Radioactive Dating

The use of carbon, also known as radiocarbon, to date organic materials has been an important method in both archaeology and geology. The technique was pioneered over fifty years ago by the physical chemist Willard Libby, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on 14 C. Since then, the technique has been widely used and continually improved. This paper will focus on how the radiocarbon dating method works, how it is used by scientists, and how creationists have interpreted the results. Carbon is a radioactive isotope formed in the upper atmosphere. It is constantly being produced by a system in which cosmic rays from the sun hit atoms, releasing neutrons. The neutrons may then be absorbed by 14 N nitrogen atoms which lose a proton in the process, becoming 14 C.

How Science Figured Out the Age of Earth

An Essay on Radiometric Dating. Radiometric dating methods are the strongest direct evidence that geologists have for the age of the Earth. All these methods point to Earth being very, very old — several billions of years old. Young-Earth creationists — that is, creationists who believe that Earth is no more than 10, years old — are fond of attacking radiometric dating methods as being full of inaccuracies and riddled with sources of error.

When I first became interested in the creation-evolution debate, in late , I looked around for sources that clearly and simply explained what radiometric dating is and why young-Earth creationists are driven to discredit it. I found several good sources, but none that seemed both complete enough to stand alone and simple enough for a non-geologist to understand them.

SPECTRUM is a journal established to encourage Seventh-day Adventist participa- tion in the discussion of contemporary issues from a Christian viewpoint.

Planet Earth doesn’t have a birth certificate to record its formation, which means scientists spent hundreds of years struggling to determine the age of the planet. So, just how old is Earth? By dating the rocks in Earth’s ever-changing crust, as well as the rocks in Earth’s neighbors, such as the moon and visiting meteorites, scientists have calculated that Earth is 4. Related: How Big is Earth? Scientists have made several attempts to date the planet over the past years.

They’ve attempted to predict the age based on changing sea levels, the time it took for Earth or the sun to cool to present temperatures, and the salinity of the ocean. As the dating technology progressed, these methods proved unreliable; for instance, the rise and fall of the ocean was shown to be an ever-changing process rather than a gradually declining one.

And in another effort to calculate the age of the planet, scientists turned to the rocks that cover its surface. Scientists also must battle an issue called the Great Unconformity, which is where sedimentary layers of rock appear to be missing at the Grand Canyon, for example, there’s 1. There are multiple explanations for this uncomformity; in early , one study suggested that a global ice age caused glaciers to grind into the rock , causing it to disintegrate.

Plate tectonics then threw the crushed rock back into the interior of the Earth, removing the old evidence and turning it into new rock.

FAQ – Radioactive Age-Dating

By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy , Privacy Policy , and our Terms of Service. Earth Science Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for those interested in the geology, meteorology, oceanography, and environmental sciences. It only takes a minute to sign up. Earth Age around 4. Wouldn’t it be more accurate by doing it with its inner materials?

Why do we use meteorites if they hit the Earth after its formation?

Mesozoic bone consistently yields a falsely young radiocarbon “date” of a few Taking advantage of the popularity of dinosaurs, young-Earth.

Radioactive decay has become one of the most useful methods for determining the age of formation of rocks. However, in the very principal of radiometric dating there are several vital assumptions that have to be made in order for the age to be considered valid. These assumptions include: 1 the initial amount of the daughter isotope is known, 2 neither parent or daughter product has migrated into, or out of, the closed rock system, and 3 decay has occurred at a constant rate over time.

But what if one or some combination of these assumptions is incorrect? Then the computed age based on the accumulation of daughter products will be incorrect Stasson In order to use the valuable information provided by radiometric dating, a new method had to be created that would determine an accurate date and validate the assumptions of radiometric dating.

How Old Is Earth?

Earth is about 4. Geologists divide this age into major and minor units of time that describe the kinds of geological processes and life forms that existed in them. Earth’s geologic record was formed by constant change, just like those that occur routinely today. Though some events were catastrophic, much of Earth’s geology was influenced by normal weather, erosion, and other processes spread over very long geologic ages.

