Radioactive isotopes in dating the past

04 Mar

147] has highlighted the fact that measurements of specimens from a 1801 lava flow near a volcano in Hualalai, Hawaii gave apparent ages (using the Potassium-Argon method) ranging from 160 million to 2.96 billion years, citing a 1968 study [Funkhouser1968].

In the particular case that Morris highlighted, the lava flow was unusual because it included numerous xenoliths (typically consisting of olivine, an iron-magnesium silicate material) that are foreign to the lava, having been carried from deep within the earth but not completely melted in the lava.

Several hundred laboratories around the world are active in radiometric dating.

Their results consistently agree with an old Earth.

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The disagreement in values needed to support the position of young-Earth proponents would require differences in age measured by orders of magnitude (e.g., factors of 10,000, 100,000, a million, or more).

Creationist Henry Morris, for example, criticizes this type of "uniformitarian" assumption [Morris2000, pg. But numerous experiments have been conducted to detect any change in radioactivity as a result of chemical activity, exceedingly high heat, pressure, or magnetic field. Scientists have also performed very exacting experiments to detect any change in the constants or laws of physics over time, but various lines of evidence indicate that these laws have been in force, essentially the same as we observe them today, over the multi-billion-year age of the universe.

None of these experiments has detected any significant deviation for any isotope used in geologic dating [Dalrymple1991, pg. Note, for instance, that light coming to earth from distant stars (which in some cases emanated billions of years ago) reflects the same patterns of atomic spectra, based in the laws of quantum mechanics, that we see today.

The slope of the line determines the date, and the closeness of fit is a measure of the statistical reliability of the resulting date.

Technical details on how these dates are calculated are given in Radiometric dating. As with any experimental procedure in any field of science, these measurements are subject to certain "glitches" and "anomalies," as noted in the literature.