The Fallacy of Radiometric Dating

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Contrary to what you may be thinking, radiometric dating is not the latest romantic hookup site. Radiometric dating is a method that dates rocks and other objects by using the known decay rate of radioactive isotopes. The rate at which these substances decay is known as radioactive decay. This is the process that allows an unstable atomic nucleus to lose energy by releasing radiation. I should point out at this point that one of the basic assumptions in the radiometric dating theory is that radioactive elements will decay at a constant rate. This is a very important and extreme assumption since this theory is being relied upon to date items that are billions of years old.


Klyuchevskaya Volcano – photo credit:

The earth is constantly changing with volcanoes erupting and exploding causing disruptive changes to the earth, massive forest fires create barren land subject to erosion, earthquakes make major changes to the earth’s surface, as well as tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes, etc. This is not exemplary of a stable planet. - Discover Christian Gifts from the Holy Land

To assume that radioactive decay has not changed over the last 4.5 billions (their estimate) does not seem reasonable. Think about the changes that have occurred just during our lifetimes. It just doesn’t seem reasonable or logical that radioactive decay would undergo no changes during such a long period of time.

breast cancer cells – photo credit:
The 2002 Oregon Biscuit Fire
photo credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/
ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan
ASTER Science Team

Also, think about the changes that have supposedly occurred with regards to living organisms in the 4.54 billion years we are told the earth has existed. Evolution tells us that somehow a single cell organism formed (magically) and somehow miraculously transformed into a human being over that time period.

Evolutionary map of the world

Talk about things changing. Therefore, it doesn’t seem to be a reasonable assumption to assume that radioactive decay occurs at a constant rate without changing over those billions of years. We’ve been told to believe the miraculous appearance of a single celled organism turned into a human being, but radioactive decay has remained pristine with no changes through evolution or natural changes over time. All matter that has been studied has been exposed to the elements which over supposed billions of years would make changes to the matter.

For some reason many scientifically trained people use radiometric dating to date items. I cannot understand why any person of science would think that this dating method is a valid method of estimating the age of anything.

photo credit: NASA/JPL/USGS

First of all you may be thinking, why would someone like me with no scientific training venture into offering my opinion on such a highly scientific methodology. In defense of my reason for thinking I have the right to comment on this complex scientific topic, I will provide my logic and reasoning.

It’s true that I don’t have training or experience in this complex scientific methods of theoretically dating  items. However, any methodology that uses complex scientific processes, if it is to be accepted as fact, must be logical and capable of being proven using the scientific method. Even if lay people don’t understand the details of the process, they certainly can understand the reasoning and logic behind the complex scientific process. For example, a lay person may not understand the details about why someone’s heart is not functioning properly and the details that are involved in how a heart transplant is accomplished. However, a lay person can certainly understand that a person’s heart is not working correctly and that the patient will need a new heart or the patient will die. Simply because a lay person cannot diagnose a defective heart or be able to put a new heart into that prospective transplant recipient, that lay person certainly can understand what is wrong and what needs to be done to correct the condition. That lay person would certainly know that putting a defective heart in the above referenced patient would be disastrous. That lay person would also be able to know that the new heart would have to be compatible with the transplant recipient. One would not have to be an expert, a doctor, or scientifically trained in any area of medicine to know these things or to be able to use logic and reason to come to these conclusions.

Having established that lay people can come to reasoned conclusions about complex scientific theories and analyses, it’s time to turn our attention to the theoretical science in question namely radiometric dating and electromagnetic radiation.

The MAP instrument consists
of a set of passively cooled
microwave radiometers with
1.4x 1.6-meter diameter
primary reflectors to provide
the desired angular resolution.
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“radiometer” is an instrument that measures electromagnetic radiation. Isotopes are variants of a chemical element that have the same number of protons in the nucleus and also have the same atomic number as each other. However, each of the variant isotopes have a different number of neutrons in the nucleus. There are over 800 radioactive isotopes.

It is common for geologists to use radiometric dating to estimate the age of elements through the use of carbon-14 and nitrogen-14. They use the natural radioactive decay of these elements to arrive at the age of Fossils. Also, for the age of the earth it is common for scientists to use isotopes potassium-40 and argon-40.

I have no problem with the rationale or the science behind this methodology of determining how long it takes for a particular isotope to decay as long as one assumes the rate of decay has not changed over billions of years.  The problem I have is that the rate of decay over billions of years and therefore, the years it may take for the isotope to deteriorate is unknown and is not capable of being known and therefore, has nothing to do with how long the  earth has existed. Think logically, if an isotope decays at a half-life rate of 1.3 billion years, how does that in any way have anything to do with how long that element has existed. That radioactive isotope could have been created 6,000 to 14,000 years ago and still have a half-life of 1.3 billion years, if it was created with a half-life of 1.3 billion years. How would that fact prove or disprove how old the earth is? If God created certain isotopes with half-lives of 1.3 billion years or 10.5 million years has nothing to do with how old these isotopes are. For purposes known only to God, I believe He chose to give those isotopes those half-lives. In order for this type of age-dating to have any validity, you would have to first know the age of the earth. Radiometric dating can only tell you how long it will take for a particular substance to decay providing nothing changes over long, long periods of time. Something could easily intervene that might change its radioactive properties. Using radiometric dating to estimate the age of the earth assumes that the isotopes being studied were very large at their creation and have been decaying at an established rate of decay. I understand it is not quite that simple as isotopes change into other isotopes as they decay.  Taking all this into account, still does not provide anything other than an interesting theory as to the age of anything. Ultimately, knowing decay rates does not tell a researcher what may have happened during billions of years or how large the item being researched was when it was created.

21 April 1972 – Astronaut John W. Young, commander of the Apollo 16 lunar landing mission
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I think anyone with a reasonable amount of intelligence can understand why radiometric dating is not a reliable indication of when the earth or universe came into existence. To review, in order to determine the age of the earth and it’s components or the universe using radiometric dating, you first must know when the item being studied was created or how large it was at the time of its creation and that there were no changes to the properties of the items being studied.  It is not possible to study existing decaying isotopes and based on that analysis be able to go backwards in time to arrive at when they came into existence. You can estimate any number you want, but you can’t, with any confidence, state it is a fact. Remember, one of the main assumptions of this dating method is that the rate of radioactive decay must remain constant over 4.5 billion years. Experts can theorize that they “believe” they are correct. However, just because those experts  are able to calculate  consistent mathematical results does not prove that the calculations or results have any relevance to reality or the unknown ages being sought. Having a PHD and wearing a white lab coat does not insulate people from being wrong in their reasoning, assumptions, and logic. Anybody who has been involved with accounting understands how you can have assets equal liabilities, but if the numbers aren’t representative of reality, the reports that are produced are meaningless. - Discover Christian Gifts from the Holy Land

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