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Chapter 1


[Part 2]

Other Dating Methods

If potassium/argon dating is actually slightly in favor of the creationist position, perhaps we should re-examine the other dating methods to see if they really do dovetail with evolutionary theory as well as it is claimed. So we turn again to Geyh and Schleicher and look at those 75 other methods. Some of them, such as 138La/138Ce, 176Lu/176Ha, and 207Pb/206Pb, are used only for Precambrian material, and thus are irrelevant for dating life. They may be valid, or they may be invalid, but it doesn’t really matter for our purposes. Some, such as 3H, 210Pb, and 228Th excess/232Th, are used only for recent (< 3000 year old) samples, and thus again irrelevant for the question at hand. Some are considered highly experimental, such as the 10Be/36Cl method (if evolutionists do not have confidence in a method or its assumptions, it would seem difficult to use it to disprove a creationist time scale). Some are essentially variations on other methods, such as the 39Ar/40Ar method.41
41Which is a variation on 40K/40Ar dating and subject to the same criticisms. The only apparent advantage of the 39Ar/40Ar method, the plateau effect, is not always present, and it is sometimes grossly wrong by anyone’s standards when it is present. See Ashkenadze et al. in note 31.
Some are only relative dating methods, such as paleomagnetism and stable oxygen isotopes. Some are used on only meteorites or lunar rocks and are mostly irrelevant for dating life on the earth (all except for the terrestrial ages of meteorites). [137] And some are obsolete, like the chemical lead method. Some, of course, suffer from more than one drawback for our purposes. When all these extraneous methods are removed from consideration, we are left with the following methods: 87Rb/87Sr, 40K/40Ca, 147Sm/143Nd, uranium/thorium/lead and lead/alpha, krypton/krypton, uranium/xenon and xenon/xenon, 14C, 36C1, 53Mn, 81Kr, 129I, 26Al, 10Be, most of the U and Th disequilibrium series, U/He, Thermoluminscence and relatives, Fission tracks, Pleochroic haloes, terrestrial exposure ages of meteorites, Amino acid racemization, Nitrogen content of bones, and Obsidian hydration. This is still an impressive list, but a far cry from the 76 methods we started with. And this list can be whittled down still further. Three little-used methods are similar enough to 40K/40Ar dating that they are subject to the same criticisms and can be safely ignored, one is grossly inaccurate by anyone’s standards, and one is a combination of other dating methods.

The krypton / krypton method utilizes the fact that 238U spontaneously fissions at a very slow rate, producing krypton in some fission events. This krypton from spontaneous fission is compared to the krypton produced by the neutron-induced fission of 235U, which is used in this method to measure the 235U concentration. Because there is a constant ratio of 235 to 238U, the concentration of 238U is known if the concentration of 235U has been determined. The resetting of the krypton/krypton clock requires elimination of all previously accumulated or acquired krypton. Krypton is a noble gas like argon. Since krypton atoms have a larger radius than argon, they are more easily trapped by minerals, and would be less likely to be eliminated than argon. As another parallel with potassium/argon dating, we find it suggested that krypton is lost, to account for younger ages than the “real” (evolutionary) age.42
42For example, Geyh and Schleicher, p. 151.
43An additional complication is that the samples are irradiated with neutrons, and since the neutron flux (amount of neutrons of the proper energy passing through a given area) is hard to measure, sometimes the krypton ratios are compared with those of a rock of “known” age. This procedure is justified if the reference rock is dated with either the krypton/krypton method or another reliable method, but if it is dated by the potassium/argon method, our discussion above makes the date obtained worthless as evidence for the evolutionary time scale.
I have been unable to find any reports of attempted krypton/krypton dating of recent (zero age) samples. 43 Krypton/krypton dating is not a significant support to an evolutionist arguing against a young earth. [138]

The uranium/xenon method and its derivative, the xenon/xenon method, use xenon produced by spontaneous 238U fission. In the uranium/xenon method the uranium (and therefore the 238U) is measured directly. In the xenon/xenon method the uranium is measured by measuring the fission products of 235U, analogous to the krypton/krypton method. The clock for these methods is reset when all the xenon is driven off. Xenon is another noble gas, with atoms larger than krypton and therefore larger than argon. Again there is reference to the loss of xenon,44
44For example, Geyh and Schleicher, p. 153.
meaning ages that are too young (although not young enough for a creationist model; only 30-70% less than required by the evolutionary time scale). And again no data has been published for “zero age” samples.45
45For the xenon/xenon method, the same method of comparing the rock to be dated with a rock of “known” age is used as was used for the krypton/krypton method. Again this makes the method dependent not only on the hypothesis of zero xenon initially, but also on the accuracy of the date of the “known” age rock.
The data from uranium/xenon and xenon/xenon dating are not a significant support for either an evolutionist or a creationist model.

The uranium/helium method depends on the fact that for each 238U that decays to lead 8 4He atoms are produced. This is complicated by the fact that uranium commonly contains 235U (producing 7 4He atoms), 234U (a decay product of 238U producing 7 4He atoms), and 232Th (thorium, producing 6 4He atoms). Thus if one knows the composition and amount of uranium and thorium present at the beginning, has a closed system (no U or Th moving in or out and especially no He moving in or out), and knows the amount of 4He present at the beginning, one can estimate the time. It turns out that one cannot calculate the time straightforwardly, but one can find it graphically. Again we read of the loss of helium,46
46Geyh and Schleicher, pp. 248,250.
but this time it is a little more believable because the helium atom is so small. However, with this method there is some evidence regarding whether the clock is consistently reset. The evidence is negative. Helium is found in minerals which have no uranium or thorium, and is found in recently heated lava cooled under the sea.47
47Damon and Kulp, see note 40, and Noble and Naughton, see note 22.
Here is another example of retention of a noble gas. It would be helpful to find minerals that are reset when formed experimentally, and are impervious to helium diffusion, [139] and use these minerals to date ancient rocks. But without such data, it is inappropriate to use uranium/helium dating in support of either time scale.

Terrestrial ages of meteorites in our age range are primarily found using 53Mn, 36C1, 81Kr, and 129I, and possibly thermoluminescence. These ages may be considered under the respective methods and need not be considered independently.

The nitrogen or collagen content of bones is a very rough method. It has nearly 2 orders of magnitude of demonstrated spread, and is influenced by such factors as temperature, moisture, pH, and bacterial environment. It is not nearly reliable enough to be of much use in differentiating between evolutionary deposits and Flood deposits.

Rubidium/strontium dating. We will now discuss the first method on our revised list. The 87Rb/87Sr method is dependent on the observation that rubidium is widely distributed with potassium (which it closely resembles chemically), and that about 1/4 (27.8346%) of the rubidium is 87Rb, which is radioactive and decays by electron emission to 87Sr. Its decay constant is 1.42 10-11/year, which corresponds to a half life of 4.88 1010 years. This would make an excellent dating method if all the 87Sr were eliminated at time zero. Unfortunately it is not, and so instead it is assumed that at time zero all the strontium is thoroughly mixed so that the strontium isotopes are homogeneously distributed. Strontium has three other isotopes 84Sr, 86Sr, and 88Sr, which are present in constant ratios relative to each other.48
4848 So that 84Sr/86Sr = 0.056584 and 86Sr/88Sr = 0.1194, which gives percentages in usual rock of 82.52% 88Sr, 7.00% 87Sr, 9.86% 86Sr, and 0.56% 84Sr. The percentage of 87Sr varies between 6.9% and 7.4%+, depending apparently on the past and/or present rubidium content of the rock.
49One could use the 87Sr/88Sr ratio or the 87Sr/84Sr ratio but the 87Sr/86Sr ratio is closer to 1, easier to work with, and the traditional one.
One can presume that initially the isotopic strontium composition was the same throughout a (presumably melted) rock. Then the rock crystallized so that the rubidium was partially separated from the strontium. If there is strontium in some mineral without rubidium, then this mineral can be used to determine the original 87Sr/86Sr ratio.49 If this was 0.710, and a given rubidium-containing mineral had a 87Sr/86Sr ratio of 0.720, then for every 1000 atoms of 86Sr, 10 atoms of 87Sr would have been produced by ra-[140]dioactivity. If in this mineral the 87Rb/86Sr ratio was 0.40, then for every 1000 atoms of 86Sr there would be 400 atoms of 87Rb. Thus the original 87Rb concentration would have been 400 + 10, or 410 / 1000 atoms of 86Sr. The formula for the age of the mineral would be t = ln (410/400) years/(1.42 10–11), or 1.74 billion years. If 87Sr/86Sr is the ratio in the rubidium-containing rock, and (87Sr/86Sr)0 is the ratio of the rock with no rubidium and therefore the ratio at the time of homogenization, and 87Rb/86Sr is the ratio in the rubidium-containing rock, then the general formula for the age is

t = ln ([87Rb/86Sr + 87Sr/86Sr – (87Sr/86Sr)0] / [87Rb/86Sr]) / k.

