Some Basic Assumptions of Radiometric Age Dating

It is important for us to understand some of the basic assumptions in this field of radiometric age dating.

  1. First, such studies presuppose that the Big Bang Theory is correct, even though it cannot be demonstrated in the laboratory.
  2. Second, such studies assume that at the very beginning of the earth, the parent compound being studied was in 100% pure form without any daughter elements being present.  For example, they would assume that in the Uranium-Lead dating, there was only uranium and no lead when the earth began.
  3. Third, they assume that within any sample, neither uranium or lead has been added or depleted to the sample.  In other words, they assume uniform conditions.
  4. Fourth, they assume that radiometric dating of meteorites should give more reliable dates as they were not subject to mixing as the earth crust is.

In the absence of these assumptions, radiometric age dating would not have meaning.  Unfortunately, none of these assumptions can be proven.

The Supposed Age of the Earth

Modern geologists and geophysicists tell us that the age of the earth is about 4.54 billion years, and they base this on radiometric age dating of meteorite material.  The say this age is consistent with the ages of the oldest known terrestrial and lunar samples.1  Of course, this is given to us by some really intelligent people.  However, I bet they cannot tell me what they ate for supper 4.54 years ago!  Jesting aside, we need to crawl down the gullet of this branch of science, just as we will do with the theory of evolution, to try to discover its assumptions, accuracy and dependability.

You may ask why I distrust science since I am a physician.  I suppose I distrust it because I am a physician.  Medicine is a vigorous and demanding applied science, and I have learned that a researcher's bias can make the conclusions from his/hers research very misleading.  I have learned that the financial interests of drug companies can trump the well-being of patients, and that both physicians and patients can be deprived of needed information, and even purposefully given false information for the sake of the shareholders' bottom line.  I have learned that what is true today for a condition or treatment may be passé tomorrow, and that one person's science will be viewed as ignorance by another person's science in just a matter of years.

No, I do not hallow the halls of science.  I know that medical researchers must be blinded, that patients must be blinded, that the study must be placebo-controlled, that the subjects must be randomized, and that such a study must be confirmed by other similar studies with similar methods, or I cannot fully trust the information.  I would rather see a meta-analysis of such studies before making a conclusion.  Yet I know that whatever conclusion I arrive at today will still be questioned some time in the future.  Science is never the final answer to anything.  Its results are always partially true and partially false, but one cannot know which is true until the passage of time.  We are always arriving, but never quite there, regardless of the safeguards.  When I went to medical school, my professors said that at least 50% of the knowledge they taught would be proven incorrect in the future, but they just didn't know which 50% it would be!  I thought they were jesting, but they were not far wrong in retrospect.

If medical science demands so many controls, what about earth sciences?  How do you blind a geologist or a geophysicist so as to nullify their bias in the research?  Do they say they are unimpassioned, that they only care for the evidence, and so they need no blinding?  That should tell you their bias is extreme and they don't even realize it.  How do you nullify the effect of a geologist's or geophysicist's sponsor?  Frequently both money and political interests skew conclusions.  At times a societal imperative could dictate the conclusions.  But these things will never produce absolute truth, but only half-truths and even purposeful lies.

As an example of why I have such reservations in regard to scientific analyses and pronouncements, let us move on to look more critically at the radiometric age dating science.  Recently I have been studying the confusing chronology of ancient Egypt in the 1st and 2nd millenniums B.C..  I was hoping that radiocarbon dating of some of the pyramids in Egypt might furnish me with specific and objective anchors for chronology purposes.  Radiocarbon dating is supposed to be reasonably accurate, and in 2008, calibrated C-14 results were supposedly accurate within ±40 years for specimens up to 10,000 years old.2  However, when I found the results of Bonani et. al., I was amazed at the very large upper and lower limits for the data from two of the pyramids.3  In the online PDF version of their article published in Radiocarbon in 2001, it is clear that they employed a formula that allowed them to ignore points of data that were too far from the mean, and this was based on the assumption that the data was not representative of the site.4  They explained their willingness to exclude that data on the rationale that these outliers represented "old wood" that was used at the construction site, i.e., wood that was several hundred years old when it was used to construct the pyramids.  I was amazed at this assumption.  Since wood for daily cooking would have been urgently needed by every Egyptian household on a daily basis in that desert land, and since the population knew exactly where such wood could be found along the Nile and the delta, it is inconceivable to me that any wood could have laid around for hundreds of years before being used.  Therefore, I question their formula to exclude data that represented "outliers" to them as I cannot accept their rationalizations regarding "old wood."

