Radiometric Dating: Flawed?

Tyler Collins, Opinions Editor

In issue three of the Hoofbeat, I wrote concerning the archaeological and scientific evidence that dinosaurs lived recently with man. While my article touched on several lines of evidence, I received several follow-up questions about dating methods. Radiometric dating is often held as proof, in science classrooms and museums across the country, that rocks are millions of years old. However, it is based on several basic assumptions which have led to incorrect dates.

What is radiometric dating? To keep it very simple: Each chemical element, such as potassium and uranium, is made up of atoms. Some variations of the elements, such as potassium-40 and uranium-238, are unstable and, over time, will decay into another element. The original element is called the parent and the resulting element is called the daughter. Scientists can take a rock sample and measure the amount of parent and daughter elements it contains, along with the current rate of decay. Using this information, they can calculate an age for the rock.

The calculation is based on three basic assumptions: 1) That the original number of parent atoms are known, 2) that the rate of decay was constant over time, and 3) that the daughter atoms were all produced by radioactive decay. However, if one or more of these assumptions is wrong, then the calculated age is inaccurate. While there is not space here to delve into the details of these assumptions, we can look at test results and see whether they are faulty.

In 1986, when Mount St. Helens erupted, new rock was formed which, when tested in 1996, yielded a radiometric age of 350,000 years. This was clearly inaccurate since the rock had been observed to be only 10 years old. Similarly, rock formed in 1954 at Mount Ngauruhoe in New Zealand, known to be less than 50 years old, yielded a radiometric age of 3.5 million years. Even in our own Grand Canyon, rock located at the rim, which was formed by a recent lava flow, dated to 1.143 billion years, the same age as the older rocks deep below the canyon wall—clearly an impossibility.

Scientists have even found that using different tests on the same rock samples yield vastly differing ages. When zircon crystals from New Mexico were tested, the uranium-lead decay gave an age of 1.5 billion years, while measuring the amount of helium that had leaked out of the crystals gave an age of 6,000 years. The rock which was tested on Mount Ngauruhoe also gave vastly different ages depending on which dating method was used. Its rubidium-strontium age was 133 million years, its samarium-neodymium age was 197 million years, and its uranium-lead age was 3.908 billion years. All of the ages cannot be correct, and how would we pick which one to trust? The dates clearly contradict each other. These results indicate that one or more of the assumptions involved in calculating radiometric ages is faulty.

What does this all mean? If it is true that these dating methods are inaccurate, which the evidence seems to suggest, then we have cause to doubt much of the secular story regarding earth history and life on earth—the story being taught by a vast majority of institutions in the United States. Dinosaurs, and other artifacts, which we are told are millions of years old, may not be so ancient after all.