Talk:Radiometric dating

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On my rewrite

Major diffs include

  • change of ref to printed text "Wile, Dr. Jay L. Exploring Creation With General Science. Anderson: Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. 2000" to
  • removal of section on accelerated decay - pure conjecture without citation. Reference was link to another wiki.
  • expanded assumptions
  • Added C14 creation rate at flood and creation (probably still needs a reasonable citation that is more than conjecture)
  • expanded outside influences, show where metamorphic rock is incorrect and RATE using this infomration to improperly date Grand Canyon. Included refutation of RATE data at answers in creation

If there are any questions, I spent some time back in college writing software for a radiocarbon laboratory and have more than passing knowledge of the material that is written about. Feel free to ask any questions here. --Mtur 00:55, 10 April 2007 (EDT)

Philip's edits

Philip, I have to point this out to everyone. You are a rare person who has placed productive information in an article that you obviously disagree with and also removed information that would have supported you position on the topic, but you removed it anyway because you had identified it as a bigoted reference. I can not express the level of gratitude towards you for doing this. Thank you.--TimS 09:01, 30 April 2007 (EDT)

Err, thanks. Maybe. The bit I removed claimed that the (YEC) RATE project got it wrong. There were two references, one to an ICR article about the RATE project, and the other to an anti-YEC site claiming that the RATE project got it wrong. It was this second reference that I was referring to as bigoted, because it's first criticism was that creationist peer-review is by other creationists. As evolutionist peer-review is by other evolutionists, the only rationale here must be that creationary scientists are invalidated as peer-reviewers simply because they are creationists.
I've probably just destroyed your reason for thinking that I've done good, but like you presumed, I do want the truth, and the truth is not what I think you were thinking.
Philip J. Rayment 09:27, 30 April 2007 (EDT)


The whole bit about the candles and what not seems a bit pedestrian. I say remove it entirely. Readers understand how to measure time, they don't need to be spoon fed a quasi-example such as this one --Pastafarian

On the contrary, most people don't understand the basic principles of how radiometric dating works; this explains it with objects that are quite familiar. Philip J. Rayment 04:49, 30 June 2007 (EDT)

It's not a good analogy, because the decay (burning) of a candle is linear, and the decay of a radioactive element is exponential. It's as if half the candle would burn in an hour, the next one fourth would also take an hour, and the remaining eighth one hour, etc. As you said, most people don't understand how radiometric dating works.

Removal of calibration section points

I've just removed the bits about methods by which radiometric methods can be "cross-verified". The first example, which seemed a bit convenient anyway, seems at the very least to be disputed and at worst to be simply wrong. See here. The second is not a method of calibration with independently-known dates, but with other dates that have also not been calibrated. And this is mentioned further down in the article. Philip J. Rayment 03:41, 24 November 2007 (EST)

Reversion to earlier version

I just reverted two paragraphs to an earlier version. Feebasfactor had edited the two paragraphs, and in so doing incorrectly claimed that the problem that YECs have with radiometric dating is the size of the margin of error. This is not the issue. He also changed "Young-Earth creationists therefore claim ..." to "However, young earth creationists claim...". This was fair enough, as the sentence did not logically flow from the previous sentence. However, this was because of a previous edit[1] that changed the flow of the previous sentence, and which introduced a contrary thought which was unsupported by a valid reference. It had been there plenty long enough for a reference, but none was forthcoming, so I've reverted those paragraphs to prior to that edit, with the result that the "Young-Earth creationists therefore claim ..." is again valid, and the incorrect claim about the size of the margin of error is gone. Philip J. Rayment 04:59, 31 January 2008 (EST)

Sorry about that, I was trying to resolve the flow - the previous version seemed a little conflicted. Modification to the sentence was perhaps overly drastic, though. Feebasfactor 19:38, 31 January 2008 (EST)

