How reliable is geologic dating?
Sep 18, Radiometric dating still reliable (again), research shows led some to question the science behind carbon dating and similar techniques. much different dating methods agree on the of the reliability of radiometric dating. Coffin mentions that fission tracks can survive transport through lava. Aug 9, The technique of comparing the abundance ratio of a radioactive isotope to a reference isotope to determine the age of a material is called radioactive dating. 14C, is transported as 14CO2, absorbed by plants, and eaten by animals. Very accurate measurements of the amount of 14C remaining, either.
Radiometric dating is based on index fossils whose dates were assigned long before radioactivity was discovered. This is not at all true, though it is implied by some young-earth literature. Radiometric dating is based on the half-lives of the radioactive isotopes. These half-lives have been measured over the last years. They are not calibrated by fossils.
No one has measured the decay rates directly; we only know them from inference. Decay rates have been directly measured over the last years. In some cases a batch of the pure parent material is weighed and then set aside for a long time and then the resulting daughter material is weighed. In many cases it is easier to detect radioactive decays by the energy burst that each decay gives off. For this a batch of the pure parent material is carefully weighed and then put in front of a Geiger counter or gamma-ray detector.
These instruments count the number of decays over a long time. If the half-lives are billions of years, it is impossible to determine them from measuring over just a few years or decades. The example given in the section [in Wiens' article] titled, "The Radiometric Clocks" shows that an accurate determination of the half-life is easily achieved by direct counting of decays over a decade or shorter. Additionally, lavas of historically known ages have been correctly dated even using methods with long half-lives.
The decay rates are poorly known, so the dates are inaccurate. Most of the decay rates used for dating rocks are known to within two percent. Such small uncertainties are no reason to dismiss radiometric dating. Whether a rock is million years or million years old does not make a great deal of difference. To date a rock one must know the original amount of the parent element. But there is no way to measure how much parent element was originally there.
It is very easy to calculate the original parent abundance, but that information is not needed to date the rock.
Everything Worth Knowing About Scientific Dating Methods | afrocolombianidad.info
All of the dating schemes work from knowing the present abundances of the parent and daughter isotopes. There is little or no way to tell how much of the decay product, that is, the daughter isotope, was originally in the rock, leading to anomalously old ages. A good part of [Wiens' article] is devoted to explaining how one can tell how much of a given element or isotope was originally present.
Usually it involves using more than one sample from a given rock. It is done by comparing the ratios of parent and daughter isotopes relative to a stable isotope for samples with different relative amounts of the parent isotope.
From this one can determine how much of the daughter isotope would be present if there had been no parent isotope. This is the same as the initial amount it would not change if there were no parent isotope to decay.
Figures 4 and 5 [in Wiens' article], and the accompanying explanation, tell how this is done most of the time. There are only a few different dating methods. There are actually many more methods out there. Well over forty different radiometric dating methods are in use, and a number of non-radiogenic methods not even mentioned here. A young-Earth research group reported that they sent a rock erupted in from Mount Saint Helens volcano to a dating lab and got back a potassium-argon age of several million years.
This shows we should not trust radiometric dating. There are indeed ways to "trick" radiometric dating if a single dating method is improperly used on a sample. Anyone can move the hands on a clock and get the wrong time. Likewise, people actively looking for incorrect radiometric dates can in fact get them.
Geologists have known for over forty years that the potassium-argon method cannot be used on rocks only twenty to thirty years old.
Publicizing this incorrect age as a completely new finding was inappropriate. The reasons are discussed in the Potassium-Argon Dating section [of Wiens' article]. Be assured that multiple dating methods used together on igneous rocks are almost always correct unless the sample is too difficult to date due to factors such as metamorphism or a large fraction of xenoliths.
Different dating techniques usually give conflicting results. This is not true at all. The fact that dating techniques most often agree with each other is why scientists tend to trust them in the first place. Nearly every college and university library in the country has periodicals such as Science, Nature, and specific geology journals that give the results of dating studies. The public is usually welcome to and should!
So the results are not hidden; people can go look at the results for themselves. Over a thousand research papers are published a year on radiometric dating, essentially all in agreement.
Besides the scientific periodicals that carry up-to-date research reports, [there are] textbooks, non-classroom books, and web resources. Anomalies As noted above, creationists make great hay out of "anomalies" in radiometric dating. It is true that some "anomalies" have been observed, although keep in mind that these have been identified by professional scientists in published literature, not by creationists or others outside of peer-reviewed scientific literature.
