Dating Methods and the Age of the Earth

The age of the earth, as of A.D. 2019 is about 6065 years, according to Anstey’s biblical chronology. This number comes from the correlation of all the dated events in the Old Testament and the New. The Bible gives us very particular chronological information in its very first book. This is in the form of what some have called “chrono-genealogies”, for they combine chronological and genealogical information. Not only do they tell us when these pariarchs lived, but they indicate which of them carried on the line that would ultimately lead to the Messiah. This latter fact means that they contained a prophetic aspect as well, for there was no way for the author to know at the time which of Adam’s sons would be in that line except by Divine revelation. There are just two of these chrono-genealogies: Genesis 5:3-32 and 11:10-26.

These are obviously official family records, drawn up in a definite form, which is followed throughout. This form has a built-in system of error-correction for copyists: redundancy of data. Both the number of years before the birth of the patriarch’s son and the years after are added together, and the sum given. All this implies that the accurate preservation and transmission of the record was important to the writer. The invariable use of the conjunction, “and” (technically called waw consecutive) to introduce each new element of the record indicates consecutive historical narrative. There is therefore no way to justify the claim that there may be gaps in the record. The interlocking character of the data shows that it is complete. To introduce any change would destroy its integrity. Beyond doubt, Noah was in possession of this record when he boarded the ark, and it was preserved by his descendants until the time of Moses; and that is how it has come down to us.

“And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth: And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters: And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos: And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died… And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed. And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died. And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” (Genesis 5:3-32)

Note that Shem is named first, as being Noah’s heir, though Japheth was older (Genesis 10:21), by a year or two. This is deduced from two biblical facts. First, Shem was not born in Noah’s 500th year, for he was 100 years old two years after the flood (Genesis 11:10); and second, Noah was 600 years old when the flood occurred (Genesis 7:6). Appropriately, the next of these chrono-genealogies continues with Shem. The exact same features are found here as in the first chrono-genealogy, discussed above.

“These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood: And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah: And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. And Salah lived thirty years, and begat Eber: And Salah lived after he begat Eber four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters. And Eber lived four and thirty years, and begat Peleg: And Eber lived after he begat Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters. And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu: And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters. And Reu lived two and thirty years, and begat Serug: And Reu lived after he begat Serug two hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters. And Serug lived thirty years, and begat Nahor: And Serug lived after he begat Nahor two hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah: And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters. And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.” (Genesis 11:10-26)

These chronological passages of Scripture take us down to the birth of the patriarch Abraham, in the 2008th year from the creation of the world. The first two millennia of earth history are thus disposed of in business-like fashion. The rest of the Old Testament chronology does not unfold so straightforwardly, but it is my conviction that it is complete and unbroken right down to the year 3590, when the captivity ended and the 70 weeks of Daniel commenced; and from that date to the baptism of Christ was exactly 69 X 7 = 483 years. So that we can say with certainty, on the authority of Scripture, that Jesus was crucified sometime in the year 4076 Anno Mundi (Usher’s term, meaning “Year of the World”).

That would make the age of the earth about 6,065 years. I say “about” because there is no inspired chronology to rely on for the years called “Anno Domine”, and the birth of Christ is generally believed to have occurred a few years before the first year A.D. My point is that because of the perfection of Scripture, there is more certainty about the dating of events forward from the creation than the dating of events backward from the present.

Evolutionists have never accepted this time frame. They like to have as much time as possible. Their theory loses any plausibility it might have without long ages for blind and accidental forces to somehow “get it right”. But in reality, there can never be enough time for blind and undirected forces to produce complicated, highly ordered, coding systems and interdependent physical systems that act in purposeful and coordinated ways to reproduce and maintain life. What makes evolution impossible has nothing to do with time, which is the cause of nothing. Extend the age of the earth as much as you like – make it trillions of years instead of billions – it will not help the cause. Without a Creator of infinite wisdom, power and goodness you cannot have a creation of breath-taking beauty and designed complexity, as we have. Where Chaos reigns, there can only be a cruel meaninglessness.