The problem with using this formula is that we rarely have a mineral with essentially no rubidium but enough strontium to determine the initial 87Sr/86Sr ratio. So what is usually done is to obtain several minerals with different degrees of rubidium enrichment so that they have different 87Rb/86Sr ratios. Then the 87Rb/86Sr ratios are plotted against the 87Sr/86Sr ratios. Several assumptions are made:

1. The radioactive decay constant of rubidium has been invariant.
2. The strontium isotopes were evenly distributed at time t.
3. No net rubidium migration has occurred since time t.
4. No net migration of strontium isotopes has occurred since time t.
5. We can accurately measure the 87Rb/86Sr and 87Sr/86Sr ratios in a given set of minerals.

If these assumptions are correct, we will find our plot giving a straight line:50
50The derivation of the formula is as follows:
87Rb = 87Rb0 e-kt;   87Rb0 = 87Rb ekt Assumptions 1,3
87Sr* + 87Rb = 87Rb0;
87Sr* = 87Rb087Rb = 87Rb ekt87Rb
= 87Rb (ekt – 1)
Decay products
87Sr = 87Sr0 + 87Sr* = 87Sr0 + 87Rb (ekt – 1) Assumption 4
87Sr/86Sr = (87Sr/86Sr)0 + 87Rb/86Sr (ekt – 1) Assumption 2
By assumption 5 we can measure the appropriate ratios.
87Sr/86Sr = (87Sr/86Sr)0 + (ekt – 1) 87Rb/86Sr. This is in the form of y = a + bx. The value a gives the intercept, and b gives the slope, which in this case is (ekt – 1). Thus picking some ideal example numbers, we might see a graph like this: [141]

Note that where the line crosses the zero line for the 87Rb/86Sr ratio gives the original 87Sr/86Sr ratio. Any strontium that originally had no rubidium with it would have to have that 87Sr/86Sr ratio still. Even if there is no such sample, we can predict its composition using our straight line. The apparent age is found by taking the slope,51
51Which is the change in the 87Sr/86 ratio divided by the change in the 87Rb/86 ratio.
which in this case is 0.010/0.40 or 0.025. So ekt - 1 = 0.025, ekt = 1.025, and t = ln (1.025) / k. The general formula is t = ln (1 + slope) / k. We only need 2 points to determine the straight line and thus the slope, but if there are more than 2 points, and all our assumptions are correct, the points should all lie on the same straight line. It is commonly felt that if all the points lie on a straight line, this is a good indication that the above assumptions are correct. Besides, scientists like a straight line, and there are nifty little computer programs for calculating the slope and intercept of the best straight line (the one that passes closest to the most points).

We now turn to how these dates are used in practice. The first paragraph of Faure (whose area of expertise is strontium geochemistry) dealing with experimental results is a shock:

Igneous rocks of granitic composition may contain both mica minerals and K-feldspar, all of which can be dated by the Rb-Sr method. Ideally, all minerals of an igneous rock should indicate the same date which can then be regarded as the age of the rock. When mineral dates obtained from one rock specimen or from a suite of cogenetic igneous rocks are in agreement, they are said to be “concordant.” Unfortunately, “discordance” of mineral dates is more common than “concordance.” The reason is that the constituent minerals of a rock may gain or lose radiogenic 87Sr as a result of [142] reheating during regional or contact metamorphism after crystallization from a magma. In such cases, the mineral dates generally are not reliable indicators of the age of the rock. We must therefore turn to the rocks themselves if we want to determine their ages. 52
52Faure, pp. 120-1.
I thought this was supposed to be a good dating method for minerals. Now we are told that Sr++ migrates. Furthermore it does not just re-equilibrate during metamorphism—“(sometimes K-feldspar actually gains 87Sr.)”53
53Faure, p. 124.
54In fact, the evidence was contrary in 1967, according to Hanson GN, Gast PW: “Kinetic studies in contact metamorphic zones.” Geochim et Cosmochim Acta 1967;31:1119-53. On p. 1120 Hanson and Gast state, “It is significant that no one has so far been able to thermally induce radiogenic strontium-87 to leave its host mineral in quantities commensurate to the loss of argon under geologically reasonable conditions even though it is not uncommon to find biotites in nature which have lost both radiogenic argon-40 and strontium-87 due to a thermal event.” I have not seen any data which would challenge their conclusion.
55Faure, pp. 127-8.
56Faure, p. 128, italics his.
57P. 84, citing Burwash RA, Krupicka J, Basu AR, Wagner PA: “Resetting of Nd and Sr whole-rock isochrons from polymetamorphic granulites, northeastern Alberta.” Canad J Earth Sci 1985;22:992-1000.
58Geyh and Schleicher p. 87, citing Schleicher H, Lippolt HJ, Raczek I: “Rb-Sr systematics of Permian volcanites in the Schwartzwald (SW Germany). Part II: Age of eruption and the mechanism of Rb-Sr whole rock age distortions.” Contrib Mineral Petrol 1983;84:251-91. Note that “The Rb-Sr system in these rocks is often disturbed in such a way that the linearity of the sample points is retained in the isochron graph, thus producing apparent isochrons with reduced age values (“rotated isochrons”, ...)”.
59Geyh and Schleicher, p. 85.
60Faure, p. 130, citing Clauer N: “A new approach to Rb-Sr dating of sedimentary rocks.” In Jager E, Hunziker JC (eds): Lectures in Isotope Geology. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1979, pp. 30-51; Clauer N: “Rb-Sr and K-Ar dating of Precambrian clays and glauconies.” Precambrian Res 1981;15:331-52; and Bonhomme MG: “The use of Rb-Sr and K-Ar dating methods as a stratigraphic tool applied to sedimentary rocks and minerals.” Precambrian Res 1982;1S:5-25.
I have a hard time swallowing that. Isotopic fractionation seems unlikely to be significant with two isotopes as close as 87Sr and 86Sr, and no experimental evidence is alleged to account for this.54 But maybe the rubidium/strontium ages of minerals can be explained by metamorphism, and what we really need is whole-rock suites. Surely strontium can’t migrate a matter of feet (or meters) in rock that was not melted and stirred. But we are told that “. . . dated by the whole-rock Rb-Sr method . . . The date indicated by the isochron may be the time of crystallization of the igneous rocks or it may reflect the metamorphic event. . . . The latter is preferred in this case.”55 Also “Whole rock isochrons may likewise indicate the age of the metamorphic event during which the sediment was recrystallized.”56 In fact, as Geyh and Schleicher frankly admit, “Although it does not fit the conventional model for Rb/Sr isochron dating, resetting of Rb/Sr whole-rock isochrons by high-grade metamorphism (granulite facies) has been reported (e.g., Burwash et al. 1985).”57 Furthermore, this migration of strontium “may also occur for rocks that [143] macroscopically appear unaltered. Without an age determination with another method for comparison, it is often not possible to recognize such an isochron as false.”58 So there is at least sometimes massive migration of strontium and possibly rubidium with elevated temperature and/or fluid, which cannot be detected by the usual signs of metamorphism.

