Part 1: The World of Prehistory
Part 2: Has Earth Already Had an “End Time”? Cataclysm of the Great Flood
Part 3: Transition from One Environment to Another
Part 4: How Well Does Evolution Theory Agree with Scientific Principles and Discoveries?
Part 5: How Old Is the Natural World?
Part 6: Conclusion
Part 5: HOW OLD IS THE NATURAL WORLD?
5A: What About Radioactive Dating Methods?
5B: Age Estimates Based on Geological Evidence
5C: Estimates Based on Evidence from Outer Space
5D: Age Estimates Based on Population Data
5E: Historical-Cultural Evidence
5F: Age Estimates Based on Fossil Evidence: Human-Dinosaur Co-existence!
5-A: What About Radioactive Dating Methods?
From what we have learned so far, the scientific evidence points towards the Creation of the natural world through the handiwork of a supernatural Creator; and this brings us to the realization that the natural world must have had a definite starting point. So a good question to ask now might be, is the Earth really as old as is widely believed nowadays? If it did not create itself but was created by a Supernatural Being, then perhaps the natural world is younger than what we’ve always thought.
In previous posts we’ve seen many instances of how the scientific world can make mistakes and hasn’t scored too well in understanding such obvious events as the Flood cataclysm and the resulting fossil record and geological re-construction of the Earth. Nor has it fully grasped the implications of recent DNA genetic research as evidence pointing to the intelligent design of the natural world – and consequently, to the hand of an Intelligent Designer behind its formation.
A major reason for supposing that such long ages of time preceded our present historical age has to do with the fact that such assumptions make it easier to explain the origin of the natural world in terms of (macro)evolution theory.
So far in this study we have learned that random natural processes cannot explain the emergence of life from non-living substances, or the advancement of species to more complex forms (such as ape-to-man evolution). But, just for the sake of argument, let us suppose that life could emerge by natural chance processes from non-living materials – that God and His supernatural power are not needed for that job – then how could we explain that?
Knowing how complex living organisms are – even a simple cell is anything but simple; it’s as complicated as a factory – then, for something like that to assemble itself by some natural (not supernatural) process, we can only think it would be incredibly difficult for that to happen. So if we ask how could anything so complex as the anything-but-simple cell ever come into being, and from there evolve into more complex structures by a process of unguided chance, this is the answer we would get. “Well, you see, there was lots and lots of time for that to happen – billions of years in fact.”
Then if we ask, “Well how do we know that the earth is billions of years old?” The usual answer for that one: “Radioactive dating methods have proven it to be so.”
What about Radioactive Dating Methods?
Much of Darwin’s evolution theory rests on the pillar of belief that Earth has existed for millions, even billions of years. And much of that belief rests on another pillar – what is thought to be a scientific reliance on the age-measurement techniques of radioactive dating.
Although radioactive dating methods were at one time thought to be infallible measures of the ages of rocks and fossils, many in the scientific world are beginning to realize that these methods are unreliable; in fact, these methods even prove the opposite of the “old earth” idea – that Earth is, in fact, rather “young” in comparison to what has always been thought.
For years radioactive dating was considered a nice scientific way of figuring out the age of the earth. That is, until recently. Below are some articles that will bring to light what scientific research has learned about radioactive dating methods:
Helium in Radioactive Rocks
(Excerpt from essay “Best Evidences from Science that Confirm a Young Earth” by Andrew Snelling, David Menton, Danny Faulkner, Georgia Purdom) in Best Evidences, pgs 35-36, published by Answers in Genesis, 2013)
During the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium contained in rocks, lots of helium is produced. Because helium is the second lightest element and a noble gas – meaning it does not combine with other atoms – it readily diffuses (leaks) out and eventually escapes into the atmosphere. Helium diffuses so rapidly that all the helium should have leaked out in less than 100,000 years. So why are these rocks still full of helium atoms?
