Dating - CMI


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The way it really is: little-known facts about radiometric dating ………3

Radioactive dating methods ………...………4


What about carbon dating? ………..5

The dating game ……….……….11

Dating in conflict ……….………..12

Geological conflict ………13

Diamonds: a creationist’s best friend ………15

Oxidizable carbon ratio dating ………16

Dating dilemma: fossil wood in ‘ancient’ sandstone ………17



Radioactive ‘dating’ failure ………..18

Excess argon within mineral concentrates from the new dacite lava dome at Mount St Helens volcano …………..20

Radio-dating in Rubble ………26

The pigs took it all ……….27

How do you date a New Zealand volcano? ……….28


The Failure of U-Th-Pb ‘Dating’ at Koongarra, Australia ………28

Fossil Wood in “Ancient” Lava Flow Yields Radiocarbon ………..46

The Oklo natural reactors in Precambrian rocks, Gabon, Africa ………..48

Trial balloons and the age of the earth ………..49

Flaws in dating the earth as ancient ………..50

National Geographic plays the dating game ……….51


Billion-fold acceleration of radioactivity demonstrated in laboratory ………52

Radioactive decay rate depends on chemical environment ………..53

Helium evidence for a young world continues to confound critics ……… 54

Argon diffusion data support RATE’s 6,000-year helium age of the earth ………..57

RATE group reveals exciting breakthroughs! ………..59


Radiohalos ………60

The collapse of ‘geologic time’ ………62

New radiohalo find challenges primordial granite claim ………. 65

New record of polonium radiohalos, Stone Mountain granite, Georgia (USA) ………...66

TREE RING DATING (DENDROCHRONOLOGY)  Tree ring dating (dendrochronology) ………..68

 Field studies in the ancient bristlecone pine forest ………..69

 Evidence for multiple ring growth per year in Bristlecone Pines ………...77

 Patriarchs of the forest ……….83

 The oldest living things ………85


Radiometric dating and the age of the Earth ……….86

Variable radioactive decay rates and the changes in solar activity ………..88

The Oklo natural reactors in Precambrian rocks, Gabon, Africa ………..89


Argon from RATE site confirms the earth is young ……….92

Neutrinos—the not-so-neutral particles ……….94

How potassium-argon dating works ……….. 95

Radiometric dating and old ages in disarray ………96

Radiocarbon in dino bones ……….99

Problem of short-lived radionuclides: design perspective ………100

The way it really is: little-known facts about radiometric dating

Long-age geologists will not accept a radiometric date unless it matches their pre-existing expectations. by Tas Walker

Many people think that radiometric dating has proved the Earth is millions of years old. That’s understandable, given the image that surrounds the method. Even the way dates are reported (e.g. 200.4 ± 3.2 million years) gives the impression that the method is precise and reliable (box below).However, although we can measure many things about a rock, we cannot directly measure its age. For example, we can measure its mass, its volume, its colour, the minerals in it, their size and the way they are arranged. We can crush the rock and measure its chemical composition and the radioactive elements it contains. But we do not have an instrument that directly measures age.Before we can calculate the age of a rock from its measured chemical composition, we must assume what radioactive elements were in the rock when it formed.1 And then, depending on the assumptions we make, we can obtain any date we like.It may be surprising to learn that evolutionary geologists themselves will not accept a radiometric date unless they think it is correct —i.e. it matches what they already believe on other grounds. It is one thing to calculate a date. It is another thing to understand what it means.So, how do geologists know how to interpret their radiometric dates and what the ‘correct’ date should be?

Field relationships

A geologist works out the relative age of a rock by carefully studying where the rock is found in the field. The field relationships, as they are called, are of primary importance and all radiometric dates are evaluated against them.

For example, a geologist may examine a cutting where the rocks appear as shown in Figure 1. Here he can see that some curved sedimentary rocks have been cut vertically by a sheet of volcanic rock called a dyke. It is clear that the sedimentary rock was deposited and folded before the dyke was squeezed into place.

Figure 1

Figure 2. Cross-section

By looking at other outcrops in the area, our geologist is able to draw a geological map which records how the rocks are related to each other in the field. From the mapped field relationships, it is a simple matter to work out a geological cross-section and the relative timing of the geologic events. His geological cross-section may look something like Figure 2.

Clearly, Sedimentary Rocks A were deposited and deformed before the Volcanic Dyke intruded them. These were then eroded and Sedimentary Rocks B were deposited.The geologist may have found some fossils in Sedimentary Rocks A and discovered that they are similar to fossils found in some other rocks in the region. He assumes therefore that Sedimentary Rocks A are the same age as the other rocks in the region, which have already been dated by other geologists. In the same way, by identifying fossils, he may have related Sedimentary Rocks B with some other rocks.

Creationists would generally agree with the above methods and use them in their geological work.From his research, our evolutionary geologist may have discovered that other geologists believe that Sedimentary Rocks A are 200 million years old and Sedimentary Rocks B are 30 million years old. Thus, he already ‘knows’ that the igneous dyke must be younger than 200 million years and older than 30 million years. (Creationists do not agree with these ages of millions of years because of the assumptions they are based on.2)Because of his interest in the volcanic dyke, he collects a sample, being careful to select rock that looks fresh and unaltered. On his return, he sends his sample to the


laboratory for dating, and after a few weeks receives the lab report.Let us imagine that the date reported by the lab was 150.7 ± 2.8 million years. Our geologist would be very happy with this result. He would say that the date represents the time when the volcanic lava solidified. Such an interpretation fits nicely into the range of what he already believes the age to be. In fact, he would have been equally happy with any date a bit less than 200 million years or a bit more than 30 million years. They would all have fitted nicely into the field relationships that he had observed and his interpretation of them. The field relationships are generally broad, and a wide range of ‘dates’ can be interpreted as the time when the lava solidified.What would our geologist have thought if the date from the lab had been greater than 200 million years, say 350.5 ± 4.3 million years? Would he have concluded that the fossil date for the sediments was wrong? Not likely. Would he have thought that the radiometric dating method was flawed? No. Instead of questioning the method, he would say that the radiometric date was not recording the time that the rock solidified. He may suggest that the rock contained crystals (called xenocrysts) that formed long before the rock solidified and that these crystals gave an older date.3 He may suggest that some other very old material had contaminated the lava as it passed through the earth. Or he may suggest that the result was due to a characteristic of the lava—that the dyke had inherited an old ‘age’.

The error is not the real error

The convention for reporting dates (e.g. 200.4 ± 3.2 million years) implies that the calculated date of 200.4 million years is accurate to plus or minus 3.2 million years. In other words, the age should lie between 197.2 million years and 203.6 million years. However, this error is not the real error on the date. It relates only to the accuracy of the measuring equipment in the laboratory. Even different samples of rock collected from the same outcrop would give a larger scatter of results. And, of course, the reported error ignores the huge uncertainties in the assumptions behind the ‘age’ calculation. These include the assumption that decay rates have never changed. In fact, decay rates have been increased in the laboratory by factors of billions of times.1 Creationist physicists point to several lines of evidence that decay rates have been faster in the past, and propose a pulse of accelerated decay during Creation, and possibly a smaller pulse during the Flood year.2


.What would our geologist think if the date from the lab were less than 30 million years, say 10.1 ± 1.8 million years? No problem. Would he query the dating method, the chronometer? No. He would again say that the calculated age did not represent the time when the rock solidified. He may suggest that some of the chemicals in the rock had been disturbed by groundwater or weathering.4 Or he may decide that the rock had been affected by a localized heating event—one strong enough to disturb the chemicals, but not strong enough to be visible in the field.No matter what the radiometric date turned out to be, our geologist would always be able to ‘interpret’ it. He would simply change his assumptions about the history of the rock to explain the result in a plausible way. G. Wasserburg, who received the 1986 Crafoord Prize in Geosciences, said, ‘There are no bad chronometers, only bad interpretations of them!’5 In fact, there is a whole range of standard explanations that geologists use to ‘interpret’ radiometric dating results.