But there is evidence against this proposed migration. For example, pyroclastic rocks can be dated “only by their phenocryst minerals (e.g., biotite, muscovite, sanidine). This is a proven procedure for assigning radiometric ages . . .”59 Notice that tuffs do not equilibrate the strontium in their phenocrysts after deposition. Here, strontium apparently does not migrate even in minerals. In fact, sedimentary rocks, deposited under water, do not homogenize their strontium if the grain size, at least of illite clay, is 2 microns or larger.60 If strontium doesn’t migrate enough to equilibrate in aqueous suspension except possibly with small grain size, why should it have migrated enough to equilibrate across macroscopic collections of whole rock, some of which are presumably much more coarse-grained? (If the strontium moves at all, it has to equilibrate or else it would take incredible luck to avoid ruining the straight line of the isochron.)

Why strontium should easily migrate is not obvious to me anyway. Strontium is doubly charged in minerals, and is poorly soluble in water; generally much less so than (singly charged) potassium or rubidium. Theoretically it should be hard to get strontium to migrate. In fact, one might ask, if argon (a neutral gas) has been retained in a mineral (so that the potassium/argon [144] age is believable by an evolutionist), why should strontium ions migrate to reduce the rubidium/strontium age?

The explanations for low rubidium/strontium dates seem lame to me. In fact, there seems to be a certain apriorism in their interpretation. For dates that fit the evolutionary time scale, even if the “assumptions are probably not strictly satisfied by any of the common detrital minerals”, still, “useful information” is presumed to have been obtained.61
61Faure, p. 134.
But if the dates do not fit, even if the rocks appear unaltered, it is because “even a modest increase in temperature of 100 to 200° C or so may have drastic effects on the parent-daughter relationships of natural decay schemes without necessarily being reflected in the usual mineralogical or textural criteria for metamorphism.”62
62Faure, p. 123.
63Pp. 196-7. The four tests they give are: 1. Direct comparison with other radiometric ages, 2. Direct comparison with fossils, 3. Stratigraphic sequence, and 4. Inference. Note that all but the first test reduce to whether the date fits with the evolutionary time scale, and if the other radiometric methods are chosen on the basis of their “reliability” (how well those methods fit the evolutionary time scale), the first test also reduces to a fit with that scale.
64P. 131, italics his. Note the absence of the possibility that to within the limits of the measurement the strata were laid down contemporaneously.
One might as well say what Dalrymple and Lanphere said regarding potassium/argon dating, that the evolutionary time scale is the ultimate arbiter for radiometric dates.63 And Faure comes close to making such a statement: “The final test of the validity of dates obtained from clay minerals is that they must decrease up-section in a stratigraphic succession of sedimentary rocks.”64 In that case there is no logical reason to regard such biased interpretations as evidence for the evolutionary time scale.

The more logical interpretation is that the rocks are not as old as the conventional ages would make them. But can one then explain those beautiful straight line “isochrons” from the standpoint of a short chronology? It turns out that one can. Suppose that instead of mixing our rock to homogenize the strontium isotopes, allowing the rock to crystallize with partial separation of rubidium from strontium, and then letting the rubidium decay in place, we let the rubidium decay in one rock before mixing it with a rock containing strontium but little or no rubidium. If we do not completely homogenize the two rocks, components will be[145] mixed in varying proportions, and the “mixing line” produced is mathematically indistinguishable from an isochron.65
65The mathematical derivation in the simplest case is as follows: In rock A let us suppose there is r rubidium-87 per gram, and s1 strontium-87 per gram. In rock B let us suppose there is s2 strontium-87 and t strontium-86 per gram. Then in a mixture of a proportion a of rock A and a proportion b of rock B (a + b = 1) there would be ar + as1 + bs2 + bt per gram. The 87Sr/86Sr ratio would be (as1 + bs2) / bt and the 87Rb/86Sr ratio would be ar / bt. Thus for a given mixture
87Sr/86Sr = bs2/bt + (s1/r)(ar/bt) = (87Sr/86Sr)b + (87Sr/87Rb)a 87Rb/86Sr.
Notice that the plot of 87Sr/86Sr versus 87Rb/86Sr is a straight line with intercept (87Sr/86Sr)b and slope (87Sr/87Rb)a, precisely analogous to the isochron plot shown above. A more complicated but analogous equation giving a straight line can be obtained for impure sources. Given rock A with r1 87Rb s1 87Sr, and t1 86Sr, and rock B with r2 87Rb, s2 87Sr, and t2 86Sr, we have in any given mixture 87Rb/86Sr = r/t = (ar1 + br2)/(at1 + bt2) and 87Sr/86Sr s/t = (as1 + bs2)/(at1 + bt2), assuming t1 > 0 and t2 > 0 (both rocks have some ordinary strontium) and a is the proportion of rock A and b is that of rock B (so a + b = 1). Then (assuming r1/t1 ≠ r2/t2, that is, the two rocks do not have the same ratio of rubidium to ordinary strontium),
s/t = (as1 + bs2) (r1t2 - r2t1) / [(at1 + bt2) (r1t2 - r2t1)]
= (ar1s1t2 - ar2s1t1 + br1s2t2 - br2s2t1) / [(at1 + bt2) (r1t2 - r2t1)]
= (ar1s2t1 - ar2s1t1 + br1s2t2 - br2s1t2 + ar1s1t2 - ar1s2t1 + br2s1t2 -br2s2t1) / [(at1 + bt2) (r1t2 - r2t1)]
= [(at1 + bt2) (r1s2 - r2s1) + (ar1 + br2) (s1t2 - s2t1)] / [(at1 + bt2) (r1t2 - r2t1)]
= (r1s2 - r2s1)/(r1t2 - r2t1) + [(ar1 + br2) (s1t2 - s2t1)] / [(at1 + bt2) (r1t2 - r2t1)]
= (r1s2 - r2s1) / (r1t2 - r2t1) + (r/t) [(s1t2 - s2t1) / (r1t2 - r2t1)],
which again is a straight line.
So a straight line need not imply an accurate age. A mixing line will explain the data just as well (in fact, all 2-component mixing lines are straight lines). All that is required is that 87Rb and 87Sr are initially found together, that is, the 87Sr/86Sr and the 87Rb/86Sr ratios are both higher in the same rock.

This way of explaining rubidium/strontium dates naturally accounts for systems like the theoretical example given in the figure on p. 85 of Geyh and Schleicher. Whole-rock dating gives a relatively unaltered mixing line. But if there was a certain amount of equilibration between the minerals in a single rock followed by re-separation of rubidium and strontium before it cooled, the slope of the mixing line could be reduced.

Is it realistic to believe that granitic intrusions, for example, do not mix completely? Apparently so. At least Geyh and Schleicher think so; “For example, there are indications that the condition of isotopic homogeniety of a magmatic body at time t0, [146] prerequisite for isochron dating of magmatic rock, is not always fulfilled. But for the Rb/Sr system, for example, initial heterogeniety would place the determination of a whole-rock isochron age in doubt, if not make it impossible.”66
66Pp. 12-13.
For example, “Some granites formed from crustal material by anatectic melting [melting of a previously solidified rock] have yielded only poorly defined isochrons. In some cases it has been shown that the scatter is not caused by secondary post-magmatic disturbances, but by incomplete homogenization of the anatectic melt . . .”67
67Geyh and Schleicher, p. 87.
68Contrary to the claim of Dalrymple, see note 9, p. 109.
But if incomplete mixing can also give straight “isochrons”, there is no reason to suppose that any “isochron” necessarily shows true age. The isochron method of rubidium/strontium dating is not “self-checking”.68

