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EvC Forum Science Forums Dates and Dating

# Is Radiometric Dating Really that Accurate?

Author Topic:   Is Radiometric Dating Really that Accurate?
EvO-DuDe
Inactive Member

 Message 1 of 114 (13855) 07-20-2002 11:05 AM

I'm just another dude trying to figure out the truth. Help me out by having a big debate here.

 Replies to this message: Message 2 by John, posted 07-20-2002 11:29 AM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded Message 3 by TrueCreation, posted 07-20-2002 1:17 PM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded Message 33 by Brad McFall, posted 10-05-2002 2:55 PM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded

John
Inactive Member

 Message 2 of 114 (13856) 07-20-2002 11:29 AM Reply to: Message 1 by EvO-DuDe07-20-2002 11:05 AM

[QUOTE]Originally posted by EvO-DuDe:
[b]that different dating techniques give totally random dates when dating the same rock[/QUOTE]

[/b]

Not correct, unless the sample is contaminated. Different techniques will NOT give identical dates however. Each method has it margins of error and I have seen this useds to create the illusion that the methods don't line up. For example, I've seen it claimed that two dates are millions of years off and so the radiometric dating methods are unreliable. What isn't explained is that material being dated is 300 million years old, so a few million years is only a percent or two of the date-- well within the method's margin of error.

Also remember that if possible many different methods are used so that some of these errors can be averaged out.

[QUOTE][/b]that radioisotope dating is based on several assumptions[/b][/QUOTE]

It is. It is based on the assumption that things work in the past like they work now. Most of science depends on this assumption as well. In the case of radiometric dating, the rates of radioactive decay are assumed to remain constant.

quote:
and that geologists have a fixed idea in their minds about how old a rock is from the strata it's found in

I'm sure this is true, but it doesn't effect the outcome of the lab tests.

quote:
and if they date it radiometrically and the date is different from what they thought it would be, they just throw the rock away saying the date is meaningless.

Creationists would like you to think that geologists are selecting dates from a wide range of possibilities-- selecting the five dates they want from the hundred they don't want. It doesn't work that way. There will always be anomalous results, those are discarded. Think about it. Twenty results come back within 2% of each other. Two results come back wildly different. Which date makes sense?

------------------
www.hells-handmaiden.com

 This message is a reply to: Message 1 by EvO-DuDe, posted 07-20-2002 11:05 AM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded

TrueCreation
Inactive Member

 Message 3 of 114 (13857) 07-20-2002 1:17 PM Reply to: Message 1 by EvO-DuDe07-20-2002 11:05 AM

"I'm pretty new to the evolution vs. creation debate, only having studied the subject for about four months and only having read a few books (Finding Darwin's God, Climbing Mount Improbable, Darwin's Black Box, and Tower of Babel) about the subject. At the moment, I am convinced that evolution is right and that the earth is far older than six thousand years old."
--I really have yet to read a book directed at the subject of Creation & Evolution, I just read science texts and articles and see where it takes me. I had a big episode in my early times for Evo vs. Cre debate where I read tons of AiG articles. This was about 7 months or so ago and haven't read too many at all for the YEC camp. I think I do fine without them . Besides, those AiG articles aren't going to give you near what you find when doing your own research and I don't enjoy parroting.

"However, I am interested in radiometric dating and if it is really as accurate as geologists claim it to be. I've read several articles at True.Origin.org and Answersingenesis.org about radiometric dating and they claim that it is unreliable, that different dating techniques give totally random dates when dating the same rock, that radioisotope dating is based on several assumptions, and that geologists have a fixed idea in their minds about how old a rock is from the strata it's found in, and if they date it radiometrically and the date is different from what they thought it would be, they just throw the rock away saying the date is meaningless."
--Why wouldn't they, they already have all this other evidence for an old earth and a set geologic time so why not attribute the correct date to the one which complies. And if an Old earth is assumed correct, this is reasonable.

"I have also read several articles talking about how accurate radiometric dating is, and how yes, the dates do agree."
--And what this means is what is important, the majority of 'dates' compiled will agree, no problem there.

"I am wondering if the creationists' claims are correct, or are they simply throwing blind attacks against modern geology?"
--In my experience, they are correct,. However, they take the product and put unnecessary emphasis on what is irrelevant to the real issue. Such as anomalous dates, etc.

