The Instigator
RoyLatham
Pro (for)
Winning
54 Points
The Contender
ThePipes
Con (against)
Losing
22 Points

Radiometric Dating is Accurate

Do you like this debate?NoYes+12
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 14 votes the winner is...
RoyLatham
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/14/2010 Category: Science
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 42,973 times Debate No: 11745
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (189)
Votes (14)

 

RoyLatham

Pro

Radiometric dating is the method for establishing the age of objects by measuring the levels of radioisotopes in the sample. http://en.wikipedia.org... One example is carbon dating. Carbon 14 is created by cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere. It decays to nitrogen 14 with a half life of 5730 years. C14 is continually being created and decaying, leading to an equilibrium state in the atmosphere. When the carbon dioxide, containing C14 as well as stable C12 and C13, is taken in by plants it is no longer exposed to the intense cosmic ray bombardment in the upper atmosphere, so the carbon 14 isotope decays without being replenished. Measuring the ratio of C14 to C12 and C13 therefore dates the organic matter for periods back to about eight half-lives of the isotope, 45,000 years. After a long enough time the minority isotope is in an amount too small to be measured.

There are about two dozen decay pairs used for dating. Uranium 235 decay to lead has a half-life of 713 million years, so it is well suited to dating the universe. other isotope pairs cover intermediate time periods between the spans for carbon 14 and uranium.

Some radiometric dating methods depend upon knowing the initial amount of the isotope subject to decay. For example, the C14 concentration in the atmosphere depends upon cosmic ray intensity. To take this into account, a calibration curve is developed using other dating methods to establish the C14 levels over time.

Other methods do not require knowing the initial quantities. For example, potassium decays into two different isotopes of argon having different half-lives. Argon/argon dating works using only the ratio of the concentration of the argon isotopes. It does not use the original amount of potassium.

For the purposes of this debate, "accurate" means that 95% of the dating errors are within 10% of the measured date, within the time span for which the isotope pair is utilized. Since carbon dating depends upon variable cosmic ray intensity, a calibration curve is assumed to be applied to account for that. The actual accuracy of radiometric dating is about 2%, but there is no point in splitting hairs for this debate as to whether it is 2% or 3%. An error of 90% would, for example, still disprove Young Earth Creationism.

There are three reasons why radiometric data is known to be accurate:

1. It depends upon radioactive decay, which is known to be extremely stable, not influenced my chemical processes, and which can be measured quite accurately. Thus the physical principle of the method is well established.

2. The dates obtained by radiometric dating are verified by independent methods, including dendrochronology (tree rings), varve chronology (sediment layers), ice cores, coral banding, speleotherms (cave formations), fission track dating, and electron spin resonance dating. The multiple checks verify that the rate of isotope decay does not change over time, and it verifies the accuracies of the methods.

For dating back to about 35,000 years, sediment layers are precise. http://en.wikipedia.org... Sediments include different types of pollen depending upon the season. Consequently, individual years can be identified by season, so there is no possibility of layers being confused. Sediment columns giving an unbroken history for more than 25,000 years have been identified in about 30 locations around the world.

Coral growth patterns are also seasonal and provide a long independent date history. The coral record verifies that radiometric methods are accurate. The data is presented in [1] below.

3. The dates obtained by different radiometric isotope pairs cross-check each other.

For the purposes of assessing accuracy, each of the methods is assumed to be applied in accordance with the established methods and technology. By analogy, a stop watch will not keep accurate time if it is not wound, if it is not in good repair, or if the operator forgets to press the button. Methods are precise insofar as they are properly used.

A good explanation of all of the dating methods used for samples up to about 200,000 years old, together with their accuracies and references to the scientific literature is contained in [1] Walker, Mike, "Quaternary Dating Methods," John Wiley & Sons, 2005 http://www.amazon.com...

Anyone questioning the accuracy of radiometric methods is obliged to explain why the cross-checks to sediments, coral growth, tree rings, and other isotope pairs all have the same errors. Why would an error in radiometric dating correspond to errors in the other methods so that they all track? In fact, they track because radiometric data is accurate.

An expert scientist summarizes:

"The first radiometric dates, generated about 1920, showed that the Earth was hundreds of millions, or billions, of years old. Since then, geologists have made many tens of thousands of radiometric age determinations, and they have refined the earlier estimates. A key point is that it is no longer necessary simply to accept one chemical determination of a rock's age. Age estimates can be cross-tested by using different isotope pairs. Results from different techniques, often measured in rival labs, continually confirm each other.

Every few years, new geologic time scales are published, providing the latest dates for major time lines. Older dates may change by a few million years up and down, but younger dates are stable. For example, it has been known since the 1960s that the famous Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, the line marking the end of the dinosaurs, was 65 million years old. Repeated recalibrations and retests, using ever more sophisticated techniques and equipment, cannot shift that date. It is accurate to within a few thousand years. With modern, extremely precise, methods, error bars are often only 1% or so."
-Prof. Michael Benton, (Chair in Vertebrate Paleontology at the University of Bristol, UK, author of 30 books on dinosaurs and paleobiology.) http://www.actionbioscience.org...

The resolution is affirmed.
ThePipes

Con

First, I would like to thank Pro for challenging me to this debate. However, I want to be clear that my goal here is not to "prove" young earth creationism, but to simple show that radiometric dating of the age of the earth is unreliable.

