Confessions of a YEC part 16- Radioactive! (Imagine Deep Time)

I will freely confess that I am a Young Earth Creationist (YEC). I believe Genesis 1 when it tells us how God created the heavens and the earth about 6,000 years ago. Previously I showed how the Bible- including the words of God in the Old Testament and the words of Jesus in the New Testament- confirms this over and over. I also showed how Big Bang cosmology fails to provide an alternative, and now we’re examining why Geology doesn’t even scratch the paint of Genesis 1, but rather confirms the Genesis history, including especially the flood.

But wait! There is one more fabu` super powered, very popular and little understood science trick up the deep time sleeve which is SURE to save the day for BILLIONS of years! Radio Dating! This is where a device which was designed to receive signals from various AM and FM sources logs onto a popular matching website to find an MP3 player which he feels he is compatible with, and they go out for dinner and a movie.

Oh, wait, no. That may be the plot of a new Pixar movie. But Radio Dating is those methods which use the decay rates of unstable atoms to determine the age of rocks. The majority of these methods are only able to be used on volcanic rock. When the liquid rock cools and hardens, the clock is set at zero and the radioactive elements in the rock begin to decay. We can measure the rate at which radioactive elements decay, and thus we can measure the amount of original element to the amount of daughter element which it becomes when it decays. If you know the ratio of parent to daughter, and you know the rate of radioactive decay, then you know how old the rock is, right?

Here’s a metaphor. Imagine a box full of red marbles. No matter how many marbles you start with- four, fifty nine, 326, four thousand, etc. – HALF of them will turn blue in one hour once you open the box. Thus, one hour is the HALF LIFE. If you find a box, you can determine how long it has been open by counting the red ones and the blue ones and doing a little math. If you start with 100 red ones, in one hour, fifty will be blue. Another hour later, seventy five will be blue because half of the remaining red ones will have turned blue. After three hours, another 12 marbles will be blue. If you count 87 blue marbles in a box of 100 marbles, the box has been open for three hours.

Here’s the problem. How do we know all of the marbles were red to start with? We don’t. We have to assume that.

How do we know the red ones turn blue at the same rate all the time? We don’t know that. We have to assume it.

And how do we know that no one has come along and put more blue or red marbles since it was opened? We don’t know that either. We have to assume that the number of marbles has remained unchanged.

How can we trust our method of determining how long the box has been open? Either we stubbornly dig in our heels, or we admit that we cannot use that method.

Do we have any cause to doubt the results of Radio Dating? Boy, do we! I could go on for pages with examples, but my favorite comes from right here in the good old US of A. When the lava rock at the top of Mt. St Helens was dated using these methods, we first got dates that ranged from 300,000 to 2.8 Million years. That’s a HUGE margin- like two scientists measuring the Empire State Building and one declaring that it is 1,250 feet tall (Which it is) and the other declaring that it is more than two MILES tall. Which it is not. That’s a ratio of 8:1, which I do not consider very accurate. However, the accuracy is wrong by far more then eight times.

The best part about this lava flow they tested is this: We KNOW when the lava rock formed. How? We watched it happen in 1980. (Quick unnecessary joke: Science tells us that the rock is 300,000 years old, and we know that Madonna is older than that rock! I suppose she does look good for her age. OK, back to the science.) The rock was less than 30 years old. This is like our two scientists having come to the two measurements above by measuring a model of the Empire State Building which is actually an inch and a half tall.

Starting to see why some of us don’t trust these methods? This is like figuring out that someone calculated how long your box of marbles had been open, and determined it was six hours, when you had opened the box yourself just fifteen seconds before. His math might be perfect, but his assumptions lead to a false conclusion. To put a point on it- we ALWAYS find blue marbles when we open a new box. In fact, we may never find any boxes which are all red to start with. What does that do to our system of determining how long the box has been open?

And this is not a new issue. We didn’t just discover the failure of these dating methods recently. Check out the date on this quote:

“200 year old lava rock dated at 1.60 million to 2.96 billion years!”
Journal of Geophysical Research,
July 15, 1968.

This system has been failing ever since we started using it. Optimism dies hard, I suppose. I wonder if there are an unbalanced number of Chicago Cub’s fans among these geologists?