In fact, when faced with “isochron” lines that are grossly too old even by the evolutionary time scale, geochronologists have no trouble ascribing them to mixing lines. Several examples are given in Faure.69
69Pp. 145-7. His examples follow: Pleistocene to Recent (<1.6 million years old) lava with a Rb/Sr age of 773 million years (Bell K, Powell JL: “Strontium isotopic studies of alkalic rocks: The potassium-rich lavas of the Birunga and Toro-Ankole Regions, east and central Africa.” J Petrol 1969;1O:536-72); upper Miocene to Pliocene (5-9 million years old by K/Ar dating) lava with a Rb/Sr age of 31-39 million years (Dickinson DR, Dodson Mn, Gass IG, Rex DC: “Correlation of initial 87Sr/86Sr with Rb/Sr in some late Tertiary volcanic rocks of south Arabia.” Earth Planet Sci Lett 1969;6:84-90); Pliocene to Holocene (<5.3 million years old) lava giving Rb/Sr ages of 570 and 870 million years (the 570 million year “isochron” is apparently from <3000 year old lava. Leeman WP, Manton WI: “Strontium isotopic composition of basaltic lavas from the Snake River Plain, southern Idaho.” Earth Planet Sci Lett 1971;11:420-34); and Miocene to Holocene (<24 million years old) volcanic rock with a Rb/Sr age of 1.2 billion years (Duncan RA, Compston W: “Sr-isotopic evidence for an old mantle source region for French Polynesian vulcanism.” Geology 1976;4:728-32). An additional report has been made of Pliocene to Holocene (<5.3 million years old) lava with a Rb/Sr age of 1.5 billion years (Leeman WP: “Late Cenozoic alkali-rich basalt from the western Grand Canyon area, Utah and Arizona: Isotopic composition of strontium.” Bull Geol Soc Am 1974;85: 1691-6).
70For an example, see Dasch EJ, Green DH: “Strontium isotope geochemistry of lherzolite inclusions and host basaltic rocks, Victoria, Australia.” Am J Sci 1975;275:461-9.
One can even have a backward “isochron” (giving a negative “date”), which is universally conceded to be a mixing line.70 Thus a creationist explanation of other “isochrons” as mixing lines is not out of order.

It may be pertinent to note that in order to completely reset [147] an isochron, strontium isotopes must completely homogenize, to the nearest part per 10,000 or so, without homogenizing rubidium, or at least with subsequent refractionation of rubidium. If one simply mixes rubidium along with strontium, one has a mixing line with the same slope as the original isochron. This would make it more difficult to assume re-equilibration.

What about the apparent order in rubidium/strontium dates? Some of it is more apparent than real, due to the biases we noted under potassium/argon dating. But there is a real order as well. This might be accounted for by more complete mixing of the starting components for mixing lines as the Flood went on, with flatter “isochrons” as a result. And what about the matching of rubidium/strontium dates with potassium/argon dates? Some of the dates do not match.71
71For example, see Odin GS (ed): Numerical Dating in Stratigraphy. Chinchester, UK: John Wiley and Sons, 1982. Chapter 12 (Keppens E, Pasteels P: “A comparison of rubidium-strontium and potassium-argon apparent ages on glauconies.” Pp. 225-44) is full of examples of disagreement, and also has examples where the two methods agree but both differ from the accepted age. One may argue that glauconies are not always reliable, but examples of “incorrect” dates from other minerals such as biotite and whole rock granite may be found in chapter 24 (De Souza HAF: “Age data from Scotland and the Carboniferous time scale.” Pp. 455-66), for example. Also see Lanphere MA, Wasserburg GJF, Albee AL, Tilton GR: “Redistribution of strontium and rubidium isotopes during metamorphism, World Beater Complex, Panamint Range, California.” In: Craig H, Miller SL, Wasserburg GJ (eds): Isotopic and Cosmic Chemistry. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company, 1964, pp. 269-320. This fascinating study also demonstrates whole-rock (separated by, in some cases, miles) dates 200 million years younger than the presumed age of the formation (1.8 billion years), as well as up to 50% disparity between potassium/argon and rubidium/strontium mineral ages, in spite of minimal to no mineralogical evidence of metamorphism at this time (presumably 115 million years ago).
72Pp. 160-1, citing Hart SR: “The petrology and isotopic-mineral age relations of a contact zone in the Front Range, Colorado.” J Geol 1964;72:493-525, and especially Hanson and Gast, see note 54.
This fact is not as generally appreciated as it should be. But even matched dates do not necessarily correspond with real time. Dalrymple and Lanphere72 note some nearly parallel potassium/argon and rubidium/strontium dates which no one would say represented real time. Whether the data were somehow biased or whether there is some non-chronological relationship between the two systems I cannot say for sure, but certainly the relationship does not have to be chronological to give concordant “dates”. [148]

Is there some mineral or rock that one might reasonably assume had complete initial homogenization of its strontium isotopes so that we can get a minimum rubidium-strontium age for deposition? Yes, there is. Evaporite minerals would be expected to have had all their strontium either in solution or equilibrium with solution at the time of deposition. But evaporites turn out to be a real can of worms. For it is not certain whether so-called evaporites are actually formed by evaporation. It is certain that most of them are not formed by the evaporation of seawater.73
73See Hardie in note 37.
74See Baadsgaard in note 36.
Their minerals do not always lie on a straight “isochron” line,74 implying either an unusual recrystallization history or a complex mixing line. And their dates, although quite low, are mostly not in harmony with a creationist model.75
75Lippolt HJ, Raczek I: “Rinneite-dating of episodic events in potash salt deposits.” J Geophys 1979;46:225-8 (Rinneite [NaK3FeCl6] of Permian [250-300 million years old] age gave dates of 30-85 million years old by “model age” [the initial 87Sr/86Sr was estimated] and another sample gave 20 million years by actual isochron, but carnallite [KCl.MgCl2.6H2O] found with the rinneite did not fall on the isochron, dating instead to 8.5 million years); Lippolt HJ, Raczek I: “Cretaceous Rb-Sr total rock ages of Permian salt rocks.” Naturwissenschaften 1979;66:422-3 (two samples of these Permian potassium minerals gave ages of 82 ± 1 and 96 ± 1 million years within 10 feet of each other on the same horizon); and Baadsgaard in note 36.
The problems for a creationist would be neatly solved if some of the crystals were transported in, or even if the minerals were crystallized in different stages. From an evolutionary perspective, migration of strontium seems implausible, but re-solution is much more plausible. In conclusion, the evidence from rubidium/strontium dating, as well as that from potassium/argon dating, points in the direction of a short chronology for life on the earth. The difficulties of interpretation within an evolutionary time scale are far worse than those within a creationist time scale. Two other methods are analogous to rubidium/strontium dating and stand or fall with it. Potassium / calcium dating is strictly analogous. The only change in the formulas is the addition of a factor for the branched decay of 40K.76
76The equation being 40Ca/42Ca = (40Ca/42Ca)0 + (40K/42Ca) 0.888 (ekt – 1) for the isochron line. The equation can also use 44Ca or some other isotope as its reference instead of 42Ca.
In fact, the chemistry is [149] similar. Potassium and rubidium are nearly interchangeable and are found together, and the same is true for calcium and strontium. It is therefore not surprising that the few potassium/calcium ages that have been determined matched the rubidium/ strontium ages for the same rocks. It is of interest that evaporites, for which one can be the most comfortable that isotopic homogenization has occurred, again usually date low. 77
77Some studies (for example, Wilhelm HG, Ackerman W: “Altersbestimmung nach der K-Ca-Methode an Sylvin des Oberen Zechsteines des Werragebietes.” Z Naturforsch 1972;27a:1256-9; and Heumann KG, Kubassek E, Schwabenbauer W, Stadler I: “Analytisches Verfahren zur K/Ca-Altersbestimmung geologischer Proben.” Fresenius Z Anal Chem 1979;297:35-43) use model ages instead of isochrons. Heumann et al. dated langbeinite (potassium magnesium sulfate) with a potassium/argon age of 147 million years and a rubidium/strontium age of 152 million years, to 154 million years (the geological age was not given). The sylvite of Wilhelm and Ackerman, with a geological age of 200 million years, dated 133 million and 40.5 million years. Wilhelm and Ackerman attributed this to metamorphosis and recrystallization, without citing any other evidence for these processes.