"I'm just another dude trying to figure out the truth. Help me out by having a big debate here."
--I like the word 'discussion', it seems more pervasive. Just my opinion though.

Some basic brief discussion on Geochemistry and Radioisotopic distribution/dating may be found in the last three posts here:

http://www.evcforum.net/cgi-bin/dm.cgi?action=page&f=7&t=12&p=2

And welcome to the board Evo Dude

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[This message has been edited by TrueCreation, 07-20-2002]

[This message has been edited by TrueCreation, 07-20-2002]

 This message is a reply to: Message 1 by EvO-DuDe, posted 07-20-2002 11:05 AM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded

EvO-DuDe
Inactive Member

 Message 4 of 114 (13859) 07-20-2002 3:15 PM

TrueCreation, how old do you think the earth is?
If you believe that it is young, can you explain why radioisotope dating techniques give such huge ages? Do you believe that the decay rates were much faster in the past, or do you believe that God created the universe with an 'appearence of age'? Can you give me some scientific evidence for a young earth? It seems to me that all of the creationists' best evidences for a young earth (decay of the magnetic field, too little helium in the atmosphere, accumulations of dust on the moon, etc.) were proven to be wrong.
 Replies to this message: Message 5 by edge, posted 07-20-2002 3:51 PM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded Message 6 by TrueCreation, posted 07-20-2002 4:52 PM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded

edge
Member
Posts: 4517
Joined: 01-09-2002
Member Rating: 7.3

 Message 5 of 114 (13862) 07-20-2002 3:51 PM Reply to: Message 4 by EvO-DuDe07-20-2002 3:15 PM

quote:
Originally posted by EvO-DuDe:
TrueCreation, how old do you think the earth is?
If you believe that it is young, can you explain why radioisotope dating techniques give such huge ages? Do you believe that the decay rates were much faster in the past, or do you believe that God created the universe with an 'appearence of age'? Can you give me some scientific evidence for a young earth? It seems to me that all of the creationists' best evidences for a young earth (decay of the magnetic field, too little helium in the atmosphere, accumulations of dust on the moon, etc.) were proven to be wrong.

You might also ask why there are ANY convergent radiometric dates at all. If the methods are so unreliable, it would seem that dates would be all over the chart. But they aren't.

I think one thing that needs to be sorted out here regarding the accuracy of radiometric dating is that, sometimes, it ISN'T accurate. But then sometimes my watch is wrong too. Sometimes a BP measurement is wrong. Sometimes a bathroom scale is off.... Do we throw these things out? No, because we can usually detect the errors and explain them, and even fix them sometimes. Do the creationists come out against tape measures because a carpenter makes a mistake on his measurements once in a while? Why not?

So, there are times that we throw out an anomalous reading because a source of error is detected. Does that carpenter use a board the wrong size? No, he knows that it is wrong and cuts another piece of lumber. Do the creationists say that he is hiding his results because the wrongly cut piece ends up in the junk pile? No, they compliment the guy on his workmanship.

I guess my point is that the ability to detect errors, explain them and correct them means that the system works. On the other hand YECs interpret this as 'throwing out (or hiding) divergent data' in some kind of conspiracy. Then they say that anything that is not absolutely accurate is not accurate at all. Kind of a dogmatic approach, don't you think?

 This message is a reply to: Message 4 by EvO-DuDe, posted 07-20-2002 3:15 PM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded

TrueCreation
Inactive Member

 Message 6 of 114 (13868) 07-20-2002 4:52 PM Reply to: Message 4 by EvO-DuDe07-20-2002 3:15 PM

"TrueCreation, how old do you think the earth is?"
--I 'believe' that the earth is in the realm of thousands of years, but based on the science and the inclusion of catastrophism, I could give you a lee-way up to 200k, or maybe even 30k. But I stick with the former, there is little that I know of that is unable to cope.

"If you believe that it is young, can you explain why radioisotope dating techniques give such huge ages?"
--Because of Geochemistry and the Earths evolution through time, the bulk of which I logically attribute to the formation of the earths crust and chemical fractionation thereof.

"Do you believe that the decay rates were much faster in the past, or do you believe that God created the universe with an 'appearence of age'?"
--Technically, I don't believe God created the universe with an appearance of age. But I would attribute an episode of accelerated decay somewhere in the past.

