Radiometric Dating and the Geological Time Scale

April Koch April teaches high school science and holds a master’s degree in education. Learn how scientists determine the ages of rocks and fossils. We’ll explore both relative and numerical dating on our quest to understand the process of geological dating. Along the way, we’ll learn how stratigraphic succession and radioactive decay contribute to the work of paleontologists. Dating Dinosaur Fossils Consider the following scenario: Paul the Paleontologist is a very famous scientist who has studied dinosaur bones all over the world.

Unreliability of Radiometric Dating and Old Age of the Earth

Early history[ edit ] In Ancient Greece , Aristotle BCE observed that fossils of seashells in rocks resembled those found on beaches — he inferred that the fossils in rocks were formed by living animals, and he reasoned that the positions of land and sea had changed over long periods of time. Leonardo da Vinci — concurred with Aristotle’s interpretation that fossils represented the remains of ancient life.

Steno argued that rock layers or strata were laid down in succession, and that each represents a “slice” of time. He also formulated the law of superposition, which states that any given stratum is probably older than those above it and younger than those below it.

Radiometric Dating and the Geological Time Scale: Circular Reasoning or Reliable Tools? Andrew MacRae deals with claims that the geologic column is just circular reasoning.

Relative dating Cross-cutting relations can be used to determine the relative ages of rock strata and other geological structures. Methods for relative dating were developed when geology first emerged as a natural science. Geologists still use the following principles today as a means to provide information about geologic history and the timing of geologic events. The principle of uniformitarianism states that the geologic processes observed in operation that modify the Earth’s crust at present have worked in much the same way over geologic time.

In geology, when an igneous intrusion cuts across a formation of sedimentary rock , it can be determined that the igneous intrusion is younger than the sedimentary rock. Different types of intrusions include stocks, laccoliths , batholiths , sills and dikes. The principle of cross-cutting relationships pertains to the formation of faults and the age of the sequences through which they cut. Faults are younger than the rocks they cut; accordingly, if a fault is found that penetrates some formations but not those on top of it, then the formations that were cut are older than the fault, and the ones that are not cut must be younger than the fault.

Finding the key bed in these situations may help determine whether the fault is a normal fault or a thrust fault. For example, in sedimentary rocks, it is common for gravel from an older formation to be ripped up and included in a newer layer. A similar situation with igneous rocks occurs when xenoliths are found. These foreign bodies are picked up as magma or lava flows, and are incorporated, later to cool in the matrix. As a result, xenoliths are older than the rock which contains them.

Radiometric Dating and the Geological Time Scale

By Eric Hovind on May 5, in Articles , Beginner Whenever the worldview of evolution is questioned, the topic of carbon dating always comes up. Here is how carbon dating works and the assumptions it is based upon. How Carbon Dating Works Radiation from the sun strikes the atmosphere of the earth all day long. This energy converts about 21 pounds of nitrogen into radioactive carbon This radioactive carbon 14 slowly decays back into normal, stable nitrogen.

Relative Dating Methods The simplest and most intuitive way of dating geological features is to look at the relationships between them. There are a few simple rules for doing this, some of which we’ve already looked at in Chapter 6.

There are lots of ways to guesstimate ages, and geologists knew the earth was old a long time ago and I might add that they were mostly Christian creationist geologists. But they didn’t know how old. Radiometric dating actually allows the measurement of absolute ages, and so it is deadly to the argument that the earth cannot be more than 10, years old. Radiometric methods measure the time elapsed since the particular radiometric clock was reset.

Radiocarbon dating, which is probably best known in the general public, works only on things that were once alive and are now dead. It measures the time elapsed since death, but is limited in scale to no more than about 50, years ago. Generally applied to igneous rocks those of volcanic origin , they measure the time since the molten rock solidified. If that happens to be longer than 10, years, then the idea of a young-Earth is called into question.

If that happens to be billions of years, then the young-Earth is in big trouble. As of January, , The oldest rocks found on earth are 4. This is reported in the paper Priscoan 4. Williams; Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 1:

How Good are those Young

Radioactive decay[ edit ] Example of a radioactive decay chain from lead Pb to lead Pb. The final decay product, lead Pb , is stable and can no longer undergo spontaneous radioactive decay. All ordinary matter is made up of combinations of chemical elements , each with its own atomic number , indicating the number of protons in the atomic nucleus.

Dating: Dating, in geology, determining a chronology or calendar of events in the history of Earth, using to a large degree the evidence of organic evolution in the sedimentary rocks accumulated through geologic time in marine and continental environments. To date past events, processes, formations, and.

More extensive evidence, largely ignored or brushed over by most of the agnostic scientific community, is contained in the excellent book In the Beginning by Walter T. More on that later. Let’s first look at: If an animal mates with another animal not of its exact species, the result will be a sterile creature e. If animals of a given species mate and produce an abnormal offspring i. Therefore, how could the macro evolutionary process advance?

How could a “mutant” i. It would first have to be fertile itself. It would have to find a sexually compatible mate who was also fertile during its relatively miniscule life span on the overall evolutionary time scale. Thirdly, their offspring would also have to be fertile and be able to continue the advance. So if single celled animals formed in the primordial soup and they were asexual not have either male or female characteristics, but reproducing by themselves, how would they advance to a hermaphroditic state having both male and female sexual organs and then to the higher orders of animals which almost always have distinct male and female reproductive organs?

All in-between states are sterile.