The measurement of time by radioactive decay of a parent isotope is often compared to the measurement of time as sand grains fall in an hour glass:

"The sand in the upper chamber of an hourglass represents a radioactive parent isotope, while the sand in the lower chamber is analogous to the respective daughter isotope. The sand grains fall from the upper chamber at a constant rate, said to be analogous to radioactive decay. If all the sand grains started in the upper chamber and then the number of sand grains were measured in the two chambers after some time elapsed, provided the rate at which the sand grains fall has been measured, simple mathematics can be used to calculate how long the hourglass has been in operation, and thus, the time when the process started. When applied to the radioactive decay "clock," this starting time is when the rock formed and is, therefore, its calculated age."

From this description it is evident that the calculation of radioactive decay is based on three crucial assumptions:

1. The number of atoms of the daughter isotope originally in the rock or mineral when it crystallized can be known. In other words, it is assumed that we can know the initial conditions when the rock or mineral formed.
2. The number of atoms of the parent and daughter isotopes have not been altered since the rock or mineral crystallized, except for radioactive decay. In other words, it is assumed that the rock or mineral remained closed to loss or gain of the parent and/or daughter isotopes since crystallization.
3. The rate of decay of the parent isotope is known accurately, and has not changed during the existence of the rock or mineral since it crystallized.

When most rocks or minerals crystallized there were no human observers to determine the original numbers of atoms of the daughter isotopes, to determine that the rocks or minerals have remained closed to loss or gain of parent and/or daughter isotopes, and to determine if the rate of decay of the parent isotope has remained constant. Thus, it logically follows that these assumptions are, strictly speaking, not provable.

THE PITFALLS IN THE RADIOACTIVE DATING METHOD:

1. Potassium-Argon and Argon-Argon Methods
Both these methods suffer from the same problems, because they are both based on the radioactive decay of potassium (K) to argon (Ar), a gas which does not bond with other elements. As my opponent pointed out it is assumed the initial quantity of the daughter isotope Ar is not needed because it does not bond easily with other elements and, therefore, when the rock forms all the initial Ar would have escaped. In other words, it is assumed there was no initial Ar at the time of formation. However, many cases have been documented of recent historic lava flows which yielded grossly incorrect K-Ar ages because of "excess argon."

After the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens a new lava dome began forming. In 1986, less than ten years after it flowed and cooled, dacite lava from this dome was sampled and analyzed [1]. The lava flow yielded a K-40/Ar-40 "age" of 350,000 years for the whole rock, and the constituent minerals yielded K-40/Ar-40 "ages" up to 2.8 Ma (million years). Similarly, andesite from the 1954 lava flow from Mt. Ngauruhoe yielded K-40/Ar-40 "ages" up to 3.5 Ma [2]. Also, ten Zaire diamonds yielded K-40/Ar-40 "ages" of 6 Ga (billion years) and Ar-39/Ar-40 "age" spectra yielding an isochron "age" of 5.7 Ga [3]. The diamonds could not be older than the earth itself! The obvious conclusion most investigators have reached is that excess argon had to be present and they did not completely degas when these rocks and diamonds formed. Even laboratory experiments have shown that argon can be retained in rocks and mineral at the time of formation [4]. There is also much evidence for argon loss for the very fact Ar does not form chemical bonds with other atoms in a crystal lattice, but lack of space does not permit me to go into detail [5, 6].

2. Radiocarbon Dating Method
There are two basic assumptions in C-14 dating. First, the cosmic ray influx has to have been essentially constant (my opponent already mentioned this) and the C-14 concentration in the carbon dioxide cycle must remain constant. To these two assumptions we can add the assumption of the constancy of the rate of decay of C-14, the assumption that dead organic matter is not later altered with respect to its carbon content by any biologic or other activity, the assumption that the carbon dioxide contents of the ocean and atmosphere has been constant with time, the assumption that the huge reservoir of oceanic carbon has not changed in size during the period of applicability of the method, and the assumption that the rate of formation and the rate of decay of radiocarbon atoms have been in equilibrium throughout the period of applicability.

Nevertheless, it has been maintained that the method has been verified beyond any question by numerous correlations with known dates. However, closer investigation reveals that where historical dates are well established, back beyond about 400 BC, the radiocarbon "dates" increasingly diverge, as they also do from tree-rings (even though my opponent said they correlate with tree-rings) [7]. So the major assumptions in the method would, therefore, appear to be valid for only the period after 400 BC.

Furthermore, my opponent asserted, regarding C-14 dating, "After a long enough time the minority isotope is in an amount too small to be measured." He stated we should only be able to date organic matter back to 45,000 years. My opponent, therefore, must explain the substantial amount of C-14 found in coalfields that are millions of years old and diamonds that are billions of years old. Recently, ten coal samples representative of the economic important coalfields of the United States, and five diamonds from African kimberlite pipes were analyzed [8]. Three of the coal samples were from Eocene seams, three from Cretaceous seams, and four from Pennsylvania seams (Uniformitarian ages ranging from 40 Ma to 350 Ma). Yet they all yielded dates around 50,000 years. The diamonds came from underground mines where contamination would be minimal. However, diamonds are the hardest natural mineral and extremely resistant to contamination. These diamonds are considered to be 1-3 billion years old according to uniformitarian geologists, so they should have been radiocarbon-dead. Nevertheless, they still contained significant levels of C-14. Given the supposed antiquity of these diamonds, and their source deep inside the earth, one possible explanation for these detectable C-14 levels is that the C-14 is primordial. However, if this were the case, the apparent "age" of the earth itself would only be about 45,000 years old according to my opponent!

