Can radiometric dating reveal the age of the earth?
The Scopes Monkey Trial, held in 1925, was a watershed event for the teaching of evolution in America’s public schools. During the trial, William Jennings Bryan, a Christian political figure, debated Clarence Darrow, a famous atheistic defense attorney. When asked what he thought about the modern scientific estimate on the ages of rocks, Bryan quipped that he was more concerned about the Rock of Ages that he was about the ages of rocks. That religious soundbyte got some laughs but underscored how ill-equipped he was to demonstrate the scientific basis of the Biblical creation story in the face of the evolutionary juggernaut.
Over the years, evolutionary scientists have proposed various techniques of radioactive dating including Uranium238/Lead, Potassium40/Argon, rubidium/strontium, etc, in an effort to arrive at the age of the earth. They measure the quantity of one radioactive element as it changes into another and compute how long the process may have taken given the known half-life of the isotope. These methods are claimed to give very old dates, usually around 4.5 billion years of age, give or take a billion. They are viewed as strong evidence for an ancient earth. But these dating schemes are based on certain unwarranted assumptions which cast doubt on their accuracy and limit their usefulness. John Morris from the Institute for Creation Research lists the following assumptions that discredit the viability of radiometric dating:
Assumption 1: Radiometric dating assumes that radioactive decay rates are constant and do not change over time. This is probably a reasonable assumption since current decay rates are now very stable. But we cannot know the decay rate of these isotopes in the past.
Assumption 2: Radiometric dating must assume knowledge of the quantity of “daughter-parent” material present in the test specimen. Often, scientists must discard wildly inaccurate readings when they don’t fall within their acceptable range.
For example, new lava rock has been recorded to be upward to 10.5 billion years old. Or the recently formed dome at Mt. St. Helens yielded a date of 2.8 million years old. Something is not working right. (Can Radioisotope Dating be Trusted? Dated 8/97 at www.icr.org)
Even evolutionists recognize that these radiometric dating methods can be flawed by contamination or groundwater leaching which can add or subtract relevant material from the rock specimen. With the evidence for a global flood found in the highest mountain peaks, it would seem that groundwater leaching has to be factored into every dating technique. And there is the rub! How can such dating be calibrated? What precise formula will yield accurate results? How can you know the results are accurate? It is all conjecture based on assumptions premised by a hypothesis. No much solid rock here, more like quicksand.