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Radiometric dating gives unreliable results (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Radiometric dating gives unreliable results (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CD010:

Radiometric dating gives unreliable results.

Source: Brown, Walt, 1995. In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood. Phoenix, AZ: Center for Scientific Creation, p. 24.

CreationWiki response: (Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. Independent measurements, using different and independent radiometric techniques, give consistent results [Meert 2000; Dalrymple 2000; Lindsay 1999]. Such results cannot be explained either by chance or by a systematic error in decay rate assumptions.

Such consistency can be explained by two main factors:

2. Radiometric dates are consistent with several non-radiometric dating methods.
  • The Hawaiian archipelago was formed by the Pacific ocean plate moving over a hot spot at a slow but observable rate. Radiometric dates of the islands are consistent with the order and rate of their being positioned over the hot spot [Rubin 2001].

First of all, according to Talk.Origins' own source, the "dates" are not linear with distance as plate tectonics would predict. There is a definite upward curve in the data. Furthermore, the dates given are the "Best Kr dates" this indicates that they had other K-Ar that are not included. It could be that they do fit the theory, but there is no way to know since only the best ones are given. It is known that 40Ar from the source material can remain in lava after it hardens so the pattern may just represent the distribution of 40Ar in the mantle under the Pacific Ocean.

Reference: Potassium-Argon and Argon-Argon Dating

There are also several factors (such as volcanoes not following a consistent pattern,missing heat, the chemistry of the basalt, and many others) that call into question the interpretation of Hawaii even being formed by a hot spot. So Isaak's argument is highly suspect.

  • Radiometric dating is consistent with Milankovitch cycles, which depend only on astronomical factors such as precession of the earth's tilt and orbital eccentricity [Hilgen et al. 1997].

Talk Origins' source article is actually talking about the calibrating of radiometric dating to the Milankovitch cycles. So once again we have consistent dates resulting from calibration. Furthermore, the chart the article uses to demonstrate the calibration process has no hint of objective matching between the layers and the Milankovitch cycles.

Contrary to Talk.Origins' claim, luminescence dating is not independent of radiometric dating, and neither is electron spin resonance (also mentioned in the article). They both rely on the absorption of radiation, from radioactive decay. In the article the author uses 3 uranium methods as well as luminescence and electron spin resonance. A loss of uranium would affect all 5 methods causing them to give excessively old ages and it could do so in a manner that would produce consistent ages, but consistently excessively old ages. The author alludes to the possibility of a loss of uranium but ignores the possible affect on luminescence and electron spin resonance. The simple fact is that consistency between mutually dependent dating methods is no surprise.


According to the secular time line, Indians came to the America's around 11,000 years ago. This largely based on interpretation and carbon dating. In 2005, human footprints ,using the luminescence methods among others, were dated at 40,000 years old. Even more interesting, an other study dated the rocks at 1.3 million years old. [1]

* Radiometric dating gives results consistent with relative dating methods such as "deeper is older." [Lindsay 2000]

First of all, the calibrating of radiometric dating to the geologic column would tend to produce an artifcal deeper-is-older pattern.

Second, it is not absolutely true.

Rock formation K-Ar Rb-Sr Rb-Sr Isochron
Uinkaret Plateau 0.01 - 3.67 My 1230 - 1440 My 1300 - 1380 My
Cardenas Basalt 771 - 877 My 920 -1190 My 1000 - 1140 My
Diabase Sills 874 - 984 My 680 - 1440 My 1000 - 1140 My

The formations are in order of depth.

Finally, accelerated nuclear decay during the Flood would produce such a pattern since volcanic rock would tend to form time horizons in such an order

3. The creationist claim that radiometric dates are inconsistent rest on a relatively few examples. They ignore the vast majority of radiometric dates showing consistent results.

First off, creationists don't ignore consistent dates, but present several reasons why their consistency does not prove accuracy. Creationists refer to inconsistent dates simply to show that they exist. Yes, the vast majority of published dates do show a degree of constancy, but the question remains as to how often inconsistent dates are filtered from publication. Talk Origins is assuming that no filtering goes on, but their own comments not only suggest that it does happen, but with a good degree of frequency. To answer this question would take a well-sampled objective study that would take a lot of time and money. What is needed is a totally objective sample of radiometric dates from all over the world.

And Then there is that case of the KBS Tuff - which exposes radiometric dating as a pseudo-science that is neither objective nor accurate -- and that the "dates" obtained are very often manipulated in order to (attempt to) fool people into believing in evolution (by promoting the idea of a "mythions of years" old earth).

See Also