"Can you give me some scientific evidence for a young earth?
--I don't think this is the right question, really. A more penetrating question would be if there is evidence that contradicts a young earth, because I could sit here and show you how whatever and whatever can be attributed to a young earth formation, but that wouldn't matter because thats just a lower limit to the age of the earth. I also unfortunately am unaware of any systematic mechanism by which reliable dates may be obtained.

"It seems to me that all of the creationists' best evidences for a young earth (decay of the magnetic field, too little helium in the atmosphere, accumulations of dust on the moon, etc.) were proven to be wrong."

------------------

 This message is a reply to: Message 4 by EvO-DuDe, posted 07-20-2002 3:15 PM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded

 Replies to this message: Message 7 by edge, posted 07-20-2002 6:51 PM TrueCreation has not yet responded Message 14 by Percy, posted 07-21-2002 6:13 PM TrueCreation has not yet responded

edge
Member
Posts: 4517
Joined: 01-09-2002
Member Rating: 7.3

 Message 7 of 114 (13871) 07-20-2002 6:51 PM Reply to: Message 6 by TrueCreation07-20-2002 4:52 PM

quote:
Originally posted by TrueCreation:
"If you believe that it is young, can you explain why radioisotope dating techniques give such huge ages?"

--Because of Geochemistry and the Earths evolution through time, the bulk of which I logically attribute to the formation of the earths crust and chemical fractionation thereof.

Care to be a bit more specific? This is not exactly informative.

quote:
"Do you believe that the decay rates were much faster in the past, or do you believe that God created the universe with an 'appearence of age'?"

--Technically, I don't believe God created the universe with an appearance of age. But I would attribute an episode of accelerated decay somewhere in the past.

A bit vague here. Can you amplify a bit?

quote:
"Can you give me some scientific evidence for a young earth?

--I don't think this is the right question, really. A more penetrating question would be if there is evidence that contradicts a young earth, ...

Well, the subject of this thread, for one. Why do you ignore the systematic dates arrived at by radiometrics?

quote:
...because I could sit here and show you how whatever and whatever can be attributed to a young earth formation, but that wouldn't matter because thats just a lower limit to the age of the earth.

Good point. Every reliable date we have is actually a minimum.

quote:
I also unfortunately am unaware of any systematic mechanism by which reliable dates may be obtained.

In the realm of absolutism, I agree. However, radiometric dating gives us a defensible method that is coherrent with other geological data and basically works.

quote:
"It seems to me that all of the creationists' best evidences for a young earth (decay of the magnetic field, too little helium in the atmosphere, accumulations of dust on the moon, etc.) were proven to be wrong."

Ah, good. Then you can direct us to the correct places. What is your BEST clock for telling the age of the earth?

 This message is a reply to: Message 6 by TrueCreation, posted 07-20-2002 4:52 PM TrueCreation has not yet responded

EvO-DuDe
Inactive Member

 Message 8 of 114 (13872) 07-20-2002 7:32 PM

I do not quite understand what you are saying, TrueCreation. Can you explain your theory in a easy-to-comprehend way?

" --I don't think this is the right question, really. A more penetrating question would be if there is evidence that contradicts a young earth, because I could sit here and show you how whatever and whatever can be attributed to a young earth formation, but that wouldn't matter because thats just a lower limit to the age of the earth. I also unfortunately am unaware of any systematic mechanism by which reliable dates may be obtained."

Okay, here's some evidence that contradicts a young earth: radiometric dating. Radioactive decay rates are pretty much constant. The decay rates do vary, but they only vary a very small percent, due to preasure, heat, enviornment, etc.
For the earth to be a mere 20,000-30,000 years old, the decay rates must have been insanely fast in the past. Give me some evidence that they were.
I do not doubt that many things that generally take a long time to form can be formed rapidly, for example fossils, strata, and petroleum, but the question is not that they can form rapidly, it is if they did. There is no way to prove that they were formed rapidly. Creationists must simply assume it.
Creationists claim that it is the evolutionists and geologists who make all the assumptions, but the creationists probably make twice as many. They assume that the radioactive decay rates were accelerated, they assume that all of the strata and the fossils were formed rapidly, they assume that the geological collumn was caused by a bunch of huge catastrophies. It's really pretty depressing.
Give me some evidence that the radioactive decay rates were much faster a long time ago.