Uranium-Lead Dating

In your article, you do mention uranium-lead decay, and that lead in the sample originally would skew the resulting age. Zircon, which is often used in dating, has the the property that, when crystallizing, it will exclude all lead and will trap surrounding uranium. The lead that is found in zircon, then, can only have been the product of uranium decay.[2] [3] Also, one can calculate the amount of contamination. Any process that allows one isotope of will let in the others found on Earth. By measuring the amount of lead 204 (which is non-radiogenic and therefore could not have been produced by the decay of the uranium), we would know the amounts of the other isotopes (through the relative amounts on Earth, which are nearly uniform) that contaminated the sample.[4] (page 8 by the way). From this, the age could be calculated. --Phillipps 12:53, 8 March 2008 (EST)

This uses the same faulty circular reasoning the decay-based approaches. You're assuming something about aging to prove aging. It's like using a political poll today to predict the outcome of an election in a few months. For obvious reasons, that approach is often wrong.--Aschlafly 13:43, 8 March 2008 (EST)
Equating the decay of radioactive particles (which follow the laws of physics) to the behavior of voters is a false analogy. --DinsdaleP 21:10, 30 March 2008 (EDT)

I'm sorry, but the reasons aren't obvious. What am I assuming?--Phillipps 17:25, 10 March 2008 (EDT)

For clarification, I know why political polls can't be used to predict election results, but you still haven't responded to my question.--Phillipps 11:28, 12 March 2008 (EDT)

Shall you be responding?--Phillipps 16:33, 27 March 2008 (EDT)

Rate of decay

The reference to the beryllium experiment is misleading, in that the experiment referred to changes in rate in different conditions while it is used as a source for changes in rate over time. In other words, the experiment demonstrated changes from external (i.e. chemical) factors while this article claims heretofore unidentified internal factors over much longer periods of time- or at least it should identify what external factors may have caused this. Furthermore, the difference in decay rates was only 1.5%, which may be quite a lot from the perspective of a nuclear physicist, but dates are rarely if ever determined with that degree of accuracy due to such variation in external conditions. The citation is used to imply, for those who expect absolute precision certainty from dating techniques (which you won't get in any sort of measurement) and do not inspect it more closely, that the difference found was so massive as to render the entire methodology invalid. Is the reported 1.5% really significant in this context, then? Let's see- the oldest radiometric estimates for the age of the Earth are roughly 6 billion years, and if the Earth is only 6000 years old, that means that radiometric dating must have a margin of error of at least 6x109 / 6x103 = 1x106, or 1,000,000. If radiometric dating is really off by a factor of one million (or 100,000,000%), the variation in rate of decay as presented in the experiment accounts for only 0.015 / 1,000,000 = 0.000000015 = 0.0000015% of the error. By contrast, a 1.5% error on a date of six billion years gives the range of 5.91-6.09 billion years- not nearly the massive variation that is implied. Kallium 19:30, 15 January 2009 (EST)

" is used as a source for changes in rate over time.": It is used mainly as a source for showing that decay rates can vary. However, the placement of the reference could give the wrong impression, so I will move it.
Nobody is claiming that the observed variation in decay rates would account for the difference in ages according to the different views. Rather, they are claiming that the observed variation shows that decay rates can vary, and that the derived dates are not the absolute measurements that they are usually claimed to be.
Philip J. Rayment 21:14, 16 January 2009 (EST)

Estimates and disagreements

As I explained briefly in the edit summary before it was reverted, the statement that "laboratories are known to improve the likelihood of of getting a "correct" date by asking for the expected date of the item" does not follow from the document that was cited to support it. The form had an area to "estimate date", which was preceded by detailed descriptions and records of where the sample was found. This is basic, scientifically responsible bookkeeping, with the estimate then based upon the context of where the sample was found as described. Note that the estimate box also has a space for explaining the basis of that estimate. This would be the hypothesis, if you like to think of it that way. Thus the estimate is the expected date where expected = anticipated/hypothesized. It is not the expected date where expected = desired/required. They aren't asking to get a result that matches the estimate. Same with the range- "age limits" is actually a commonly used term much like "confidence limits" in statistics. They are not the limits imposed by the submitter- again, they are estimates not, as the article says, the "maximum and minimum acceptable ages".