While drilling deep Precambrian (pre-Flood) granite rocks in New Mexico, geologists extracted samples of zircon (zirconium silicate) crystals from different depths. The crystals contained not only uranium but also large amounts of helium. The hotter the rocks the faster the helium should escape, so researchers were surprised to find that the deepest, and therefore hottest, zircons (at 387°F or at 197°C) contained far more helium than expected. Up to 58% of the helium that the uranium could have ever generated was still present in the crystals.
The helium leakage rate has been determined in several experiments.22 All measurements are in agreement. Helium diffuses so rapidly that all the helium in these zircon crystals should have leaked out in less than 100,000 years. The fact that so much helium is still there means they cannot be 1.5 billion years old, as uranium-lead dating suggests. Indeed, using the measured rate of helium diffusion, these pre-Flood rocks have an average “diffusion age” of only 6,000 (± 2,000) years.23
… The supposed 1.5-billion-year age is based on the unverifiable assumptions of radioisotope dating that are radically wrong.24
Notes and References:
22. S. W. Reiners, K. A. Farley, and H. J. Hicks, “He Diffusion and (U-Th)/He Thermochronometry of Zircon: Initial Results from Fish Canyon Tuff and Gold Butte, Nevada,” Techtonophysics 349, no. 1-4 (2002): 297-308. D. Russell Humphreys, et al., “Helium Diffusion Rates Support Accelerated Nuclear Decay,” in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, R. L. Ivey, Jr. (Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship, 2003), ed., pp. 175-196. D. Russell Humphreys, “Young Helium Diffusion Age of Zircons Supports Accelerated Nuclear Decay,” in Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative, L. Vardiman, A. A. Snelling and E. F. Chaffin, eds. (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, and Chino Valley, AZ: Creation Research Society, 2005), pp. 25-100.
23. Humphreys et al., 2003; Humphreys, 2005.
24. Andrew A. Snelling, “Radiometric Dating: Back to Basics,” Answers 4, no. 3 (July-Sept. 2009): 72-75; Andrew A. Snelling, “Radiometric Dating: Problems with the Assumptions,” Answers 4, no. 4 (Oct.-Dec. 2009): 70-73.
Potassium-argon Dates in Error
by Carl Wieland
1. ALL dating methods (including ones that point to thousands, not billions of years) are based on assumptions—beliefs, no matter how reasonable-sounding, that you can’t prove, but must accept by faith. For example:
- Assuming how much of a particular chemical was originally present;
- Assuming that there has been no leaching by water of the chemicals in or out of the rock; [During the Flood there would have been much of this “leaching by water”.]
- Assuming that radioactive decay rates have stayed the same for billions of years, and more.
2. Radiometric ‘dating’ labs do not measure age—they measure amounts of chemicals, then from this they infer age, based on the underlying assumptions.
3. When the assumptions are tested by measuring rocks of known age—e.g. recent lava flows—they often fail miserably.
Potassium-argon dates in error
|Volcanic eruption||When the rock formed||Date by radiometric dating|
|Mt Etna basalt, Sicily||122 BC||170,000–330,000 years old|
|Mt Etna basalt, Sicily||AD 1972||210,000–490,000 years old|
|Mt St. Helens, Washington||AD 1980||300,000–400,000 years old|
|Hualalai basalt, Hawaii||AD 1800–1801||1.44–1.76 million years old|
|Mt Ngauruhoe, New Zealand||AD 1954||3.3–3.7 million years old|
|Kilauea Iki basalt, Hawaii||AD 1959||1.7–15.3 million years old|
4. Objects of the same age, tested by different methods, have been shown to give ‘dates’ varying by a factor of a thousand.
5. The fact that there is some consistency to radiometric dates is explained in part by the tendency to publish only data consistent with the ‘evolutionary age’ already ‘established’ by fossils. Most radioactive dating laboratories prefer you to tell them what age you expect. It is hard to see why this would be necessary if these were ‘absolute’ methods. The entire geological ‘millions of years’ system was largely in place, based on the philosophical assumptions of men like Charles Lyell and James Hutton, before radioactivity was even discovered. Where a radioactive date contradicts the ‘system’, it is invariably discarded.
