Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Young earth creationists dismiss radiometric dating as unreliable, whats the truth?

share|cite|improve this question

closed as not a real question by David Z Oct 22 '12 at 13:58

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

It's reliable.. – Ron Maimon Sep 1 '11 at 5:17
May I ask, why its a bad question? – Sven Sep 1 '11 at 6:04
I didn't downvote, but I'm guessing whoever did has a couple of reasons in mind: (1) within the scope of physics, radiometric dating is perfectly valid, so it's kind of silly to ask whether it is - in other words, we don't care what the young-earth creationists think, and (2) your question doesn't really invite any exposition of the physical principles underlying radiometry. It can be answered with just a "yes." That's generally a sign of a bad question. It would be much better if you included some specific objections that have been made and asked whether they are valid, and why. – David Z Sep 1 '11 at 6:22
I didn't ask if radiometric dating is valid and my question can't be answered by yes? I asked specifically about reliability and limitations with the assumption, that the method itself is valid. – Sven Sep 1 '11 at 6:44
OK, well I meant it can be answered with "it's reliable." And your question definitely suggests that you are asking about the validity (a.k.a. reliability) of the method, mostly because you start by saying "Young earth creationists dismiss radiometric dating as unreliable." If you take that out, you would be on your way to making a better question. Keep in mind that we much prefer questions that show that the poster put some effort into formulating them, which yours doesn't. (If you like, we can discuss how to improve your question in Physics Chat.) – David Z Sep 2 '11 at 0:31

The main thing is that it's consistent with other forms of dating. Radiometric dating, for instance, will say that deeper levels of sediment are older than shallower levels of sediment. It will give similar fossils similar ages, even when the fossils are widely separated.

And one thing that the young Earth creationists need to explain if they're going to be down on radiometric dating--why do all subterranean pieces of dead organic matter have lower relative abundances of Carbon-14 than ones exposed to the atmosphere? What is their proposed mechanism for these abundances changing?

share|cite|improve this answer

Radiometric dating is very reliable in theory - the decay of radioactive materials is very-very predictable.

But like any other bit of experimental physics "the difference between practice and theory is small in theory but large in practice."

It's especially tricky for Carbon14 dating (which most recent stuff relies on).

The creation rate of C14 (and so the proportion in the atmosphere) depends on the suns activity - so a lot of dates which assumed a constant rate are known to be wrong. We can now calibrate this out by looking at C14 in tree rings of a known age - but the charge of "C14 dates are wrong" is used by nutters (sorry creationists) either deliberately or in ignorance.

We also assume that the sample died with the same ratio of C12/C14 as in the atmosphere, this may not be true if they got the carbon in their diet from geological sources, eg by eating a lot of deep sea fish. This led to bodies of monks being discovered in europe with new world diseases being dated to before columbus

share|cite|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.