First of all, many of these claimed "anomalies" are completely irrelevant to the central issue of whether the Earth is many millions of years old. This is certainly true when errors are in the range of a few percent in specimens many millions of years old.
This is also true of anomalies noted in carbon dates. Carbon dating cannot be used to date anything older than about 50, years, since the carbon half life is only years. For additional discussion, see Radiocarbon dating. In any event, it is important to keep these anomalies in perspective. For example, out of literally tens of thousands of dates measured using the rubidium-strontium dating scheme see description of the Rb-Sr scheme in Agesonly about 30 cases have been noted where the individual data values initially appeared to lie nearly on a straight line as is requiredbut the result was later found to be significantly in error.
And each of these 30 cases is fairly well understood -- none of these is truly "mysterious" [ Wien ]. Anomalies and other objections that have been raised by creationists are dealt with in detail in Roger Wiens' article [ Wien ], Mark Isaak's book [ Isaakpg.
A detailed response to other claims of scientific evidence for a young Earth is given by Matthew Tiscareno [ Tiscareno ]. Radioactive isotopes and the age of the Earth Until recently, only a large scientific laboratories could afford mass spectrometers, which are the principal tool used to measure dates of rock samples.
But recently the prices of these devices have dropped to levels that even amateur meteorite hunters and others can afford. Used mass spectrometers are currently available at eBay. I looked up some information on bentonite. It is composed of little glass beads that come from volcanic ash. This is formed when lava is sticky and bubbles of gas in it explode.
So these small particles of lava cool very fast. The rapid cooling might mean that any enclosed argon is retained, but if not, the fact that this cooling occurs near the volcano, with a lot of argon coming out, should guarantee that these beads would have excess argon. As the gas bubble explodes, its enclosed argon will be rushing outward along with these tiny bubbles as they cool.
This will cause them to retain argon and appear too old. In addition, the rapid cooling and the process of formation means that these beads would have Rb, Sr, U, and Pb concentrations the same as the lava they came from, since there is no chance for crystals to form with such rapid cooling.
So to assume that the K-Ar dates, Rb-Sr dates, and U-Pb dates all reflect the age of the lava, one would have to assume that this lava had no Sr, no Pb, and that all the argon escaped when the beads formed. Since the magma generally has old radiometric ages, I don't see how we could have magma without Pb or Sr.
So to me it seems to be certain that these ages must be in error. Furthermore, the question arises whether bentonite always gives correlated ages, and whether these ages always agree with the accepted ages for their geologic period.
I believe that bentonite occurs in a number of formations of different geologic periods, so this could be checked.
If bentonite does not always give correlate and correct ages, this calls into question its use for dating the K-T boundary. Back to top Note that if there are small pockets in crystals where both parent and daughter product can accumulate from the lava, then one can inherit correlated ages from the lava into minerals. Thus even the existence of correlations is not conclusive evidence that a date is correct. Back to top If a date does not agree with the expected age of its geologic period, and no plausible explanation can be found, then the date is called anomalous.
But if we really understand what is going on, then we should be able to detect discrepant dates as they are being measured, and not just due to their divergence from other dates. Geologists often say that the percentage of anomalies is low.
But there are quite a number of rather outstanding anomalies in radiometric dating that creationists have collected. These anomalies are reported in the scientific literature.
For example, one isochron yielded a date of 10 billion years. A Rb-Sr isochron yielded a date of 34 billion years. K-Ar dates of 7 to 15 billion years have been recorded. It's also not uncommon for two methods to agree and for the date to be discarded anyway. Samples with flat plateaus which should mean no added argon can give wrong dates.
Samples giving no evidence of being disturbed can give wrong dates. Samples that give evidence of being disturbed can give correct dates. The number of dates that disagree with the expected ages is not insignificant. I don't know what the exact percentage is. Many dates give values near the accepted ones. But even these often differ from one another by 10 or 20 percent.
And quite a few other dates are often much, much farther off. Whatever is making some of these dates inaccurate could be making all of them inaccurate. It's interesting to note that in a few cases, old radiometric dates are above young ones. The fact that different methods often give different dates is noted by geologists. Here are some quotes from http: Age estimates on a given geological stratum by different radiometric methods are often quite different sometimes by hundreds of millions of years.