Why use it?

Someone may ask, ‘Why do geologists still use radiometric dating? Wouldn’t they have abandoned the method long ago if it was so unreliable?’ Just because the calculated results are not the true ages does not mean that the method is completely useless. The dates calculated are based on the isotopic composition of the rock. And the composition is a characteristic of the molten lava from which the rock solidified. Therefore, rocks in the same area which give similar ‘dates’ are likely to have formed from the same lava at about the same time during the Flood. So, although the assumptions behind the calculation are wrong and the dates are incorrect, there may be a pattern in the results that can help geologists understand the relationships between igneous rocks in a region.Contrary to the impression that we are given, radiometric dating does not prove that the Earth is millions of years old. The vast age has simply been assumed.2 The calculated radiometric ‘ages’ depend on the assumptions that are made. The results are only accepted if they agree with what is already believed. The only foolproof method for determining the age of something is based on eyewitness reports and a written record.

What if the rock ages are not ‘known’ in advance—does radio-dating give coherent results?

Recently, I conducted a geological field trip in the Townsville area, North Queensland. A geological guidebook,1 prepared by two geologists, was available from a government department.The guidebook’s appendix explains ‘geological time and the ages of rocks.’ It describes how geologists use field relationships to determine the relative ages of rocks. It also says that the ‘actual’ ages are measured by radiometric dating—an expensive technique performed in modern laboratories. The guide describes a number of radiometric methods and states that for ‘suitable specimens the errors involved in radiometric dating usually amount to several percent of the age result. Thus … a result of two hundred million years is expected to be quite close (within, say, 4 million) to the true age.’

Castle Hill (Townsville, Queensland, Australia)

This gives the impression that radiometric dating is very precise and very reliable—the impression generally held by the public. However, the appendix concludes with this qualification: ‘Also, the relative ages [of the radiometric dating results] must always be consistent with the geological evidence. … if a contradiction occurs, then the cause of the error needs to be established or the radiometric results are unacceptable’.This is exactly what our main article explains. Radiometric dates are only accepted if they agree with what geologists already believe the age should be.Townsville geology is dominated by a number of prominent granitic mountains and hills. However, these are isolated from each other, and the area lacks significant sedimentary strata. We therefore cannot determine the field relationships and thus cannot be sure which hills are older and which are younger. In fact, the constraints on the ages are such that there is a very large range possible.We would expect that radiometric dating, being allegedly so ‘accurate,’ would rescue the situation and provide exact ages for each of these hills. Apparently, this is not so.Concerning the basement volcanic rocks in the area, the guidebook says, ‘Their exact age remains uncertain.’ About Frederick Peak, a rhyolite ring dyke in the area, it says, ‘Their age of emplacement is not certain.’ And for Castle Hill, a prominent feature in the city of Townsville, the guidebook says, ‘The age of the granite is unconfirmed.’No doubt, radiometric dating has been carried out and precise ‘dates’ have been obtained. It seems they have not been accepted because they were not meaningful.

Radioactive dating methods


by Tas Walker

When it comes to measuring the ages of things, we are told that there are a dozen different radioactive dating methods and that they all give the same answer. Do they?Fossil wood from a quarry near the town of Banbury, England, some 80 miles north-west of London, was dated using the carbon-14 method.1 The ages calculated ranged from 20.7 to 28.8 thousand years old. However, the limestone in which the wood was found was of Jurassic age, of 183 million years. Clearly the dating methods are in conflict.Diamonds analyzed from mines in South Africa and Botswana, and from alluvial deposits in Guinea, West Africa, found measurable carbon-14—over ten times the detection limit of the laboratory equipment.2 The average ‘age’ calculated for the samples was 55,700 years. Yet the rocks that contained the diamonds ranged from 1,000 to 3,000 million years old. Dating methods are in conflict again.Rock samples from a lava dome within the Mount St Helens crater, USA, were dated using the potassium-argon method. Whole-rock samples gave an age of 350,000 years.3 When some of the amphibole minerals in the rock sample were extracted and analyzed separately, their age was more than double at 900,000 years. Two mineral samples of a different mineral, pyroxene, gave an age of 1,700,000 and 2,800,000 years. Which age is right? None, actually. The lava dome formed after Mount St Helens exploded in 1980 and the samples were just 10 years old. Here are more conflicting results between dating methods.Creationist scientists have uncovered dozens of anomalies and conflicts like this. Surprisingly, these conflicting results do not unsettle mainstream geologists. They genuinely believe the world is billions of years old, and the conflicting results do not cause them to question their belief. In their minds, these conflicts are a little mystery that will be resolved with creative thinking and more research.In his well-known textbook on isotope geology, Gunter Faure explains the various radioactive dating methods, including the so-called isochron method. When the results for a number of rock samples are plotted on a graph and form a straight line, the researcher can calculate an age for the samples. But Faure warns his readers not to accept the calculated age without question.He gives an example of volcanic lava along the border of Uganda, Zaire and Rwanda, East Africa. That lava is known to be relatively young, possibly erupted within historical times,4 yet a rubidium-strontium straight-line isochron gave an age of 773 million years. Does this worry these scientists? No. They have total faith in the method. In their minds, the key is the way the results areinterpreted. Faure says that in this case we should interpret the line, not as an isochron, but a “mixing line”. So how can we tell the difference? We can’t. The only way we can know it is a mixing line is if the calculated age is wrong—and the only way one can ‘know’ if an age is right or wrong is to have a pre-existing belief about what the age should be.In another example, Okudaira et al. measured isochron ages of a rock called amphibolite sampled from south-east India. With the rubidium-strontium method they obtained an age of 481 million years but with samarium-neodymium the age was almost double at 824 million years.5 Did the disagreement cause the researchers to doubt the dating methods? Not at all. They removed the disagreement by the way they ‘interpreted’ the results. They said the older age was the age the rocks underwent metamorphism, while the younger age was when the rocks were later heated. How did they know? No matter what the numbers are, a plausible story can always be invented after the results are obtained.Another example involves a volcanic region in Southern India, a pluton.6 Using the lead-lead method, a whole-rock sample gave an age of 508 million years. With the potassium-argon method, samples of mica gave an age of 450 million years. Zircons using the uranium-lead method gave an age of 572 million years. Three different samples; three different methods; three different results. Did this cause the researchers to doubt the radioactive dating methods? No. They just applied some creative interpretation. They said the different ages are because the huge pluton cooled slowly over millions of years and the different minerals were affected in different ways. Instead of a problem, the conflict became a new discovery.Conflicting radioactive dating results are reported all the time and, on their own, there is no way of knowing what they mean. So geologists research how other geologists have interpreted the other rocks in the area in order to find out what sort of dates they would expect. Then they invent a story to explain the numbers as part of the geological history of the area.


