Serious Problems With Dating Methods
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Why do geologists so frequently fail to understand that the biblical Flood was the force that created some geologic formations? One important answer lies in the way they date these formations.
The theory of evolution has become so ubiquitous in the scientific world today that it even distorts the way geological formations are dated. However, these dating methods have significant problems that can lead to serious errors of interpretation.
One of the most popular dating methods, carbon-14 (14C), is used for dating plant or animal remains. The book The Dynamic Earth explains the basis for this method: "Radiocarbon is continuously created in the atmosphere through bombardment of nitrogen-14 (14N) by neutrons created by cosmic radiation. 14C, with a half-life of 5730 years, decays back to 14N . . . As long as the production rate remains constant, the radioactivity of natural carbon remains constant because [the] rate of production balances the rate of decay.
"While an organism is alive and is taking in carbon from the atmosphere, it contains this balanced proportion of 14C. However, at death the balance is upset, because replenishment by life processes such as feeding, breathing and photosynthesis ceases. The 14C in dead tissues continually decreases by radioactive decay" (Brian Skinner and Stephen Porter, 1989, pp. 138-139). By measuring the amount of carbon-14 and comparing that amount to the original, scientists can obtain a date for the death of the organism.
However, there are many problems with the dates obtained through this method. For example, dating living mollusks by the carbon-14 method often yields clearly errant results—for instance, finding the mollusks to be up to 2,300 years old ("Radiocarbon Dating: Fictitious Results With Mollusk Shells," Science, Vol. 141, p. 634). Carbon-14 dating methods are obviously affected by the environment.
Archaeologist John McRay notes: "Unfortunately, several recent discoveries combine to indicate that carbon 14 is not as valuable as was once hoped: (1) radioactive carbon atoms may not have existed in the earth's atmosphere before 2000 B.C.; (2) the natural concentration of carbon 14 in the atmosphere has varied in certain periods, and (3) there is a high probability of sample contamination" (Archaeology and the New Testament, 1991, p. 34).
Recently a new method—accelerator mass spectrometry—has been used to date ancient items. This method has given a different date than previously accepted for the earliest Mayan civilization.
"The oldest known Maya turns out to be younger than archaeologists originally believed. The remains of a woman found below a layered platform at a site called Cuello in northern Belize had been thought to be more than 4,000 years old . . . As a result of new dating methods, about a thousand years have been trimmed from the chronology. Norman Hammond of Boston University, who began digging at Cuello in the 1970s, says the remains now are believed to be from about 1200 B.C., still earlier than any other known Maya settlement.
"The accelerator mass spectrometer allows scientists to analyze the bones of the ancient Maya without severely damaging them. The new technique can date carbon samples weighing only a few milligrams; a specimen the size of a match head will do" ("Oldest Known Maya: Not Quite So Old," National Geographic, November 1990). Here a new dating method has changed by 1,000 years the earliest accepted date of Mayan civilization.
Consider then. Radiometric dating methods (those measuring geologic time by rate of radioactive decay) have been used to date formations that could be associated with Noah's Flood. These dates supposedly prove these formations are millions of years old rather than thousands. Yet we find that different methods can yield radically different results.
As The Science of Evolution explains: "Several methods have been devised for estimating the age of the earth and its layers of rocks. These methods rely heavily on the assumption of uniformitarianism, i.e., natural processes have proceeded at relatively constant rates throughout the earth's history . . . 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'" (William Stansfield, 1977, pp. 80, 84).
The potassium-argon [K-Ar] dating method, used to date lava flows, also has problems—as shown by studies of Mount St. Helens. "The conventional K-Ar dating method was applied to the 1986 dacite flow from the new lava dome at Mount St. Helens, Washington. Porphyritic dacite which solidified on the surface of the lava dome in 1986 gives a whole rock K-Ar 'age' of 0.35 + OR - 0.05 million years (Ma). Mineral concentrates from this same dacite give K-Ar 'ages' from 0.35 + OR - .06 Ma to 2.8 + OR - 0.6 Ma. These 'ages' are, of course, preposterous [since we know the rock formed recently]. The fundamental dating assumption ('no radiogenic argon was present when the rock formed') is questioned by these data.
"Instead, data from this Mount St. Helens dacite argue that significant 'excess argon' was present when the lava solidified in 1986 . . . This study of Mount St. Helens dacite causes the more fundamental question to be asked—how accurate are K-Ar 'ages' from the many other phenocryst-containing lava flows worldwide?" (Stephen Austin, "Excess Argon within Mineral Concentrates from the New Dacite Lava Dome at Mount St. Helens Volcano," Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, Vol. 10, No. 3, 1996, pp. 335-344).
In layman's terms, these volcanic rocks that we know were formed in 1986—less than 20 years ago—were "scientifically" dated to between 290,000 and 3.4 million years old!
Such examples serve to illustrate the fallibility of the dating methods on which many modern scientists rely so heavily. GN