Accurate dating of the geologic ages is fundamental to the study of geology and paleontology, and provides important context to the life sciences, meteorology, oceanography, geophysics, and hydrology. In the mid-seventeenth century, James Ussher — , the Archbishop of Ireland, compiled a chronology of Earth by adding up the generations named in the Bible.

In most cases, the slope of the line generated by the isochron method gives an age for a rock sample of millions, or even billions of years. In general, these ages​.

We are a c 3 non-profit company tax-exempt status approved , so your contributions to our ministry are welcome! Equipping youth pastors, parents, and students with Biblical answers for evolutionary teaching in public schools. Secular scientists date the Earth to about 4. High school biology books openly acknowledge this necessary connection:. Evolution takes a long time. If life has evolved, then Earth must be very old.

Geologists now use radioactivity to establish the age of certain rocks and fossils. This kind of data could have shown that the Earth is young.

Dating the Earth, the Sun, and the Stars

When asked for your age, it’s likely you won’t slip with the exception of a recent birthday mistake. But for the sprawling sphere we call home, age is a much trickier matter. Before so-called radiometric dating, Earth’s age was anybody’s guess. Our planet was pegged at a youthful few thousand years old by Bible readers by counting all the “begats” since Adam as late as the end of the 19th century, with physicist Lord Kelvin providing another nascent estimate of million years.

Kelvin defended this calculation throughout his life, even disputing Darwin’s explanations of evolution as impossible in that time period.

Using the known rate of change in radio-active elements (radiometric dating), some Earth rocks have been shown to be billions of years old, while.

Many independent measurements have established that the Earth and the universe are billions of years old. Geologists have found annual layers in ice that are easily counted to multiple tens of thousands of years, and when combined with radio isotope dating, we find hundreds of thousands of years of ice layers. Using the known rate of change in radio-active elements radiometric dating , some Earth rocks have been shown to be billions of years old, while the oldest solar system rocks are dated at 4.

Astronomers use the distance to galaxies and the speed of light to calculate that the light has been traveling for billions of years. The expansion of the universe gives an age for the universe as a whole: Astronomers and geologists have determined that the universe and Earth are billions of years old. This conclusion is not based on just one measurement or one calculation, but on many types of evidence. Here we will describe just two types of evidence for an old Earth and two types of evidence for an old universe; more types can be found under further reading.

These methods are largely independent of each other, based on separate observations and arguments, yet all point to a history much longer than 10, years. In years of drought, the tree grows less quickly so the ring is narrower; in good growing seasons the ring is thicker. By comparing the pattern of thick and thin rings to weather records, scientists can verify that the method is accurate.

This method can even be used on dead trees that fell in a forest long ago.

Radiometric Dating: Doesn’t it Show that the Earth is 4.5 Billion Years Old?

In , shortly after the discovery of radioactivity , the American chemist Bertram Boltwood suggested that lead is one of the disintegration products of uranium, in which case the older a uranium-bearing mineral the greater should be its proportional part of lead. Analyzing specimens whose relative geologic ages were known, Boltwood found that the ratio of lead to uranium did indeed increase with age. After estimating the rate of this radioactive change, he calculated that the absolute ages of his specimens ranged from million to 2.

Though his figures were too high by about 20 percent, their order of magnitude was enough to dispose of the short scale of geologic time proposed by Lord Kelvin. Versions of the modern mass spectrometer were invented in the early s and s, and during World War II the device was improved substantially to help in the development of the atomic bomb.

In , geologist Arthur Holmes published “the Age of the Earth,” the first major effort to date the planet using radiometric dating. “It is perhaps.

This value is derived from several different lines of evidence. Unfortunately, the age cannot be computed directly from material that is solely from the Earth. There is evidence that energy from the Earth’s accumulation caused the surface to be molten. Further, the processes of erosion and crustal recycling have apparently destroyed all of the earliest surface. The oldest rocks which have been found so far on the Earth date to about 3.

