On a recent trip to the Grand Canyon, I was reminded of how misunderstood dating methods have become. We hear dates quoted as fact so often that they’re held up as mathematical fact. Few understand that the answer to a math problem is only as accurate as the starting information—and that in the case of dating methods, that starting information is based on unverifiable assumptions.
To understand the importance of starting information being accurate in a math equation, let’s look at simple everyday problem: the area of a rectangle. The area of a rectangle equals the length times the width. If I am trying to find the area of a rectangle that’s 5 feet long and 4 feet wide, the area will be 5 feet times 4 feet, or 20 square feet.
Now, that area is correct if and only if the length is 5 feet and the area is 4 feet. If I’m wrong about either of those dimensions, my answer will be wrong too, even though I did the multiplication correctly. My answer is only as accurate as my starting information.
The same thing holds true of dating methods. The mathematical formulae used in dating methods all use starting information—and the answers are only as accurate as that starting information.
Only unlike the length and width of a rectangle (both of which are measurements we can verify in the present), the starting information for dating methods consists of assumptions about the past. Assumptions about the past cannot be verified because we don’t live in the past. And if the assumptions are incorrect, so are the answers.
There’s a lot that could be said about the inaccuracy of dating methods (see the Additional Reading section below), but my main point here is that next time you’re quoted a scientific “fact” related to the past, question the starting assumptions. Know that even if you’re shown math formulae, those formulae are only as good as the starting information. And in the case of dealing with the past, that starting information is based on unverifiable assumptions.
We’d be wise to start with the eyewitness record God gave us in the Bible. We don’t have to guess about the past because God was there and told us what happened. When we look at wonders like the Grand Canyon through the Bible’s eyes, we start with different assumptions. The Bible tells us there was a worldwide flood that caused massive change and upheaval—the kind needed to form the canyon’s layers quickly. The canyon makes perfect sense if we start with biblical assumptions (see the Additional Reading section below). In fact, we see the canyon’s incredible layers as a testimony to that flood: a reminder that God is faithful to punish as well as to save.
Tired of Math That Seems Disconnected from Real Life?
heck out Katherine’s math resources, in which students learn to apply each concept they’re learning, building their worldview as they go. In fact, when students explore exponents and unknowns in Book 2 of Principles of Mathematics, they actually explore radiometric dating and its assumptions.
Referring to Book 1 of Principles of Mathematics, one homeschool mom (Brook Wayne), wrote the following: “My daughter has absolutely loved working through Principles of Mathematics! I’ve been so impressed with the creative teaching and diversity covered in the lessons. In my daughter’s words ‘this book really SHOWS you how math is used in real life. Like look at this part about the music notes, or this part about cooking! This is SO fun!’ I often catch her sneaking in another lesson in the evening.”
Additional Reading on Radiometric Dating
Dr. Andrew A. Snelling, “Radiometric Dating: Problems with the Assumptions,” Answers Magazine (September 2, 2009; last featured August 4, 2010), https://answersingenesis.org/geology/radiometric-dating/radiometric-dating-problems-with-the-assumptions
Katherine Loop, Principles of Mathematics: Biblical Worldview Curriculum, Book 2. (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2016), p. 300-301.
Don Batten, Ken Ham, Jonathan Sarfati, and Carl Wieland, The Revised and Expanded Answers Book: The 20 Most-Asked Questions About Creation, Evolution, & the Book of Genesis Answered! Rev. ed. (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2000), p. 81.
Additional Reading on the Grand Canyon.