Radiometric dating comprises a set of techniques for estimating the age of rocks and fossils by measuring the concentrations of certain radioactive isotopes within them. Every radioactive element decays at a measurable rate, called a “half-life”. Carbon 14 has a comparatively short half-life of 5,730 years. Uranium 238, which retains its radioactivity much longer (half-life is 4,468,000,000 years), decays into a series of different elements until it finally loses its radioactivity, when it becomes lead. Over the hundred years or so that we have been measuring these rates of decay, they have remained unchanged. Therefore a comparison of the amount of the original element (called a “parent element”) with the amount of the new element produced by decay (the “daughter element”) might indicate how long the process has been going on. We have equipment that can literally count the atoms in small samples of such materials. The precision is amazing!

But to convert these super-accurate measurements into estimated ages, assumptions must be made. We do not know how much of either element was originally present, or that the decay rate was always the same in the past that it is today, or that other unknown processes or events have “contaminated” the sample. Therefore, the results are wholly the result of the initial assumptions. The problem is that anti-creationists assume long ages of purely natural processes proceeding at uniform rates; whereas the Bible reveals a short time-scale marked by Divine creation and supernatural interventions in human history like the global flood and the dispersion at Babel.

Radiometric dating is used to impart a certain credibility to the claims of long ages, but it is only one of many techniques that may be used to give an estimate of the age of the earth; and it is far from infallible. Some people are very impressed with high-tech ways of doing things, but our forefathers lived satisfying and productive lives using nothing but oil lamps and muscle power, before any of these things were even thought of. The simple are easily diverted with strings of colored beads, or the flashing of colored lights, but the wise see things for what they are. The modern technology cannot do anything but measure amounts of substances and rates of processes; the rest is inference and interpretation. No matter how precise its measurements are, they are only measurements of processes and materials that now are, that can be observed. No one has yet acquired the art of measuring time that has already passed; nor has the science-fiction idea of time travel yet become a reality.

No “dating method” can give any certainty of what happened in the past, before there were any people to record it. If there were a “prehistory”, a time unrevealed by a written record, it would have to remain forever shrouded in mystery. As I said before, all dating methods (and there are hundreds) must assume several things that cannot be proved. This fact alone requires that we regard all “dating methods” with skepticism. Consider the following questions:

1. What were the original conditions? In the case of radiometric dating, what was the original ratio of parent to daughter substances? The standard assumption is that there was only the parent substance, which tends to stretch the ages of things to the maximum. But it may have been otherwise.

2. Was the rate of the process in question the same as it is in observable processes today? Do we have any proof that it was constant? If it varied, can we make a reasonable prediction of the rate of variation? If the process was accelerated in the past, and we have assumed a constant rate, the results would be very wrong.

3. Do we know that there was no other process affecting the variables we are studying? Was the sample contaminated or interfered with by natural causes or human activity? No, we do not know. We weren’t there.

There are many unknowns in the universe. Is it not arrogant to claim to know with total assurance what was happening millions or billions of years ago, when we have so many unanswered questions about things we observe happening in our own times?

The rates of processes are not “laws of nature”. They can vary in unpredictable ways. Even the finest and most precise man-made clocks speed up and slow down to some degree under certain circumstances.

So what are called “dating methods” are in reality estimates based on unverifiable assumptions. A crime scene investigator makes guesses about what happened in the past based on physical evidence and the testimony of witnesses. The goal is to reconstruct the crime, and this requires both knowledge and imagination. Often, he gets it wildly wrong; and some unnoticed fact, or some new testimony comes to light, that throws all his carefully-constructed theories into a cocked hat.

One of the most intimidating arguments against the biblical dating of the age of the earth is the supposed agreement of results produced using the various kinds of radiometric dating methods. This claimed agreement is greatly exaggerated, for it is very common for the same sample to give widely-differing readings using the same method, or for a radiometric date to contradict a known date, or even for a higher layer of rock to yield an older date than a layer below it; and to the extent that this agreement exists, it is the result of selective use of the data to conform to a timetable already assumed. Any data that doesn’t fit the evolutionary assumptions and long-age theory is simply “filtered out” and set aside as irrelevant. Yes, the claim is that all the modern dating methods agree; but the little-known fact is that “90 percent [emphasis mine, HDK] of the methods that have been used to estimate the age of the earth point to an age far less than the billions of years asserted by evolutionists.”(Jonathan Sarfati, PhD, Refuting Evolution) We will look at some of these methods in a moment.