It is fascinating to note Baadsgaard’s data (see note 36), especially on the Alwinsal Willowbrook core. With rubidium-strontium dating the sylvite gives 20-60 million years, and the carnallite gives 2-20 million years, whereas the potassium-calcium dates are 4-85 million years and 85-125 million years, respectively. Notice the reversal of the (apparent) relative ages (the conventional age is 350 million years and the potassium/argon age is 200 million years).

78The formula is 1143Nd/144Nd = (143Nd/144Nd)0 + (147Sm/144Nd) (ekt – 1)
79For example, see Geyh and Schleicher, p. 103: “This example clearly shows the high resistence [sic] of the Sm-Nd system to metamorphic resetting.”
Potassium/ calcium dating, like rubidium/strontium dating, is actually more compatible with a short than a long chronology.

The 147Sm/143Nd method depends on the decay of 147Sm to 143Nd by the ejection of an alpha particle, with a decay constant of 6.539 10-12 /year (and therefore a half life of 106 billion years). The isochron method is again used.78 The same criticisms apply to this method as to the rubidium/strontium method, but this method has the additional disadvantage for our purposes of being hard to reset by anyone’s standards.79 Finally, the long half-life of 147Sm means that most samarium/neodymium dates are Precambrian. Samarium/neodymium dating can be safely ignored in the present discussion.

Uranium / Thorium/Lead methods. These are three interrelated methods that all depend on the decay of a long-lived isotope (238U, half life 4.468 109 years, 235U, half life 7.038 108 years, [150] and 232Th, half life 1.4010 1010 years), through several steps, to lead. Each isotope listed above produces a different isotope of lead80
80Abbreviated Pb, from the Latin plumbum, from which we get the English word plumbing.
81This is because the methods under discussion are only used to date materials 1 million years old or older. The longest-lived intermediate is 234U with a 245,000 year half life. The other mean lives added together are less than 120,000 years for any series.
(238U yields 206Pb, 235U yields 207Pb, and 232Th yields 208Pb) through several steps of alpha and beta decay. For now we will not worry about the intermediate steps.81 For our purposes, once the uranium or thorium decays, it can be considered to have produced the proper isotope of lead immediately as a good approximation, if the evolutionary time scale is close to accurate.

These are essentially isochron methods. One can assume an invariant decay constant, initial homogenization of lead, and no migration of uranium, thorium, any of their daughter products, or lead, and no removal of 235U by neutron-induced fission. 82
82There is one place in Africa where this assumption is probably not true, the Oklo uranium deposit. About half the 235U has probably been fissioned.
83The equations are:
206Pb/204Pb = (206Pb/204Pb)0 + (238U/204Pb) (ekt – 1), where k 1.55125 10-10/year,
207Pb/204Pb = (207Pb/204Pb)0 + (235U/204Pb) (ekt – 1), where k = 9.8485 10-10/year, and
208Pb/204Pb = (208Pb/204Pb)0 + (232Th/204Pb) (ekt – 1), where k = 4.9475 10-11/year. There is also a 207Pb/206Pb age which is obviously mathematically interrelated with the uranium/lead methods, and as noted above, is only considered valid on precambrian age material anyway, and will not be given separate consideration here.
One then makes isochron plots as in rubidium/strontium dating,83 and in theory obtains three different dates which should all be concordant if the above assumptions are correct. If the dates are concordant, the conclusion is usually drawn that the calculated age represents real age.

Two criticisms of these methods can be made. First, even concordant dates can be precisely duplicated by mixing lines, just as in rubidium/strontium dating. Concordance may suggest that a deposit was last separated into uranium (and thorium) and lead fractions at a given time, but it does not prove that the last time it was made into a hot slurry was that long ago. This is particularly true for whole-rock dating, but is true for mineral dating as [151] well, since zircon is especially resistant to melting.84
84See Gale NH: “The dating of plutonic events.” In Odin GS (ed), see note 71, pp. 441-50: “Even though, [sic] a zircon suite may be well-dated by the U-Pb discordia method . . . , there can still be doubt whether this date is that of the rock formation itself or whether the zircons are detrital or have inherited radiogenic lead, resulting in the U-Pb result giving an ‘age’ older than the rock formation. (This danger is also inherent in fission track ages of zircons from bentonites.)” (pp 446-7).
85Geyh and Schleicher; p. 117.

Secondly, in practice “The ages obtained with the above equations are almost always discordant.”85 This would imply that almost none of the deposits which are dated by the uranium/thorium/lead methods have been undisturbed since the last time the uranium/thorium/lead clocks were completely reset. This would invalidate the dating methods unless there is some way of mathematically correcting for the age discrepancies. These considerations have led to the concordia method of uranium/lead dating. It is difficult to determine the relative movement of uranium and thorium into or out of a rock or mineral if movement has taken place after formation. Therefore, it is difficult to relate thorium/lead dating to uranium/lead dating in a specimen which is assumed to have been disturbed. But the two uranium isotopes should migrate together, as should the different lead isotopes, and so the 238U/206Pb age and the 235U/207Pb age can be related to each other. If we assume that the uranium in the sample was initially lead-free (or if we correct for primordial lead based either on the isotope ratios of nearby lead without uranium or on the use of isochron methods), the 238U/206Pb ratio will give an age and the 235U/207Pb ratio will give an age. Where the ratios give the same age is called the concordia line (this is not a straight line). If a sample has aged (for example, 3 billion years) and then loses lead86
86This movement of lead can occur in zircons exposed to seawater under high pressure and temperature in a relatively short time (up to 61% lead loss at 13 d in 2M NaCl at 1Mbar and 500° C) according to Pidgeon RT, O’Neil JR, Silver LT: “Uranium and lead isotopic stability in a metamict zircon under experimental hydrothermal conditions.” Science 1966; 154:1538-40.
or gains uranium, its uranium/lead ratios move from where it is on the concordia line along a straight line, called the discordia line, toward the origin. If the uranium/lead clocks are not completely reset (the lead is not completely removed and does not have its isotopic composition completely homogenized), the various rocks will have their uranium/[152]lead ages “stuck” at varying distances down the discordia line. Then as more uranium decays and more lead accumulates the discordia line gradually moves, but remains a straight line. At a later time one can not only date the original age of the sample (the “upper concordia age”) but also the time of the disturbance (the “lower concordia age”). From the standpoint of our discussion the meaning of the upper concordia age is not terribly important, as these dates are almost always Precambrian. But the lower concordia age often falls into the Phanerozoic, so the meaning of this age is quite germane to our discussion.

