The previous article series addressed the scientific age-assessment of ancient organics (see Scripturosity articles “Carbon Dating – The Basic Measurement & The Biblical Model”). What about the popular measurement practice used to date the rocks themselves?
Scientists seem quite satisfied that the earth is billions of years old. Have these modern dating techniques closed the book on the age of the earth? Should the literal rendering of world history as presented in the book of Genesis be revisited in light of the dating claims of modern science?
Was Job just making an uniformed leap of faith when he declared that the earth itself would attest the Lord’s hand (12:8-9)? Let’s turn over a few rocks and see if there is more to these measurements that seemingly validate uniformitarian geochronology.
In addition to radiocarbon or Carbon-14 dating, another form of radiometric dating is “radioisotope dating.” Just as with radiocarbon dating, radioisotope dating measures the spontaneous decay of unstable, radioactive atoms within a sample. In radiocarbon dating, the measurement depends on the natural transition of radioactive carbon to stable nitrogen. In radioisotope dating, the calculation relies on the radioactive decay process of other elements like unstable uranium to lead or potassium to argon.
Meaningful radioisotope dating starts with igneous rocks such as granite and basalt which were formed from cooled and solidified molten material. Sedimentary rock like sandstone, shale, and limestone cannot be directly dated using this method.
The dating “clock” starts when the molten rock cools. As with Carbon-14 dating, the unit of measure is the “half-life.” In this case, it is the length of time for half of the parent element (uranium) in a sample to degrade to its daughter element (lead). The age of a rock is then determined by the known rate of decay and the present amount of a daughter element. Half-lives that are extremely slow, representing billions of years, are still very accurate due to statistical proration.
The problem with modern dating claims is that scientists approach the investigation with a bias linking multiple assumptions to the equation before applying the real science.
There are 3 basic assumptions that direct the “dating” of rock samples.
1) The initial conditions of the sample are known accurately. They assume that when the sample originally crystallized from magma, the only atoms that were present were parent atoms. Because parent atoms decay into daughter atoms, they assume that no daughter atoms were present at the time of crystallization. They don’t even allow for the possibility of daughter atoms because that would imply a lack of maturity rather than an emphatic statement of long age.
2) The sample has remained uncontaminated in a closed system during its history. It is necessary to assume that the rock has not exchanged any atoms with its surroundings from the time it crystallized to the time the sample was extracted for measurement. If the system was not closed, atomic migration would invalidate the age.
3) The nuclear decay rate or half-life of the parent isotope (reference to elemental uniqueness within a chemical family) atoms has remained constant since the rock was formed. Accuracy in dating is dependent on the consistency of radioactive decay. If there is data suggesting that radioactive decay is not a non-negotiable constant, then the age of the earth becomes scientifically unsettled.
Based on multiple lines of objective evidence, a group of scientists known as the RATE team (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth) are now suggesting that radioactive decay was accelerated at some point in earth history. These evidences include the abundance of a nuclear decay by-product (Uranium to Lead) called Helium. The diffusion or escape rate if helium from zircon crystals tells a far different story regarding the age of the earth; suggesting thousands rather than millions of years.
In his book entitled Thousands…Not Billions challenging the deep-time conclusions of modern dating methods, Dr. Don DeYoung resolves the following.
“The RATE research does not challenge, but rather affirms the existence of billions of years’ worth of the daughter products of uranium decay in these zircons. But RATE also finds in the zircons a large fraction of the helium generated by this same uranium decay. The RATE helium diffusion measurements show that such high concentrations of helium simply cannot be sustained for more than a few thousand years. The only way we can reconcile the observed amount of uranium decay with the observed levels of helium retention is with one or more periods of accelerated nuclear decay in the earth’s recent past. We conclude that the RATE helium diffusion experiments give strong evidence for accelerated decay of the uranium atoms inside zircon crystals, and a young age for the earth.”
Radioisotope dating is not the clear-cut, evidential champion of deep-time as the scientific elite would have the “uninitiated” public believe. In fact, some within the secret society are even calling into question the categorical constancy of elemental nuclear change – a former non-negotiable (see Scripturosity article “The Age of the Earth – What Do the Rocks Say”).
In one instance of radioisotope dating error, documented in a June 2001 Creation magazine article entitled “Radio-dating in Rubble” (Keith Swenson), scientists extracted a 15 lb. block of igneous, dacite rock from the reforming lava dome at Mount St. Helens. The reputable Massachusetts lab to which the sample was taken used the potassium-argon method and dated the 11 year-old rock between 340,000 years to 2.8 million years old!
General revelation (nature) is ever validating the narrative of special revelation (Scripture) offering the open-minded seeker a worldview rife with clarity and purpose (see Scripturosity article “The Gospel Message”).