It is well to remember that the theory of millions and billions of years was developed long before there was any such thing as radiometric dating. It was simply assumed that each thin layer of sediment represented an annual cycle. There is no evidence of this whatsoever. The stated goal of Charles Lyell and other unbelieving geologists was to destroy the credibility of the biblical chronology. In succeeding decades, the age of the earth was stretched by stages from the accepted biblical age of thousands of years to the incredible number, now generally accepted, of 3.5 to 4 billion years!

We know that radiometric dating is wrong because it conflicts with the biblical record of early earth history. This record is not myth or poetry, but sober history, compiled by reliable witnesses to its truth. According to the laws of evidence (read Simon Greenleaf’s definitive treatment of the subject), there is no reason to reject, or even to question this historical record. Furthermore, it is clearly evident that this is not merely a record of fallible human observations, but an inspired account, a revelation from God.

But though this fact ends the argument for all sound-minded persons, there is more to be said for the sake of skeptics. Most people simply do not realize that there are literally hundreds of processes whose rates can be measured that give a more realistic estimate of the age of the earth than radiometric dating. I recur to Jonathan Sarfati’s statement, which I now give in full:

Actually, 90 percent of the methods that have been used to estimate the age of the earth point to an age far less than the billions of years asserted by evolutionists. A few of them:

  • Red blood cells and hemoglobin have been found in some (unfossilized!) dinosaur bone. But these could not last more than a few thousand years—certainly not the 65 million years from when evolutionists think the last dinosaur lived.
  • The earth’s magnetic field has been decaying so fast that it couldn’t be more than about 10,000 years old. Rapid reversals during the flood year and fluctuations shortly after just caused the field energy to drop even faster.
  • Helium is pouring into the atmosphere from radioactive decay, but not much is escaping. But the total amount in the atmosphere is only1/2000 of that expected if the atmosphere were really billions of years old. This helium originally escaped from rocks. This happens quite fast, yet so much helium is still in some rocks that it couldn’t have had time to escape—certainly not billions of years.
  • The moon is slowly receding from earth at about 1½ inches (4 cm) per year, and the rate would have been greater in the past. But even if the moon had started receding from being in contact with the earth, it would have taken only 1.37 billion years to reach its present distance. This gives a maximum possible age of the moon—not the actual age. This is far too young for evolution (and much younger than the radiometric ‘dates’ assigned to moon rocks).
  • Salt is pouring into the sea much faster than it is escaping. The sea is not nearly salty enough for this to have been happening for billions of years. Even granting generous assumptions to evolutionists, the seas could not be more than 62 million years old—far younger than the billions of years believed by evolutionists. Again, this indicates a maximum age, not the actual age.” (Refuting Evolution, Jonathan Sarfati)

There are no less than 101 different indicators like these listed in an article on the website of Creation Ministries International, otherwise known as “creation.com”. With the time that remains, let’s look at a few more of them.

The decay in the human genome due to multiple slightly deleterious mutations each generation is consistent with an origin several thousand years ago… This has been confirmed by realistic modeling of population genetics, which shows that genomes are young, in the order of thousands of years.”

Many fossil bones ‘dated’ at many millions of years old are hardly mineralized, if at all. This contradicts the widely believed old age of the earth.”

Living fossils—jellyfish, graptolites, coelacanth, stromatolites, Wollemi pine and hundreds more. That many hundreds of species could remain so unchanged, for even up to billions of years in the case of stromatolites, speaks against the millions and billions of years being real.”

The ages of the world’s oldest living organisms, trees, are consistent with an age of the earth of thousands of years.”

Experiments show that with conditions mimicking natural forces, coal forms quickly; in weeks for brown coal to months for black coal. It does not need millions of years. Furthermore, long time periods could be an impediment to coal formation because of the increased likelihood of the permineralization of the wood, which would hinder coalification.”

Experiments show that with conditions mimicking natural forces, oil forms quickly; it does not need millions of years, consistent with an age of thousands of years.”

Experiments show that with conditions mimicking natural forces, opals form quickly, in a matter of weeks, not millions of years, as had been claimed.”