The presence of detectable C-14 in fossils, which according to the uniformitarian timescale should be entirely C-14-dead, has been reported from the earliest days of radiocarbon dating. For example, a published survey on all the dates reported in the journal "Radiocarbon" up to 1970 commented that for more than 15,000 samples reported: "All such matter is found datable within 50,000 years as published" [9].

This data shows that radiometric dating is unreliable and questionable at best. I have many more examples to share, but space does not permit. I will elaborate in further rounds and I hope to address Pros assertion that independent dating methods correlate with the radiometric dates. Although, by showing that radiometric dating is unreliable on its own terms, any perceived correlation with independent dating methods means absolutely nothing.

My sources are in the comment section.
Debate Round No. 1
RoyLatham

Pro

In the first round I offered substantial evidence that radiometric data has been used many tens of thousands of times, that the method cross-checks reliably with more than a half dozen other methods, and that the errors are well under 10%, traditionally under 3% and now approaching 1%. Per the definition of "accurate," Con must demonstrate that it is not true that 95% of the dates derived by radiometric dating are within 10% of the true date. Con has only provided evidence that argon dating has some undefined error in some cases, and that a few cases of carbon dating are in error. He offers some unrefereed papers by avowed creation scientists that there are broader problems, but even in those claims, there is nothing that questions the overall statistical accuracy. The arguments are akin to claiming that a wristwatch cannot be used to measure time, because sometimes the battery fails or the display is misread. Errors do happen, but they are well within the claimed error bounds and they are limited by cross-checking. With a wristwatch you check with a different clock, with radiometric dating the checks are with different dating methods and different isotope pairs.

Con claims that we cannot know with certainty what the composition of an original sample was. Absolute certainty is not required. Assumptions are made based upon observations. The reliability of the assumptions is ultimately tested by crosschecking to independent dating methods. Radiometric dating is known to be accurate not because it is assumed to accurate, but rather by cross-checking and proving it is accurate.

Con is correct that rock samples selected for argon dating cannot have been exposed to air. That is true not only for recent volcanic flows, but with old rocks have fissures allowing air intrusions. One technique is to rely on feldspars formed only at very high temperatures. http://geology.about.com... The error due to air exposure always makes the sample appear younger than it really is. Different grains of rock from the same location may have different exposures to the air due to the pattern of fissures, so a cross-check is to test several samples to ensure a reliable result. [my ref 1 in R1] There will be consistency among the old dates if the method is applicable. In the opening round, I made the caveat that the methods are only accurate when properly applied. There are also a dozen isotope pairs that cross-check argon dating. The reliability of the dating is further enhanced by cross-checking in the same sample.

Con cites A.A. Snelling as to the general unreliability of argon dating. The article cited is in a religious journal, not in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Snelling is a legitimate scientist who also publishes in peer-reviewed journals. However, he writes in the scientific literature he accepts the accuracy of the standard scientific dating methods. When he writes for his religious audience he denies them. http://www.noanswersingenesis.org.au... If he had data that would withstand scientific scrutiny, he would publish it in scientific journals. Clearly he does not.

Con points out the problem with carbon dating of coal and diamonds. The problem is well known. Coal contains radioactive thorium, and the thorium creates C14 in situ. http://www.talkorigins.org... As a known limitation, it is not particularly troublesome. It is comparable to knowing that a wristwatch won't work properly in high magnetic fields; once one is aware of that, it is readily avoided.

Con claims that there is some general problem with the accuracy of carbon dating for dates after 400 BC. Con quotes Whitelaw, a creationist published by a religious press, not by a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Whitelaw supposes that there was no C14 in the atmosphere more than 5000 years ago, so when he scales all the dates according to his theory they are all within 50,000 years. http://www.talkorigins.org... Aside from the theory having no scientific foundation, it is contradicted by all the dating methods that cross-reference carbon dating. One must suppose that trees grew exponentially slower in the past, and so forth, to produce exactly the same errors as the error he supposes.

Con cites Bowman, a scientist who vigorous supports the accuracy of carbon dating. The British Museum lab doing carbon dating made some errors during the period from 1980-1984. Bowman discovered and corrected the errors. There was no general problem with radiocarbon dating. In the book by Bowman cited by Con, Bowman writes of errors less than 50 years as relatively easy to achieve, and less than 20 years possible with great care. http://books.google.com... That was written in 1990.

Throughout, Con has refused to confront the central proof that radiometric dating is accurate. That proof is that the dates arrived by radiometry are verified by dendrochronology (tree rings), varve chronology (sediment layers), ice cores, coral banding, speleotherms (cave formations), fission track dating, and electron spin resonance dating. The dates are also verified by independent measurements from other isotope pairs. In R1 I presented the challenge to him, "Anyone questioning the accuracy of radiometric methods is obliged to explain why the cross-checks to sediments, coral growth, tree rings, and other isotope pairs all have the same errors. Why would an error in radiometric dating correspond to errors in the other methods so that they all track? In fact, they track because radiometric data is accurate." Con ignored the challenge.

