29 March 2001

POINTS OF ORIGINS: What About the Age of the Earth?

by Dr. Glenn Jackson

THE MOST COMMON OBJECTION to the "young-earth" theory is carbon-14. This is quick and easy to dismiss, because C-14 would take 30-90,000 years to accumulate enough in our atmosphere for the method to work. If the earth is really only 6000 years old, then all the C-14 ages are too old. Samples dated by C-14 would be things like wood, leather, straw, bones or shells anything that was once alive. Also, even if it did work, C-14 would only be good for getting ages of 55,000 years at the most. According to the evolution theory, that would not be enough time to do any really noticeable evolving. Archaeologist Maryanne Newton of Cornell University admits, "Radiocarbon dating is more art than science." (Science News, 7/27/96, p54). Samples for other methods besides C-14, are usually old lava or sedimentary rock (like sandstone) that contains the radioactive elements. In the uranium-lead method, radioactive U (uranium) gradually changes into Pb (lead). You test the rock to see how much U is left and how much Pb has formed. If there is very little U left (and a lot of Pb), then the researcher assumes that the U in the rock has been sitting there decaying into Pb for a very long time. All radiometric methods depend on the decay rates staying the same ever since the time that the rock was formed. They also assume that none of the original element has leaked out of the rock or into the rock, by water or any other process. They assume that none of the element that it changes into has been added or removed either. In order to confirm the age, they must also somehow know the original amount of both of the elements. That's a lot of assumptions, but all radiometric dates depend on these being true. But, there is no way to know for sure. To proceed with the dating, they must make these assumptions. That is not wrong. That is not bad science. What is bad science is to deny that anything is being assumed and to just say that the dates are all for certain, and "that's the end of that."

A specific problem with K-Ar (potassium-argon dating) is that fresh lava often contains plenty of bubbles of Ar gas that never came from the K. Researchers who see all this extra Ar may think that the K had been turning into Ar for a very long time. A specific problem with Rb-Sr (rubidium-strontium) is, that if any Sr-86 or Sr-87 is in the rock it can throw off the date by 70 million to even 3 billion years!

IN THE YEAR 1982 paleontologist (fossil expert) Bruce Runnegar of UCLA started the idea of using DNA to tell the ages of families of living things (like how shark family is supposed to be "older" than other kinds of fish). He assumed that mutations have always occurred at the same rate in all species. This very popular method is called the "molecular clock." Paleontologist Douglas Erwin of the Smithsonian Institution says, "Relying on the molecular clock is a lot like believing in the Easter bunny" (The Washington Post, 3/10/97, pA3). Keep thinking and keep learning. Next week I will give you some reasons why creationists believe that the earth is not billions of years old but only thousands of years old.

Dr. Glenn Jackson holds four degrees in science and education from George Mason University and University of Virginia. He has taught elementary through college level sciences for over twenty years and in four states. He is a lifetime member of both American Mensa and the Creation Research Society.

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