I removed those sentences because the second grossly misrepresents the cited document on a factual level, and without it the first is unsupported assertion. (There are other instances like that elsewhere in the article, I might add.) Think: if scientists were that dishonest, why would they bother going through all the time and money to package samples, fill out paperwork, ship them off, process them, and pay people to run them through machines that require regular maintenance, just to throw out masses of expensive but "unacceptable" data in the end? Why not just make it all up?

I don't know why my other edit regarding scientific disagreements was reverted; it is misleading to suggest that the whole method is flawed because not everyone (or in the example, two people) agrees on a detail. There have been huge arguments in all areas of science, when seemingly contradictory results have been found by different people. Some historical examples include how brain cells connect (neuronists vs. reticularists), the identity of the genetic material (nucleic acids vs. proteins), and the phenomenon of plate tectonics, but this doesn't mean that their histology, biochemistry, or geological measurements (respectively), were poorly performed or fundamentally wrong- likewise with this subject. Kallium 22:48, 15 January 2009 (EST)

I reject the above analysis out-of-hand.
Those sentences are going right smack back in there, and if you so much as touch them again, I will block you. Let that suffice.
There is no reason at all for specifying an estimated date. That is an open invitation to the very sort of fudging that we allege.
Radiometric dating is suppposed to be absolute. How can any determination be absolute and yet at the same time depend upon context? This is classic bait-and-switch. It goes to the heart of the conclusion by the RATE Group that all radiometric dating should be re-examined.
Detail, you say? We are talking about how the scientific establishment dares regard radiometric dating as a gold standard, capable of rendering an absolute date and thereby actually acting as a fact check on recorded history. Radiometric dating has been represented to the public at large as the next best thing to time travel for fixing the date of a volcanic eruption, or the deaths of large numbers of anything from trilobites to dinosaurs. This is not a quibble here.
Lastly, I no more consider myself obliged to explain than if I had reverted an edit that tried to allege that two plus two was equal to five.--TerryHTalk 23:06, 15 January 2009 (EST)
Kallium, you've been deleting factual information. It's poorly kept secret that radiometric yields often widely different estimates of age. The statements that you've repeated deleted are well supported. Let the reader decide.--Andy Schlafly 23:07, 15 January 2009 (EST)
TerryH, one wonders why you felt the need to open your overtly aggressive reply with a threat. "Because I can block and you can't" (argumentum ad baculum) isn't a productive response.
The estimate is the hypothesis- that's the reason. I said the estimate, not the measurement, "depends on context". In fact, my entire first paragraph was solely about the estimate. Don't change my meaning then accuse me of bait-and-switch.
When balancing your checkbook, you have an idea what total you expect to get (your hypothesis) based upon what the statement says and what your income/spending habits for the month were (the context). If you find a discrepancy with the bank, and then redo your math and find a different total that is in agreement, is that "fudging"?
I did say "detail", because the example was a disagreement over whether an item was 40,000 or 60,000 years old (internal argument), not a disagreement over the validity of the technique (external argument). Using the former to represent the latter is a misrepresentation. Besides, you ignored the actual point.
A "fact check on recorded history"? Show me written documents describing trilobites dying.
Radiometric dating ironically is the next best thing to time travel in terms of determining dates, only because there's isn't a better technique in between.
Your Parthion shot lacks substance and merely revisits your opening attempt at intimidation.
Andy, the cited document did not support the interpretation. Perhaps the information is factual, but it should either be adequately sourced or removed as per your own rules. Perhaps the statements really are well supported- in which case it should be easy to find a plethora of better examples- but they weren't so here, making them simply unsupported accusations.