Evidence for rapid petrifaction of wood speaks against the need for long periods of time and is consistent with an age of thousands of years.”

Observed examples of rapid canyon formation; for example, Providence Canyon in southwest Georgia, Burlingame Canyon near Walla Walla, Washington, and Lower Loowit Canyon near Mount St Helens. The rapidity of the formation of these canyons, which look similar to other canyons that supposedly took many millions of years to form, brings into question the supposed age of the canyons that no one saw form.”

Observed examples of rapid island formation and maturation, such as Surtsey, which confound the notion that such islands take long periods of time to form.”

Amount of salt in the sea. Even ignoring the effect of the biblical Flood and assuming zero starting salinity and all rates of input and removal so as to maximize the time taken to accumulate all the salt, the maximum age of the oceans, 62 million years, is less than 1/50 of the age evolutionists claim for the oceans. This suggests that the age of the earth is radically less also.”

The amount of sediment on the sea floors at current rates of land erosion would accumulate in just 12 million years; a blink of the eye compared to the supposed age of much of the ocean floor of up to 3 billion years. Furthermore, long-age geologists reckon that higher erosion rates applied in the past, which shortens the time frame. From a biblical point of view, at the end of Noah’s Flood lots of sediment would have been added to the sea with the water coming off the unconsolidated land, making the amount of sediment perfectly consistent with a history of thousands of years.”

Measured rates of stalactite and stalagmite growth in limestone caves are consistent with a young age of several thousand years. See also articles on limestone cave formation.”

Carbon-14 in coal suggests ages of thousands of years and clearly contradict ages of millions of years.”

Carbon-14 in oil again suggests ages of thousands, not millions, of years.”

Carbon-14 in fossil wood also indicates ages of thousands, not millions, of years.”

Carbon-14 in diamonds suggests ages of thousands, not billions, of years.”

The amount of helium, a product of alpha-decay of radioactive elements, retained in zircons in granite is consistent with an age of 6,000±2000 years, not the supposed billions of years.”

Volcanically active moons of Jupiter (Io) are consistent with youthfulness (Galileo mission recorded 80 active volcanoes). If Io had been erupting over 4.5 billion years at even 10% of its current rate, it would have erupted its entire mass 40 times. Io looks like a young moon and does not fit with the supposed billions of year’s age for the solar system. Gravitational tugging from Jupiter and other moons accounts for only some of the excess heat produced.”

Methane on Titan (Saturn’s largest moon)—the methane should all be gone because of UV-induced breakdown. The products of photolysis should also have produced a huge sea of heavier hydrocarbons such as ethane. An Astrobiology item titled “The missing methane” cited one of the Cassini researchers, Jonathan Lunine, as saying, “If the chemistry on Titan has gone on in steady-state over the age of the solar system, then we would predict that a layer of ethane 300 to 600 meters thick should be deposited on the surface.” No such sea is seen, which is consistent with Titan being a tiny fraction of the claimed age of the solar system (needless to say, Lunine does not accept the obvious young age implications of these observations, so he speculates, for example, that there must be some unknown source of methane).”

Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, looks young. Astronomers working in the ‘billions of years’ mindset thought that this moon would be cold and dead, but it is a very active moon, spewing massive jets of water vapour and icy particles into space at supersonic speeds, consistent with a much younger age. Calculations show that the interior would have frozen solid after 30 million years (less than 1% of its supposed age); tidal friction from Saturn does not explain its youthful activity.”

Lifetime of long-period comets (orbital period greater than 200 years) that are sun-grazing comets or others like Hyakutake or Hale–Bopp means they could not have originated with the solar system 4.5 billion years ago. However, their existence is consistent with a young age for the solar system. Again an ad hoc Oort Cloud was invented to try to account for these comets still being present after billions of years.“

Enough has been said to show that there is an abundance of evidence that is consistent with the Bible’s timescale. I hope this has whetted your appetite just a little. I urge you to explore the wealth of scientifically-sound Creationist material on CMI’s website. It is truly an amazing gift of God to our generation that we have such resources available to us! May we make use of them for our own advancement in the faith, and to equip us to declare and defend it!

Howard Douglas King

Edited June 6, 2019