Inaccurate Dating Methods
Why thenon-historical Dating Techniques are not Reliable
This chapter is based on pp. 183-221 of Origin of the Universe (Volume One of our three-volume Evolution Disproved Series). Not included in this chapter are at least 62 statements by scientists. You will find them, plus much more, on our website: evolution-facts.org.
Several methods for dating ancient materials have been developed. This is an important topic; for evolutionists want the history of earth to span long ages, in the hope that this will make the origin and evolution of life more likely.
Therefore we shall devote an entire chapter to a discussion of every significant method, used by scientists today, to date ancient substances.
1 - RADIODATING
MAJOR DATING METHODS—Several types of dating methods are used today. Chief among them are:
(1) Uranium-thorium-lead dating, based on the disintegration of uranium and thorium into radium, helium, etc., and finally into lead.
(2) Rubidium-strontium dating, based on the decay of rubidium into strontium.
(3) Potassium-argon dating, based on the disintegration of potassium into argon and calcium.
In this chapter, we shall discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each of these dating methods.
There is a basic pattern that occurs in the decay of radioactive substances. In each of these disintegration systems, the parent or original radioactive substance gradually decays into daughter substances. This may involve long decay chains, with each daughter product decaying into other daughter substances, until finally only an inert element remains that has no radioactivity. In some instances, the parent substance may decay directly into the end product. Sometimes, the radioactive chain may begin with an element partway down the decay chain.
A somewhat different type of radioactive dating method is called carbon 14-dating or radiocarbon dating. It is based on the formation of radioactive elements of carbon, in the atmosphere by cosmic radiation, and their subsequent decay to the stable carbon isotope. We will also discuss radiocarbon dating in this chapter.
SEVEN INITIAL ASSUMPTIONS—At the very beginning of this analysis, we need to clearly understand a basic fact: Each of these special dating methods can only have accuracy IF (if!) certain assumptions ALWAYS (always!) apply to EACH specimen that is tested.
Here are seven of these fragile assumptions:
(1) Each system has to be a closed system; that is, nothing can contaminate any of the parents or the daughter products while they are going through their decay process—or the dating will be thrown off. Ideally, in order to do this, each specimen tested needs to have been sealed in a jar with thick lead walls for all its previous existence, supposedly millions of years!
But in actual field conditions, there is no such thing as a closed system. One piece of rock cannot for millions of years be sealed off from other rocks, as well as from water, chemicals, and changing radiations from outer space.
(2) Each system must initially have contained none of its daughter products. A piece of uranium 238 must originally have had no lead or other daughter products in it. If it did, this would give a false date reading.
But this assumption can in no way be confirmed. It is impossible to know what was initially in a given piece of radioactive mineral. Was it all of this particular radioactive substance or were some other indeterminate or final daughter products mixed in? We do not know; we cannot know. Men can guess; they can apply their assumptions, come up with some dates, announce the consistent ones, and hide the rest, which is exactly what evolutionist scientists do!
(3) The process rate must always have been the same. The decay rate must never have changed.
Yet we have no way of going back into past ages and ascertaining whether that assumption is correct.
Every process in nature operates at a rate that is determined by a number of factors. These factors can change or vary with a change in certain conditions. Rates are really statistical averages, not deterministic constants.
The most fundamental of the initial assumptions is that all radioactive clocks, including carbon 14, have always had a constant decay rate that is unaffected by external influences—now and forever in the past. But it is a known fact among scientists that such changes in decay rates can and do occur. Laboratory testing has established that such resetting of specimen clocks does happen. Field evidence reveals that decay rates have indeed varied in the past.
The decay rate of any radioactive mineral can be altered  if the mineral is bombarded by high energy particles from space (such as neutrinos, cosmic rays, etc.);  if there is, for a time, a nearby radioactive mineral emitting radiation;  if physical pressure is brought to bear upon the radioactive mineral; or  if certain chemicals are brought in contact with it.
(4) One researcher, *John Joly of Trinity College, Dublin, spent years studying pleochroic halos emitted by radioactive substances. In his research he found evidence that the long half-life minerals have varied in their decay rate in the past!
"His [Joly’s] suggestion of varying rate of disintegration of uranium at various geological periods would, if correct, set aside all possibilities of age calculation by radioactive methods."—*A.F. Kovarik, "Calculating the Age of Minerals from Radioactivity Data and Principles," in Bulletin 80 of the National Research Council, June 1931, p. 107.
