Age of the Earth: Radioisotope Dating versus Alternative Methods

Introduction

The author chose the topic of traditional radioisotope dating versus alternative methods such as the RATE method used by young-earth creationists. The purpose of this paper is to introduce, compare, and contrast these methods. To do this properly one must understand the scientific method and what a scientific theory is, as well as what radiometric dating is. According to one article “a scientific theory is a simple, testable, and correctable explanation of observable phenomena that yields new information about nature in answer to a set of pre-existing problems,” (Root-Bernstein & McEachron, in press, p. 414). On the other hand, a scientific hypothesis is a way to test, adjust, and add to a scientific theory.” (Formatting a Testable Hypothesis, 2019). Radiometric dating is a method of dating a material that measures the half-life decay of radioisotopes. In layman’s terms, radiometric dating uses a set of guidelines to identify how much a material has decayed through the comparison of the material’s isotopes to what scientists know happens to those isotopes after x amount of time, this is called a half-life. Carbon-14 has a half-life of about 5,000 years. With this knowledge, one can deduce that after about 50,000 years Carbon-14 will decay into its stable counterpart Nitrogen-14 (BioMath: Carbon Dating, 2005).

Old-Earth Secular View

The old-earth view, which the author will refer to as ‘secular’, is the belief that the earth is approximately four and a half billion years old. People who believe in the secular view of earth’s creation, assume that God was not involved or that he even exists. They believe that the things on the planet and in the universe have been formed over billions and billions of years. And that those things have slowly changed, or evolved, into what they are today. To support this theory, they use ice cores, sediment levels in lakes, astronomical cycles, and radiometric dating (The Age of the Earth, n.d., 4 section). Radiometric dating makes four key assumptions. Firstly, it assumes what the initial conditions at the creation of the material were. Second, it assumes the initial rate of the parent and daughter isotopes. Third, it assumes a constant decay rate. And fourth, that no outside force, such as leeching, has affected the material.

Young-Earth View

The young-earth view, which the author will refer to as creationist, is the belief that God created the earth approximately six thousand years ago (The Age of the Earth, n.d.). Believers of the young-earth theory make the assumption that God is real and that the Bible is an accurate telling of the creation of everything. With this thought process, creationists reject the idea of an earth older than 6,000 years. Although, the creationist theory does also use a form of radiometric dating called radiocarbon dating to support their theory. This is the radiometric dating method covered in the introduction. There was a group of young-earth scientists called RATE who’s focus was to use the traditionally old-earth method of radiometric dating to prove a young-earth. RATE, which stands for “Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth,” (Rate: Overturning Millions of Years, n.d.), went from 1997 to 2005 and was one of the first collaborative creationist research groups to form.

Comparison of the Viewpoints

When comparing the secular and the creationist viewpoints one must keep in mind that the creationist view has the backing of a God who can answer all of the questions one may have. The secular view does not have this. This means that when a question, or a challenge, is brought against the secular view it must adapt or get replaced. The author had trouble finding young-earth articles that produced evidence of their own. The author found many young-earth articles that commit logical fallacies instead of producing evidence to support their point. However, the author did find an article about the misdirection-instead-of-evidence method that seems rampant among young-earth articles (Experiential Thinking in Creationism—a Textual Analysis, 2015). With this in mind, the author found the similarities between the two theories boils down to they both use carbon dating.

Contrast of the Viewpoints

When the author juxtaposes these viewpoints, many differences can be found. For example, creationists believe that the decay rate was faster when everything was created, creating the illusion that the earth is old (Does Radiometric Dating Prove the Earth Is Old?, 2007, 10 section). Old-earth secularists disagree with this idea (How Old is the Earth?, n.d.). Creationists believe that outside forces can, and do, affect the decay rate of parent isotopes. Secularists exclude this possibility with their fourth key assumption. Each viewpoint has a different idea of how old the earth is. There are also differences in how long each viewpoint has been conducting research. And there are differences in how each viewpoint presents research and data (Experiential Thinking in Creationism—a Textual Analysis, 2015).

Conclusion

After researching radioisotopes versus other methods, the author has determined that the old-earth secular view and the young-earth creationist view are vastly different. The secular view has been challenged and adapted more than the creationist view ever will. This is because the creationist view can fall back on God to answer any challenge that may present. The author believes that if the creationists could learn to present their research in the same style the secularists do, they may be able to prove their point in a more effective manner. To conclude, while both views have a large following, the secular viewpoint has been tried and tested more than the young-earth view. As such, the secular view is a stronger, more scientifically supported theory when attempting to explain the creation of the earth.

References

BioMath: carbon dating. (2005). The Biology Project: BioMath. Retrieved June 24, 2020, from http://www.biology.arizona.edu/biomath/tutorials/applications/carbon.html

Does radiometric dating prove the earth is old?. (2007, October 4). Answers in Genesis. Retrieved July 2, 2020, from https://answersingenesis.org/geology/radiometric-dating/does-radiometric-dating-prove-the-earth-is-old/

Experiential thinking in creationism—a textual analysis. (2015, March 3). PubMed Central (PMC). Retrieved July 1, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4348421/

Formatting a testable hypothesis. (2019). Csuc.Edu. Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://www.csub.edu/~ddodenhoff/Bio100/Bio100sp04/formattingahypothesis.htm

How old is the earth?. (n.d.). NASA. Retrieved July 1, 2020, from https://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/poetry/venus/q1152.html

Rate: Overturning millions of years. (n.d.). Answers in Genesis. Retrieved July 2, 2020, from https://answersingenesis.org/theory-of-evolution/millions-of-years/rate-overturning-millions-years/

Root-Bernstein, R., & McEachron, D. L. (in press). Teaching theories: The Evolution-Creation Controversy. The American Biology Teacher, 44(7), 413–405. Retrieved June 24, 2020, from https://doi.org/10.2307/4447552

The age of the earth. (n.d.). Seeking Truth. Retrieved June 25, 2020, from http://seekingtruth.co.uk/age_of_earth.htm