Suppose we suspect that Cousin Lenny's watch is in error. How do we verify it? We check it against other clocks. If the other clocks say it is 3 o'clock and Lenny says it is 3:15, we suspect Lenny has a problem. It is theoretically possible that all the other clocks are wrong and have exactly the same error, but it would take a whole lot of explaining as to how that could be the case. A proper case against radiometric dating ought to begin with a comparison to something believed to be more accurate, and a showing that radiometric dating is not within 10% of that more accurate clock in 95% of the cases examined. Con's problem is that all the reasonable scientific comparisons verify that radiometric dating has the accuracy claimed.

All Con has done is cite a few limitations on some of the specific methods. It's true that argon dating cannot be used on samples exposed to air. It's true that carbon dating doesn't work on coal that is loaded with radioactive thorium. Scientists are trained to discover such problems and to avoid them. There are analogous problems with applying virtually any measurement technique. We can list pitfalls with using clocks or micrometers or scales or anything else that measures. That is not at issue. The question is what accuracy is achieved despite all the potential problems. The data show that the accuracy is typically 3%, and with modern technology is approaching 1%.
ThePipes

Con

Again, I would like to think Pro for the opportunity to debate this and for his alacritous response.

First, I would like to point out some errors my opponent made in his last response. He stated, "Con is correct that rock samples selected for argon dating cannot have been exposed to air." I never mentioned atmospheric argon as the source of contamination (even though that is one problem). I said there was "excess argon." My ref 1 in R1 were of samples in which the Ar was measured using a mass spectrometer to correct for any presence of atmospheric Ar. http://www.icr.org.... However, the samples still came back with unacceptable ages. Therefore, the excess argon must have come from some other source. The mantle has been suggested. So there is risk of contamination not just from air, but from some other source. Which makes the reliability of K-Ar and 40Ar/39Ar questionable. Pro also posited that "The error due to air exposure always makes the sample appear younger than it really is." Excess Ar actually makes a sample seem older than it is. A less than 10 year old sample should have no measurable Ar.

Pro also resorted to special pleading when he said I sourced a "religious" journal. In fact, it was a scientific journal, but because it supports creationism he immediately rejects it as "religious" instead of trying to actually refute it based on scientific data. I can as easily say talkorigins.org (which he cites) is religious from my viewpoint, but instead I will stay on focus and avoid ad hominem attacks. Pro also questions A. A. Snelling's integrity. All Snelling is doing is using language in which that particular audience would understand. The conventional geological community has named the different rock units in the rock record. So if Snelling is going to discuss the chalk beds in the cretaceous rock unit he will say "cretaceous" so his peers know what he is talking about. It doesn't mean he accepts the ages that geologists have imposed on it. If I am going to go on a business trip to Japan I might do well to speak Japanese.

Furthermore, Pro cites my sources incorrectly. Whitelaw was not the one who said the 15000 samples dated within 50,000 years. Whitelaw was quoting the journal "Radiocarbon." Also, Pro asserts (based off a talkorigins.org article)that radioactive Th creates C-14. There are no reliable sources that back up that claim. Even the article he sourced, which was merely a email sent to talkorigins, says "it looks like in-situ production of new 14C is the best-supported hypothesis; but research is ongoing..." It is just a hypothesis with no strong evidence to support it. However, the answer to the detection of C-14 in diamonds fits a young earth hypothesis just as good, if not better, than Th creating C-14 (which is lacking in evidence). Furthermore, U and Th decay does create Helium. He is the second lightest element and diffuses out of minerals and rocks quickly. They have measured He diffusion rates from Zircons that are supposedly 1.5 billion years old (Tectnophysics, 349 (1-4):297-308) and have found an average helium diffusion age of only 6000 (+/- 2000) years. It seems not all dating methods cross-check each other as my opponent asserts.

So why do some independent dating methods appear to match? The simple answer is they don't. The conventional geological community has the presupposition that the earth is billions of years old. So when they date a rock layer with any radiometric dating method that doesn't match the "expected" age they already had for the rock layer they throw it out and keep dating until they get the results they wanted. It has been admitted as such: "If a C-14 date supports our theories, we put it in the main text. If it does not entirely contradict them, we put it in a footnote, and if it is completely out of date we just drop it" (T. Save-Soderbergh and I. U. Olsson, 1970, C 14 dating and Egyptian chronology, in Radiocarbon Variations and Absolute Chronology, Proceedings of the Twelfth Nobel Symposium). True, this quote is from 1970, but why should we believe scientists are any different today? The only way scientists know radiometric dating results are incorrect is because they already had preconceived ideas of the what the age of a rock was.

It is the relentless application of uniformitarianism that creates these perceived matches with independent dating methods. It is assumed that tree rings form one a year, but it is actually well known that tree rings can form several in one year depending on the climate the tree is growing in (http://creation.com...). If we eliminate the uniformitarian philosophy we can see that it makes the assumption of tree rings difficult to prove. Furthermore, the oldest tree, appropriately nicknamed Methuselah, is only 4765 years old according to conventional dating (http://www.wired.com...). If the earth is billions of years old why are there not any older trees than a few thousand years old?