By the way, isn't "poorly kept secret" an oxymoron? Kallium 08:43, 16 January 2009 (EST)
Kallium, I was going to respond to your other post in the section above, but have been busy with other things. I don't have much time now, but to avoid this getting more out of hand, I'll make a quick response here and try and come back later to make a larger response.
I don't agree with reverting a good-faith edit without explanation.
I don't agree with threatening to block you so early in the discussion.
However, neither do I agree with your edits, and your now-elaborated rationale for them, and I support your edits being reverted.
More tomorrow...
Philip J. Rayment 09:56, 16 January 2009 (EST)
"the statement that "laboratories are known to improve the likelihood of of getting a "correct" date by asking for the expected date of the item" does not follow from the document that was cited to support it.": The document was cited to support that laboratories have been known to ask for the approximate date. You are reading more into it than was intended.
Your justification for laboratories requesting that information was unclear. On the one hand you seemed to be saying that they need that information to understand the context, but as TerryH has pointed out, the context should be irrelevant, and if TerryH misunderstood your point, I don't blame him. On the other hand, and your second post seems to favour this view, you seem to be likening this to a hypothesis-prediction-fulfilment situation, where the case for the hypothesis is strengthened by the hypothesis making successful predictions. Perhaps this is so, and perhaps the researcher really should make such predictions, but to his supervisor or other such body, not to the dating laboratory.
Do you understand the principle of double-blind tests? Double-blind tests are done because it is a known problem that the answer the researcher expects can influence the outcome. So giving the dating laboratory an expected/anticipated age could well affect the outcome, even if unintentionally. If you supplied a dating laboratory with a piece of wood and told them that it was from a building that was supposed to be an early settler's house, and the dating laboratory came up with a date of 30,000 years, do you think that they would simply report that date to you? I've heard a scientist say that he noticed that fairly often a dating laboratory he sent samples off to would ask for another sample, as the ones supplied were no good. He eventually asked them in what way they were no good, and was told, "wrong date"! The point is, if you tell the dating laboratory what age it should be, and it's widely different, they are likely to run the test again, ask for another sample, or whatever, until they get something that is about "right". This means that it is not a totally objective test, but one that is influenced by expectations.
Nobody is alleging deliberate dishonesty.
It's true that there are disagreements in other areas of science. But all such disagreements are over claims that cannot be readily tested and measured. You won't find disagreement over the boiling point of water, for example, because it can be readily measured. The point of highlighting the disagreement is to make clear that a date is not an easily-measured quantity, but something that is so subject to variables that different researchers readily reject others' dates when it suits them, and to point out that the claim that dating methods are shown to be reliable because different methods agree is a furphy.
As for the disagreement over a "detail", they may not be specifically arguing over the validity of the techniques per se, but they are arguing over the validity of the dates derived via those techniques, which implies that they are effectively arguing over the validity of the techniques. How can you have a valid technique giving an invalid date?
"Show me written documents describing trilobites dying.": Genesis 6-8 describes a world-destroying flood that would have buried alive a great many trilobites. And yes, that is the point. These dating techniques are used to discredit a written (recorded) history of the world.
"Radiometric dating ironically is the next best thing to time travel in terms of determining dates, only because there's isn't a better technique in between.": Other than eye-witness accounts, such as found in the Bible. The best method would be time travel. The second best would be eye-witness accounts. The third best would be radiometric dating techniques. But the third-best is used to discredit what is claimed to be the the second best. See the problem?