There is another issue to consider. We’ve assumed that the red marbles turn blue at the same rate, under any conditions. However, what if we discover that, the higher the humidity or temperature, the faster they change? The calculations between February and August would be VASTLY different for boxes opened the same amount of time. But is there evidence that anything like that can happen with radioactive decay? Yes, there is. To get the details on one such report, read this article.

This is like discovering that your box of one hundred marbles can turn almost entirely blue in less than eight seconds. That should shake your confidence in the process, yes?

Here’s one more quote which I think sums up my argument.

“The radioactive potassium-argon dating method has been demonstrated to fail on 1949, 1954, and 1975 lava flows at Mt Ngauruhoe, New Zealand, … We know the true ages of the rocks because they were observed to form less than 50 years ago. Yet they yield “ages” up to 3.5 million years which are thus false. How can we trust the use of this same “dating” on rocks whose ages we don’t know? If the method fails on rocks when we have an independent eye-witness account, then why should we trust it on other rocks where there are no independent historical cross-checks?”

The funny thing about such scientific results is the response from those who are DETERMINED to hold onto these dating methods. They either argue,

“A whole bunch of blue marbles from some other box fell into this one before we started counting,”

or, “A whole lot of red marbles fell out of the box before we started counting,”

or “A bunch of these marbles were blue before the box was opened.”

Somehow they think those are argument in defense of these methods, but if you give it any thought, you’ll see that they are agreeing with my premise; Their assumptions CANNOT be trusted to be accurate, and thus the conclusions of these dating methods are NOT reliable. We have the data to back that up in droves.

Here is a link to an article which lists more examples of volcanic rock being dated MILLIONS of years older than we KNOW it actually is.

EVERY TIME we date volcanic rock we know the age of, the resulting ages are wrong by hundreds of thousands or millions of years. Why would we trust it to find the age of rocks we don’t know? If my bathroom scale says my hamster is 800 lbs, I’m not stepping on that thing to see what I might weigh.

Enjoy a fun look at more of the same from Ian Juby, including even more funny replies from the stubborn optimists who refuse to let radio dating go. And as always, thanks for letting me be your Rent-A-Friend.

14 thoughts on “Confessions of a YEC part 16- Radioactive! (Imagine Deep Time)

  1. It pains me to reply but this relates to an are that I work in so it’s always an interest of mine. I wonder, though, how much you know about radiometric dating. Forget your box of marbles, using K-Argon dating is like measuring the width of a matchbook with a mile long measuring stick. Anyone who investigates this rather than simply parroting Ken Harm will know that this method is useless for dates less than 10k years old and that there is typically a 2-sigma plus or minus factors. Forget your hundred percent proofs – these are statistical calculations that show ranges. Jeered. Surely you can do better?

    • Welcome again Dennis. Once again, I’m sure you know exactly what you mean, but when you don’t explain yourself it forces me to make a lot of guesses at what you are saying. “using K-Argon dating is like measuring the width of a matchbook with a mile long measuring stick.” It’s a great word picture, but you don’t clarify what this means. Using it on what? ANYTHING? What I think this means is that, for rocks less than 10k years old, this kind of measurement won’t work, and can’t be used to get accurate dates. I think you’re right, but also slightly backwards. If the problem is that the rock is too young, then the dates should have come back as ZERO years, not MILLIONS of years. But your point (if I understand it), that these methods cannot be used to get accurate dates on rocks less than 10k years old, is absolutely correct. Which is also why I know they can NEVER be trusted.

      You fail to address the main topic of the post, which is that the methods are based on assumptions which CANNOT be proven and HAVE been shown to be false, but your comment is actually one of the points Ian Juby makes in the video linked at the end, and which I made in the post linked below: If the rocks are less than 10k- then these methods will come back with WRONG dates because they are based on the ASSUMPTION/BLIND FAITH the rocks are VASTLY older. I believe ALL of the earth’s rocks are less than 10K based on the historical narrative in Genesis and the extra-biblical evidence which supports it. You believe otherwise but cannot prove it, and must ASSUME it to be so when using these dating methods.