Varves are conventionally believed to be laid down one a year. However, a 1960 Florida Hurricane deposited a six-inch-thick mud layer with numerous thin laminae (Journal of Geology, 75:583-597) and a 12hr flood in Colorado deposited more than 100 laminae (Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 37: 829-851). What would a yearlong global flood do?

Coral reef growth is claimed to take long ages to have grown. The Enewetok Atoll in the Pacific Ocean is usually pointed to as an example. However, measurements have been taken of growth rates and growth rates of 280-414 mm/year have been observed (Memoirs of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 9:461-539). Also, growth rates of the corals that build the frames of reefs have been measured at 120-432 mm/year (Oceanography and Marine Biology:An Annual Review, 14:183-225). Based on these measurements the Enewetok Atoll would have only taken 3400 years to grow. Instead, we impose long ages on coral reefs.

Most Speleotherms in modern caves are not growing. However, observations of those still growing have reported growth of stalactites at 7.6 cm/year and growth of stalagmites of .6 cm/year in height and .9 cm/year in diameter (American Mineralogist, 19:429-431). If these measurements are applied to the Great Dome stalagmite in Carlsbad Cavern, it would have grown in less than 4000 years. Furthermore, radiocarbon ages of speleothems are deceptive, because the carbon incorporated in the speleothem minerals is out of equilibrium with the atmospheric carbon. Absolute dating has proved disappointing (http://en.wikipedia.org...).

Ice cores: "The deep-sea core time scale is likewise built upon the assumption of the astronomical or Milankovitch theory of the Ice Age or ages that is far from proved. Antarctic ice cores are dated by this method, since the accumulation on this ice sheet is so low that annual layer dating cannot be applied, except in shallow coastal cores with higher snowfall. So, the 420,000 years obtained near the bottom of the Vostok ice core is based on preconceived ideas on the ages of ocean sediment, which is based on the astronomical theory of the Ice Age. In other words, the uniformitarian scientists date the ice sheets to hundreds of thousands of years because they believe the ice sheets are old to begin with. They have "proved" only what they have assumed!" (http://www.icr.org...).

Fission tracks and electron spin resonance is dependent on the rate of decay of isotopes. So of course they match the radiometric dating. If decay had been accelerated in the past so would have fission tracks and electron spin resonance.

If someone believes it is 3:15, but observation of other watches show varying times, that person will forcefully set the other watches to 3:15 to give the perception they are internally consistent.
Debate Round No. 2
RoyLatham

Pro

This is has been a good debate. I've gotten to revisit many aspects of the science.

If radiometric dating were inaccurate, it would be easy to show it. Anyone could have samples dated by various different techniques using different laboratories. Labs performing radiometric dating are on the Internet, and they will provide services to anyone. A double-blind technique could be used to prevent any bias in evaluation. If the dates are inconsistent, then the dating is inaccurate. Scientists have done this many times, and the dates are very consistent. Critics claim the scientists are just pretending there is consistency. If so, critics could run the experiments themselves and show the results they obtained. Critics don't do that.

Critics do not even try the simple tests. The technique they use exclusively is to search for uncommon cases of problems in the methods of dating, then claim that the methods have no validity whatsoever in spite of the close agreement achieved 99% of the time. The method critics employ is like searching for broken wrist watches, and upon finding a dozen, then claiming that wrist watches are utterly useless for telling time.

Con must prove that radiometric dating produces errors of more than 10% in more than 5% of its uses. Con has provided no statistics whatsoever to counter the statistics in the presented scientific literature showing a general accuracy of 3% and an accuracy approaching 1% using the latest technology. If the methods were not accurate, it would be easy for critics to present contradictory statistical data, but there is none.

It is impossible for a flood to produce varve sediments with layers having pollen grains sorted by season in the layers. Sediments in floods may appear in layers, but the layers depend upon materials settling out of the water at different rates. Mixing a solution and having it settle in repeating patterns of spring-summer-fall-winter pollen, each in discrete layers, is an impossibility. No physical mechanism for that has been suggested and none demonstrated.

Pollen types and fish scale types in varve columns are used to study past climates. The species of plant or fish present indicates the climate at the time the sediment was deposited. Periods of climate warming and cooling are thus tracked. A great flood would produce a sample of only one climate condition, when the flood occurred.

Spectral analysis of sediment layers is also used to count solar cycles, lunar cycles, sunspot cycles, and Milankovitch bands, independently confirming the age of the layers. http://www.jstor.org...

Varve columns produce the same number of layers, corresponding to the years, at dozens of independent sequences around the world. [1] The number of sediment layers produced by a flood would depend upon the number of different materials available locally to settle into different layers. There is no reason to suppose the number of layers would match globally, as in fact observed. Also, if all the water on earth were added to the oceans it would only make them rise by 220 feet. Many sediments columns have been measured in lake areas more than 220 ft above sea level.

Con wrongly claims that the individual layers of ice cores are not counted. The layers are in fact individually counted. "Comparison of visible stratigraphy, electrical conductivity measurements (ecm), laser light scattering of dust and oxygen isotopes (only in the top 300 m) revealed an excellent correlation between these annual signals to a minimum depth of 2500 m." http://www.gisp2.sr.unh.edu...