The infallible word of God

The article states the following:

Although radiometric dating methods are widely used and their results widely quoted, they are not necessarily reliable and scientists using them often do not accept their accuracy.For instance radioactive dating says the earth is 4.6 billion years old[4] while the bible(the infallible word of God[5]) quotes the world to be around 6-10 thousand years old.[6]

Does this not ring a bell to you? First of all, the Bible was written by men, who claimed that it was the word of God. Whether this is righteous, is a debate in which I will not engage. But the way I see it, Radiometric Dating shows us that Earth's age, as described in the Bible, is incorrect, and not the other way around. Do you believe an ancient book of spiritual texts rather than black on white evidence? Does this mean you also believe that Earth is a flat disk?--KirtashP, Oct 12, 3:30 PM

I've improved the entry since your comment. Do you have a quote for your "flat disk" claim? Include the specific translation if you have a quote. Godspeed.--Andy Schlafly 09:45, 12 October 2009 (EDT)
I'm not saying you believe earth to be flat; I was wondering whether you believe it or not. My point is that the Bible clearly states that Earth is a flat disk, or a flat square. But observations and incontrovertible science has proven that Earth is a sphere. This is just one example of how the Bible contains errors, which have fooled many people into accepting things that were not true. --KirtashP, Oct 12 2009, 3:54 PM
I've just read your new edit. It's atrocious and you know it. Not all scientists are atheists. There are more than enough people who genuinely believe in God, but who also genuinely understand that physics, and science in general, can not be explained by using the Bible as a reference.--KirtashP
Kirtash, do have citation for your "flat disk" claim or not? You claim to cite the Bible, and yet you don't respond to a simple request for the cite and version.--Andy Schlafly 15:11, 12 October 2009 (EDT)
Then, may I be given the honor to respond in his position? If you look at Daniel 4:10-11 you will read (in the King James Version, at least)
"Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth:"
I think we can all agree that if this citation is to be taken literally, the earth can only concluded to be flat as a tree inmidst a spherical world could most certainly not be seen until all the way to the ends of the (spherical) earth. Thus, the earth must be assumed to be flat in this context.
This however, is not my only point. I also think, that we should remove this scource for it being uncredible because of the following quote:
"The Bible is historically correct."
This quote simply cannot be a true statement as it stands in clear contradiction to reality. If you look at Mark 13:30 (or the parallel passages Luke 21:32 or Matthew 24:34), Jesus himself clearly states that "all these things" (referring to his own 'second coming') will happen before 'this generation' (meaning the people alive back then) would pass away.
Well, those people have all passed away by now (I think there will be no argument about this) and the second coming is still to be seen. This is a clear example of Jesus telling a lie / the bible not being 'historically correct' or at least not being the 'true word of god, the allknowing'. Hence, this scource should at the very least not be mentioned in this encyclopedia any more if we are to take this thing serious in the first place.-Shakleton 20:39, 9 January 2010 (EST)

What we can take literally is that Daniel actually dreamed that. I can say I dreamed my college girlfriend punched my mom, that's a true statement, because I have dreamed that. But she never hit her! As to your second objection, I'm not looking at a Bible right now but I believe he's referring to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Now you're going to get banned, for an idiotic attack on Biblical truthfulness and so you can't start anymore needless fights. JacobB 20:46, 9 January 2010 (EST)

JacobB, if you had been looking at the Bible, reading the entire chapter 13, it would be obvious that Jesus is refering to the apocalypse. The entire chapter is a description of the end of times and what the signs will be. This description starts with a remark, that the temple will be destroyed, but goes on to describe much more. Since this page is so much about openmindedness, it is shocking that someone would be banned simply for suggesting a different (and very plausible) intepretation of scripture than an editor.

Radiocarbon dating used in Court

Here is an interesting report about the usage of radiocarbon dating in court cases. Granted, it just experimental for now, but there seems to be some potential! FrankC aka ComedyFan 11:10, 15 June 2010 (EDT)

Thanks for the interesting article, but it concerns only very recent dating issues. Old Earth radiometric dating claims lack testability and falsifiability, and hence are not scientific.--Andy Schlafly 13:41, 15 June 2010 (EDT)
Of course it's about very recent dating issues: we are talking about courts, not archeology! And for a court, you have the concept of time immemorial. Therefore, radiometric dating will never be used in court to verify the course of events - and the whole issue becomes a little bit strawmanesque....
FrankC aka ComedyFan 09:56, 22 June 2010 (EDT)
Atheists use the court system to censor the teaching of Intelligent Design as well as censoring criticism of Old Earth theories. Those cases involve expert testimony. Nothing "strawmanesque" about this issue at all.--Andy Schlafly 18:10, 23 June 2010 (EDT)