• How does the carbon ‘clock’ work? • Is it reliable?

• What does carbon dating really show? • What about other radiometric dating methods? • Is there evidence that Earth is young?

PEOPLE who ask about carbon-14 (14C) dating usually want to know about the radiometric dating1 methods that are claimed to give millions and billions of years—carbon dating can only give thousands of years. People wonder how millions of years could be squeezed into the young age account of history. We will deal with carbon dating first and then with the other dating Methods.


How the carbon ‘clock’ works

Carbon has unique properties that are essential for life on Earth. Familiar to us as the black substance in charred wood, as diamonds, and as the graphite in ‘lead’ pencils, carbon comes in several forms, or isotopes. One rare form has atoms that are 14 times as heavy as hydrogen atoms: carbon-14, or 14C, or radiocarbon. Carbon-14 is made when cosmic rays knock neutrons out of atomic nuclei in the upper atmosphere. These displaced neutrons, now moving fast, hit ordinary nitrogen (14N) at lower altitudes, converting it into 14C. Unlike common carbon (12C), 14C is unstable and slowly decays, changing back into nitrogen and releasing energy. This instability makes it radioactive. Ordinary carbon (12C) is found in the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air, which is taken up by plants, which in turn are eaten by animals. So a bone, or a leaf of a tree, or even a piece of wooden furniture, contains carbon. When 14C has been formed, like ordinary carbon (12C), it combines with oxygen to give carbon dioxide (14CO2), and so it also gets cycled through the cells of plants and animals.However, as soon as a plant or animal dies, the 14C atoms which decay are no longer replaced, so the amount of 14C in that once-living thingdecreases as time goes on (figure 1). In other words, the 14C/12C ratio gets smaller. So, we have a ‘clock’ which starts ticking the moment something dies (figure 2). Obviously, this works only for things which were once living. It cannot be used to date volcanic rocks, for example. The rate of decay of 14C is such that half of an amount will convertback to 14N in 5,730 ± 40 years. This is the ‘half-life’. So, in two halflives, or 11,460 years, only one-quarter will be left. Thus, if the amount of 14C relative to 12C in a sample is one-quarter of that in living organisms at present, then it has a theoretical age of 11,460 years. Anything over about 50,000 years old should theoretically have no detectable 14C left. That is why radiocarbon dating cannot give millions of years. In fact, if a sample contains 14C, it is good evidence that it is not millions of years old. However, things are not quite so simple. Firstly, plants discriminate against carbon dioxide containing 14C. That is, they take up less than would be expected and so they test older than they really are. Furthermore, different types of plants discriminate differently. This also has to be corrected for.2 Secondly, the ratio of 14C/12C in the atmosphere has not been constant—for example it was higher before the industrial era when the massive burning of fossil fuels released a lot of carbon dioxide that was depleted in 14C. This would make things which died at that time appear older in terms of carbon dating. Then there was a rise in 14CO2 with the advent of atmospheric testing of atomic bombs in the 1950s.3 This would make things carbon dated from that time appear younger than their true age. Measurement of 14C in historically dated objects (e.g. seeds in the graves of historically dated tombs) enables the level of 14C in the atmosphere at that time to be estimated, and so partial calibration of the ‘clock’ is possible. Accordingly, carbon dating carefully applied to items from historical times can be useful. However, even with such historicalcalibration, archaeologists do not regard 14C dates as absolute because of frequent anomalies. They rely more on dating methods that link into historical records. Outside the range of recorded history, calibration of the 14C ‘clock’ is not possible.4Other factors affecting carbon dating The number of cosmic rays penetrating Earth’s atmosphere affects the amount of 14C produced and therefore the dating system. The number of cosmic rays reaching Earth varies with the sun’s activity, and with

the Earth’s passage through magnetic clouds as the solar system travels around the Milky Way Galaxy. The strength of Earth’s magnetic field affects the amount of cosmic rays entering the atmosphere. A stronger magnetic field deflects more cosmic rays away from Earth. Overall, the energy of Earth’s magnetic field has been decreasing,5 so more 14C is being produced now than in the past. This will make old things look older than they really are. Also, the Flood would have greatly upset the carbon balance. The Flood buried a huge amount of carbon, which became coal, oil, etc., lowering the total 12C in the biosphere (including the atmosphere—plants regrowing after the Flood absorb CO2 which is not replaced by the decay of the buried vegetation).6 Total 14C is also proportionately lowered atthis time, but whereas no terrestrial process generates any more 12C, 14C is continually being produced, and at a rate which does not depend on carbon levels (it comes from nitrogen). Therefore the 14C level relative to 12C increases after the Flood. So the 14C/12C ratio in plants/animals/ the atmosphere before the Flood had to be lower than what it is now. Unless this effect (which is additional to the magnetic field issue just discussed) were corrected for, carbon dating of fossils formed in the Flood would give ages much older than the true ages. Creationist researchers have suggested that dates of 35,000–45,000 years should be recalibrated to the young date for the Flood.7 Such a recalibration makes sense of anomalous data from carbon dating—for example, very discordant ‘dates’ for different parts of a frozen musk ox carcass from Alaska and an inordinately slow rate of accumulation of ground


sloth dung pellets in the older layers of a cave where the layers were carbon dated.7 Also, volcanoes emit much CO2 depleted in 14C. Since the Flood was accompanied by much volcanism (see Chapters 10, 11, 12, and 17), fossils formed in the early post-Flood period would give radiocarbon ages older than they really are. In summary, the carbon-14 method, when corrected for the effects of the Flood, can give useful results, but needs to be applied carefully. It does not give dates of


The hourglasses represent radiometric dating. It is assumed that we know the amount of parent and daughter elements in the original sample, the rate of decay is constant, and no parent or daughter material has been added or removed.

Other radiometric dating methods

There are various other radiometric dating methods used today to giveages of millions or billions of years for rocks. These techniques, unlike carbon dating, mostly use the relative concentrations of parent and daughter products in radioactive decay chains. For example, potassium-40 decays to argon-40, uranium-238 decays to lead-206 via other elements like radium, uranium-235 decays to lead-207, rubidium-87 decays to strontium-87, etc. These techniques are applied to igneous rocks, and are normally seen as giving the time since solidification. The isotope concentrations can be measured very accurately, but isotope concentrations are not dates. To derive ages from such measurements, unprovable assumptions have to be made (see hourglass diagram below) such as:

1. The starting conditions are known (for example, that there was no daughter isotope present at the start, or that we know how much was there).

2. Decay rates have always been constant.

3. Systems were closed or isolated so that no parent or daughter isotopes were lost or added.

Isotope concentrations, or ratios, can be measured very accurately, but isotope concentrations, or ratios, are not dates. There are patterns in the isotope data There is plenty of evidence that the radioisotope dating systems are not the infallible techniques many think, and that they are not measuring millions of years. However, there are still patterns to be explained. For example, deeper rocks often tend to give older ‘ages’. Creationists agree that the deeper rocks are generally older, but not by millions of years. Geologist John Woodmorappe, in his devastating critique of radioactive dating,8 points out that there are other large-scale trends in the rocks that have nothing to do with radioactive decay.


