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Non-correlating and inconsistent dates (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article

This article (Non-correlating and inconsistent dates (Talk.Origins)) is a rebuttal regarding a supposed "never answered question" published by the Talk.Origins Archive under the title FABNAQ (Frequently Asked But Never Answered Questions.

Question:
Why is there the remarkable coherence among many different dating methods -- for example: radioactivity, tree rings, ice cores, corals, supernovas -- from astronomy, biology, physics, geology, chemistry and archeology? (This is not answered by saying that there is no proof of uniformity of radioactive decay. The question is why all these different methods give the same answers.)

CreationWiki Response:

The questioner is actually asking about correlation between dating methods. Ordinarily, the question would be irrelevant: if two clocks give the same answer, and if that answer is wrong, then the clocks might still correlate because the keeper of one clock set his clock by the other one, or both clock keepers collaborated on the same wrong time.

But in fact, the question is loaded, because it asserts a "fact" not in evidence. The various secular dating methods are in fact lacking in correlation and very often in consistency.

Problems within dating methods

Main article: Dating methods

Contrary to popular belief, no dating method is entirely without its problems of consistency. Steven Austin (member of the RATE Group) demonstrated such inconsistency in his study of the Mount St. Helens lava dome in 1996. The problems Austin found with the radiometric date of this dome were twofold:

  • 1. Five different samples had five different apparent ages, and except for the two closest apparent ages, the differences were far beyond their stated tolerances.
  • 2. Not one of the stated ages came close to the true age of the dome, which was ten years. The ages varied from 0.35 to 2.8 Ma.

Findings like these would lead to the later formation of the RATE Group and their project to study the statistical evidence behind radiometric dating far more thoroughly than ever, to see exactly where it leads.

Problems between dating methods

Different radiometric dating models

The RATE Group very quickly found that different radiometric dating models do not always correlate. Andrew Snelling describes a salient finding in the Grand Canyon region of the United States. Twenty-seven rock samples from the Inner Gorge of the Grand Canyon turned out to have wildly different apparent ages, when tested according to different radiometric models, and often when tested according to the same model. The differences in ages vastly exceeded their published tolerances.

In fact, such lack of correlation was found in an earlier study of the Crinum coal mine in Queensland, Australia. Miners found a fossilized tree buried in basalt. Dr. Snelling later published the investigation that followed. His team sent samples of the wood and surrounding rock to various laboratories, without informing any laboratory of the association between the wood and the rock. The wood samples had detectable radiocarbon in them (after a million years, almost all radiocarbon would be expected to have decayed back to stable nitrogen). Apparent ages for the three wood samples varied from about 29,500 to 44,700 years--and again, these varying measurements were further apart than their tolerances ought to have allowed. More to the point, the surrounding rock had potassium-argon-model apparent ages varying from 36.7 to 47.9 million years--and again, the differences far exceeded the tolerances. But more striking than the inconsistencies of measurement of the ages of wood and rock is the vast difference in apparent ages. Indeed, the rock's apparent age was so great that no radiocarbon ought to have been detectable in the wood samples. Yet radiocarbon was detected, and the laboratories professed no difficulty in publishing apparent ages for the samples they examined.

Challenged with this, some persons at TalkOrigins have objected that the non-disclosure of the association between the wood and the rock made proper dating of the tree impossible--because the tree would be assumed to be no older, and no younger, than the rock. If that in fact is standard operating procedure for age dating laboratories, then it would be an example of one clock keeper setting his clock by another clock, not realizing, or perhaps not caring, that the other clock is wrong. But this objection fails for another, more important reason: if the tree were no younger than the rock, then why did the tree have any detectable radiocarbon remaining in it after at least 36.7 million years?

Findings from astronomy

The Talk.Origins questioner's mention of findings from astronomy alleged to be consistent with an old cosmos is particularly striking. Here, too, one finds lack of correlation. The usual measure of the age of the universe is simply the largest astronomical distance ever measured, expressed in light-years, divided by the speed of light, expressed as one light-year per year. The result is conventionally accepted to be 15 billion years. Yet the quality of supernova remnants in our home galaxy alone belies that estimate. For a detailed discussion, see here.

Dating methods compared to historical records

No radiometric dating method has ever been shown able to substitute for sound analysis of historical records--analysis of king (or other chief-of-state) lists, comparisons to recorded astronomical events, and so on. For example: positively the "youngest" rock ever dated has an apparent age of 700,000 years. This is older than any alleged date in recorded history--including Manetho's original consecutive chronology of the kings of Egypt. Thus radiometric dating would be unavailing to date the eruption of, say, Mount Vesuvius, did not ample historical records of that eruption and its aftermath already exist to date it positively.

Thus, Carbon-14 dating would be the only method that anyone could possibly use to date historical events. The article above details the method and the countless problems associated with it--problems that generally result from false assumptions about the proportions of 14C to 12C in the atmosphere. In regard to that last: the traditional assumption is that 14C and 12C are at dynamic equilibrium, and have been for hundreds of thousands of years. But if the earth is younger than 10,000 years, such an equilibrium might not have been established. Thus the best that radiocarbon dating could produce is a sequence of events. It cannot produce a reliable timeline.

Related References

See Also

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