(5) If any change occurred in past ages in the blanket of atmosphere surrounding our planet, this would greatly affect the clocks in radioactive minerals.
Cosmic rays, high-energy mesons, neutrons, electrons, protons, and photons enter our atmosphere continually. These are atomic particles traveling at speeds close to that of the speed of light. Some of these rays go several hundred feet underground and 1400 meters [1530 yards] into the ocean depths. The blanket of air covering our world is equivalent to 34 feet [104 dm] of water, or 1 meter [1.093 yd] thickness of lead. If at some earlier time this blanket of air was more heavily water-saturated, it would produce a major change—from the present rate,—in the atomic clocks within radioactive minerals. Prior to the time of the Flood, there was a much greater amount of water in the air.
(6) The Van Allen radiation belt encircles the globe. It is about 450 miles [724 km] above us and is intensely radioactive. According to *Van Allen, high-altitude tests revealed that it emits 3000-4000 times as much radiation as the cosmic rays that continually bombard the earth.
Any change in the Van Allen belt would powerfully affect the transformation time of radioactive minerals. But we know next to nothing about this belt—what it is, why it is there, or whether it has changed in the past. In fact, the belt was only discovered in 1959. Even small amounts of variation or change in the Van Allen belt would significantly affect radioactive substances.
(7) A basic assumption of all radioactive dating methods is that the clock had to start at the beginning; that is, no daughter products were present, only those elements at the top of the radioactive chain were in existence. For example, all the uranium 238 in the world originally had no lead 206 in it, and no lead 206 existed anywhere else. But if either Creation—or a major worldwide catastrophe (such as the Flood) occurred, everything would begin thereafter with, what scientists call, an "appearance of age."
By this we mean "appearance of maturity." The world would be seen as mature the moment after Creation. Spread before us would be a scene of fully grown plants and flowers. Most trees would have their full height. We would not, instead, see a barren landscape of seeds littering the ground. We would see full-grown chickens, not unhatched eggs. Radioactive minerals would be partially through their cycle of half-lives on the very first day. This factor of initial apparent age would strongly affect our present reading of the radioactive clocks in uranium, thorium, etc.
Evolutionist theorists tell us that originally there was only uranium, and all of its daughter products (radioactive isotopes farther down its decay chain) developed later. But "appearance of maturity" at the Creation would mean that, much of the elements, now classified by evolutionists as "daughter products," were actually original—not daughter—products and were already in the ground along with uranium instead of being produced by it. We already know, from Robert Gentry’s studies, that original (primordial) polonium 218 was in the granite when that granite initially came into existence suddenly and in solid form; yet polonium is thought by evolutionists to only occur as an eventual daughter product of uranium disintegration.
TWENTY DATING METHODS—We have looked at the basic assumptions relied on by the radio-dating experts; now let us examine the primary dating methods.
Here are the first twenty of them:
(1) Uranium-lead dating
(2) Thorium-lead dating
(3) Lead 210 dating
(4) Helium dating
(5) Rubidium-strontium dating
(6) Potassium-argon dating
(7) Potassium-calcium dating
(8) Strata and fossil dating, as it relates to radio-dating, will be briefly considered; although we will discuss rock strata dating in much more detail in chapters 12 and 14 (Fossils and Strata and Effects of the Flood).
In addition, there are three dating methods used to date ancient plant and animal remains:
(9) Radiocarbon (carbon 14) dating
(10) Amino acid decomposition dating
(11) Racemization dating
Lastly, we will briefly overview several other supposed "dating methods" which, although not expected to provide much accuracy in dating, are still used in an attempt to postulate long ages for earth’s history:
(12) Astronomical dating
(13) Paleomagnetic dating has gained prominence in the past few decades. Because this present chapter is already quite long, we planned to fully deal with paleomagnetic dating in chapter 20 of this paperback; but, for lack of space, the greater portion of that material will be found in chapter 26 on our website.
(14) Varve dating
(15) Tree ring dating
(16) Buried forest strata dating
(17) Peat dating
(18) Reef dating
(19) Thermoluminescence dating
(20) Stalactite dating
In the remainder of this chapter, we will consider each of these 20 dating methods:
1—URANIUM-LEAD DATING—Because of similarities in method and problems with uranium and thorium dating, we will frequently refer to both under the category of uranium dating.