The religious-inspired counterargument is that maybe the layers are formed by individual snow storms so that there are fewer years than layers. In that way, they hope to get a record of hundred of thousands of years reduced to just a few thousand, as they require. (These didn't melt it get Flood waters?) The way that scientists distinguish years is to measure isotopes that vary with the seasons. Water having one isotope of oxygen evaporates faster than water having another isotope, so the ratio is a proxy for seasonal temperature. Also isotopes of beryllium and chlorine vary with sunspot cycle, but that is a secondary confirmation. http://www.talkorigins.org...

The reason we know that the Institute for Creation Research and their allied journals are religious is that their motto is "Biblical - Accurate - Certain" as shown in the header of the Snelling paper http://www.icr.org... No scientific journal can claim papers are required to conform with the Bible or that results are certain. Sientists crosscheck. TalkOrigins.org does not rely upon its own authority, but references the refereed scientific literature.

In counting tree rings, very rarely, two growth rings can occur in one season. When this happens it is obvious, so accurate counting is not a problem. [1] Con asks why there are no trees older than about 5000 years. The reason is that trees die, of course, and ultimately the remains decay. However, the pattern of yearly growth can be correlated between trees in overlapping generations, like matching bar codes. Using that method, tree rings can be used for dating back about 7,000 years in North America http://sonic.net... and more than 10,000 year in Europe. [1]

The problems with K/Ar and Ar/Ar dating are discussed at http://www.icr.org... The allegations that there are widespread problems is simply false, and nothing other than a few particular problems is offered. Recent lava flows producing ancient dates is traced to the recent flows having incorporated old olivine. If Snell's critiques were valid general criticisms he would publish them in the peer-reviewed literature rather than unreviewed religious tracts. Snell makes a list of problems with K/Ar and Ar/Ar dating, which everyone knows, and then makes the improper implication that the problems are widespread and typical. He could not get away with the generalization in a scientific journal.

Con claims "Fission tracks and electron spin resonance is dependent on the rate of decay of isotopes. So of course they match the radiometric dating. If decay had been accelerated in the past so would have fission tracks and electron spin resonance." There are four different mechanisms for radioactive decay. http://math.ucr.edu... So if the decay rates changed, they would have to change in exactly the same way in each. But there is no known mechanism by which any of them can be changed, and there is no theory that supports even one changing. There is ample experimental verification that decay rates are not affected by environmental factors.

Fission tracks are formed after a mineral crystallizes from the molten state, and it measures times up to about two billion years past. http://en.wikipedia.org... If the time scale were dramatically in error, all the volcanism in two billion years would have to be compressed into a few years. That is not possible under all the rates of heating and cooling have also changed, implying the basic physical laws had changed along with that, but improbably remain consistent with respect to crosschecking.

Con ridicules crosschecking, but it is both logical and valid. He offers no scientific alternative.

Con quotes one article from 1970 in which a scientist says he throws away data he doesn't like. Con then claims that all scientists always do the same. That claim is unsupported. Scientists are renowned for showing errors in previous results, not by confirming them. Showing a serious error would win a Nobel prize. The geological time scale is confirmed by dozens of independent methods employed by many thousands of scientists from around the world.

The resolution is affirmed.
ThePipes

Con

All thanks goes to Pro for a robust debate!

Pro has argued that my position, and the evidence I have presented, has been "religious-inspired" and, therefore, is not valid. However, he fails to see that the evidence he has presented has been uniformitarian-inspired, which is just a naturalistic philosophical lens through which all his data has been interpreted. Just because ICR gives glory to God does not make their data any less scientific. Just as a uniformitarian philosophy does not make data any less scientific. We need to look at the data and see whose interpretive framework fits the data the best.

Conventional geologists look at current varve forming sediment layers on the beds of existing lakes and immediately assume this must have been the same mechanism that formed the varves in the geologic column. Therefore, they interpret the rock column as such. A classical example is the Eocene Green River Formation of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. There are more than a million varves in some parts of the formation. The uniformitarian interpretation is there was an ancient lake that existed for a million years. However, this is just an assumption because no one was there to prove it! The problem with this interpretation is that the laminae are entirely too thin and uniform, and extend over too wide an area to have been deposited on the floor of an abnormally calm lake. Furthermore, part of the formation has layers of volcanic ash (tuff beds), and there are layers of varves situated between these two tuff beds. If these varves represent annual depositional layers (as the conventional geological community interprets it) than they should be uniform across the whole formation between the tuff beds. However, there is between 1089 to 1566 laminae across the formation between the two tuff beds (Geological Society of American Abstracts with Programs, 30:A317). Furthermore, the organic material (pollen) is not consistent within the laminae across this same section (even though my opponent suggested otherwise).

Pro cites talkorigins regarding dating ice cores. They present 4 methods. First one is counting annual layers. However, it has been shown more than one layer can form a year (Journal of Geophysical Research 102, C12 1997, pp. 26,367-26,381). The second one is using predetermined ages as markers, but as talkorigins says "The major disadvantage is that if the predetermined age markers are incorrect than the age assigned to the ice-core will also be incorrect." It is based on assumptions. The thrid is radiometric dating, but if radiometric dating is inaccurate so will the age of the ice core. The fourth is ice flow calculations, but even talkorigins states "This is the most inaccurate of the methods used for dating ice-cores." Furthermore, there are other approaches to the measured oxygen isotopes in the ice cores (http://www.icr.org...). Also, Pro cites the GISP2 project, but what he fails to mention is that the Milankovitch Theory didn't match with the ice cores (http://www.icr.org...).

