolutionists choose to use uniformitarian methods that utilize processes that result in the oldest ages instead of an average or some other combination is an indication of the philosophical foundation for their ‘science.’ In reality, there will never be enough time for macro-evolutionary changes to occur in lifeforms, but the idea of billions of years does make the impossible seem a little more plausible for those open to the evolutionary story.”

Figure 2

What do evolutionists have to say about radiometric dating? Are they all in step with the secular idea that radiometric dating is a scientifically proven method? Following are some quotes written over the years that show that many secularists understand the true nature of the methods, and realize there are good reasons to be skeptical of their validity.

“The common occurrence of discordant results in isotopic geochronometry presents an intriguing and complicated problem. It has become obvious that many mineral samples used in age determinations have not been closed systems throughout their histories. The interpretation of isotopic ages ultimately requires knowledge of the processes which can cause alteration of the isotopic ratios.” [Catazaro, E.J. and J.L. Kulp, “Discordant Zircons from the Little Belt (Montana), Beartooth (Montana) and Santa Catalina (Arizona) Mountains,” Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, vol. 28 (January 1964), p. 87.]

“Much still remains to be learned of the interpretation of isotopic ages and the realization that the isotopic age is not necessarily the geologic age of a rock has led to an over-skeptical attitude by some field geologists.” [Brown, P.E. and A.J. Miller, “Interpretation of Isotopic Ages in Orogenic Belts,” in Kent et al, “Time and Place in Orogeny,” Geological Society of London Special, vol. 3, (1969), p. 137.]

“The observed variations in the decay rates (changes in the half-life) were produced by changes in pressure, temperature, chemical state, electrical potential, stress of monomolecular layers etc. The decay ‘constant’ is now considered to be a variable. The value is dependent on the energy state of the entire atom as the basic unit system, not just on the energy state of the atomic nucleus. Radioactivity is thus shown experimentally not to be, as described by Millikan, ‘an unalterable property of the atom.’ Half-lives are NOT constant.” [Dudley, H.C., “Is there an Ether?” Industrial Research (November 15, 1974), p. 42.]

“The age of our globe is presently thought to be some 4.5 billion years, based on radio decay rates of uranium and thorium. Such ‘confirmation’ may be short-lived, as nature is not to be discovered quite so easily. There has been in recent years the horrible realization that radio decay rates are not as constant as previously thought, nor are they immune to environmental influence. And this could mean that the atomic clocks are reset during some global disaster, and events which brought the Mesozoic to a close may not be 65 million years ago but, rather, within the age and memory of man.” [Jueneman, Frederic B., “Secular Catastrophism,” Industrial Research and Development, (June 1982), p. 21.]

The above four secular quotes seem to confirm my earlier statements that uniformitarian assumptions have been improperly applied to these dating methods. If the rates of decay are not really constant and the rock systems not always closed, then these methods are useless for correctly dating rocks. And, Jueneman’s quotation sounds a lot like what creationist scientists have been saying about the possible effects of the cataclysmic global Flood at the time of Noah.

If one were to be persuaded to accept radiometric dating as a valid method for dating the rocks, then a primary expectation would be that different methods would come up with identical dates for identical rocks. But, that is not the case: “To pin down the age of older rocks, geologists rely on radiometric dating, which tracks the radioactive decay of elements within a sample. But in the last decade it has become clear that the results from different techniques and different labs don’t agree.” [Whitfield, John, “Time Lords,” Nature 429:126, 2004.]

It is interesting for Whitfield to write that this problem of discordant dates has been determined only recently. But, the truth is that it has been a problem for longer than that. And, some secular scientists have said that they don’t take much stock in any of the published dates: “Subjective and, in many instances, incorrect use of radiometric data has become endemic in the earth science literature. Mathematical analysis of imperfect and, in many cases, highly subjective data sets leads to dubious conclusions.” [Baksi, Ajoy, “Search for Periodicity in Global Events in the Geologic Record: Quo Vadimus?” Geology, 18:995, 1990.]

Here is another take by an evolutionist: “Several methods have been devised for estimating the age of the earth and its layers of rocks. These methods rely heavily on the assumptions of uniformitarianism, i.e., natural processes have proceeded at relatively constant rates throughout earth’s history.” And, later he writes: “It is obvious that radiometric techniques may not be the absolute dating methods that they are claimed to be. Age estimates on a given geological stratum by different radiometric methods are often quite different (sometimes by hundreds of millions of years). There is no absolutely reliable long-term radiological ‘clock.’” [Stansfield, William D., The Science of Evolution (New York: Macmillan, 1977), p. 80 and 84.]

Figure 3

Is there any reason to believe radiometric dating should, nevertheless, be held as a valid scientific concept? “In general, dates in the ‘correct ball park’ are assumed to be correct and are published, but those in disagreement with other data are seldom published nor are discrepancies fully explained.” [Mauger, R.L., “K-Ar Ages of Biotites from Tuffs in Eocene Rocks of the Green River, Washakie, and Uinta Basins, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado,” (University of Wyoming) Contributions to Geology, vol. 15, no. 1 (Winter 1977) p. 37.]

Then, we have this quote: “In conventional interpretation of K-Ar age data, it is common to discard ages which are substantially too high or too low compared with the rest of the group or with other available data such as the geological time scale. The discrepancies between the rejected and the accepted are arbitrarily attributed to excess of loss of argon.” [Hayatsu, A., “K-Ar Isochron Age of the North Mountain Basalt, Nova Scotia,” Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, vo. 16 (April 1979), p. 974.]

In my “Eighteen Facts of Paleontology” that I have published a number of times in my books, fact number 8 reads: “’The Geologic Timeline’ is a mental abstraction, and is not an observable reality.” The Geologic Timeline is the representation of an artificial correlation of fossil assemblages that evolutionists imagine show life evolving from the tiniest amoeba to humans over billions of years. So, with the last quote it can be seen how all of these assumptions are actually connected into one mesh of circular reasoning based on the assumption of something from nothing. The radiometric dating component of this false paradigm was developed long after the geologic timeline had been fundamentally established. As can be seen in this article radiometric dating has not been able to adequately conform to the timeline as it must if it is to be taken seriously by anyone, including evolutionists.

The bottom line is that true history can be determined only by knowledge of historical documentation written down by truthful historians at the time of the events. Radiometric dating methods are faulty because the underlying assumptions are incorrect. On the other hand, the Bible provides a history whose source is the Creator God of the universe. Christians can be confident that the only true history of earth’s beginning and its ancient past is in God’s word.

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? (Job 38:4). Job was not there, nor was any evolutionist or creationist. The Creator God is the “I” in this verse from Job and is therefore the only One qualified to record for us the true history of earth’s foundation.

J.D. Mitchell

*Mitchell, J.D., The Creation Dialogues-A Response to the Position of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Evolution, Christianity and the Bible, ©2010, 2nd Edition ©2014, pp. 3-4.

Figure 1 is courtesy of Tom Vail.

Figure 2 is compiled from Morris, Henry, The Defenders Study Bible, World Publishing, 1995, pp. 1506-1508.

Figure 3 is from Woodmorappe, John, The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods, Institute for Creation Research, 1999, p. 24.

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