Some of these rocks are sedimentary, and include minerals which are themselves as old as 4. Rocks of this age are relatively rare, however rocks that are at least 3. While these values do not compute an age for the Earth, they do establish a lower limit the Earth must be at least as old as any formation on it. This lower limit is at least concordant with the independently derived figure of 4.

Creation 101: Radiometric Dating and the Age of the Earth

David H. Bailey does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. In one respect, science and religion have been largely reconciled since the 19th century, when geologists such as Charles Lyell recognised the evidence for a very old Earth. Within a few decades, most mainstream religious denominations accepted this view as well.

However, there are many methods that can be used to determine the age of the earth or other objects. The textbooks focus on relative dating.

Philip J. The American Biology Teacher 1 February ; 82 2 : 72— The recent discovery of radiocarbon in dinosaur bones at first seems incompatible with an age of millions of years, due to the short half-life of radiocarbon. However, evidence from isotopes other than radiocarbon shows that dinosaur fossils are indeed millions of years old. Fossil bone incorporates new radiocarbon by means of recrystallization and, in some cases, bacterial activity and uranium decay.

Because of this, bone mineral — fossil or otherwise — is a material that cannot yield an accurate radiocarbon date except under extraordinary circumstances.

Age of the Earth

When paleontologist Mary Schweitzer found soft tissue in a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil , her discovery raised an obvious question — how the tissue could have survived so long? The bone was 68 million years old, and conventional wisdom about fossilization is that all soft tissue, from blood to brains , decomposes. Only hard parts, like bones and teeth, can become fossils. But for some people, the discovery raised a different question. How do scientists know the bones are really 68 million years old?

Today’s knowledge of fossil ages comes primarily from radiometric dating , also known as radioactive dating.

Overview · Convective mantle and radioactivity · Invention of radiometric dating · Arthur.

Here I want to concentrate on another source of error, namely, processes that take place within magma chambers. To me it has been a real eye opener to see all the processes that are taking place and their potential influence on radiometric dating. Radiometric dating is largely done on rock that has formed from solidified lava. Lava properly called magma before it erupts fills large underground chambers called magma chambers.

Most people are not aware of the many processes that take place in lava before it erupts and as it solidifies, processes that can have a tremendous influence on daughter to parent ratios. Such processes can cause the daughter product to be enriched relative to the parent, which would make the rock look older, or cause the parent to be enriched relative to the daughter, which would make the rock look younger. This calls the whole radiometric dating scheme into serious question.

Geologists assert that older dates are found deeper down in the geologic column, which they take as evidence that radiometric dating is giving true ages, since it is apparent that rocks that are deeper must be older. But even if it is true that older radiometric dates are found lower down in the geologic column, which is open to question, this can potentially be explained by processes occurring in magma chambers which cause the lava erupting earlier to appear older than the lava erupting later.

Lava erupting earlier would come from the top of the magma chamber, and lava erupting later would come from lower down.


Geologist Ralph Harvey and historian Mott Greene explain the principles of radiometric dating and its application in determining the age of Earth. As the uranium in rocks decays, it emits subatomic particles and turns into lead at a constant rate. Measuring the uranium-to-lead ratios in the oldest rocks on Earth gave scientists an estimated age of the planet of 4.

Segment from A Science Odyssey: “Origins.

RATE (Radioactivity and the Age of The Earth). Analysis and Evaluation of Radiometric Dating. RATE – cover of popular book, spacer gif. What is RATE.

The age of the Earth is 4. But how do we know this? People have been trying to estimate the age of the Earth for thousands of years. All mythologies have their own creation myths, while some Ancient thinkers like Aristotle thought our planet was eternal. Of course, none of those are true, but how do we know it? Before modern science, the age of the Earth remained virtually unknown. He correctly assumed that the Earth formed as a completely molten object and tried to determine the amount of time it would take to cool down to the current temperature.

5 — The Age of Our World Made Easy