      In the examples I give, we KNEW the age of the rock because we watched it form, and we KNOW the dates given by those methods are wrong because they are VASTLY older than the dates we know by observation. But when you get the SAME range of dates from rocks we did not see form, how do you know the dates are right in that case? If I’m right, they cannot be. And you cannot KNOW you are right. You must assume BEFORE you use those methods what the age of the rock SHOULD be (Based on evolutionary theory) and then cherry pick the radio dates that agree with the assumption.

      One does not need to parrot Ken Ham to see why the assumption of deep time is flawed and based on blind faith. One need only look at the methods and the observed data. Please watch the Ian Juby video for more examples and explanation. And feel free to check out my other post on a similar topic which does address the topic of the ranges of dates returned as well. And thanks for letting me be your Rent-A-Friend.

      • It’s a great idea to approach only one question at a time – avoid the whole Gish Gush.

        So you argue that what is considered an immutable natural property of an element based on observation, prediction, and falsification is, in fact, not immutable, but can change? Or do you just consider calculated half-lives to be incorrect?

        To further clarify – are you saying that tritium doesn’t have a half-life or that about 12.5 years is wrong?


      • Greetings again Dennis. I am saying nothing about any particular half life. I am saying that there are three assumptions which must be made to use any radio dating method:
        1. The Decay rates have always been the same under any conditions,
        but there have been multiple lab tests which reported an increase in decay rates under increased temperature and pressure, and other evidence that suggests a much faster rate in the past for radioactive decay (See radio halos link below). Even if there was not, this is not a provable assumption. It must be accepted on faith, and I do not share that faith.
        2. There is NO daughter element in the lava rock when it forms,
        but we find daughter element in rocks which leads to the dates being hundreds of thousands to millions or billions of years too old.
        3. no process has put in/taken out any daughter element since the decay began,
        yet “Contamination” is the most common reason given by deep time proponents of an age given by these methods which doesn’t fit the evolutionary assumptions.

        So, I do not doubt that there are lab tests which show reasons to believe that tritium has a half life of 12.5 years. I have no reason to question that, as it is something we could observe in the lab within a single lifetime. We cannot observe other elements decay for a billion years. We must make assumptions about them based on a comparatively VERY small window of time. IF those assumptions are all correct, then the calculated half lives are certainly reasonable, but as I have said those IFs are based on other assumptions, and there is evidence which has been seen to discredit them as incorrect. The necessary assumptions are not true.
        That tritium can be observed to have a half life of 12.5 years does not mean that there are NO conditions under which the decay rate of tritium is different, nor does it mean that rocks containing it cannot be contaminated by natural processes, leading to false dates up or down. I would also not be surprised if a rock that should show NO daughter elements because of its age had far more than it ought to based on radioactive decay, as this has been a pattern for decades using many radio dating methods. The property of half life decay is not known to be immutable, as observations show the opposite, and it is not truly based on observation as we cannot observe even ONE half life of MANY radioactive elements, and are forced to extrapolate far beyond ANY observation.
        I hope that clears it up. Thanks again for your question.

      • Do you then argue that:

        For those elements where we can monitor half-lives under natural conditions we see no deviation from agreed to values.

        For those elements with longer half-lives such as K-40 we have no way of knowing if rates have changed.

        The earth is about 6,000 years old.

        Either half-lives have changed, the model is flawed, God created the universe with an appearance of age, or some combination of the three.


        BTW – the only real research I know of where half-lives have changed is when high-z elements are bathed in election in enormously high ratios. And this change is predicted based on the nature of the materials and their make-up.

        I know that a team in California published a paper s few years ago arguing that they find light changes in half-lives for a particular data but no one else has been able to reproduce their math

        I don’t believe there is any other peer reviewed work from real life physicist finding changes in half life under any natural conditions.

      • Good day to you Dennis. For those we CAN monitor, we have agreed to values. If we observe a variation on that, we would probably argue user error or something akin to “contamination,” or as in the case of Tritium, we found several experimentally verified half lives and some consensus must be made by whatever group determines themselves to set these things.