Even if multiple tree ring growth is rare today how can we know it was the same in the past? Climate conditions could have been extremely different. Especially, let's say, if there was a global flood. Your uniformitarian bias betrays you. Even the source Pro cites admits it is based on a uniformitarian interpretation. Furthermore, Pro claims trees have been dated to 10000 years, but the source I cited (http://www.wired.com...), which is a secular science website and was posted only last month, states the oldest tree alive is only 4765 years old. If the earth were young this is exactly what we would expect.

If radiometric decay was accelerated in the past so could have nuclear decay (which causes fission tracks). In fact, accelerated nuclear decay would have created enough heat to reset the U-Pb system in rock samples, which has been observed (http://www.icr.org...).

If a dating method does not match the "expected" age then it is assumed to be in error and they continue to retest the sample until they get the data they wanted. Scientists do this with all "independent" dating methods, but it is all based on their uniformitarian presupposition, which creates a bias in their interpretation of the data. In reality, none of these dating methods are independent, because they are all dependent on uniformitarianism. For example, a suggested combined chronology of certain varves of 28000 years underwent reinterpretation to little more than 10000 years when rechecked with radiocarbon dating (R.F.Flint 1971 Glacial and Quaternary Geology).

My opponent is critical of these examples, because he accuses critics of radiometric dating of only using a hand full of examples. However, there are numerous examples, but I only have limited space on this forum. In A. A. Snelling's book Earth's Catastrophic Past he lays out in a scholarly manner MORE than a hand full of examples. The reason he can't report them in conventional peer-reviewed journals is because they won't let him. It has nothing to do with his data being weak, but has everything to do with the current bias in the scientific community.

Pro is correct when he asserts there are different methods of decay. Two of those are a-decaying isoptopes and b-decaying isotopes. In Snelling's book he lays out several examples where the a-decaying isotopes give older ages than the b-decaying isotopes on the same rock sample (http://www.icr.org...). A pattern definitely exists. If the decay rate had accelerated in the past the a-decayers would have been accelerated more due to their mode of decay, atomic weights, and half-lives. That is the pattern we see. Furthermore, it is theoretically possible for radioisotope decay rates to have been accelerated as a result of changes to the strong and weak nuclear forces within parent isotopes. However, the mechanism remains unknown, but it doesn't mean we won't know in the future. For more details see Snelling's book (http://store.icr.org...).

I would like to point out that Pro never refuted my point that Th does not create C-14. He also never refuted my point that there is excess Ar in rock samples in which the source is not the atmosphere. So the question remains. Why is there substantial C-14 in coal beds and diamonds that should be C-14 dead, and how can we know rock samples are not contaminated from excess Ar?

The main point Pro asserts is there is a 99% accuracy rating. I question the reliability of that statistic. Has someone really reviewed the thousands upon thousands of tests to derive that statistic? I doubt it. Furthermore, Pro only points to "independent" dating methods that support his point, but ignores others. For example, the rate of sodium put into oceans a year is more than is removed. The current 3.5% salinity is too low if the earth is 4.6 Ga years old (http://www.icr.org...). Also, the avg height reduction for all continents due to erosion is 2.4 in/thousand years, which means North America would be eroded flat to sea level in 10 million years (Journal of Geophysical Research, 69:3395-3401). How can the earth be 4.6 Ga? In addition, the rate of the earth's magnetic field decay has been measured at 5% per century (ESSA Technical Report, IER 46-IES1). Putting the starting strength where it wouldn't melt the earth it could only be decaying for 10000 years. How can the earth be 4.6 Ga? Of course, this is based on uniformitarian assumptions, but scientists can't reject the philosophy now! This list is not exhaustive.

If someone believes it is 3:15 and they only look at watches that affirm it, but ignore the pile of watches in the corner that disagree, their accuracy % is skewed.

The resolution is negated.
Debate Round No. 3
189 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 81 through 90 records.
Posted by Schnebby 4 years ago
Schnebby
"Schnebby, If there were caverns under the ocean then (1) a supernatural force expelled the water from the caverns and kept them empty, (2) the caverns would have to be huge and they would be under enormous pressure from the ocean above, so a supernatural force would have to keep them from collapsing for the duration of the flood, and (3) evidence of the caverns would then have to be erased."

Roy, you are probably right. A supernatural event would probably have had to occur for this to take place. But then again, people fall out of airplanes and buildings and live to tell about it, while others get hit in the chest with a baseball or football and perish.
Posted by CyanideLover 4 years ago
CyanideLover
ThePipes,

You seem to reiterate naturalist philosophy versus supernaturalism and creationist ideology. Yet human view points have no bearing on the age of the earth! The world is either 10k years old or 4.5 billion years old (irrespective of what you or I think). It can not be both. What evidence is there support the 10k time frame? If none, then why not toss that belief system in favor of one that matches the evidence?
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
The Pipes, You are quite right that scientists assume that naturalism is all there is. That is what defines science. That is a useful restriction because it means that science deals with things are predictable, in the sense if one knows the laws of nature, one can then use those laws for useful purposes. There are innumerable unsolved problems in science. If scientists approached each problem with the notion that "this is a miracle that cannot be explained," then all science would cease.