When a ‘date’ differs from that expected, researchers readily invent excuses for rejecting the result. The common application of such posterior reasoning shows that radiometric dating has serious problems. Woodmorappe cites hundreds of examples of excuses used to explain ‘bad’ dates.8 For example, researchers applied posterior reasoning to the dating of Australopithecus ramidus fossils.9 Most samples of basalt closest to the fossil-bearing strata gave dates of about 23 Ma (Mega annum, million years) by the argon-argon method. The authors decided that was ‘too old’, according to their beliefs about the place of the fossils in the evolutionary grand scheme of things. So they looked at some basalt further removed from the fossils and selected 17 of 26 samples to get an acceptable maximum age of 4.4 Ma. The other nine samples again gave much older dates but the authors decided they must be contaminated, and discarded them. That is how radiometric dating works. It is very much driven by the existing long-age worldview that pervades academia today. A similar story surrounds the dating of the primate skull known as KNM-ER 1470.10 This started with an initial 212 to 230 Ma, which, according to the fossils, was

considered way off the mark (humans ‘weren’t around then’). Various other attempts were made to date the volcanic rocks in the area. Over the years an age of 2.9 Ma was settled upon because of the agreement between several different published studies (although the studies involved selection of ‘good’ from ‘bad’ results, just like Australopithecus ramidus). However, preconceived notions about human evolution could not cope with a skull like 1470 being ‘that old’. A study of pig fossils in Africa readily convinced most anthropologists that

the 1470 skull was much younger. After this was widely accepted, further studies of the rocks brought the radiometric age down to about 1.9 Ma—again several studies ‘confirmed’ this date. Such is the dating game. Are we suggesting that evolutionists are conspiring to massage the data to get the answers they want? No, not generally. It is simply that all observations must fit the prevailing paradigm. The paradigm, or belief system, of molecules-to-man evolution over eons of time is so strongly entrenched it is not questioned—it is a ‘fact’. So every observation must fit this paradigm.11 Unconsciously, the researchers, who are supposedly ‘objective scientists’ in the eyes of the public, select the observations to fit the basic belief system. We must remember that the past is not open to the normal processes of experimental science; that is, repeatable experiments in the present. A scientist cannot do experiments on events that happened in the past. Scientists do not measure the age of rocks, they measure isotope concentrations, and these can be measured extremely accurately. However, the ‘age’ is calculated using assumptions about the past that cannot be proven. Those involved with unrecorded history gather information in the present and construct stories about the past. The level of proof demanded for such stories seems to be much less than for studies in the empirical sciences, such as physics, chemistry, molecular biology, physiology, etc. Williams, an expert in the environmental fate of radioactive elements, identified 17 flaws in the isotope dating reported in just three widely respected seminal papers that supposedly established the age of the Earth at 4.6 billion years.12 John Woodmorappe has produced an incisive critique of these dating methods. He exposes hundreds of myths that have grown up around the techniques. He shows that the few ‘good’ dates left after the ‘bad’ dates are filtered out could easily be explained as fortunate coincidences.What date would you like? The forms issued by radioisotope laboratories for submission with samples to be dated commonly ask how old the sample is expected to be. Why? If the techniques were absolutely objective and reliable, such information should not be necessary. Presumably the laboratories know that anomalous dates are common, so they need some check on whether they have obtained a ‘good’ date. Testing radiometric dating methods If the long-age dating techniques were really objective means of finding the ages of rocks, they should work in situations where we know the age. Furthermore, different techniques should consistently agree with one another. Methods should work reliably on things of known age There are many examples where the dating methods give ‘dates’ that are wrong for rocks of known age. One example is K-Ar ‘dating’ of five historical andesite lava flows from Mt Ngauruhoe in New Zealand. Although one lava flow occurred in 1949, three in 1954, and one in 1975, the ‘dates’ ranged from less than 0.27 to 3.5 Ma.13 Again, using hindsight, it is argued that ‘excess’ argon from the magma (molten rock) was retained in the rock when it solidified. The secular scientific literature lists many examples of excess argon causing dates of millions of years in rocks of known historical age.14 This excess appears to have come from the upper mantle, below Earth’s crust. This is consistent with a young world—the argon has had too little time to escape.15 If excess argon can cause exaggerated dates for rocks of known age, then why should we trust the method for rocks of unknown age? Other techniques, such as the use of isochrons,16 make different assumptions about starting conditions, but there is a growing recognition that such ‘fool-proof’ techniques can also give ‘bad’ dates. So data are again selected according to what the researcher already believes about the age of the rock. Geologist Dr Steve Austin sampled basalt from the base of the Grand Canyon strata and from lava that spilled over the edge of the canyon.17 By evolutionary reckoning, the latter should be a billion years younger than the basalt from the bottom. Standard laboratories analyzed the isotopes. The rubidium-strontium isochron technique suggested that the recent lava flow was 270 Ma older than the basalts beneath the Grand Canyon—an impossibility. Different dating techniques should consistently agree If the dating methods are an objective and reliable means of determining ages, they should agree. If a chemist were measuring the sugar content of blood, all valid methods for the determination would give the same answer (within the limits of experimental error). However, with radiometric dating, the different techniques often give quite different results. In the study of Grand Canyon rocks by Austin, different techniques gave different results (see Table below). Again all sorts of reasons can be suggested for the ‘bad’ dates, but this is again posterior reasoning. Techniques that give results that can be dismissed just because they don’t agree with what we already believe cannot be considered objective. In Australia, some wood found in Tertiary basalt was clearly buried in the lava flow that formed the basalt, because the wood was charred from contact with the hot lava. The wood was ‘dated’ by radiocarbon (14C) analysis at about 45,000 years old, but the basalt was ‘dated’ by the potassium-argon method at 45 million years old!18


means of determining ages, they should agree. If a chemist were measuring the sugar content of blood, all valid methods for the determination would give the same answer (within the limits of experimental error). However, with radiometric dating, the different techniques often give quite different results. In the study of Grand Canyon rocks by Austin, different techniques gave different results (see Table below). Again all sorts of reasons can be suggested for the ‘bad’ dates, but this is again posterior reasoning. Techniques that give results that can be dismissed just because they don’t agree with what we already believe cannot be considered objective. In Australia, some wood found in Tertiary basalt was clearly buried in the lava flow that formed the basalt, because the wood was charred from contact with the hot lava. The wood was ‘dated’ by radiocarbon (14C) analysis at about 45,000 years old, but the basalt was ‘dated’ by the potassium-argon method at 45 million years old! 18