6. If a ‘radiometric’ date and a ‘fossil’ (evolutionary) date conflict, the radiometric date is always discarded.
Food for thought: If you took your temperature and found it was 1,000 degrees, would you think there was something wrong with you (an awfully high fever), or maybe there was something wrong with your thermometer? If the dating method cannot give accurate readings for rocks whose date of formation we know (that is, when the rock changed from molten to a cooled state), then how can we trust it for rocks whose date of formation we don’t know?
Carbon 14 Dating of Dinosaur Bones
Carbon 14 (C-14) dating is used to establish the age of skeletons, fossils, and other items composed of material that was once alive. Very precise analysis from modern mass spectrometers can establish the date the living material in the sample stopped taking in carbon from the environment (the point of death). Because C-14 has such a short half-life (radioactively decaying into Nitrogen 14), all detectable C-14 should have disappeared well before 100,000 years. But careful analysis by researchers has substantiated the presence of Carbon 14 in dinosaur bones. Critics suggested that the samples became contaminated with modern Carbon 14. However, Carboniferous coal was carefully extracted from deep within mines (far below the layers containing dinosaur remains) and fully sealed till lab analysis. It was found to still contain Carbon 14! (Baumgardner, et. al., “Measurable 14C in Fossilized Organic Materials,” Fifth ICC Paper, August 2003.)
In 2012, researchers analyzed multiple dinosaur bone samples from Texas, Alaska, Colorado, and Montana. C-14 dating revealed that they are less than 39,000 years old. These remarkable findings were presented by the German physicist Dr. Thomas Seiler at a conference sponsored by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society (AOGS) in Singapore. But apparently this evidence was unacceptable to influential evolutionists. The abstract was removed from the conference website by two chairmen because they could not accept these findings. Unwilling to challenge the data openly, they erased the report from public view without a word to the authors or even to the AOGS officers!
Accelerator Mass Spectrometer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
- The RATE (Radioactivity and the Age of The Earth) project began in 1997. Using the advanced equipment shown above, the scientists involved were able to measure Carbon-14 in fossils that older measuring devices were not able to detect.
…For example, a series of fossilized wood samples that conventionally have been dated according to their host strata to be from Tertiary to Permian (40-250 million years old) all yielded significant, detectable levels of carbon-14 that would conventionally equate to only 30,000-45,000 year “ages” for the original trees.8
…Coal samples, which dated millions to hundreds of millions of years old based on standard evolution time estimates, all contained measurable amounts of 14C… Since the half-life of 14C is relatively short (5,370 years), there should be no detectable 14C left after about 100,000 years. The average 14C estimated age for all the layers from these three time periods was approximately 50,000 years. However, using a more realistic pre-Flood 14C/12C ratio reduces the age to about 5,000 years.
[Excerpt from A Young Earth, pg. 41, by Answers in Genesis, 2010]
8. A.A. Snelling, “Radioactive ‘dating’ in conflict! Fossil wood in ancient lava flow yields radiocarbon,” Creation ex Nihilo 20 no. 1 (1997):24-27; A.A. Snelling, “Stumping old-age dogma: radiocarbon in an ‘ancient’ fossil tree stump casts doubt on traditional rock/fossil dating,” Creation ex Nihilo 20 no. 4 (1998):48-51; A.A. Snelling, “Dating dilemma: fossil wood in ancient sandstone,” Creation ex Nihilo 21 no. 3 (1992):39-41; A.A. Snelling, “Geological conflict: young radiocarbon date for ancient fossil wood challenges fossil dating.” Creation ex Nihilo 22 no. 2 (2000):44-47; A.A. Snelling, “Conflicting ‘ages’ of Tertiary basalt and contained fossilized wood, Crinum, central Queensland, Australia.” Creation ex Nihilo 14 no. 2 (2000):99-122.