(TrueCreation, I know this is off topic, but do you believe in Noah's Flood? If so, why?)

 Replies to this message: Message 9 by John, posted 07-20-2002 8:58 PM EvO-DuDe has responded

John
Inactive Member

 Message 9 of 114 (13875) 07-20-2002 8:58 PM Reply to: Message 8 by EvO-DuDe07-20-2002 7:32 PM

quote:
Originally posted by EvO-DuDe:
I do not doubt that many things that generally take a long time to form can be formed rapidly, for example fossils, strata, and petroleum

hmmm..... I doubt this.

A quick search on 'rapid fossilization' for example returns ALL creationists sites, so we can dismiss those results out of hand. (Hi TB! )

Strata can be formed rapidly but it wouldn't and doesn't look like slowly formed strata.

The combination we have of strata and fossil record is a much bigger problem. I have yet to hear a sufficient explaination of rapid deposition that accounts for the enormously complex ordering of the fossil record.

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www.hells-handmaiden.com

 This message is a reply to: Message 8 by EvO-DuDe, posted 07-20-2002 7:32 PM EvO-DuDe has responded

 Replies to this message: Message 10 by EvO-DuDe, posted 07-20-2002 11:47 PM John has responded

EvO-DuDe
Inactive Member

 Message 10 of 114 (13878) 07-20-2002 11:47 PM Reply to: Message 9 by John07-20-2002 8:58 PM

quote:
Originally posted by John:

Strata can be formed rapidly but it wouldn't and doesn't look like slowly formed strata.

Gosh. It sounds to me like those creationist websites are trying to decieve people by hiding this fact from them. Those creationist websites gave me the impression that rapidly formed strata and gradually formed strata were identical. By the way, do you know if all of the strata and varves in the grand canyon appear to be rapidly formed strata (as claimed by creationists) or slowly formed strata?

 This message is a reply to: Message 9 by John, posted 07-20-2002 8:58 PM John has responded

 Replies to this message: Message 11 by John, posted 07-21-2002 12:12 AM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded

John
Inactive Member

 Message 11 of 114 (13879) 07-21-2002 12:12 AM Reply to: Message 10 by EvO-DuDe07-20-2002 11:47 PM

quote:
Originally posted by EvO-DuDe:
Gosh. It sounds to me like those creationist websites are trying to decieve people by hiding this fact from them.

Part of me wants to be the good and say that these people sincerely believe what they write. Deception, in that case, doesn't apply. On the other hand, I don't know how you can misrepresent data, ignore rebuttals, and remodel every science to fit your dogma; and do it all accidentally.

quote:
Those creationist websites gave me the impression that rapidly formed strata and gradually formed strata were identical.

Yeah, that's what they are designed to do. Mt. Saint Helen's has been getting a lot of attention on these forums lately, as the eruption a while back is supposed by some creationist to demonstrate the rapid deposition of strata.

quote:
By the way, do you know if all of the strata and varves in the grand canyon appear to be rapidly formed strata (as claimed by creationists) or slowly formed strata?

I don't know, but I'd think that anything older than 6-10 thousand years would have to be assumed to have been rapidly formed. Except in old Earth creationism....

------------------
www.hells-handmaiden.com

 This message is a reply to: Message 10 by EvO-DuDe, posted 07-20-2002 11:47 PM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded

 Replies to this message: Message 12 by edge, posted 07-21-2002 1:13 AM John has not yet responded

edge
Member
Posts: 4517
Joined: 01-09-2002
Member Rating: 7.3

 Message 12 of 114 (13880) 07-21-2002 1:13 AM Reply to: Message 11 by John07-21-2002 12:12 AM

quote:
E-D: By the way, do you know if all of the strata and varves in the grand canyon appear to be rapidly formed strata (as claimed by creationists) or slowly formed strata?

J: I don't know, but I'd think that anything older than 6-10 thousand years would have to be assumed to have been rapidly formed. Except in old Earth creationism....

I know of no varves in the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, this is a little understood geological feature and many times they have been misidentified. Creationists, of course have come to the logical(?) conclusion that they do not exist at all.