Isotope ratios of uraninite crystals from the Koongarra uranium body in the Northern Territory of Australia gave lead-lead isochron ages of 841 ± 140 Ma.20 This contrasts with an age of 1,550–1,650 Ma based on other isotope ratios,21 and ages of 275, 61, 0, 0, and 0 Ma from thorium/ lead (232Th/208Pb) ratios in five uraninite grains.22 The latter figures are significant because thorium-derived dates should be the more reliable, since thorium is less mobile than the uranium minerals that are the parents of the lead isotopes in the lead-lead system.23 The ‘zero’ ages in this case are consistent with the young age model. More evidence something is wrong 14C in fossils supposedly millions of years old Fossils older than 100,000 years should have too little 14C to measure, but dating labs consistently find 14C, well above background levels, in fossils supposedly many millions of years old.24,25 For example, no source of coal has been found that lacks 14C, yet this fossil fuel supposedly ranges up to hundreds of millions of years old. Fossils in rocks dated at 1–500 Ma by long-age radioisotope dating methods gave an average radiocarbon ‘age’ of about 50,000 years, much less than the limits of modern carbon dating26 (see earlier in this Chapter for why even these ages are inflated). Furthermore, there was no pattern of younger to older in the carbon dates that correlated with the evolutionary/uniformitarian ‘ages’.27 This evidence is consistent with the fossil-bearing rock layers being formed in the year-long global catastrophe of the Global Flood, as flood geologists since Nicholas Steno (1631–1687) have recognized. Even Precambrian (‘older than 545 Ma’) graphite, which is not of organic origin, contains 14C above background levels.28 This is consistent with Earth itself being young. It is an unsolved mystery to evolutionists as to why coal has 14C in it,29 or wood supposedly many millions of years old still has 14C present, but it makes perfect sense in a creationist worldview. Many physical evidences contradict the ‘billions of years’. Of the methods that have been used to estimate the age of Earth, 90% point to an age far less than the billions of years asserted by evolutionists. A few of them:

• Evidence for rapid formation of geological strata, as in the Flood. Some of the evidences are: lack of erosion between rock layers supposedly separated in age by many millions of years; lack of disturbance of rock strata by biological activity (worms, roots, etc.); lack of soil layers; polystrate fossils (which traverse several rock layers vertically—these could not have stood vertically for eons of time while they slowly got buried); thick layers of ‘rock’ bent without fracturing, indicating that the rock was all soft when bent; and more. See Chapter 15 and books by geologists Morris30 and Austin.31

• Red blood cells, proteins, DNA, and carbon-14 have been found in dinosaur bone. None of these should be present if the bones are over 65 million years old (according to evolutionary dating).32

• Earth’s magnetic field has been decaying so fast that it looks like it is less than 10,000 years old. Rapid reversals during the Flood year and fluctuations shortly after would have caused the field energy to drop even faster.33,34

Cross-section of Grand Canyon geology showing the Kaibab upwarp.

Plastic folding of strata shows that the layers were still soft when bent, consistent with them all being laid

down quickly (after Morris35) —not over hundreds of millions of years.

• A supernova is an explosion of a massive star—the explosion briefly

outshines the rest of the galaxy. Supernova remnants (SNRs) should keep expanding for hundreds of thousands of years, according to the physical equations. Yet there are no very old, widely expanded (Stage 3) SNRs, and few moderately old (Stage 1) ones in our galaxy, the Milky Way, or in its satellite galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds. This is just what we would expect for ‘young’ galaxies that have not existed long enough for wide expansion.36,37

• Continents erode so rapidly that they should

have worn away

completely many times over in billions of years.38 The problem is more acute in mountainous regions, and there are also huge plains that are supposedly very old with hardly any erosion. The average height reduction for all the continents of the world is


about 6.0 mm (0.24 inches) per 100 years.39 A height of 150 kilometres (93 miles) of continent would have eroded in 2.5 billion years (the uniformitarian age of the cores of the continents). If erosion had been going on for billions of years, no continents would remain on Earth. For example, North America should have been levelled in just 10 million years if erosion has happened at the average rate. Note that this is an upper age limit, not an actual age.

• Salt is entering the sea much faster than it is escaping. The sea is not nearly salty enough for this to have been happening for billions of years. Even granting generous assumptions to evolutionists, such as the sea having no salt to start with, the sea could not be more than 62 Ma old—far younger than the billions of years believed by evolutionists. Again, this indicates a maximum age, not the actual age.40,41 Dr Russell Humphreys gives other processes inconsistent with billions of years in the booklet Evidence for a Young World. However, creationists cannot prove the age of Earth using a particular scientific method, any more than evolutionists can. They realize that all science is tentative because we do not have all the data, especially when dealing with the past. This is true of both creationist and evolutionist scientific arguments—evolutionists have had to abandon many ‘proofs’ for evolution just as creationists have also had to modify their arguments. The atheistic evolutionist W.B. Provine admitted: “Most of what I learned of the field [evolutionary biology] in graduate (1964–68) school is either wrong or significantly changed.”42 Creationists understand the limitations of dating methods better than evolutionists who claim that they can use processes observed in the present to ‘prove’ that Earth is billions of years old. In reality, all dating methods, including those that point to a young Earth, rely on unprovable assumptions.

Orphan radiohalos

Decaying radioactive particles in solid rock cause spherical zones of damage in the surrounding crystal structure. A speck of radioactive element such as uranium-238, for example, will leave a sphere of discoloration of characteristically different radius for each element it produces in its decay chain to lead-206.43 Viewed in crosssection with a microscope, these spheres appear as rings called radiohalos. Dr Gentry has researched radiohalos for many years, and published his results in leading scientific journals.44 Some of the intermediate decay products—such as the polonium isotopes—have very short half-lives (they decay quickly). For example, 214Po has a half-life of just 164 microseconds. Curiously, rings created by polonium decay are often found without the parent uranium halos. Now, the polonium has to get into the rock before the rock solidifies, but it cannot derive from a uranium speck in the solid rock, otherwise there would be a uranium halo. This suggests the rock formed very quickly.45 There possibly also had to be a period of rapid decay of uranium to produce the amount of polonium that is seen. Orphan halos speak of conditions in the past that do not fit with the uniformitarian view of Earth history, which is the basis of the radiometric dating systems. Do radiometric ‘dates’ have any meaning?

Geologist John Woodmorappe, after analyzing 500 papers published on radioisotope dating, concluded that isotope

dating was rife with circular reasoning, and story telling to fit the preconceived ideas of the researchers.46 The isochron dating technique was once thought to be infallible because it supposedly covered the assumptions about starting conditions and closed systems.47 Geologist Dr Andrew Snelling reported on ‘dating’ of the Koongarra uranium deposits in the Northern Territory of Australia, primarily using the lead-lead isochron method.48 He found that even 113 highly weathered soil samples from the area, which are definitely not closed systems (leaching of parent and daughter isotopes would invalidate the ‘dates’), gave a very nice looking ‘isochron’ line with an ‘age’ of 1,445 ± 20 Ma. Other methods gave ‘ages’ ranging from even higher to all the way down to zero years. Such ‘false isochrons’ are so common that a whole terminology has grown up to describe them, such as apparent isochron, mantle isochron, pseudoisochron, secondary isochron, inherited isochron, erupted isochron, mixing line and mixing isochron. Zheng wrote: “… some of the basic assumptions of the conventional Rb-Sr [rubidium-strontium] isochron method have to be modified and an observed isochron does not certainly define valid age information for a geological system, even if a goodness of fit of the experimental results is obtained in plotting 87Sr/86Sr against 87Rb/86Sr. This problem cannot be overlooked, especially in evaluating the numerical time scale. Similar questions can also arise in applying Sm-Nd [samarium-neodymium] and U-Pb [uranium-lead] isochron methods.”49