Between 1984 and 1998 alone, the scientific literature reported carbon-14 in 70 samples that came from fossils, coal, oil, natural gas, and marble representing the fossil-bearing portion of the geologic record, supposedly spanning 500 million years. All contained radiocarbon.33 Further, analyses of fossilized wood and coal samples, supposedly spanning 32-350 million years in age, yielded ages between 20,000 and 50,000 years using carbon-14 dating.34 Diamonds supposedly 1-3 billion years old similarly yielded carbon-14 ages of only 55,000 years.35
[Excerpt from Best Evidences, pp. 37-38,by Answers in Genesis, 2010]
33. Paul Giem, “Carbon-14 Content of Fossil Carbon,” Origins 51 (2001): 6-30
34. John R. Baumgardner, et al.,”Measurable 14C in Fossilized Organic Materials: Confirming the Young Earth Creation Model,” in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, R. L. Ivey, Jr., ed. (Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship, 2003), pp. 127-142.
35. John R. Baumgardner, “14C Evidence for a Recent Global Flood and a Young Earth,” in Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth: Results of a Young-Earth Creationist Research Initiative, L. Vardiman, A. A. Snelling, and E. F. Chaffin, eds. (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research, Chino Valley, AZ: Creation Research Society, 2005), pp. 587-630.
- From all of the above research we can only conclude, first of all, that radioactive dating is far from a reliable way of measuring the age of the Earth. And secondly, if radioactive dating does prove anything, it points directly towards a recent Creation of the Earth and its life forms.
- (For further information, see Appendix 3 below: “Radiometric dating breakthroughs” by Carl Wieland.)
Continue to 5B: Age Estimates Based on Geological Evidence
Radiometric dating breakthroughs – by Carl Wieland, Australia
A few years ago, some leading creationist geologists and physicists began a detailed research project into Radioactivity and the Age of The Earth (RATE). This RATE project began as a cooperative venture between the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), the Creation Research Society of USA (CRS) and Creation Ministries International (CMI).1
With the release of key peer-reviewed papers at the 2003 ICC (International Conference on Creationism), it is clear that RATE has made some fantastic progress, with real breakthroughs in this area.
A young age for ‘ancient’ granites
When physicist Dr Russell Humphreys was still at Sandia National Laboratories (he now works full-time for ICR), he and Dr John Baumgardner (still with Los Alamos National Laboratory) were both convinced that they knew the direction in which to look for a definitive answer to the puzzle of why radiometric dating consistently gives ages of millions and billions of years.
Others had tried to find an answer in geological processes—e.g. the pattern was caused by the way the magma was emplaced or how it crystallized. This is indeed the answer in some cases.2,3 But Drs Humphreys and Baumgardner realized that in other cases there were many independent lines of evidence that suggested that huge amounts of radioactive decay had indeed taken place. (These include the variety of elements used in ‘standard’ radioisotope dating, mature uranium radiohalos and fission track dating.) It would be hard to imagine that geologic processes alone could explain all these. Rather, there was likely to be an answer that concerned the nuclear decay processes themselves.
… There must have been speeded-up decay, perhaps in a huge burst associated with Creation… and/or a separate burst at the time of the Flood.
There is now powerful confirmatory evidence that at least one episode of drastically accelerated decay has indeed been the case, building on the work of Dr Robert Gentry on helium retention in zircons. The landmark RATE paper,4 though technical, can be summarized as follows:
- When uranium decays to lead, a by-product of this process is the formation of helium, a very light, inert gas, which readily escapes from rock.
- Certain crystals called zircons, obtained from drilling into very deep granites, contain uranium which has partly decayed into lead.
- By measuring the amount of uranium and ‘radiogenic lead’ in these crystals, one can calculate that, if the decay rate has been constant, about 1.5 billion years must have passed. (This is consistent with the geologic ‘age’ assigned to the granites in which these zircons are found.)
- However, there is a significant proportion of helium from that ‘1.5 billion years of decay’ still inside the zircons. This is, at first glance, surprising for long-agers, because of the ease with which one would expect helium (with its tiny, light, unreactive atoms) to escape from the spaces within the crystal structure. There should surely be hardly any left, because with such a slow buildup, it should be seeping out continually and not accumulating.