Rate of decay

In the Rate of Decay section, it is stated that "The process of decay is as follows. Atoms consist of a heavy central core called the nucleus surrounded by clouds of lightweight particles (electrons), called electron shells. The energy locked in the nucleus is enormous, but cannot be released easily. The phenomenon we know as heat is simply the jiggling around of atoms and their components, so in principle a high enough temperature could cause the components of the core to break out. However, the temperature required to do this is in in the millions of degrees, so this cannot be achieved by any natural process that we know about." This is just plain wrong. Nuclear decay is not due to external temprature, but due to instabilities in the actual nucleus of the atom.

Also "The second way that a nucleus could be disrupted is by particles striking it. However, the nucleus has a strong positive charge and the electron shells have a strong negative charge. Any incoming negative charge would be deflected by the electron shell and any positive charge that penetrated the electron shells would be deflected by the positive charge of the nucleus itself." is very misleading, as an atom can be changed through a strike from a neutron, or via an electron/positron strike, causing the element to change.

"and it was almost certainly not constant near the creation or beginning of the universe." We have no idea at all if it was constant or not at the very beginning of the universe, but we do know that energies were large enough that cause fusion and fission easily, but these are very different from normal nuclear decay.

Also, there are very few citations where oppositions to commonly held scientific views are concerned. Some examples are:

"Scientists have also attempted to extend the calibration range by comparing results to timber which has its age calculated by dendrochronology, but this has also been questioned because carbon dating is used to assist with working out dendrochronological ages."

Dendrochronology is callibrated by interpolation of overlapping ages of wood, and hasn't used radiocarbon dating.

Saying that radioactive decay is not constant over time. Isotopes having the same half life's has been held without any contradicting evidence purely because if the rates changed they did it in such a improbable way that made them look unchanged. Also, there has never been any evidence in the slightest to suggest that physical constants have changed, and there have been attempts to find out. You cannot just assume they have to fit you're own agenda without any evidence or reason to think so.

Can I also make a note that a single case of someone saying that they observed a change of half life in the lab is by no means conclusive, and would have been rechecked by other experts in the field. If a true change was observed, then it would be major news in any peer reviewed publication.--EdBryson 14:57, 16 January 2011 (EST)

Ed, there is no logical reason to expect physical constants to have remained unchanged over the lifetime of the universe. It took me only about 60 seconds to find one example: "Speed of light may have changed recently."
Let’s do some math.
The Earth has been dated to be about 4.5 billion years old by radiometric dating methods.
To represent young earth creationists, we will assume the best-case scenario with some people who believe in a 200,000-year-old earth..
One gets a percent error of…
|2×105−4.5×109|2×105×100%=|1−2.25×104|×100%= 2,249,900% error.
If we use the more common 6000 years, it isn’t hard to calculate this to be 74,999,900% error.
A person in elementary school doing work on particle physics would probably get less percent error. Such a monumental error is indicative of catastrophic systematic error across the numerous radiometric dating methods to which one might wonder how such a thing has been unseen for so long?
A much more likely example is that radiometric dating does not, in anyway, support young earth creationism. The only instances that can be brought up our notorious instances that abuse the tool or have been known to be misleading [say, the Hugh Miller carbon dating experiment].
If one must abide by the young earth creationist ideology, one must in turn completely neglect practically the entirety of geology and the processes they study, a :: significant portion of biology which encapsulates evolutionary biology, and the entirety of cosmology and likely in turn a lot of astronomy. How such an ideology :: :: can claim itself in agreement with observational science yet show complete apathy towards these three fields is astounding, to say the least. And it should be a huge
warning sign of what the science actually says on the issue. --Gottagitgud (talk) 02:55, 28 March 2020 (EDT)