Even with ‘isochrons’, part of the isochron line is interpreted as not being due to age—how can one part of the line be attributed to age but the other part of the same line be ignored as irrelevant where it cannot be due to age? Furthermore, even non-radioactive elements will give nice straight lines when ratios of concentrations are plotted.50 Clearly, such patterns are not due to age at all. Another popular dating method is the uranium-lead concordia technique. This effectively combines the two uranium-lead decay series into one diagram. Results that lie on the curve have the same ‘age’ according to the two lead series and are called ‘concordant’. However, the results from zircons, for example, generally lie off the concordia curve —they are discordant (disagree). Numerous models, or stories, have been developed to explain such inconsistent data.51 However, such story-telling is not objective science that proves an old Earth. Dr Snelling has suggested that fractionation (sorting) of elements in the molten state in Earth’s mantle could be a significant factor in explaining the ratios of isotope concentrations, which are interpreted as ages. This would also explain the prevalence of ‘false isochrons’. But how does a geologist tell a false isochron from a ‘good’ one? Results that agree with accepted ages are considered ‘good’. This is circular reasoning and very bad science. As long ago as 1966, Nobel Prize nominee Melvin Cook, Professor of Metallurgy at the University of Utah, pointed out evidence that lead isotope ratios, for example, may involve alteration by important factors other than radioactive decay.52 Cook noted that in ores from the Katanga mine there was an abundance of lead-208, a stable isotope, but no thorium-232 as a source of lead-208. Thorium has a long half-life (decays very slowly) and is not easily leached out of the rock, so if the lead-208 came from thorium decay, some thorium should still be there. Cook suggested that perhaps the lead-208 came about by neutron capture conversion of lead-206 to lead-207 to lead-208.


However, a period of rapid radioactive decay could also explain the data (see below). In either case the data are consistent with an age of thousands of years, not millions of years. Helium and heat: evidence for non-constant decay rates Physicist Dr Robert Gentry has pointed out that the amount of helium (helium derives from the decay of radioactive elements, such as uranium) in zircons from deep (hot) bores is not consistent with an evolutionary age of 1,500 Ma for the granite rocks in which they are found.53 The amount of lead corresponds with current rates of decay of uranium acting over the assumed timescale, but almost all the helium formed should have diffused out of the crystals in that time. The diffusion rates of helium have now been measured and they are very high (100,000 times greater than evolutionary geologists had assumed), so the helium should not be there if the radioactive decay had been going on at present rates for the eons of time claimed by uniformitarians.54 Indeed, modelling of the diffusion indicates that the ‘1.5 billion years’ worth of radioactive decay occurred, but the rate of helium leakage dates these ‘billion-year-old’ zircons at 5,700 ± 2,000 years.55 Research on the concentration and diffusion rates of argon, another product of radioactive decay, agree with the helium data, giving independent confirmation.56 The only sensible explanation for this is that there has been a period of accelerated radioactive decay several thousand years ago. Whatever caused such elevated rates of decay may also have been responsible for the lead isotope anomalies documented by Cook (above). A period of accelerated decay would also solve the puzzle of the amount of heat emanating from Earth—an amount consistent with the amount of radioactive decay that has occurred, but not with a billions of years timescale.57 So, evidence is mounting to suggest a period of rapid radioactive decay in the past, just thousands of years ago. Interestingly, the accelerated decay seems to have affected the longest half-life isotopes most, and particularly those involving alpha-decay.58


There are many lines of evidence that the radiometric dates are not the objective evidence for an old Earth that many claim, and that the world is really only thousands of years old. Although we don’t have all the answers, we have lots of answers.

The dating game by Tas Walker

Excavating the remains of ‘Mungo Man’ in 1974 in Lake Mungo, 1,000 km (600 miles) west of Sydney, Australia. In February 2003, scientists announced that a new suite of tests shows Mungo Man died 40,000 years ago, not 62,000 years as other scientists had claimed based on different dating tests. Both dates contradict the earliest carbon-14 dating results on the ancient remains.In western New South Wales, Australia, part of a semi-arid desert has been set aside as a World Heritage area.1 This may seem curious for such an inhospitable region. But there is a good reason. Evolutionists believe that the site represents an outstanding example of the major stages in man’s evolutionary history.It all centres on the discovery of human remains in sand dunes surrounding ancient Lake Mungo—now a dry, flat plain, vegetated by scraggly salt-tolerant bushes and grasses.The first major find, in 1969, was of crushed and burnt skeletal fragments, interpreted to be of a female called Lake Mungo 1, or more affectionately Mungo Woman.2,3 What made the find significant was the assigned date. Carbon-14 dating (see Dating methods) on bone apatite (the hard bone material) yielded an age of 19,000 years and on collagen (soft tissue) gave 24,700 years.3 This excited the

archaeologists, because that date made their find the oldest human burial in Australia. But carbon-14 dating on nearby charcoal produced an ‘age’ up to 26,500 years. This meant that the skeleton, buried slightly lower than the charcoal, must have been older. Not surprisingly, the older charcoal age was considered to be the ‘most reliable’ estimate3 and

launched Mungo Woman to national and international fame. Jane Balme, of the Centre for Archaeology at the University of Western Australia, put it succinctly, ‘There’s a general perception that there is a competition to get the oldest date and there’s kudos in it.’4Certainly, there was kudos in this date. At 26,000 years, Mungo Woman was nearly twice as old as the previous oldest date for Aboriginal settlement of Australia, and possibly the earliest human cremation in the world.Then, in 1974, Bowler and Thorne found a skeleton sprinkled with powdered red ochre in a grave only 450 metres away.5 This one was well preserved and similar to the skeletons of modern Aborigines. Because the new skeleton, Lake Mungo 3, was found in the same sand bed (technically the same stratigraphic horizon), ‘he’ was assigned the same age as Mungo Woman. Thus Mungo Man became famous too—one of the world’s earliest ritual burials (even though the sex of the individual is still in dispute6). The situation became even more exciting when a different dating method (thermoluminescence, see Dating methods) was used. In 1998, Bowler reported that sand from the Mungo 3 site gave an age of some 42,000 years.5,7 Being older than the


carbon-14 dates, Mungo Man acquired a new stature on the world evolution scene. So, the earlier ‘reliable’ carbon-14 ages were abandoned in favour of the thermoluminescence ones.

Evolution and the first Australians1

Darwin considered the Australian Aborigines as primitive and not much evolved from the ‘anthropoid apes’. He anticipated that the ‘wilder races’ would become extinct because survival of the fittest meant they would be superseded by the evolutionarily-advanced ‘civilised’ races.2 An evolutionary view of human origins underlies the World Heritage listing of the

Lake Mungo site. Such a view was not good for the first Australians. Many atrocities were perpetrated on Aboriginal communities because of these evolutionary beliefs.Incredibly, in the 1800s, it was not uncommon for Aboriginal people to be hunted and shot as specimens for science.3 Their remains were sent to Europe to illustrate evolution displays in museums.

