How to solve radiometric dating questions

02 Oct

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.

Archaeologists use the exponential, radioactive decay of carbon 14 to estimate the death dates of organic material.

The stable form of carbon is carbon 12 and the radioactive isotope carbon 14 decays over time into nitrogen 14 and other particles.

When an organism dies it ceases to replenish carbon in its tissues and the decay of carbon 14 to nitrogen 14 changes the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14.

Experts can compare the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14 in dead material to the ratio when the organism was alive to estimate the date of its death.

Radiocarbon dating can be used on samples of bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers.

There are over forty such techniques, each using a different radioactive element or a different way of measuring them.

The example used here contrasts sharply with the way conventional scientific dating methods are characterized by some critics (for example, refer to discussion in "Common Creationist Criticisms of Mainstream Dating Methods" in the Age of the Earth FAQ and Isochron Dating FAQ).

A common form of criticism is to cite geologically complicated situations where the application of radiometric dating is very challenging.

Carbon-14 cannot be used to date biological artifacts of organisms that did not get their carbon dioxide from the air.

This rules out carbon dating for most aquatic organisms, because they often obtain at least some of their carbon from dissolved carbonate rock.