There is not absolutely reliable long-term radiological "clock". The uncertainties inherent in radiometric dating are disturbing to geologists and evolutionists One example is the rocks from the Kaupelehu Flow, Hualalai Volcano in Hawaii which was known to have erupted in These rocks were dated by a variety of different methods. Of 12 dates reported the youngest was million years and the oldest was 2.
The dates average 1. Geologists explain the Kaupelehu date by the lava being cooled rapidly in deep ocean water and not being able to get rid of its enclosed argon. Instead, the uncertainty grows as more and more data is accumulated In addition, Woodmorappe gives over sets of dates "that are in gross conflict with one another and with expected values for their indicated paleontological positions.
This does not include dates from minerals that are thought to yield bad dates, or from igneous bodies with wide biostrategraphic ranges, where many dates are acceptable. He states that the number of dates within range are less than the number of anomalies, except for the Cenozoic and Cretaceous. When one adds in the fact that many anomalies are unreported, which he gives evidence for, the true distribution is anyone's guess.
There have been criticisms of John Woodmorappe's study, but no one has given any figures from the literature for the true percentage of anomalies, with a definition of an anomaly, or the degree of correlation between methods. Steven Schimmrich's review of this study often concerns itself with John W's presentation of geologists explanation for anomalies, and not with the percentage of anomalies; the later is my main concern. Here are a couple of more quotes about anomalies: The carbon age of the buried trees is only years, but some of the overlying volcanic material has a ,year potassium-argon age.
Still another evidence for problems with radiometric dating was given in a recent talk I attended by a man who had been an evolutionist and taken a course in radiometric dating. The teacher gave 14 assumptions of radiometric dating and said something like "If creationists got a hold of these, they could cut radiometric dating to pieces. Many sedimentary uranium ores are not.
On another point, if we can detect minerals that were not molten with the lava, as has been claimed, then this is one more reason why there should be no anomalies, and radiometric dating should be a completely solved problem. But that does not appear to be the case, at least especially on the geologic column. I'm not claiming that anomalous results are being hidden, just that the agreement of a mass of results, none of which has much claim to reliability, does not necessarily mean much.
Picking out a few cases where radiometric dates appear to be well-behaved reminds me of evolutionary biologists focusing on a few cases where there may be transitional sequences. It does not answer the overall question. And as I said above, I'm also interested to know how much of the fossil-bearing geologic column can be dated by isochrons, and how the dates so obtained compare to others.
Concerning K-Ar anomalies, here is a quote from Woodmorappe's paper cited above, p. Gerling et al called attention to some chlorites yielding K-Ar dates of 7 to 15 b.
The Radiometric Dating Game
It had been noted that some minerals which yield such dates as beryl, cordierite, etc. They also pointed out that for the anomalies to be accounted for by excess argon, unreasonably high partial pressures of Ar during crystallization would have to be required.
They concluded by suggesting some unknown nuclear process which no longer operates to have generated the Ar. Here is another quote from Woodmorappe about isochrons, since some people think that mixing scenarios or other age-altering scenarios are unlikely: If this condition does not hold, invalid ages and intercepts are obtained.
Models yield isochron ages that are too high, too low, or in the future, sometimes by orders of magnitude. The fact that the only "valid" K-Ar isochrons are those for which the concentration of non-radiogenic argon Ar36 is constant, seems very unusual. This suggests that what is occuring is some kind of a mixing phenomenon, and not an isochron reflecting a true age. The following quote is from http: We have analyzed several devitrified glasses of known age, and all have yielded ages that are too young.
Some gave virtually zero ages, although the geologic evidence suggested that devitrification took place shortly after the formation of a deposit. Back to top One of the main arguments in favor of radiometric dating is that so many dates agree with each other, that is, with the date expected for their geologic period.
But it's not evident how much support this gives to radiometric dating. If a rock dates too old, one can say that the clock did not get reset. If it dates too young, one can invoke a later heating event. Neither date would necessarily be seen as anomalous. If lava intrudes upon geologic period X, then any date for the lava of X or later will not be seen as anomalous. And even if the date is one or two geologic periods earlier, it may well be close enough to be accepted as non-spurious.
If one does not know the geologic period of a rock by other means, then of course one is likely to date it to find out, and then of course the date agrees with the geologic period and this will not be seen as anomalous.
So it is difficult to know what would be a reasonable test for whether radiometric dating is reliable or not. The percentage of published dates that are considered as anomalous has little bearing on the question.
Back to top The issue about igneous bodies may need additional clarification. If a lava flow lies above geologic period A and below B, then allowable ages are anything at least as large as A and no larger than B. This is called the biostratigraphic limit of the flow. Now, according to Woodmorappe's citations, many lava flows have no such limits at all, and most of them have large limits.