Only now are these remains being returned to their communities.4The first Aboriginal settlers to Australia were descended

from people as intelligent and inventive as any other culture at that time. The Aborigines of Australia lost some of their technological know-how—it can happen in a generation if parents do not pass it on to their children. (Perhaps it was because of isolation and the pressure to cope with a worsening climate as the continent dried out after the Ice Age.) Then, in 1999, Thorne (not to be outdone) and other scientists from the Australian National University published a new comprehensive study on the age of Mungo Man. They used different samples of bone and sand and different dating methods—electron-spin resonance (ESR), optically-stimulated luminescence (OSL), thorium-uranium (Th/U) and protactinium-uranium (Pa/U). (Don’t worry about the big names. See Dating methods.) And the results from all the different methods agreed closely. Their conclusion? Mungo Man was 62,000 years old! Bowler and Magee described this 20,000-year stretch as ‘commendable in intent.’8There was just one small problem. The new date meant that the history of Australian occupation would have to be rewritten and it also affected the ideas of human evolution in other parts of the world. And Australian archaeologists were still embarrassed by the Jinmium rock shelter fiasco, where a claimed age of 116,000 years was later reduced to 5,000 years.9So, Bowler stubbornly refused to accept the new dates. In his protest to Journal of Human Evolution, he said ‘For this complex, laboratory-based dating to be successful, the data must be compatible with the external field evidence.’8 In other words, you don’t just accept a laboratory date without question. It’s not the last word on the age of

something. You only accept the date if it agrees with what you already think it should be.And that is what we have been saying all along.10 In short, the dates are wrong because they are based on wrongassumptions. For example, the carbon-14 method does not account for the disruption of the carbon balance during the Flood some 4,500 years ago.11 The uranium methods do not make the correct assumptions about the initial conditions of the samples or about the effects of changing environmental conditions through time. The luminescence dates have the same problem.

Dating methods1

Carbon-14 dates are determined from the measured ratio of radioactive carbon-14 to normal carbon-12 (14C/12C). Used on

samples which were once alive, such as wood or bone, the measured 14C/12C ratio is compared with the ratio in living things

today. The date is calculated by assuming the change of 14C in the sample is due entirely to radioactive decay. It is also

assumed that carbon has been in equilibrium on the earth for hundreds of thousands of years. Wrong dates are usually caused by assuming a wrong initial 14C/12C ratio, contamination or leaching. Samples from before

the Flood, or from the early post-Flood period, give ages that are too old by tens of thousands of years. This is because the Flood buried lots of 12C-rich plants and animals. This would result in a lower 14C/12C ratio, which is wrongly interpreted as

great age.

Thermoluminescence (TL) dates are obtained from individual grains of common minerals such as quartz. When such grains are heated, they emit light, and this is related to the radiation ‘stored’ in the crystal structure. It is assumed that the radiation was slowly absorbed from the environment, building up from zero at a certain time in the past (perhaps when the grain was last exposed to sunlight). A date is calculated by measuring the light emitted from the mineral grain when it is heated, and measuring the radiation in the environment where the grain was found. Unfortunately, there are many unknowns and many assumptions need to be made, including the amount of radiation ‘stored’ in the mineral at a certain time in the past, that the change in radiation has only been affected by the radiation in the environment, that the radiation in the environment has remained constant, and that the sensitivity of the crystal to radiation has not changed. All these factors can be affected by water, heat, sunlight, the accumulation or leaching of minerals in the environment, and many other causes.

Optically-stimulated luminescence (OSL) dates are based on exactly the same principle as TL. But instead of heating the grain, it is exposed to light to make it emit its ‘stored’ radiation. The calculated date is based on the same assumptions, and affected by the same uncertainties, as for TL.

Electron-spin resonance (ESR) dates are based on the same principles as TL and OSL. However, the ‘stored’ radiation in the sample is measured by exposing it to gamma radiation and measuring the radiation emitted. The measuring technique does not destroy the ‘stored’ radiation (as does TL and OSL), so the measurement can be repeated on the same sample. The calculated date is based on the same assumptions, and affected by the same uncertainties, as for TL and OSL.

Thorium-uranium (Th/U) dates are based on measuring the isotopes of uranium and thorium in a sample. It is known that uranium-238 decays radioactively to form thorium-230 (through a number of steps, including through uranium-234). The dating calculation assumes that the thorium and uranium in the sample are related to each other by radioactive decay. Furthermore, before a date can be calculated, the initial ratios of 230Th/238U and 234U/238U need to be assumed, and it is also

assumed that there has been no gain or loss of uranium or thorium to/from the environment—i.e., that the system is ‘closed’. However, the bone and soil must have been ‘open’ to allow these elements to enter and accumulate.

Protactinium-uranium (Pa/U) dates are based on similar principles as Th/U dating, but use uranium-235 and protactinium-231 instead. The isotope 235U decays radioactively to form 231Pa. Again, it is assumed that the isotopes in the sample are

related to each other by radioactive decay. Also, the initial ratio of 231Pa/235U has to be assumed, and it is assumed that there

has been no gain or loss of uranium or protactinium to/from the environment—i.e., that the system is ‘closed’. Again, any bone sample containing uranium must have been ‘open’ to allow it to accumulate in the first place.


Dating in conflict Which ‘age’ will you trust?

by Hansruedi Stutz

In 1984, I was on a geological excursion in Mägenwil (Switzerland). I collected some sandstone samples with fossilized mussels in it. This rock is classified as belonging to the Upper Tertiary geological system. Evolutionary belief therefore maintains that this rock is around 20 million years old.In the same rock, right alongside the fossil mussels, are fragments of coalified wood.Some time after I took my samples, I discovered the same sandstone, appropriately described as coming from Mägenwil, exhibited in the ‘Geologisch-Mineralogische Austellung der ETH’ in Zürich—naturally, also labelled ‘20 million years old’.That means the wood must also be at least that old. Mainstream geologists would never think of trying to get a radiocarbon (14C) date for the coalified

wood in this Mägenwil sandstone, because anything that old should not be datable by this method.This is because radiocarbon decays very rapidly compared to other radioactive elements such as uranium. So after, say, a theoretical 100,000 years at the most the amount of radiocarbon left in the wood would not be detectable anymore.So anything which really was millions of years old would have no detectable radiocarbon left, and would register as giving an ‘infinite radiocarbon age’. Carbon dating, as it is often called, is thus never used to date ‘old’ fossils (which usually have no organic carbon left anyway).However, I felt this wood probably would give a radiocarbon ‘date’, because I was convinced that this sandstone was the result of residual post-Flood catastrophism, just a few thousand years ago.Such dating wouldn’t show the wood’s true age, since creationists have long shown that the huge imbalance of carbon in the world due to the global Flood catastrophe would give artificially old radiocarbon dates, especially those from the early post-Flood era.1However, if it registered any age at all on the radiocarbon test (and all sources of potential contamination had been eliminated), it would mean that it could not possibly be millions of years old.So I arranged for this coalified wood to be radiocarbon ‘dated’ by the Physikalisches Institute of the University of Bern, Switzerland.2 I assumed that such a prestigious laboratory would take all necessary precautions to eliminate contamination, and allow for all other sources of error.3The result: 36,440 years BP ± 330 years. This discovery, that the 14C in the wood has not yet had time to disintegrate

totally, is in line with what one would expect, based on the young age timelineThe real age is probably less than four thousand years.It seems that long-age believers are left with only three options:

Accept the radiocarbon date. This would mean that the age of the Upper Tertiary shrinks from 20 million to 36,000 years, a factor of around 500 times. The whole geologic dating system would be thrown into disrepute.Arbitrarily reject the radiocarbon date. To be consistent, therefore, they would have to conclude that radiometric dates are not the absolute age indicators we are persistently told, which destroys the main plank in the old-age dogma to begin with.