        But the bigger picture is beyond not knowing if the decay rate of other elements has changed. Unless you have a Biblical worldview and know that “God upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3) then you have no way of knowing that ANYTHING has been constant, or that it will be the same tomorrow. If you agree that the universe came into being as an uncaused big bang, then why should it not change within with little splashes? How do you know water boiled at the same temperature 2,000 years ago? Or that Gravity will be the same tomorrow? I have more cause than you to believe the constancy of natural laws and the actions within.

        As for your other questions, Yes, the earth is 6,000 years old. See my “Confessions of a YEC” series for that (LINK BELOW). And God may have made the earth with what we would call the “appearance of age.” Had you seen Adam a few minutes after his creation you would not have seen an infant. He would have appeared older.
        I cannot say if half lives have changed, as I have no data from a thousand, two, three, or four thousand years ago to compare to today’s observed rates, but as I have showed with the assumptions the methods are based on, the system is flawed because it is based on untestable assumptions which have been shown to be false assumptions on many occasions, and it is also based and calibrated on the incorrect view of deep time and evolution. If you start off with wrong assumptions, you are destined to get wrong results. As I said before, your dating methods are based on blind faith in things you cannot know, and things for which there is reason to reject.
        Just ask yourself- when I test for the daughter element in any rock using any method, how do I know there was no daughter element in that rock as soon as it formed? How do I know no daughter element has escaped or been added by natural process before I found it? Yet, to trust the ages you get, do you not have to pretend you know the answer to these questions? But if the answer is based on information you invent then of what use are those dates?
        Thanks again for your questions, and thanks for letting me be your Rent-A-Friend.

      • You’re explanation of assumptions is precisely backwards. We can have confidence in uniformitarianism for at least two reasons. One is that we have no experimental evidence to believe otherwise. The second is that laws and constants are part of the material fabric of the elements. If they weren’t the universe would collapse. Carbon *must* act like carbon. Electrons *must* have a negative charge. Gravity must pull they way it does.

        The alternative is a world where gods set rules at will. Where Loki or Siva cause locusts to fly or where Jesus or Moroni heal people in trade for proper prayers. Science hoes out the door since there is no certainty. “Was bacterium the causal agent or an angry YHWH who didn’t get his tithe?” There is no way of knowing. There are assumptions we make – I can’t prove that I’m not a brain in a vat – but assumptions are better than others.

        Regarding dating:

        Of course real live scientists are aware of these same issues. So they use appropriate methods, take multiple samples from the same rocks, compare the results using other methods if appropriate, and test different minerals within the same rocks expecting something close to a linear isochron. Then tHey add an error correction to address assumptions and instrument