For example, a flow lying on precambrian rock with nothing on top would have no limits on its dates. And such flows often have a large internal scatter of dates, but these dates are not considered as anomalies because of the unrestricted biostratigraphic limit.
Other flows with wide biostratigraphic limits have weak restrictions on allowable dates. This is one reason why just reporting the percentage of anomalies has little meaning. Thus these ages, though they generally have a considerable scatter, are not considered as anomalies.
He cites another reference that most igneous bodies have wide biostrategraphic limits. Thus just by chance, many dates will be considered within the acceptable ranges. Again, the percentage of anomalies means nothing for the reliability of radiometric dating.
Now, igneous bodies can be of two types, extrusive and intrusive. Extrusive bodies are lava that is deposited on the surface. These cool quickly and have small crystals and form basalt. Intrusive bodies are deposited in the spaces between other rocks. These cool more slowly and have larger crystals, often forming granite. Both of these tend on the average to have wide biostrategraphic limits, meaning that a large spread of ages will be regarded as non-anomalous.
And if we recall that most radiometric dating is done of igneous bodies, one sees that the percentage of anomalies is meaningless. Thus we really need some evidence that the different methods agree with each other. To make the case even stronger, "Many discrepant results from intrusives are rationalized away immediately by accepting the dates but reinterpreting the biostrategraphic bracket," according to John Woodmorappe.
This of course means that the result is no longer anomalous, because the geologic period has been modified to fit the date. Finally, the fact that the great majority of dates are from one method means that the general but not universal agreement of K-Ar dating with itself is sufficient to explain the small percentange of anomalies if it is small. Back to top Now, the point about agreement is that whatever figure is given about how often ages agree with the expected age, is consistent with the fact that there is no agreement at all between K-Ar and other methods, since so many measurements are done using K-Ar dating.
And one of the strongest arguments for the validity of radiometric dating is that the methods agree. So when one combines all of the above figures, the statement that there are only 10 percent anomalies or 5 percent or whatever, does not have any meaning any more.
This statement is made so often as evidence for the reliability of radiometric dating, that the simple evidence that it has no meaning, is astounding to me. I don't object to having some hard evidence that there are real agreements between different methods on the geologic column, if someone can provide it. The precambrian rock is less interesting because it could have a radiometric age older than life, but this is less likely for the rest of the geologic column.
It's not surprising that K-Ar dates often agree with the assumed dates of their geological periods, since the dates of the geological periods were largely inferred from K-Ar dating. By the way, Ar-Ar dating and K-Ar dating are essentially the same method, so between the two of them we obtain a large fraction of the dates being used.
Some information from an article by Robert H. History of the Radioisotope based Geologic Time Scale Before the discovery of radioactivity in the late nineteenth century, a geological time scale had been developed on the basis of estimates for the rates of geological processes such as erosion and sedimentation, with the assumption that these rates had always been essentially uniform.
On the basis of being unacceptably old, many geologists of the time rejected these early twentieth century determinations of rock age from the ratio of daughter to radioactive parent large. Byincreased confidence in radioisotope dating techniques and the demands of evolution theory for vast amounts of time led to the establishment of an expanded geological time scale. The construction of this time scale was based on about radioisotope ages that were selected because of their agreement with the presumed fossil and geological sequences found in the rocks.
Igneous rocks are particularly suited to K-Ar dating. The crucial determiners are therefore volcanic extrusive igneous rocks that are interbedded with sediments, and intrusive igneous rocks that penetrate sediments. This verifies what I said about almost all of the dates used to define correct ages for geologic periods being K-Ar dates. Also, the uncertainty in the branching ratio of potassium decay might mean that there is a fudge factor in K-Ar ages of up to a third, and that the occasional agreements between K-Ar ages and other ages are open to question.
So the point is that there is now no reason to believe that radiometric dating is valid on the geologic column. Back to top Another issue is that sometimes the geologic periods of rocks are revised to agree with the ages computed.
This also makes data about percentages of anomalies less meaningful. It sometimes seems that reasons can always be found for bad dates, especially on the geologic column. If a rock gives a too old date, one says there is excess argon.
If it gives a too young date, one says that it was heated recently, or cannot hold its argon. How do we know that maybe all the rocks have excess argon? It looks like geologists are taking the "majority view" of K-Ar dating, but there is no necessary reason why the majority of rocks should give the right date.