There is an elaborate discussion of discordia lines in both Geyh and Schleicher87
87Pp. 117-27.
88Pp. 291-9.
and Faure88 which I will not repeat here. In some cases a discordia line can make a certain amount of sense from an evolutionary geological perspective. However, “In many Archaean areas the lower intercept gives an age value that cannot be assigned to any known geological event. This secondary value is then viewed as meaningless.”89
89Geyh and Schleicher, p. 121. See also p. 124: “A multi-stage history of detrital zircon or monazite can produce a pseudo-linear plot with intercepts between discrete metamorphic events, which are then without geological meaning.” What is a “pseudo-linear plot”? It would seem to be a linear plot which we do not like. In that case how do we know that an ordinary “linear plot” has geological meaning except that we want to believe it? Some examples of lower concordia ages which are not realistic from anyone’s perspective are given in Tilton GR: ‘Volume diffusion as a mechanism for discordant lead ages.” J Geophys Res 1960;65:2933-45. Another example is given in Kuovo O, Tilton GR: “Mineral ages from the Finnish Precambrian.” J Geol 1966;74:421-42.
90This problem has been felt so acutely that several diffusion models have been developed to explain “invalid” lower concordia dates. The most prominent of these have been the constant diffusion model (Tilton GR, see note 89) and the radiation damage-induced diffusion model (Wasserburg GJ: “Diffusion processes in lead-uranium systems.” J Geophys Res 1963;68:4823-46). However, these models would be expected to be universal, or at least universal given certain parameters, and there are multiple examples of discordia lines which cannot reasonably be made to fit diffusion models (See, for example, Catanzaro EJ: “The interpretation of zircon ages.” In Hamilton EI, Farquhar RM (eds): Radiometric Dating for Geologists. London: Interscience Publishers, 1968; and Ludwig KR, Stuckless JS: “Uranium-lead isotope systematics and apparent ages of zircons and other minerals in Precambrian granitic rocks, Granite Mountains, Wyoming.” Contrib Mineral Petrol 1978;65:243-54). But note that even if the diffusion model were correct, it would still invalidate lower concordia ages as representing real time.
91This solution to the problem was noted in Steiger RH, Wasserburg GJ: “Comparative U-Th-Pb systematics in 2.7 109 yr plutons of different geologic histories.” Geochim Cosmochim Acta 1969;33:1213-32. The derivation is as follows: We will take two rocks, Rock 1 with P1 206Pb, U1 238U, Q1 207Pb, and V1 235U, and Rock 2 with P2 206Pb, U2 238U, Q2 207Pb, and V2 235U. We will define for any rock P/U = R and Q/V = S. The concordia plot is then R versus S, and the discordia line becomes R = aS + b. We note that for any rock U/V is a constant, so that U1/V1 = U2/V2 and U1V2 = U2V1. We will assume that there is some uranium in both rocks, so that
U1 > 0 < U2 (and V1 > 0 < V2).

In a given mixture with x amount of Rock 1 and (1–x) amount of Rock 2 we have
R = P/U = (xP1 + (1–x)P2) / (xU1 + (1–x)U2) = (P2 + x(P1–P2)) / (U2 + x(U1–U2)
RU2 + Rx(U1–U2) = P2 + x(P1–P2), and x(R(U1–U2) – (P1–P2)) = P2 – RU2.
By a precisely analogous derivation we have
Q2 – SV2 = x(S(V1–V2) – (Q1–Q2)).
Multiplying the equations by each other and dividing by x, we have
(R(U1–U2) – (P1–P2)) (Q2 – SV2) = (S(V1–V2) – (Q1–Q2)) (P2 – RU2).
(This equation is valid even if x = 0, for in that case
R = R2 = P2/U2 and P2 - RU2 = P2 - P2 = 0,
and similarly Q2 – SV2 = 0, so that the above equation reduces to 0 = 0 and is still correct.)
Multiplying out, we have
RQ2U1 – RSU1V2 – RQ2U2 + RSU2V2 – P1Q2 + SP1V2 + P2Q2 – SP2V2
= SP2V1 – RSU2V1 – SP2V2 + RSU2V2 – P2Q1 + RQ1U2 + P2Q2 – RQ2U2.
Collecting terms,
RS(U2V1 – U1V2) + R(Q2U1 – Q1U2) = S(P2V1 – P1V2) + (P1Q2 – P2Q1).
Since U1V2 = U2V1, RS(U2V1 – U1V2) = 0, and
R(Q2U1 – Q1U2) = S(P2V1 – P1V2) + (P1Q2 – P2Q1), or (if Q2U1 - Q1U2 ≠ 0)
R = S(P2V1 – P1V2) / (Q2U1 – Q1U2) + (P1Q2 – P2Q1) / (Q2U1 – Q1U2),
which is a straight line. If Q2U1 – Q1U2 = 0, then S(P2V1 – P1V2) = (P2Q1 – P1Q2), which gives a vertical straight line. Thus a mixing line of any two uranium-bearing rocks will always give a straight line on a concordia plot.

92Contrary to the claim of Dalrymple, see note 9, p. 119.
93Gentry RV, Christie WH, Smith DH, Emery JF, Reynolds SA, Walker R, Cristy SS, Gentry PA: “Radiohalos in coalified wood: New evidence relating to the time of uranium introduction and coalification.” Science 1976;194:315-8.
So some lower concordia [153] ages are difficult to explain from an evolutionary perspective using standard theory.90 Is there another way to get those straight lines? Yes, a discordia line can be precisely reproduced by a mixing line (in fact, the original discordia line to the origin is just a special case of such a mixing line).91 Mixing lines would seem to be the easi-[154]est explanation for the “meaningless” age values for lower concordia ages noted above. If that is the case, then mixing lines might also explain ages which were previously presumed to have geological meaning. Lower concordia ages would then no longer have the persuasive power that has usually been assumed for establishing a date for a Phanerozoic deposit. A straight line does not require an accurate lower concordia age. The discordia method is not “self-checking”.92

Is a mixing line a believable mechanism for discordia lines? Certainly for whole-rock dating a mixing line makes sense (and much of the dating that is done is whole-rock dating). For collections of zircons extracted from whole rock it also makes sense. Even if the dating is done on individual zircon crystals it would make sense unless uranium is consistently incorporated into zircon without lead. This would seem to require the uranium to be incorporated one atom at a time as an integral part of the zircon crystal structure.

The only requirement left of a creationist theory would be to explain the trend of dates to roughly match evolutionary theory. A general trend from older dates in earlier (i. e., lower) rocks to younger dates in later rocks could be explained by the gradually more thorough melting and mixing of the minerals in question as the Flood progressed. And of course there is some natural selectivity in what is published.

However, before we leave uranium/lead dating, attention should be drawn to a fascinating set of observations published in 1976.93 Some uranium-rich water percolated through Mesozoic coal (conventional dates over 100 million years old), depositing uranium and its daughter products. From pleochroic haloes of 210Po found in the coal it was reasonably shown that the uranium solution infiltrated the coal before coalification was com-[155]plete, and that coalification was completed roughly 1-10 years from the time polonium (and therefore probably uranium) deposition began.

The uranium did not deposit evenly. Instead, it formed small inclusions which had haloes, mostly without the outer, last-stage haloes. Uranium/lead ratios were measured in several of these inclusions. The ratios ranged from 2,230:1 to 27,300:1 and even higher (unmeasurable lead content). This would appear to give a date of less than 300,000 years—how much less is anyone’s guess. Movement of lead would seem to be unlikely when lead inclusions 50 microns away seemed intact, and it would take massive movement of uranium to explain these dates on an evolutionary basis.

To my knowledge the raw data has not been challenged. Attempts to explain the data by impugning the analytical methods would seem to apply equally to evolutionary dates. And since there is radiogenic lead in these samples not associated with uranium, the experimental results suggest that whole rock dating is not valid unless, as a minimum requirement, the lead can be demonstrated to be microscopically in the same place as the uranium.

Lead/alpha dating is just a watered-down and much less sophisticated version of uranium/thorium/lead dating. It is done by counting the alpha activity in the sample, measuring the lead content, and assuming no initial lead.94
94The lead/alpha method is nearly equivalent to the chemical lead method, which is obsolete.
It is not able to take primordial lead into account, as uranium/thorium/lead dating does, and should date rocks to a somewhat older age than the average of uranium/thorium/lead dates. It is not worthy of independent consideration.