Three main types of uranium/thorium dating are included here:
(1) Uranium 238 decays to lead 206, with a half-life of 4.5 billion years.
(2) Uranium 235 decays to lead 207, with a half-life of 0.7 billion years.
(3) Thorium 232 decays to lead 208, with a half-life of 14.1 billion years.
These three are generally found together in mixtures, and each one decays into several daughter products (such as radium) before becoming lead.
FIVE URANIUM/THORIUM DATING INACCURACIES—Here are some of the reasons why we cannot rely on radioactive dating of uranium and thorium:
(1) Lead could originally have been mixed in with the uranium or thorium. This is very possible, and even likely. It is only an assumption that integral or adjacent lead could only be an end product.
In addition, common lead (lead 204), which has no radioactive parent, could easily be mixed into the sample and would seriously affect the dating of that sample. *Adolph Knopf referred to this important problem (*Scientific Monthly, November 1957). *Faul, a leading authority in the field, recognized it also (*Henry Faul, Nuclear Geology, 1954, p. 297).
When a uranium sample is tested for dating purposes, it is assumed that the entire quantity of lead in it is "daughter-product lead" (that is, the end-product of the decayed uranium). The specimen is not carefully and thoroughly checked for possible common lead content, because it is such a time-consuming task. Yet it is that very uranium-lead ratio which is used to date the sample! The same problem applies to thorium samples.
(2) Leaching is another problem. Part of the uranium and its daughter products could previously have leached out. This would drastically affect the dating of the sample. Lead, in particular, can be leached out by weak acid solutions.
(3) There can be inaccurate lead ratio comparisons, due to different types of lead within the sample. Correlations of various kinds of lead (lead 206, 207, etc.) in the specimen is done to improve dating accuracy. But errors can and do occur here also.
Thus, we have here astounding evidence of the marvelous unreliability of radiodating techniques. Rock known to be less than 300 years old is variously dated between 50 million and 14.5 billion years of age! That is a 14-billion year error in dating! Yet such radiodating techniques continue to be used in order to prove long ages of earth’s existence. A chimpanzee typing numbers at random could do as well.
Sample datings from a single uranium deposit in the Colorado Caribou Mine yielded an error spread of 700 million years.
(4) Yet a fourth problem concerns that of neutron capture. *Melvin Cooke suggests that the radiogenic lead isotope 207 (normally thought to have been formed only by the decay of uranium 235) could actually have been formed from lead 206, simply by having captured free neutrons from neighboring rock. In the same manner, lead 208 (normally theorized as formed only by thorium 232 decay) could have been formed by the capture of free neutrons from lead 207. Cooke checked out this possibility by extensive investigation and came up with a sizeable quantity of data indicating that practically all radiogenic lead in the earth’s crust could have been produced in this way instead of by uranium or thorium decay! This point alone totally invalidates uranium and thorium dating methods!
(5) A fifth problem deals with the origin of the rocks containing these radioactive minerals. According to evolutionary theory, the earth was originally molten. But, if true, molten rocks would produce a wild variation in clock settings in radioactive materials.
"Why do the radioactive ages of lava beds, laid down within a few weeks of each other, differ by millions of years?"—*Glen R. Morton, Electromagnetics and the Appearance of Age.
It is a well-known fact, by nuclear researchers, that intense heat damages radiodating clock settings; yet the public is solemnly presented with dates of rocks indicating long ages of time when, in fact, the evolutionary theory of the origin of rocks would render those dates totally useless.
2—THORIUM-LEAD DATING—A majority of the flaws discussed under uranium-lead dating, above, apply equally to thorium-lead dating.
The half-lives of uranium 238, 235, and thorium 232 are supposedly known, having been theorized. But whenever dates are computed using thorium,—they always widely disagree with uranium dates! No one can point to a single reason for this. We probably have here a cluster of several major contamination factors; and all of these contamination factors are beyond our ability to identify, much less calculate. To make matters worse, contaminating factors common to both may cause different reactions in the thorium than in the uranium! (*Henry Faul, Nuclear Geology, p. 295).
"The two uranium-lead ages often differ from each other markedly, and the thorium-lead age on the same mineral is almost always drastically lower than either of the others."—*L.T. Aldrich, "Measurement of Radioactive Ages of Rocks," in Science, May 18, 1956, p. 872.
3-4—LEAD 210 AND HELIUM DATING—Two other methods of dating uranium and thorium specimens should be mentioned.