The strata of the Grand Canyon are generally of the slowly deposited type occurring on the continental shelf, from epeiric seas. The problem is that, indeed, some layers can be deposited quickly. Naturally, creationists have taken this to mean that ALL strata are deposited quickly, and we can ignore the amount of time between the layers, or the record of time that has been erased by erosional periods. They seem to ignore the fact that depositing a maajor formation such as the Entrada is different from forming a set of laminae related to a storm deposit. They also take glee in informing the geological community about rapidly deposited layers which elicits a chorus of yawns.

 This message is a reply to: Message 11 by John, posted 07-21-2002 12:12 AM John has not yet responded

EvO-DuDe
Inactive Member

 Message 13 of 114 (13883) 07-21-2002 10:40 AM

Yesterday, just for the heck of it,I watched a creationist video about the grand canyon. They claimed that almost every feature in the grand canyon shows that it was formed rapidly in a series of catastrohpies. They gave Mt. Saint Helen's as an example of how well-layered strata can be formed rapidly, and they claimed that the appearence of the grand canyon fits far better into the creationist's 'theory' than the modern geologists's theory. Were the creationists lying?
 Replies to this message: Message 15 by Minnemooseus, posted 07-21-2002 6:30 PM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded Message 114 by sonicxp, posted 03-01-2004 7:22 AM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded

Percy
Member
Posts: 18370
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.9

 Message 14 of 114 (13892) 07-21-2002 6:13 PM Reply to: Message 6 by TrueCreation07-20-2002 4:52 PM

TrueCreation writes:

I 'believe' that the earth is in the realm of thousands of years, but based on the science and the inclusion of catastrophism, I could give you a lee-way up to 200k, or maybe even 30k. But I stick with the former, there is little that I know of that is unable to cope.

How is an age of 200,000 years or even just 30,000 years consistent with the Bible? If you accept a young earth because of the Bible, then don't you need to accept an age in the neighborhood of 6,000 years?

Because of Geochemistry and the Earths evolution through time, the bulk of which I logically attribute to the formation of the earths crust and chemical fractionation thereof.

Edge is correct, this is vague. Chemical fractionation could not be much of a factor as most sedimentary layers are extremely stable once buried, unless they descend to a depth deep enough to metamorphose them (and why they are then called metamorphic rock). The same is true of volcanic layers.

Perhaps you're referring to the Creationist proposal of diffusion of argon from the earth's mantle into the crust. If this were true then tilted layers would have older ages with increasing depth, but they don't - the age is consistent across the layer regardless of orientation. We would also see different diffusion rates according to lithospheric thickness. Diffusion also doesn't explain the non-gaseous elements, such as rubidium/strontium and uranium/lead. Some geologic layers are more impervious to diffusion of gases than others, so layers above them would be expected to date unexpectedly young.

But I would attribute an episode of accelerated decay somewhere in the past.

The problems with accelerated decay have been pointed out before. Don't you feel the need to overcome these objections before retaining this in your repertoire? Accelerated decay needs accelerated dissipation of heat, some way to have the rate of decay be a function of geological layer, and some way to protect living organisms from the lethal neutron bombardment. Plus there is no evidence that the laws governing decay have changed. For example, the light from the stars indicates the physical laws we're familiar with today were unchanged thousands, millions and billions of years ago.

I don't think this is the right question, really. A more penetrating question would be if there is evidence that contradicts a young earth...

You've got the cart before the horse again. Science accepts that for which there is evidence. It's not a case of accepting everything for which there is no counterevidence.

--Percy

 This message is a reply to: Message 6 by TrueCreation, posted 07-20-2002 4:52 PM TrueCreation has not yet responded

Minnemooseus
Member
Posts: 3709
From: Duluth, Minnesota, U.S. (West end of Lake Superior)
Joined: 11-11-2001
Member Rating: 7.6

 Message 15 of 114 (13893) 07-21-2002 6:30 PM Reply to: Message 13 by EvO-DuDe07-21-2002 10:40 AM

For the record, I've quoted EvO-DuDe's most recent message (#13, above), to start a new Mt. Saint Helens topic, at:
http://www.evcforum.net/cgi-bin/dm.cgi?action=page&f=7&t=34&p=2

Moose

------------------
BS degree, geology, '83
Professor, geology, Whatsamatta U
Old Earth evolution - Yes
Godly creation - Maybe

 This message is a reply to: Message 13 by EvO-DuDe, posted 07-21-2002 10:40 AM EvO-DuDe has not yet responded

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