Ignore the result, and hope not too many get to know about it.

Geological conflict

Young radiocarbon date for ancient fossil wood challenges fossil dating by Andrew A. Snelling

Figure 1. Locality map showing the outcrop pattern of the Marlstone Rock Bed across southern and central England (ref. 1, main article).

For most people, the discovery of fossilised wood in a quarry would not be newsworthy. However, some pieces recently found embedded in limestone alongside some well-known ‘index’ fossils (see aside below) for the ‘Jurassic period’ (supposedly 142– 205.7 million years ago) have proved highly significant.It is not generally realised that index fossils are still crucial to the millions-of-years geological dating, in spite of the advent of radioactive ‘dating’ techniques. Not all locations have rocks suitable for radioactive ‘dating’, but in any case, if a radioactive ‘date’ disagrees with a fossil ‘date’ then it is the latter which usually has precedence.Finding this fossil wood in Jurassic limestone suggested the possibility of testing for the presence of radiocarbon (14C). Most

geologists, however, would not bother with such tests because they wouldn’t expect any 14C to still exist.

With a half-life of only 5,570 years, no 14C should be

detectable after about 50,000 years, let alone millions of years, even with the most sensitive equipment. So this fossilised wood from the Marlstone Rock Bed of Jurassic ‘age’ had potential for testing the validity of the fossil dating technique underpinning modern geology.

The Marlstone Rock Bed

Figure 2. Locality map showing the distribution of the Marlstone Rock Bed west of Banbury, and the Hornton Quarries at Edge Hill near the village of Ratley.


The Marlstone Rock Bed is a distinctive limestone unit that outcrops from Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast of southern England, north-eastwards to just west of Hull near the North Sea coast (Figure 1).1 In many places, the top 5–30 cm (2–12 inches) or more of this bed has been weathered and altered, the original green iron minerals2 being oxidized to limonite (hydrous iron oxides), and also in a few areas the sand content is higher. In the past, the outcrop has been quarried frequently for iron ore or building stone.Evolutionary geologists consider that the top three metres (10 feet) of the Marlstone Rock Bed represent the whole of the Tenuicostatum Zone, the basal zone of the Toarcian Stage,1 the last stage of the Early

Jurassic. This ‘dating’ is based on the presence of the ammonite index fossil Dactylioceras tenuicostatum.1Thus the bed is

said to be about 189 million years old according to the geological time-scale.3Amongst the remaining quarries still ‘working’ the top of the Marlstone Rock Bed are the Hornton Quarries at Edge Hill near the village of Ratley, on the north-western edge of the Edge Hill plateau, some 10½ km (6½ miles) north-west of the town of Banbury (Figures 2 and 3). Building stone, known as ‘Hornton Stone’, has been quarried there since medieval times.4,5Figure 3(a) General view of the south wall of the Hornton Quarries at Edge Hill near Ratley, north-west of Banbury.

A ‘dating’ test at Hornton Quarries

During two visits to the Hornton Quarries, it was established that fossil wood occurs alongside ammonite and belemnite index fossils (see aside below) in the ‘Hornton Stone’, the oxidized silty top of the Marlstone Rock Bed. The ammonite recovered in the quarries is Dactylioceras semicelatum (Figure 4), abundant in a subzone of the Tenuicostatum Zone.1 Fossil wood was actually found sitting on top of a fossilised belemnite (Figure 5), probably belonging to the genus Acrocoelites, a Toarcian Stage index fossil in north-west Europe.6 Many such belemnite fossils had been found during quarrying operations (Figure 6). Together these index fossils have, in evolutionary reckoning, established the rock containing them as being Early Jurassic and about 189 million years old.1,3Logically, the fossil wood

must be the same ‘age’.

Figure 3(b) Closer view of the quarry face of the south wall showing the oxidized limestone of the top of the Marlstone Rock Bed which is quarried as ‘Hornton Brown’ building stone.Three samples of fossil wood were collected from the south wall of Hornton Quarries, one from immediately adjacent to the belemnite fossil (Figure 5) during the first visit, and two from locations nearby during the second visit. All the fossil wood samples were from short broken lengths of what were probably branches of trees fossilised in situ. The woody internal structure was clearly evident, thus the samples were not the remains of roots that had grown into this weathered rock from trees on the present land surface. When sampled, the fossil wood readily splintered, diagnostic of it still being ‘woody’ in spite of its impregnation with iron minerals during fossilisation.Pieces of all three samples were sent for radiocarbon (14C) analyses to Geochron Laboratories in Cambridge, Boston (USA), while

as a cross-check, a piece of the first sample was also sent to the Antares Mass Spectrometry Laboratory at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Lucas Heights near Sydney (Australia). Both laboratories are reputable and internationally recognised, the former a commercial laboratory and the latter a major research laboratory.The staff at these laboratories were not told exactly where the samples came from, or their supposed evolutionary age, to ensure that there would be no resultant bias.Both laboratories used the more sensitive accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) technique for radiocarbon analyses, recognised as producing reliable results even on samples with minute quantities of carbon.

The results

Figure 4. The ammonite index fossil Dactylioceras semicelatum recovered from the top section of the Marlstone Rock Bed in the Hornton Quarries at Edge Hill.

The radiocarbon (14C) results are listed in Table 1. Obviously, there was detectable

radiocarbon in all the fossil wood samples, the calculated 14C ‘ages’ ranging from

20,700 ± 1,200 to 28,820 ± 350 years BP (Before Present).For sample UK-HB-1, collected from on top of the belemnite index fossil (Figure 5), the results from the two laboratories are reasonably close to one another within the error margins, and when averaged yield a 14C ‘age’ almost identical (within the error margins) to the

22,730 ± 170 years BP of sample UK-HB-2.

Figure 5. Fossil wood in the top section of the Marlstone Rock Bed exposed in the south wall of the Hornton Quarries at Edge Hill. The pen is not only for scale, but points to an end-on circular profile of a belemnite fossil sitting directly underneath the fossil wood (sampled as UK-HB-1).Alternatively, if all four results on the three samples are averaged, the 14C ‘age’ is almost identical (within the error margins) to

the Geochron result for UK-HB-1 of 24,005 ± 600 years BP. This suggests that a reasonable estimate for the 14C ‘age’ of this fossil wood would be 23,000–23,500

years BP.Quite obviously this radiocarbon ‘age’ is drastically short of the ‘age’ of 189 million years for the index fossils found with the fossil wood, and thus for the host rock.Of course, uniformitarian geologists would not even test this fossil wood for radiocarbon. They don’t expect any to be in it, since they would regard it as about 189 million years old due to the ‘age’ of the index fossils. No detectable 14C would

remain in wood older than about 50,000 years. Undoubtedly, they would thus suggest that the radiocarbon, which has been unequivocally demonstrated to be in this fossil wood, is due somehow to contamination. Such a criticism is totally unjustified

Index fossils and geologic dating

Figure 6. Four belemnite fossils, probably Acrocoelites, recovered from the top section of the Marlstone Rock Bed in the Hornton Quarries at Edge Hill (pen for scale). These cylindrical skeletal shells of the belemnites which taper to apices are



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