First, there is uranium-lead 210 dating. Lead 210 is frequently used to date uranium.
Second is the uranium-helium method. Helium produced by uranium decay is also used for the same dating purpose.
But the lead 210 method is subject to the very same entry or leaching problems mentioned earlier. Helium leakage is so notorious as to render it unfit for dating purposes.
Uranium and thorium are only rarely found in fossil-bearing rocks; so recent attention has been given to rubidium dating and two types of potassium dating, all of which are radioactive isotopes of alkali metals and are found in fossil rocks. Let us now consider both of these:
5—RUBIDIUM-STRONTIUM DATING—Rubidium 87 gradually decays into strontium 87.
Rubidium: All aside from leaching and other contamination, the experts have so far been unable to agree on the length of a rubidium half-life. This renders it useless for dating purposes. This is because the samples vary so widely. *Abrams compiled a list of rubidium half-lives suggested by various research specialists. Estimates, by the experts, of the half-life of rubidium varied between 48 and 120 billion years! That is a variation spread of 72 billion years: a number so inconceivably large as to render Rb-Sr dating worthless.
Strontium: In addition, only a very small amount of strontium results from the decay; and much of the strontium may be non-radiogenic, that is, not caused by the decay process. This is due to the fact that strontium 87 is easily leached from one mineral to another, thus producing highly contaminated dating test results.
Granite from the Black Hills gave strontium/rubidium and various lead system dates varying from 1.16 to 2.55 billion years.
6—POTASSIUM-ARGON DATING—Radioactive potassium decays into calcium and argon gas. Great hopes were initially pinned on this, for potassium occurs widely in fossil-bearing strata! But they were greatly disappointed to discover: (1) Because of such wide dating variations, they could not agree on potassium half-life. (2) The rare gas, argon, quickly left the mineral and escaped into other rocks and into the atmosphere (*G.W. Wetherill, "Radioactivity of Potassium and Geologic Time," Science, September 20, 1957, p. 545).
Since it is a gas, argon 40 can easily migrate in and out of potassium rocks (*J.F. Evernden, et al., "K/A Dates and the Cenozoic Mammalian Chronology of North America," American Journal of Science, February 1964, p. 154).
Not only is argon an unstable gas, but potassium itself can easily be leached out of the rock. *Rancitelli and *Fisher explain that 60 percent of the potassium can be leached out of an iron meteorite by distilled water in 4.5 hours (*Planetary Science Abstracts, 48th Annual Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, 1967, p. 167).
Rainwater is distilled water. In heavy downpours, fairly pure rainwater can occasionally trickle down into deeper rock areas. When it does, rainwater transfers potassium from one location to another.
Another problem is that potassium-argon dating must be calculated by uranium-lead dating methods! This greatly adds to the problem, for we have already seen that uranium dating is itself extremely unreliable! This is something like the blind leading the blind.
In view of such information, it is a seemingly unbelievable—but true—fact that K/A (potassium-argon) dating is, at the present time, a key dating method used in developing and verifying advanced evolutionary theories. (See Paleomagnetism, briefly discussed in chapter 20.) The long ages applied to the major new theory of "seafloor spreading" is based entirely on potassium-argon dates in basalts (lava) taken from the ocean bottom. You will frequently read articles about potassium-argon dating projects.
Submerged volcanic rocks, produced by lava flows off the coast of Hawaii near Hualalai, in the years 1800-1801, were dated using potassium-argon. The lava forming those rocks is clearly known to be less than 200 years old; yet the potassium-argon dating of the rocks yielded great ages, ranging from 1.60 million to 2.96 billion years! (See *Science, October 11, 1968; *Journal of Geophysical Research, July 15, 1968).
Potassium is found in most igneous (lava), and some sedimentary (fossil-bearing), rocks. In spite of its notorious inaccuracy, to this day potassium-argon dating continues to be the most common method of radioactive dating of fossil-bearing rock strata.
Only those radioactive dates are retained, which agree with the 19th-century geologic column dating theories. Research workers are told just that! (*L.R. Stieff, *T.W. Stern and *R.N. Eichler, "Evaluating Discordant Lead-Isotope Ages," U.S. Geological Survey Professional Papers, 1963, No. 414-E).