The following quote is from the article by Robert H. What is a Radioisotope Age? The relationship of a radioisotope age with real-time must be based on an interpretation. A discussion of rubidium-strontium ages in the Isotope Geoscience Section of the journal, Chemical Geology, specifically states that a radioisotope age determination "does not certainly define a valid age information for a geological system.
Any interpretation will reflect the interpreters presuppositions bias. Back to top Concerning the need for a double blind test, it would seem that there are many places where human judgment could influence the distribution of measured radiometric dates.
It could increase the percentage of anomalies, if they were regarded as more interesting. It could decrease them, if they were regarded as flukes. Human judgment could determine whether points were collinear enough to form an isochron. It could determine whether a point can justifiably be tossed out and the remaining points used as an isochron. It could determine whether one should accept simple parent-to-daughter K-Ar ratios or whether some treatment needs to be applied first to get better ages.
It could influence whether a spectrum is considered as flat, whether a rock is considered to have undergone leaching or heating, whether a rock is porous or not, or whether a sample has been disturbed in some way. Since one of the main reasons for accepting radiometric dates at least I keep hearing it is that they agree with each other, I think that geologists have an obligation to show that they do agree, specifically on the geologic column.
Since we do not know whether or how much human judgment is influencing radiometric dating, a double blind study is most reasonable. And it should not be restricted to just one or two well-behaved places, but should be as comprehensive as possible. Back to top The following information was sent to me by e-mail: Radiometric dating is predicated on the assumption that throughout the earth's history radioactive decay rates of the various elements have remained constant. Is this a warranted assumption?
Has every radioactive nuclide proceeded on a rigid course of decay at a constant rate? This has been challenged by studies involving Carbon C At the temperature or pressure, collisions with stray cosmic rays or the emanations of other atoms may cause changes other than those of normal disintegration.
It seems very possible that spontaneous disintegration of radioactive elements are related to the action of cosmic rays and the rate of disintegration varying from century to century according to the intensity of the rays.
The evidence for a strongly increasing change in the cosmic ray influx is most favorable especially in light of the decay of the earth's magnetic field.
Most geochronologists maintain that pleochroic haloes give evidence that decay constants have not changed. Crystals of biotite, for example, and other minerals in igneous or metamorphic rocks commonly enclose minute specks of minerals containing uranium or thorium.
The a- alpha particles emitted at high velocity by the disintegrating nuclides interact, because of their charge, with electrons of surrounding atoms which slow them down until they finally come to rest in the host material at a distance from their source that depends on their initial kinetic energy and the density and composition of the host.
Where they finally stop to produce lattice distortions and defects there generally occurs discoloring or darkening. Each of the 8 a-particles emitted during the disintegration of U to Pb produces a dark ring in biotite. Each ring has its own characteristic radius in a given mineral in this case biotite.
This radius measures the kinetic energy, hence the probability of emission of the corresponding a-particle and also the half-life of the parent nuclide according to the Geiger-Nuttall law. The Geiger-Nuttall law is an empirical relation between half-life of the a-emitter and the range in air of the emitted a-particles. If the radii of these haloes from the same nuclide vary, this would imply that the decay rates have varied and would invalidate these series as being actual clocks.
Are the radii in the rocks constant in size or are there variable sizes? Most of the early studies of pleochroic haloes were made by Joly and Henderson. Joly concluded that the decay rates have varied on the basis of his finding a variation of the radii for rocks of alleged geological ages.
This rather damaging result was explained away saying that enough evidence of correct radii for defferent geologic periods and sufficient variation in the same period have been obtained that one is forced to look for a different explanation of such variations as were observed by Joly. Measurements were later made in an excellent collection of samples with haloes. It was found that the extent of the haloes around the inclusions varies over a wide range, even with the same nuclear material in the same matrix, but all sizes fall into definite groups.
The measurements are, in microns, 5,7,10,17,20,23,27, and More recent studies have been made by Robert V. Gentry also finds a variation in the haloes leading him to conclude that the decay constants have not been constant in time.
Gentry points out an argument for an instantaneous creation of the earth. He noted form his studies of haloes: For the Po half-life of 3 minutes only a matter of minutes could elapse between the formation of the Po and subsequent crystallization of the mica; otherwise the Po would have decayed, and no ring would be visible.
The occurrence of these halo types is quite widespread, one or more types having been observed in the micas from Canada Pre-CambrianSweden, and Japan.