Uranium series disequilibrium methods: The uranium series disequilibrium methods include several methods which utilize the daughter products of 238U and 235U. The methods that concern us are the 230Th/234U method, the 231Pa/235U method, the 231Pa/230Th method, the 234U/238U method, the 230Thexcess method, the 231Paexcess method, the 230Thexcess/232Th method, the 231Paexcess/230Thexcess method, and the 226Rasupported and 226Ra unsupported methods. The principles for each of them are similar, so they will be considered together, starting with the best-documented. The reliability of these methods is currently assessed [156]on the basis of several criteria:

-The sample must have a uranium content of >10 ppb, >1 ppm is better.
-Terrestrial carbonates should have contained no 232Th at the time of formation.
-Coral (aragonite, less than 1% calcite), mollusc shells, speleothem, and travertine should be compact, impervious to water, and may show no signs of weathering. They must have formed a closed system (Schwarcz 1980).
-There may be no signs of diagenetic recrystallization, which could have mobilized uranium or subsequent disintegration products (Geyh and Henning [sic] 1986). Thus, for example, primary aragonite samples (e.g., mollusc shells or coral) may not contain any calcite.
-The proportion of acid-insoluble residue must be <5% and the 230Th/232Th activity ratio of terrestrial carbonate should be >20.
-The 226Ra/230Th and 234U/238U activity ratios of marine samples older than 70 ka should be in the range of 1.0 ± 0.1 and 1.14 ± 0.02, respectively.
-The radiometric age should be consistent with the stratigraphic data.
-Dates obtained using different methods, e.g., 230Th/234U (Sect. 6.3.1), 231Pa/235U (Sect. 6.3.2), 230Th-excess (Sect. 6.3.5), 231Pa-excess (Sect. 6.3.6), U/He (Sect. 6.3.14), and 14C (Sect. 6.2.1), should agree.

If even one of these criteria is not fulfilled, the results cannot be expected to be reliable.95

95 Geyh and Schleicher, p. 213, citing Thurber DL, Broecker WS, Blanchard RL, Potratz HA: “Uranium-series ages of Pacific Atoll coral.” Science 1965;149:55-S.
This means that if authors and editors adhere to these criteria (especially the last two), no dates will ever be published that disagree with either the evolutionary time scale (“the stratigraphic data”) or with the standard interpretation of 14C dating. 96
96That it is intended to be applied this way can be inferred from Geyh and Schleicher, p. 222. Discussing methods for the “correction” of data, and noting their limitations, the authors state, “However, as none of these methods is entirely satisfactory, samples should be selected that will yield reliable ages with a high probability.” Reliable in what way? Giving the desired ages, or theoretically uncomplicated? If the former, then gross bias is introduced.
97 Bard E, Hamelin B, Fairbanks RG, Zindler A: “Calibration of the 14C timescale over the past 30,000 years using mass spectrometric U-Th ages from Barbados corals.” Nature 1990;345:405-10. It should perhaps be noted that they cited disagreements between the presumed original 14C/C ratios of previously dated varved sediments, U-Th dating, and ice cores of up to 100% (p. 406).
98Because of this bias, the situation is a little like arguing that the economy in a Marxist country is doing well because the news reports are always good. If one believes in Marxism then they are reassuring evidence. But if one is trying to decide whether Marxist doctrine is correct, then the systematic bias makes the data unimpressive.

This analogy should not be pushed too far. There is a major difference between scientific and Marxist reports. Science values truth, honesty, and trustworthiness, whereas Marxism is quite willing to dispense with them if it suits its purposes. Thus, although science has its Piltdown men, their perpetrators are disapproved even by evolutionists. Most of the time one can at least trust the raw data, whereas this is not true at all for Marxist propaganda. Reports of violent students at Tiannenmen Square are quite likely to be simply fabricated.

Therefore we can expect to see biased data. If the evolutionary time [157] scale is correct, then the data will be biased in the proper direction; but for the question as to the validity of that scale, the published data are nearly worthless. Thus even impressive data like that of Bard et al.97 are not that helpful, since we have no way of knowing how many studies with different results never got completed, or wound up unpublished.98

But on to the methods themselves. They are dependent on having known initial amounts (or concentrations) of a parent and a corresponding daughter nuclide (or two independent nuclides) which have presumably been immobilized in the past, and measuring the state of progression of the relevant nuclides toward equilibrium.

The 230Th/234U method, considered the most reliable, starts by assuming that no 230Th is found in a sample at the time of closure of the system. The 234U initially in the system decays to 230Th with a half life of 248,000 years. The 230Th itself decays with a half life of 75,200 years. With appropriate measurements of the 238U/234U and 230Th/234U ratios, a formula relating the age and the above ratios may be derived.99
99The equation is

(the brackets indicate alpha activity ratios rather than atomic ratios). One is tempted to think that for practical purposes the alpha activity of 234U should be equal to that of 238U. However, it turns out that the uranium in water is relatively enriched in 234U, so that in groundwater the decay of 234U is greater than that of 234U by a factor of as much as 10 or more. Seawater today usually has an activity ratio of 1.15. If it were not for this the equation would be much simpler.
The age itself is found by [158] interpolation as the formula cannot be solved explicitly for time.

The method depends on four assumptions:
1. The decay constants have been invariant.
2. The initial 230Th concentration was zero
3. There has been no net migration of 238U, 234Th, 234Pa, or 234U.
4. There has been no net migration of 230Th.
For the purposes of our discussion we will grant assumption 1. The chief complaint of evolutionists concerns the acquisition of uranium by the specimen. If additional uranium is introduced, the radiometric ages will be too low. This apparently happens quite commonly.100
100For example, see Geyh and Schleicher, p. 225: “Even when all of the rules are observed, incorrect data are sometimes obtained. A frequent reason is the presence of an open system, which is often the case with bones, teeth, marine phosphorites (Burnett and Kim 1986), and marine mollusc shells (Kaufman et al. 1971; Ivanovich et al. 1983), all of which acquire uranium in complex, episodic processes.” The references cited are Burnett WC, Kim KH: “Comparison of radiocarbon and uranium-series dating methods as applied to marine apatite.” Quat Res 1956;25:369-79; Kaufman A, Broecker WS, Ku T-L, Thurber DL: “The status of U-series methods of mollusk dating.” Geochim Cosmochim Acta 1971;35:1155-83 (a thorough and devastating review); and Ivanovich M, Vita-Finzi C, Hennig Gd: “Uranium-series dating of molluscs from uplifted Holocene beaches in the Persian Gulf.” Nature 1953;302:405-10.
101See Geyh and Schleicher p. 225: “In addition, Rae and Hedges (1989) have demonstrated that under certain circumstances not only uranium but also thorium may become mobile. Cross sampling often yields significantly lower ages than the burial age.” They are citing Rae A, Hedges REM: “Further studies for uranium-series dating of fossil bone.” Appl Geochem 1959;4:331-7. The results of Rae and Hedges seemed to indicate that bone took up thorium in groundwater experimentally. This would invalidate the whole dating procedure for bone, and suggest its invalidity elsewhere. It would be fascinating to see whether coral, for example, also can take up thorium from seawater.
102Geyh and Schleicher, pp 225-6.
103“In spite of this correction for detritus, U/Th ages obtained for Holocene stalagmites are often too large by several thousand years with no suggestion of any detrital component indicated by the presence of 232Th (Geyh and Hennig 1986).” Geyh and Schleicher, p 226, citing Geyh MA, Hennig GJ: “Multiple dating of a long flowstone profile.” Radiocarbon 1986;25(2A):503-9.
104Geyh and Schleicher, p. 221.
(This would be viewed differently by a creationist.) There is also evidence that thorium may not be retained by some specimens. Because thorium is not supposed to be soluble in seawater, this seems theoretically improbable, but since thorium loss is apparently required to make some ages fit an evolutionary model, it is assumed to have occurred.101 Apparently leaching of uranium also occurs, giving ages too old even for evolutionists.102 Whether this effect is absent for dates which agree with the evolutionary time scale would appear to be a matter of opinion. Also adding of 230Th apparently can occur sometimes without any physical indication of a problem.103 [159]

Perhaps most devastating for the validity of the dating method, one can have “unknown, non-zero initial specific activities of the 230Th in samples taken from different cores.”104 If one cannot be assured of initially zero 230Th activity, the basis of the method falls apart. Apparently this initial 230Th is felt to come partly from seawater and partly from terrestrial detrital particles. Of course the concentration of the latter would be expected to have been much higher during and shortly after a Flood, almost ex hypothesis. Therefore the method would appear to be theoretically incapable of proving the validity of the evolutionary time scale (by the same token, it would be very unlikely that it could prove a creationist time scale). We might conclude by saying that 230Th/234U dating is not very helpful in our quest. The significance of 230Th/234U ages is greatly limited.