      • Greetings again Dennis. Maybe it’s just Monday, but I am feeling like we’ve hit the point in the discussion where we’re pretty soon going to be saying, “I know you are but what am I?” As I am about to say YOU have it backwards. But let me try to do this without sounding like a 3rd grader. I’ve had coffee today so it’s at least possible.
        1. We DO have observational evidence to the contrary of MANY uniformitarian assumptions. We’ve seen radio decay rates change under different tempt/pressure. We’ve seen rock layers, canyons, fossils, fossil fuels and gems stones all form MILLIONS of years faster than we are told by uniformitarian assumptions- because we can see them form in years, weeks, days or hours, both in labs and in nature. Canyons cut in HOURS, stalactites formed in months. Deep time uniform assumptions are running out of places where we don’t have observations of the products being formed in very short times, when we have been told they takes millions of years.
        2. Laws and constants ARE part of the universe now, but those constants could be wildly different (This is what is called the Fine Tuning of the universe), and you have no reason to believe they weren’t different in the past and you have no reason to believe that they won’t change in the future. Maybe the universe WILL collapse later this afternoon. You can’t say it won’t. You can only believe. I know it won’t because God has promised to uphold his creation.
        3. Your alternative is not a Christian alternative, and so one I reject out of hand. There is no Loki except in Marvel films (And sadly I’ve not yet seen the new Avengers: Age of Ultron). Surely you understand Christianity well enough to know we don’t accept every proposed spiritual being as real, so what is the point of suggesting it in this manner except to create the standard straw man? Furthermore, Jesus DOES heal people, often in response to prayer. I have first hand experience with such events. And the biggest objection to this idea is that it is Christians with a Biblical worldview which gave us the science we have. How easily our culture forgets where the sciences came from when they wish to reject the Bible! (See this link for a partial list:
        You dismiss the potential involvement of spiritual beings the way common people would have rejected the bacteria you mention before microscopes were common place, and for the same reason. I am telling you that something which you have never seen DOES exist and can effect the universe in real ways. That you don’t have first hand physical experience with God doesn’t mean he is not real (Which I believe you already know), nor does his existence somehow negate the medical sciences. The only religious group I know of that rejects medical science is a cult which, while they use the word “Christian” in their name, is far from anything Orthodox or Biblical. In short, it is the Biblical worldview which is NECESSARY for the sciences to exist. This is why previous peoples, though they became proficient in the uses of nature for medicine and technology, did not form a scientific worldview. It came out of the Christian West because of the Biblical picture of God as creator and giver of laws, and sustain-er of his creation.
        4. Yes, lots of scientists are aware of the issues I have mentioned, but the question remains: If your methods are based on assumptions which are untestable, and some which have shown to be false, then what does it matter what other measures they take to make up for it? The history of the methods has shown for decades that the results cannot be trusted. A skull of a supposed human ancestor- (Skull 1470? I’m no good with names) was dated more than 40 times before getting the date the evolutionists wanted, and even then the dates were changed later. Rocks from the same lava flow have been tested with different methods and got wildly different dates. The whole thing has a long history of being unreliable, and that is not merely the YEC view of it, which is why YEC’s like me can quote evolutionists saying the same things.
        And consider your final statement: “They add an error correction”- If they do not know BEFORE they date it how old the rock is supposed to be, then how could they possibly know they need to correct the dates they get? But as I said, they are using evolution to create the dates, and then using the radio dating methods to support those dates, and then correcting those dates with evolutionary assumptions. They are essentially using evolutionary dogma as evidence for evolutionary dogma. The radio dates are just a lip service middle step which they know are invalid and based on assumptions. If they get a date they want, they keep it. If not, they cry “Contamination” and try it again, or just toss it out.
        Now, you keep asking for specifics on the math and certain chemicals, but let me just ask you this again: when I test for the daughter element in any rock using any method, how do I know there was no daughter element in that rock as soon as it formed? How do I know no daughter element has escaped or been added by natural process before I found it? Yet, to trust the ages you get, do you not have to pretend you know the answer to these questions? But if the answer is based on information you invent then of what use are those dates?
        This is the point I am making, and so it is the one which, if I am wrong, there must be solid answers to.
        Pretend you have dug a rock out of the earth and are holding it in your hand. Now, ask those questions. I suspect you will find that you are bound to use evolutionary dogma to fill in the blanks as I said above, but I won’t put words in your mouth.
        Thanks again for your questions and comments, and thanks for letting me be your Rent-A-Friend.
        A quick search on discordant lava dates found this:
        and a little of my own quote mining (Please wear a helmet for your own safety)

      • At least you are unabashed in your bias. If you feel like it I would love for you to prove that Loki doesn’t exist and that Jesus does.

        I have recently written about a religious vs scientific world view. You exemplify the religious. Before anything – before looking out the window, before asking for evidence, before you ever pick up that rock – you know all the answers and force the evidence to fit. I know that this makes sense to you as it does to many Mormons, Hindis, and Santeriists. But it is an invention. I am biased, too, toward reproducible, repeatable, and predictable evidence. Thus a scientist.


      • Sorry – hit the reply button.

        That’s “instrument error”.

        Are you familiar with closure temps? They’re germane to your argument.

        And an important distinction: K-Ar dating, or any other method, will never give a date outside of its useful range. Instead it will give a date “outside the lower lint of calculation”. So why would a YEC either not understand this or, if understanding this, report it incorrectly?

      • for what it’s worth: “tritium has several different experimentally determined values of its half-life”
        Lucas, L. L. & Unterweger, M. P. (2000). “Comprehensive Review and Critical Evaluation of the Half-Life of Tritium” (PDF). Journal of Research of the National Institute of Standards and Technology 105 (4): 541. doi:10.6028/jres.105.043

  2. Pingback: Candle Detectives and Dating Methods | A Bit of Orange

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