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Radiometric Dating on Trial: How Reliable Is It? Part 1

There are many techniques and lines of evidence for dating the age of the earth and of rocks and fossils.

In his book, “The Science of Evolution,” on page 84, William D. Stansfield, a devout and prestigious evolutionist, lists multiple techniques and evidences for dating the age of the earth, all of which, Stansfield admits, indicate a much younger earth than the 4 billion or so years typically advocated by evolutionists.

Stansfield says these lines of evidence include 1) water (quantity) from volcanoes, 2) lava from volcanoes, 3) underground oil pressure which lessens over time, 4) uranium accumulation in the oceans, 5) Carbon-14 in the atmosphere, 6) helium in the atmosphere produced from uranium decay which ought to be about 10,000 times higher than it actually is if, in fact, the earth is 4 billion years old, 7) meteoric dust accumulation-which currently accumulates at the rate of somewhat over 14 ½ billion tons per year, 8) meteorites and meteoric dust in strata (which is for all practical purposes non-existent, and 9) population dynamics.

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Curiously enough, only ONE dating method is known by the general public and only ONE dating method is routinely used by the faithful devotees of evolution, that of radiometric dating from radioactive decay, that is, the measurement of “daughter elements” present in igneous rock as compared to the “parent” radioactive element. For example, uranium decays ultimately into lead, radioactive potassium decays into argon, and radioactive rubidium decays into strontium. The theory is that a comparison of the ratios of parent to daughter elements gives us an age determination based upon the believed half-life of the radioactive element. This method of dating assumes that we know the beginning conditions of rock containing radioactive elements and it assumes that we are dealing with closed systems in the rock of the ground (no leaching in or out of minerals and elements), an assumption that no one believes to be true.

There is an agenda on the part of evolutionists for this preference for radiometric dating over other methods of dating: namely, of all of the methods for dating the age of the earth, the radiometric technique yields the oldest results. Never mind that the other methods yield dating results at variance with radiometric dating–something which should be a red flag to any objective inquirer. Ancient ages to the tune of billions of years are deemed NECESSARY by evolutionists to prop up faltering evolutionary dogma. Therefore, no other justification for relying on radiometric dating and ignoring other dating methods is deemed necessary or required.

Consider me the prosecuting attorney here. I am hereby bringing charges against radiometric dating. I accuse radiometric dating (more accurately the assumptions which are utilized in connection with radiometric dating) of fraud. In a court of law there are two legal kinds of fraud: “actual fraud” and “constructive fraud,” the distinction being the first is deliberate and the latter is inadvertent. I will let you, the reader, decide whether we have been the victims of actual or constructive fraud on the part of evolutionists.

I assert that radiometric dating is completely unreliable. I have some witnesses to summon, both friendly and hostile, to solidly back up this claim.


My first witness is ROGER LEWIN, hard-core evolutionist and atheist, Ph. D. in biochemistry, was editor of research news at the prestigious “Science” magazine in Washington D.C., and was editor at “New Science” magazine in London. Lewin is an INSIDER in the world of paleoanthropology and co-authored three books (Origins and Origins Reconsidered and The Sixth Extinction) with Richard Leakey, son of the famous Louis Leakey.

Lewin’s book, “Bones of Contention” is a kind of play-by-play recounting of the famous and longstanding controversy between the Leakeys and Donald Johanson regarding supposed human evolutionary origins.

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Roger Lewin is by no stretch of the imagination a fellow traveler with creationists and certainly not young earth creationists. I found Lewin’s Bones of Contention to be kind of tedious and boring reading but also very eye opening at certain points and well worth the tedium for what it tells us about the world of “science,” and especially the world of paleoanthropology.

In “Bones of Contention,” Lewin has earned for himself the title “Whistleblower of Paleoanthropology.” Lewin gives us a candid insiders’ view and paints a picture of a “science” given over to WHOLLY SUBJECTIVE INTERPRETATION OF THE EVIDENCE, and also of prima donna egos run amok. Lewin’s book focuses mainly upon the conflict of opinions and strife for preeminence in the world of paleoanthropology between the Leakeys and Donald Johanson (the Leakeys asserting a very ancient origin for the genus Homo and Johanson a more recent one).

I am personally more interested in the science but it is a very valuable lesson Lewin teaches about the role of subjective interpretation in science. Lewin sums up the world of paleoanthropology on pg. 19 by giving us a play on words on the old proverb, “If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it.” In a humorous twist of the old expression, Lewin characterizes the modus operandi of paleoanthropologists:

“The anonymous aphorism ‘I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it’ is a continuing truth in science.”

In other words, Lewin is saying scientists see what they WANT to see. The belief comes first, then the endeavor to fit the data into the belief system and the dismissal of contrary evidence. They project their own mental constructs and superimpose them like a veneer onto the raw data. The actual raw data, unfortunately, cuts an enormously wide path for personalities given over to subjectivism to play around with. Lewin notes on page 23 that there are “a limited number of fossil sites to work, and a still pitifully small inventory of fossils to analyze,” and on page 194 (regarding the famous skull 1470) and directly pertinent to radiometric dating:

“At a conference in Nairobi held in September 1973 they presented 41 SEPARATE AGE DETERMINATIONS on the KBS Tuff [where the skull was found], WHICH VARIED BETWEEN 223 MILLION AND 0.91 MILLION” years of age using radiometric dating !!! (emph. supp.)

Don’t just hurry by that. Note well: 41 separate and discordant age determinations using radiometric dating ranging from 900,000 years to 223 million years! Leakey picked the result he liked and discarded the other forty results, the general public being none the wiser. This kind of smorgasbord approach to dating of rocks and fossils is unfortunately routine. It is the rule rather than the exception. Why not pick the 223 million year result?

Unfortunately, Lewin does NOT inform his readers that such variations of radiometric dating results are the RULE across ALL of the scientific disciplines which use radiometric dating. The scientists pick the dates they like and DISCARD (upon what criterion?) the rest of the dates that don’t conform to their pet theories, in this case 40(!!!) total other dating results discarded based upon wholly subjective considerations. The discarded results are arbitrarily labeled as “aberrations,” or “contaminated,” or the result of careless testing procedures.  The trade secret of modern “science” is that radiometric dating is entirely useless and based on layer upon layer of assumptions.

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As an aside, Richard Milton observes on pg. 203 of his book, Shattering the Myths of Darwinism:

“The real status of Australopithecus [a central focus of the controversy between Richard Leakey and Donald Johanson] as AN EXTINCT APE was ESTABLISHED as long ago as 1954 by…Solly Zuckerman and his colleagues…” (emph. supp.)

The Leakeys and Johanson and their disciples plodded on for DECADES afterwards promoting a complete mythology as plausible science, all in the pursuit of egocentric vainglory. Much of their totally subjective pseudoscience persists to this day and is chronicled by Lewin.

I shall proceed in this series to bring forth other witnesses to show that the skull 1470 case is no anomaly or exception or mere anecdote. This case accurately characterizes the entire enterprise of radiometric dating. Our next witness in Part 2 will be Richard Milton.

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Written by Tom Shipley

I am a former atheist and was an evolutionist during my college days, but came to faith in Christ at the age of 20. I regard my pro-creation activities as part of the work of the kingdom of God. I believe that a very tough, strident and unapologetic stance against evolution is called for though I may soften my tone if and when Mark Armitage and David Coppedge, fired for their creationist beliefs, are given their jobs back. Articles copyright Tom Shipley. All Rights Reserved.

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