The 231Pa/235U method is closely analogous to the 230Th/234U method. It uses the assumption that 235U is transported into a material without any 231Pa. The 235U then decays (via short-lived 231Th) to 231Pa.105
105The formula for 231Pa activity is closely approximated by [231Pa/235U] = 1 – e-kt, where k is the decay constant of protactinium-231, 2.021 10-5/year, corresponding to a half life of 34,300 years.
106Geyh and Schleicher, p. 230.
The same criticisms that apply to the 230Th/234U method apply to this method. In addition, 231Pa is acknowledged to be more mobile than 230Th (although the inference usually drawn is that it may be lost, rather than that it may be gained).106 The literature contains frequent estimates of 231Pa loss and prolonged 235U gain, to account for ages younger than expected using an evolutionary time scale. This method does not present a serious challenge to a creationist time scale.

The 231Pa/230Th method utilizes a mathematical division of the equation for the 231Pa/235U method by the equation for the 230Th/234U method. It is not really an independent method, and does not need further consideration in this discussion.

The 234U/238U method is based on the observation that minerals formed in equilibrium with water contain an excess of 234U with respect to 238U (excess decays per minute, not excess at-[160]oms). This excess (or disequilibrium) is presumably because minerals containing uranium are damaged at the sites where 238U has partially decayed, so the resultant 234U is therefore more available for solution than undecayed 238U. Seawater is enriched in 234U compared to uranium ore, and groundwater is still more enriched. If one knows the original 234U/238U activity ratio one can closely approximate the time by t = ln ([234U/238U – 1]0 / [234U/238U – 1]) / k, where [234U/238U] is the activity ratio rather than the molar or weight ratio. However, without knowledge of [234U/238U]0, time cannot be calculated. And there are no reliable estimates for this initial ratio.107
107See Geyh and Schleicher, p. 232: “The main problem in applying this method to the dating of terrestrial samples is the lack of exact knowledge of the initial 234U/238U activity ratio, which is known only for marine samples.” For marine samples, of course, a Flood might be expected to have had a major impact. And indeed there are evidences which could suggest that the initial 234U/238U activity ratio has varied. Ivanovich et al. in note 100 state on p. 410, “Furthermore, the 234U/238U activity ratios in modern marine shells are close to 1.15, the accepted value for oceanic water3 [Kaufmann et al. in note 100], whereas the uranium isotope activity ratios in fossil shells are commonly greater than 1.15 indicating assimilation and uptake of uranium isotopes at least partly from sources other than oceanic waters4,7. [Veeh HH, Burnett WC: “Carbonate and phosphate sediments.” In Ivanovich M, Harmon RS (eds): Uranium Series Disequilibrium: Application to Enviornmmental Problems. Oxford: Clarendon press, 1982, pp. 459-80; and Rosholt JN: “Open System model for uranium-series dating of Pleistocene samples.” In: Radioactive dating methods and Low-level counting. Vienna: IAEA, 1967, pp. 299-3 11.]”

The dating of corals by the 234U/238U and 230Th/234U methods appears to be the place in radiometric dating where the data are most consistently supportive of the evolutionary hypothesis. There are still minor glitches, such as the occasional inconsistency with 14C dates, but the evolutionary time scale does explain the vast majority of the published data with simple and plausible assumptions (but see Bar-Matthews M, Wasserburg GJ, Chen JH: “Diagenesis of fossil coral skeletons: Correlation between trace elements, textures, and 234U/238U.” Geochim Cosmochim Acta 1993;57:257-76). So it is only fair to ask for a creationist model that will perform as well.

A creationist model would have to start by saying that the 234U/238U ratio in seawater at the end of the Flood was close to 1.10, instead of the 1.15 ratio at present. With massive leaching of the continents and the input to the oceans of water with an average value of perhaps 1.5-4 (fairly typical of groundwater), the value of seawater would have risen fairly quickly to its present level and then moved little for the last several (4-20+ depending on the model) thousand years. The detrital content of the oceans, and therefore the thorium available for direct incorporation, would be decreasing during this time, giving decreasing 230Th/234U ratios and therefore decreasing”ages”. Thus it seems that if thorium can be incorporated directly into corals (and this should be tested as it has been in bone; see Rae and Hedges in note 100), there is a simple creationist model which can also explain the data.

It is fascinating at this point to speculate concerning the two models. The creationist model suggests that Pleistocene corals near large land masses should be less reliable than mid-ocean corals, particularly having a 234U/238U ratio of greater than 1.15, while their 230Th/234U ratios should be higher than predicted by a straightforward evolutionary model. Furthermore, it suggests that there should be an unusual profile to pre-Flood corals. Their 234U/238U ratio should be less than 1.10, perhaps even approximating 1.00, which matches the evolutionary prediction of great apparent age, but their 230Th content should be quite low, comparable with that of modern corals, giving 230Th/234U dates near zero. I have not yet run across any data in the literature which would appear to corroborate or refute these predictions. These predictions should be tested, but it is doubtful that any evolutionist would attempt to date Paleozoic or Mesozoic coral unless he considers a creationist model at least a possibility.

108Mean life? No supporting data are given by Geyh and Schleicher (p. 216).
109P. 236. An example of a sedimentary profile with a profile of excess 230Th that is actually reversed can be found in Somayajulu BLK: “Analysis of the causes of variation of 10Be in marine sediments.” Geochim Cosmochim Acta 1977;41:909-13. No other evidence is cited for the hypothesis that this is a disturbed sediment.
Thus this method is not helpful in deciding our question. [161]

The 230Thexcess method is used to date ocean sediments and manganese nodules. It is based on the theory that in present-day oceans uranium (including 238U and 234U) stays in solution for approximately 250,000 years,108 whereas thorium is adsorbed onto plankton or sediment particles within decades. The excess thorium decays away by the equation
ln ([230Thexcess]0 / [230Thexcess]) = kt.
If the sediment is deposited at a constant rate, and the [230Thexcess] is constant, then
ln [230Thexcess] = ln [230Thexcess]0 – kd/r,
where d is the depth and r is the sedimentation rate or the manganese nodule growth rate. Of course, the sedimentation rate and the thorium content of the oceans would be expected to have been greater in the past if a Flood occurred, making it difficult to make a straightforward interpretation of results. But an evolutionary interpretation is difficult also, as noted by Geyh and Schleicher:109 “The application of this method to pelagic sediments has been successful [has given the expected dates] in only a few cases because A0 [the initial excess thorium specific activity] apparently often changes with the rate of sedimentation . . .”. “In manganese nodules, in addition to changes in A0, 230Th can migrate by diffusion . . . causing apparent ages that are too small by up to a factor of 3.” So the 230Thexcess method must be classified among [162] the methods which do not aid in choosing between evolutionary and creationist time scales.

The 231Paexcess method is very similar to the 230Thexcess method, and suffers from the additional drawback that 231Pa is more soluble in water. It need not be further considered here.

The 230Thexcess/232Th method is similar to the 230Thexcess method, but attempts to compensate for the variability of 230Th concentration during sedimentation using the assumption that the input of 230Th correlates “with the input of detrital 232Th, which, of course, is not always the case.”110
110Geyh and Schleicher, p. 238.
For use in volcanic rocks, complete homogenization is assumed and an “isochron” plot is made. After the rubidium/strontium isochron discussion above we need not comment further. This method is not enough of an improvement to merit a change in our evaluation of the 230Thexcess method.

The 231Paexcess/230Thexcess method assumes that all the 230Th excess and all the 231Pa excess in ocean sediments came from precipitation out of seawater with 234U, 235U, and 238U in present-day concentrations. The method is not as clear-cut as one might wish.111
111Geyh and Schleicher, p. 240.
But more importantly, this method would be expected to have been drastically affected by detrital components of Flood waters.

The 226Rasupported and 226Raunsupported methods are “only of historical significance with respect to.. . application for oceanographic studies.”112
112Geyh and Schleicher, p. 243.
The other applications seem to deal with recent dates and are not relevant to our discussion.

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