Under any other circumstances, such data would imply that something is drastically wrong with the methodology being used.  For example, in the medical field, laboratory testing is carefully regulated by the College of American Pathologists (CAP).  Individual laboratories must keep a constant watch on the results of their tests to make sure they recognize any shifts or trends.  In general, if results show a two standard deviations from the mean, the laboratory must immediately take action.  This might mean getting new reagents from a different supplier and repeating the analysis on reserved frozen samples of blood.  If the laboratory continues to demonstrate two standard deviations from the mean in their results, they must stop performing that test and send any such requests to another laboratory.  In addition, CAP demands proficiency testing for laboratories.  If a laboratory cannot demonstrate proficiency on the CAP tests, they may not run those tests until they can show correction in methodology and results.  In certain fields, such as blood banking, there is a ZERO tolerance for any error on CAP testing.  Clearly these stringent regulations are necessary to protect the health of patients.  However, even these safeguards in the medical laboratory arena do not fully protect the patient.  Many tests can now be run simultaneously on the same blood specimen.  These panels, however, may have errors in 10% of their values.  This may result in missed diagnoses, and also in erroneous diagnoses.  Both of these types of errors complicate the treatment of patients.

The point I am trying to make is this: the field of medical laboratory science is rigorous and strict.  And such demanding and exacting methodology is absolutely necessary for correct diagnosis and treatment of sick people.  However, such exacting methodology makes the earth sciences fields look rather careless when it comes to the supposed age of a pyramid or the earth.  Woodmorappe has retrieved and logged the numerous results of radiometric age dating of the earth.  He summarizes these as follows:

...isotopic dates from the earth's crust span a considerable range--from negative values to ones in excess of 10 billion years.  The vast majority of dates, however, fall within the range of a few million years to about 2.5-billion years.5

The first thing we must note is the enormous range involved here.  First, some of these published values for the age of the earth are NEGATIVE numbers (which means that the earth is yet to be born).  Second, some of the values are "older than the earth."  Third, the majority of these studies do not support a date of 4.5 billion years.  Clearly we have major problems with shifts and trends that would indicate methodological problems with significant errors and/or outliers for the data.

Woodmorappe also attempted to account for any bias for a young earth in this data by using lognormal distributions, and found the median age of the earth from this data to be 141 million years with the 1st standard deviation of 52.5-380 million years, the 2nd standard deviation 19.5 million-1.02 billion years, and the 3rd standard deviation 7.24 million-2.75 billion years.  The proposed "consensus" value for the age of the earth of 4.5 billion years is substantially greater than 3 standard deviations from the median, whether the data is examined in a short-running log normal or long-running log normal analysis.6

Therefore, it appears that the radiometric dating of the earth is problematic, perhaps beyond repair.  Therefore, it now appears that these scientists have turned to meteorites in order to date the earth, assuming that meteorites should have the same beginning date as the earth according to the Big Bang Theory.

Most geological samples from Earth are unable to give a direct date of the formation of Earth from the solar nebula because Earth has undergone differentiation into the core, mantle, and crust, and this has then undergone a long history of mixing and unmixing of these sample reservoirs by plate tectonics, weathering, and hydrothermal circulation.7

However, it remains to be seen whether this source will really reveal all that is hoped.  What is the source of meteorites?  How do we know that they did not come from somewhere else where similar problems existed?  Can we assume that data will not be excluded because it doesn't match the scientist's preconceived notions?  That has never been a safe assumption in any branch of science.

So what is the age of the earth?  The Bible doesn't specify, but does appear to include the creation of heaven and earth in the six days of creation (Ex 20:11).  In fact, with all the disagreement and the obviously serious methodological problems in the scientific community, I must conclude that an objective answer does not abide there.  My preference is to keep the Bible as my reference for beginnings.  It makes makes much more sense than a pseudoscientific range of less than zero to 10 billion years!