Dating

Geologic time is often dicussed in two forms: These subdivisions are given names, most of which can be recognized globally, usually on the basis of fossils. Absolute time “chronometric” — numerical ages in “millions of years” or some other measurement. These are most commonly obtained via radiometric dating methods performed on appropriate rock types.

One of the first scientists to understand geologic time was James Hutton. In the late s, he traveled around Great Britain and studied sedimentary rocks and their fossils.

Carbon , Radiometric Dating and Index Fossils Carbon dating is used to determine the age of biological artifacts up to 50, years old. This technique is widely used on recent artifacts, but educators and students alike should note that this technique will not work on older fossils like those of the dinosaurs alleged to be millions of years old. This technique is not restricted to bones; it can also be used on cloth, wood and plant fibers.

Carbon dating has been used successfully on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Minoan ruins and tombs of the pharaohs among other things. Carbon is a radioactive isotope of carbon. The half-life of carbon is approximately 5, years. The short half-life of carbon means it cannot be used to date fossils that are allegedly extremely old, e. The question should be whether or not carbon can be used to date any artifacts at all? The answer is not simple.

Radiometric dating

The assumption that the geologic column is a base from which to calibrate the C dates is not wise. With a half-life of only years, carbon dating has nothing to do with dating the geological ages! Whether by sloppiness or gross ignorance, Dr. Hovind is confusing the carbon “clock” with other radiometric “clocks. Being ancient, the C content has long since decayed away and that makes it useful in “zeroing” laboratory instruments.

The ten strata systems that geologists use (Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary) compose the “standard geologic column” and are claimed by many to contain the major proof of evolutionary theory.

One of the very foundations of evolution and popular science today is the “geologic column. Although not found in all locations and although it varies in thickness as well as the numbers of layers present, this column can be found generally over the entire globe. Many of its layers can even be found on top of great mountains – such as Mt. Everest and the American Rockies. In some places, such as the mile deep Grand Canyon, the layers of the column have been revealed in dramatic display.

Certainly the existence of the column and its layered nature is quite clear, but what does it mean? Is it really a record of millions and even billions of years of Earth’s history? Or, viewed from a different perspective perhaps, does it say something else entirely? As one looks at the geologic column, it is obvious that the contact zones, between the various layers, are generally very flat and smooth relative to each other though the layers may be tilted relative to what is currently horizontal or even warped since their original “flat” formation.

Many of the layers extend over hundreds of thousands of square miles and yet their contact zones remain as smooth and parallel with each other as if sheets of glass were laid on top of one another before they were warped. And yet, each layer is supposed to have formed over thousands if not millions of years?

Methods of Geological Dating: Numerical and Relative Dating

The Radiometric Dating Game Radiometric dating methods estimate the age of rocks using calculations based on the decay rates of radioactive elements such as uranium, strontium, and potassium. On the surface, radiometric dating methods appear to give powerful support to the statement that life has existed on the earth for hundreds of millions, even billions, of years.

We are told that these methods are accurate to a few percent, and that there are many different methods. We are told that of all the radiometric dates that are measured, only a few percent are anomalous.

Radiometric Dating. How radiometric dating works in general. Why methods in general are inaccurate. Why K-Ar dating is inaccurate. The branching ratio problem.

Acknowledgements Introduction his document discusses the way radiometric dating and stratigraphic principles are used to establish the conventional geological time scale. It is not about the theory behind radiometric dating methods, it is about their application, and it therefore assumes the reader has some familiarity with the technique already refer to “Other Sources” for more information. As an example of how they are used, radiometric dates from geologically simple, fossiliferous Cretaceous rocks in western North America are compared to the geological time scale.

To get to that point, there is also a historical discussion and description of non-radiometric dating methods. A common form of criticism is to cite geologically complicated situations where the application of radiometric dating is very challenging. These are often characterised as the norm, rather than the exception. I thought it would be useful to present an example where the geology is simple, and unsurprisingly, the method does work well, to show the quality of data that would have to be invalidated before a major revision of the geologic time scale could be accepted by conventional scientists.

Geochronologists do not claim that radiometric dating is foolproof no scientific method is , but it does work reliably for most samples. It is these highly consistent and reliable samples, rather than the tricky ones, that have to be falsified for “young Earth” theories to have any scientific plausibility, not to mention the need to falsify huge amounts of evidence from other techniques. This document is partly based on a prior posting composed in reply to Ted Holden.

My thanks to both him and other critics for motivating me. Background Stratigraphic Principles and Relative Time Much of the Earth’s geology consists of successional layers of different rock types, piled one on top of another. The most common rocks observed in this form are sedimentary rocks derived from what were formerly sediments , and extrusive igneous rocks e.

The layers of rock are known as “strata”, and the study of their succession is known as “stratigraphy”.

Teaching Geologic History

Are they always accurate? When a new fossil is discovered, geologists assign a date for when they think the plant or animal lived. They normally use radiometric dating methods to date the fossil, and many promote these methods as being accurate.

Learn how scientists determine the ages of rocks and fossils. We’ll explore both relative and numerical dating on our quest to understand the process of geological dating.

Divisions of Geologic Time approved by the U. Geological Survey Geologic Names Committee, The chart shows major chronostratigraphic and geochronologic units. It reflects ratified unit names and boundary estimates from the International Commission on Stratigraphy Ogg, Map symbols are in parentheses. All other units are periods. A geologic time scale is composed of standard stratigraphic divisions based on rock sequences and is calibrated in years Harland and others, Over the years, the development of new dating methods and the refinement of previous methods have stimulated revisions to geologic time scales.

Radiometric or Absolute Rock Dating