I think it is fair to say that science has reached no conclusion on the origins of life or the origins of the universe, but there are theories that propose natural explanations for both. Creationists rule out the possibility of natural explanations, so they cannot operate as part of science. Perhaps the answers will never be known within science, in which case religion will be unencumbered in these areas.

I would be pleased to debate any of the miracles required for a young earth, or perhaps some combination of them. There is nothing novel in any of the scientific claims. No matter what science discovers, religious people can claim it to be God's method. That will always leave room for religion.
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
Schnebby, If there were caverns under the ocean then (1) a supernatural force expelled the water from the caverns and kept them empty, (2) the caverns would have to be huge and they would be under enormous pressure from the ocean above, so a supernatural force would have to keep them from collapsing for the duration of the flood, and (3) evidence of the caverns would then have to be erased.
Posted by Schnebby 4 years ago
Schnebby
"The theory of flood water coming from thermal vents cannot work by any known means, because is requires a net addition of water."

Roy, I understand that water from HT vents comes from the ocean. However, what I was theorizing was that there was water in some sort of caverns, which was expelled, likely for the first time, creating the initially higher sea levels.
Posted by ThePipes 4 years ago
ThePipes
RoyLatham,

I am not completely convinced all those items you listed actually require supernaturalism. However, creating life from nothing certainly does. Furthermore, I am very confident God could have done it, but I am not convinced blind natural processes could have. All we have ever observed is biogenesis. Life begets life. Abiogenesis has been proven false in laboratories time and time again. If the scientific method "consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses" then science has proven that life coming from blind natural processes is false. Therefore, science leads to the conclusion that a supernatural event must have occurred in the beginning for life to have appeared. In conclusion, creationism is just as much science as naturalism is.

"Science requires that the answers not be determined ahead of time and then rationalized, which creationists claim they are doing."

Roy, secular/conventional scientists already assume naturalism is all there is and supernaturalism is not allowed in any hypothesis. When they look for an answer they will only accept a naturalistic explanation (regardless of how far fetched it is). So if science requires no predetermined answers, as you posit, then all scientists fail on those grounds! Why can't you see that? All scientists have prejudices that effect their interpretation of the data.

Just because the majority of elitist scientists support evolution does not make it true. The majority of the world believes is some sort of God. I highly doubt you would say they are right.
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
Pathos, ThePipes -- My comment addressed Pathos should have been addressed to ThePipes. Sorry.

Publishing a book does not make a person a scientist. Science requires that the answers not be determined ahead of time and then rationalized, which creationists claim they are doing. Occasionally a creationist publishes something in a recognized scientific journal, but it is always something peripheral or irrelevant to the central issues. A poll done in the 80s showed that 99.86% of earth and life scientists believed in evolution. Young earth creationism is surely considerably less common. It is not a competing scientific theory; it is a religious belief.
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
Schnebby, Existing thermal vents under the ocean work by sucking in cold ocean water through fissures, heating it by magma, and then expelling the hot water back into the ocean. The water flows by convection, with no water being added. The theory of flood water coming from thermal vents cannot work by any known means, because is requires a net addition of water.
Posted by RoyLatham 4 years ago
RoyLatham
Pathos, Here is a short list of supernatural events required for a young earth: radioactive decay sped up by a factor of about 4 billion, sand created instantly, limestone carbonate (from diatom skeletons) created instantly, light from distant stars created en route, limestone dissolved to make caves instantly, seasonal pollen grains created many times per year, about 40 ice core seasons per year, climate changes shown in pollen types and fish scale types created instantly, ocena salinity created instantly, seasonal coral bands created many times per year, erosion of granite increased 400x, tree rings created at least 2x with trees growing at 2x rates, efflorescence (dry rock flaking by crystal formation) increased by 50x, all heavy elements created instantly, dust cleared from the solar system according to particle size instantly, comets placed in distant orbits, earth magnetic field reversals captured in lava flows, instant creation of all life forms, craters created on moons and planets at perhaps 300 million x, flood water created then made to disappear, and plate tectonics sped by 2 million x. That is a partial list. A first course in geology or astronomy reveals many more.

I cannot disprove that all the supernatural events occurred. What is not remotely credible is that somehow all the supernatural events can be fit within science.
Posted by Schnebby 4 years ago
Schnebby
"Schnebs: you get no love from me...."

Oh how will I be able to sleep tonight?
14 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by VoijaRisa 4 years ago
VoijaRisa
RoyLathamThePipesTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:--Vote Checkmark3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Vote Placed by headphonegut 4 years ago
headphonegut
RoyLathamThePipesTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:70 
Vote Placed by Vi_Veri 4 years ago
Vi_Veri
RoyLathamThePipesTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:50 
Vote Placed by Volkov 4 years ago
Volkov
RoyLathamThePipesTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:50 
Vote Placed by JBlake 4 years ago
JBlake
RoyLathamThePipesTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:70 
Vote Placed by Rezzealaux 4 years ago
Rezzealaux
RoyLathamThePipesTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:50 
Vote Placed by Rockylightning 4 years ago
Rockylightning
RoyLathamThePipesTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:15 
Vote Placed by tBoonePickens 4 years ago
tBoonePickens
RoyLathamThePipesTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:50 
Vote Placed by jesusfro 4 years ago
jesusfro
RoyLathamThePipesTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:07 
Vote Placed by zabrak 4 years ago
zabrak
RoyLathamThePipesTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:07