RADIOACTIVE AGE ESTIMATION METHODS—Do they prove the Earth is billions of years old?

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How old is planet Earth? There are enormous differences of opinion. The most common view is that Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old.1 Others say it is older or younger. The lowest age defended on a scientific basis is in the 6 to 10 thousand year range. Evolutionism, of course, requires billions of years to support the plausibility of life's emergence and of subsequent Evolution from “amoeba” to man. Theoretically, Creationism remains workable within a wide range of age estimates.

Scientists have proposed numerous age estimation methods. Most systems promoted by Evolutionists involve radioactivity. Various radioactive elements are involved, including Carbon-14, Uranium-238, Thorium-232, and Potassium-40. By the way, it is important to understand that most rock strata “dates” were actually assigned long before the first use of radioactive age estimating methods in 1911.2

The Carbon-14 age estimating method is, at best, only useful for estimating the age of things that are thousands of years old, not millions or billions. And it does not work on rocks or thoroughly mineralized fossils; it is only useful for relatively well-preserved organic materials such as cloth, wood, and other non-fossilized materials. Other methods must be used to estimate the age of rocks and minerals. Two of the most widely-known systems are the potassium-argon method and the uranium-lead method.

A radioactive form of potassium is found in minute quantities in some rocks. It disintegrates at a measured rate into calcium and argon. Similarly, the radioactive element uranium decomposes into lead and some other elements.

How are these processes used to estimate the age of rocks? The principle is similar to that used with Carbon-14. The speed of the disintegration process is measured. A portion of the material is ground up and a measurement is made of the ratio of radioactive “parent” atoms to the decomposition products.

Age estimates which are obviously wrong or contradictory are sometimes produced.3 For example, new rock in the form of hardened lava flows produced estimated ages as great as 3 billion to 10.5 billion years, when they were actually less than 200 years old.4

A popular and supposedly foolproof method was used on two lava flows in the Grand Canyon that should be ideal for radioactive age estimation. The results were similarly bad. Young basalt rock at the Canyon's top produced an age estimate 270 million years older than ancient basalt rock at the Canyon's bottom. The problem seems to arise from basic wrong assumptions in the method (rubidium-strontium isochron). If such a sophisticated method is so flawed, geologist Dr. Steven Austin rightly wonders, "Has anyone successfully dated a Grand Canyon rock?"5

Assumptions and More Assumptions

Arriving at a “date” depends upon a chain of assumptions,6 each link in the chain being an assumption. The validity of the calculated date can be no stronger than the weakest link (weakest assumption) used in the calculation. What are some of the assumptions made by most Evolutionists in using these systems?

Evolutionist William Stansfield, Ph.D., California Polytech State, has stated:

"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'."10

Evolutionist Frederick B. Jueneman candidly summarizes the situation:

"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 shortlived, 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 influences. 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."11

References and Endnotes






Assumptions and Problems of Radioactive Methods

Leaching and contamination

Decay Rate Changes

Documentation of Decay Rate Changes

Researchers have also pointed out various reasons why small changes in decay rates in modern laboratory work would tend to be overlooked.

General Problems with Radioactive Dating Methods



Author: Paul S. Taylor, Christian Answers.

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