Why I’m not an evolutionist: Reason #4

December 31, 2006 at 10:10 pm Leave a comment

Yesterday, I discussed the first of two major scientific problems I see with evolution. Today, in the final post of this series, I present the second of the two problems.

Scientific Problem #2: Radiometric dating

Radiometric dating methods are often cited as one of the major indicators of the old age of the earth. The earth’s old age, in turn, is often used in support of the evolutionary theory of human and animal origins.

From what I understand, the apparent old age of the earth is one of the legitimately perplexing issues confronting creationists. However, there is reason to believe the radiometric dating methods that produce old dates for the earth are not truly reliable.

To begin with, all radiometric dating methods depend on the accuracy of certain assumptions about the objects being dated. Scientists have to assume that they know what conditions were like at the time the object in question was formed—which is obviously something no one can know for sure, since scientists can’t time travel.

Additionally, radiometric dating methods all rely on the measurement of certain substances (such as 14C, or radiocarbon) that decay over time. In order to come up with a date for an object, scientists have to assume that the rate of change in the particular materials being measured has been constant. In some cases, however, we know that the rate of change has not been constant, which complicates dating techniques.

In addition to these foundational problems, here’s a quick summary of four other broad problems with old dates for the age of the earth. For more detailed information, see the Answers In Genesis article What About Carbon Dating?, from which the summary below is derived.

1. Evolutionists themselves often have to finesse their own dates to match their paradigms

Sometimes, radiometric dating methods give dates that don’t fit into already-accepted scientific paradigms. In these cases, evolutionary scientists aren’t above finessing their own dates to fit the paradigms. Out of a given number of samples, scientists may discard the ones that give inconvenient dates, while keeping only the ones that give the preferred date.

Such choices may be made on the grounds that some of the samples were contaminated, but the important point to note is that the interpretation and selection of particular dates is driven by preconceived ideas of what scientists think the date should be.

In fact, when scientists send samples to radioisotope labs for dating, they are often asked to state how old the sample is expected to be. If radiometric dating gives truly reliable dates, it’s surprising that the lab should need to know the expected age.

2. Dating methods don’t always agree with each other

If radiometric dating methods are reliable, presumably they should give consistent results if used to date the same object. Often, however, different dating methods (such as radiocarbon dating, potassium-argon dating, etc.) give drastically different ages when applied to the same object.

Again, scientists can provide explanations for why such dates differ so much, but it is important to note that scientists are using posterior reasoning to explain the discrepancies and select the date that fits their expectations. Radiocarbon dating, then, is not exactly as objective as it is made to appear.

3. Radiometric dating methods give wrong dates for objects of known age

One good way to test the reliability of radiometric dating methods is to test them on objects whose age is already known for sure. For example, scientists can test molten rock from lava flows known to have occurred within the last few decades.

When such rocks are tested, however, the dates can be extremely skewed. Many rocks that are only a few decades old have been “dated” at millions of years old. If the dating methods are unreliable for objects whose age we already know, it seems somewhat questionable to trust these same methods on objects whose ages we don’t know.

4. Fossils that are supposedly millions of years contain 14C—something that shouldn’t happen

One phenomenon that I find particularly interesting is the presence of radiocarbon (14C) in fossils that are supposedly millions of years old. The problem with this is that 14C should not exist in any measurable quantity in fossils more than 50,000-100,000 years old, because all of the 14C should have decayed within that time period. However,

Dating labs consistently find 14C, well above background levels, in fossils supposedly many millions of years old. 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. [Source: AIG]

So what’s an observer to conclude?

It’s certainly not true that science proves the biblical story of creation to be true. For one thing, it’s somewhat difficult to suggest that science could “prove” much of anything. Generally speaking, the best that science can give us is evidence for the truth of certain conclusions, but not proof.

In light of the evidence we do have, there are legitimately perplexing questions that creationists must deal with. Yet creationists are not the only ones who face difficulties: there is much evidence that contradicts the idea of long evolutionary processes at work over many millions of years. This evidence instead suggests that the earth is very young and was created in the manner described in the Bible.

Although the conclusions of science are important and should be taken seriously, I don’t believe Christians should acquiesce to the seemingly unanimous pronouncements from the scientific community about the old age of the earth and the evolutionary processes that have supposedly produced us.

Rather, Christians have significant theological, philosophical, and scientific justification for questioning the truth of evolutionary theory.


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Why I’m not an evolutionist: Reason #3 A totem for the new year

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profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

Email me: jamie.kiley@gmail.com

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