7—POTASSIUM-CALCIUM DATING—If possible, the situation is even worse for dating with this method. Radioactive potassium decays to both argon and calcium (calcium 40). But the problem here is that researchers cannot distinguish between calcium 40 and other calciums because the two are so commonly and thoroughly intermixed. The argon is of little help, since it so rapidly leaches out.
PROBLEMS WITH ALL RADIODATING METHODS —The rocks brought back from the moon provided an outstanding test for the various dating methods—because all those techniques were used on them. The results were a disaster.
The age spread of certain moon rocks varied from 2 million to 28 billion years! Now scientists are arguing over the results. Some say the moon is 2 million years old while others say it is 28 billion years old. We have here a weighty scientific problem, and a headache for evolutionists. (For more on this, see *Proceedings of the Second, Third and Fourth Lunar Conferences; Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volumes 14 and 17.)
Yet there is clear-cut non-radiogenic evidence that the moon is less than 10,000 years old. (See chapter 4, Age of the Earth). In contrast with these inaccurate dating methods, scientific facts, such as the almost total lack of moon dust, lunar soil mixing, presence of short half-life U-236 and Th-230 in moon rocks, low level of inert gases, and lunar recession,—provide strong evidence that the moon is less than 10,000 years old. (See chapter 4, Age of the Earth.)
EMERY’S RESEARCH—In order for a radioactive clock to be usable, it has to run without variation. But *G.T. Emery has done careful research on radiohalos (pleochroic halos) and found that they do not show constant decay rates. When the long half-life radiohalos (made by uranium, thorium, etc.) are examined, the time spans involved show inaccuracies in the decay rates.
JUST ONE CATASTROPHE—As *Jeaneman explains so well, just one major catastrophe—such as a worldwide Flood—would have ruined the usefulness of all our radiodating clocks.
Why would a single worldwide catastrophe reset all the atomic clocks? First, there would be massive contamination problems, as fluids, chemicals, and radioactive substances flowed or were carried from one place to another. Second, there would be major radioactive rate-changing activities (atmospheric, radioative, and magnetic changes) which would tend to reset the clocks directly. Third, a major shifting and redistribution of rock pressure occurring above radiogenic rocks would reset their clocks. Fourth, there would be reversals of earth’s magnetic core, which was caused by the shock-wave vibrations through that fluid core from what was happening closer to the surface (volcanoes, earthquakes, gigantic geysers, seafloor sinking, and massive mountain building—see chapter 14 (Effects of the Flood) and chapter 20 (Tectonics and Paleomagetism).
Now read this:
FIVE WAYS TO CHANGE THE RATES—Careful laboratory tests by *H.C. Dudley revealed that external influences can very definitely affect decay rates. He CHANGED (!) the decay rates of 14 different radioisotopes by means of pressure, temperature, electric and magnetic fields, stress in monomolecular layers, etc. The implications of this are momentous, even astounding! (see *H.C. Dudley, "Radioactivity Re-Examined," Chemical and Engineering News, April 7, 1975, p. 2). The sedimentary rock strata were laid down under massive pressure. This involved great stress. (See chapter 12, Fossils and Strata, for more on both points.) Dramatic temperature changes occurred shortly after the strata were laid down; and Earth’s iron core was disturbed to such an extent, that magnetic reversals occurred at the poles (see Paleomagnetism, on our website). Yet *Dudley showed that each of these forces would have dramatically affected the clocks within radioactive rocks.
Immense forces were at work, during and just after the Flood, that could and did affect the constancy of radioactive half-lives—which, in turn, are the only basis for radiodating methods!
The consequence is inaccurate dating results which are not reliable and which cannot be reset—since their earlier settings are not now known.
*Time magazine (June 19, 1964) reported an intriguing item which was overlooked by much of the scientific community. Although scientists generally consider that no known force can change the rate of atomic disintegration of radioactive elements,—researchers at Westinghouse laboratories have actually done it. How did they do it? Simply by placing inactive "dead" iron next to radioactive iron. The result was that the disintegration rate was altered!
Radioactive iron will give off particles for a time and then lapse into an inactive state. When the researchers placed radioactive iron next to inactive iron, the inactive iron gradually became active. In this way, the apparent age of the radioactive iron was changed by about 3 percent while the clock of the previously inactive iron was returned to its original radioactive mass. Its clock was set back to zero!
If so much variation can be accomplished in small lab samples, think what has been taking place out in the field. All that, in this case, would be required would be for radioactive lead solutions to flow by and coat inactive lead.