- Drawing any conclusions from the above depends, of course, on actually measuring the rate at which helium leaks out of zircons. This is what one of the RATE papers reports on. The samples were sent (without any hint that it was a creationist project) to a world-class expert on helium diffusion from minerals to measure these rates. The consistent answer: the helium does indeed seep out quickly over a wide range of temperatures. In fact, the results show that because of all the helium still in the zircons, these crystals (and since this is Precambrian basement granite, by implication the whole earth) could not be older than 14,000 years. In other words, in only a few thousand years, 1.5 billion years’ worth (at today’s rates) of radioactive decay has taken place. Interestingly, the data have since been refined and updated to give a date of 5,680 (± 2,000) years.
The paper looks at the various avenues a long-ager might take by which to wriggle out of these powerful implications, but there seems to be little hope for them unless they can show that the techniques used to obtain the results were seriously flawed.
More surprises on radiocarbon
Another dramatic breakthrough concerns radiocarbon. It’s long been known that radiocarbon (i.e. carbon-14, or 14C) keeps popping up reliably in samples (of coal, oil, gas, etc.) which are supposed to be ‘millions of years’ old. However, with the short half-life of 14C it should decay to zero in only some tens of thousands of years at the most.5 For instance, CMI has, over the years, commissioned and funded the radiocarbon testing of a number of wood samples from ‘old’ sites (e.g. samples with Jurassic fossils, samples inside Triassic sandstone, and samples burnt by Tertiary basalt) and these were published (by then staff geologist Dr Andrew Snelling) in Creation magazine and Journal of Creation. In each case, with contamination eliminated, the result has been in the thousands of years, i.e. 14C was present when it ‘shouldn’t have been’. These results encouraged the rest of the RATE team to investigate 14C further, building on the literature reviews of creationist physician Dr Paul Giem.
In another very important paper, scientists from the RATE group summarized the pertinent facts and presented further experimental data.6The bottom line is that virtually all biological specimens, no matter how ‘old’ they are supposed to be, show measurable 14C levels. This effectively limits the age of all buried biota to less than (at most) 250,000 years. (When one takes into account the probability that before the Flood the ratio of radioactive to ‘normal’ carbon was much lower,7 the calculated age comes right down…)
Interestingly, specimens which appear to definitely be pre-Flood seem to have 14C present, too, and importantly, these cluster around a lower relative amount of 14C. This suggests that some 14C was primordial (existing from the very beginning), and not produced by cosmic rays—thus limiting the age of the entire earth to only a few thousand years.
This appears to have been somewhat spectacularly supported when Dr Baumgardner sent five diamonds to be analyzed for 14C. It was the first time this had been attempted, and the answer came back positive—14C was present. The diamonds, formed deep inside the earth, are assumed by evolutionists to be over a billion years old. Nevertheless they contained radioactive carbon, even though, if the billion-year age were correct, they ‘shouldn’t have’.
This is exceptionally striking evidence, because a diamond has remarkably strong lattice bonds (that’s why it’s the hardest substance known), so subsequent atmospheric or biological contamination should not find its way into the interior.
The diamonds’ carbon-dated ‘age’ of about 58,000 years is thus an upper limit for the age of the whole earth. Again, this is entirely consistent with helium diffusion results reported above, which indicate the upper limit is in fact substantially less.8,9
14C workers have no real answer to this problem, namely that all the ‘vast-age’ specimens they measure still have 14C. Labelling this detectable 14C with such words as ‘contamination’ and ‘background’ is completely unhelpful in explaining its source, as the RATE group’s careful analyses and discussions have shown. But it is no problem or mystery at all if the uniformitarian/long-age assumptions are laid to one side and the real history of the world, given in Scripture, is taken seriously. The 14C is there, quite simply, because it hasn’t had time to decay yet. The world just isn’t that old!
- Argon from RATE site confirms the earth is young
- Response to Geochronology: Understanding the Uncertainties, a presentation by Dr Justin Payne
- More on radioactive dating problems
References and notes
- The Australian ministry’s contribution was mostly providing the expertise of geologist Dr Andrew Snelling; however, when he commenced work with ICR, the project rightly reverted to a joint project of ICR/CRS.
- Snelling, A.A., The failure of U-Th-Pb ‘dating’ at Koongarra, Australia, Journal of Creation 9(1):71–92, 1995.