Exposing PseudoAstronomy

April 28, 2010

Young-Earth Creationists Need to Have a Consistent View Things: Radiometric Dating and Noah’s Ark


One of the best and most reliable ways to determine the absolute ages of a material is through radiometric dating. Because of this, and because they show the age of things to be older than 6000 years, young-Earth creationists (YECs) have spent decades trying to show that it doesn’t work or just claiming that assumptions that scientists make are not true.

Their attempts at this include bringing samples of newly formed lava to a lab where they find an age of a few million years and then laugh saying that it only formed a decade ago. (Two issues there are that (1) the type of dating employed isn’t accurate for a sample younger than 500,000 years, and (2) they dated small minerals in the lava that did not melt in the original lava so actually were many millions of years old.)

Or they will claim that radiocarbon dating isn’t even used for dating dinosaur fossils … leaving out that radiocarbon dating can’t be applied to things that are more than ~50,000 years old.

Anyway, all that’s for another post. The purpose of this post is to point out that the point of science is to develop a model that can be applied to everything it attempts to describe. Gravity works the same on Earth as on the moon as in the center of a galaxy cluster. For the issue at-hand, YECs need to decide whether they believe in radiometric dating and its usable, or whether they don’t and so don’t use it.

Why Am I Talking About This?

In the news over the past week, yet another group of YECs have claimed to discover Noah’s Ark on top of Mt. Ararat in Turkey. There are many outlets for this story, but out of fun, I’ll link to the one over at FOX News. The relevance to radiometric dating? I’ll quote (emphasis mine):

“The group claims that carbon dating proves the relics are 4,800 years old, meaning they date to around the same time the ark was said to be afloat. Mt. Ararat has long been suspected as the final resting place of the craft by evangelicals and literalists hoping to validate biblical stories.”

Didja see that? Meanwhile, over at Answers in Genesis:

“All radiometric dating methods are based on assumptions about events that happened in the past. If the assumptions are accepted as true (as is typically done in the evolutionary dating processes), results can be biased toward a desired age. In the reported ages given in textbooks and other journals, these evolutionary assumptions have not been questioned, while results inconsistent with long ages have been censored.”

Or from an older Institute for Creation Research article:

“Creationists are not so much interested in debunking radiocarbon as we are in developing a proper understanding of it to answer many of our own questions regarding the past. At the present time it appears that the conventional radiocarbon dating technique is on relatively firm ground for dates which fall within the past 3,000 years. For periods of time prior to this, there are legitimate reasons to question the validity of the conventional results and seek for alternative interpretations.”

Or, a case of very special pleading from another ICR article:

“A ‘Back to Genesis’ way of thinking insists that the Flood of Noah’s day would have removed a great deal of the world’s carbon from the atmosphere and oceans, particularly as limestone (calcium carbonate) was precipitated. Once the Flood processes ceased, C-14 began a slow build-up to equilibrium with C-12—a build-up not yet complete. Thus carbon dating says nothing at all about millions of years, and often lacks accuracy even with historical specimens, denying as it does the truth of the great Flood. In reality, its measured disequilibrium points to just such a world-altering event, not many years ago.”

Final Thoughts

You can’t have it both ways. Or all four ways (I kinda lost count). Either (1) radiometric dating doesn’t work, (2) radiometric dating does work once you account for things that YECs have yet to really define, (3) it does work for the recent past to 3,000 years ago but not for anything before that, or (4) it works for everything made after the flood (as in the ark was built before the flood so can’t be dated with it).

What this all boils down to is the Inconsistency Fallacy, one I didn’t address in my series the last two months of 2009 on Logical Fallacies (but I do intend to return to that series later this year). The Inconsistency Fallacy is basically summarized as, “Multiple statements that contradict one another.” For example: “Statement A is true and B is true. Use one of these statements to prove the other is false.” Or, “Bill is younger than Jill, and Jill is younger than Charles. Charles is the oldest of the three.”

And that’s the case here. Either it’s valid, or it isn’t. You can’t use radiometric dating to claim the Bible is literally true to claim that radiometric dating doesn’t work.


  1. If I may pick a nit, I think you want “ark”, not “arc”. Otherwise, well done.

    Comment by James Roberts — April 28, 2010 @ 6:45 pm | Reply

    • Thanks James, my bad. It’s been corrected.

      Comment by astrostu206265 — April 28, 2010 @ 6:58 pm | Reply

  2. Can I ask you not to go back to the Logical Fallacies blog as it is covered in great detail at this site http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies

    Apart from that series I do enjoy your Blog

    Comment by Gus — April 29, 2010 @ 3:44 am | Reply

  3. I like Stuart’s logical fallacy posts. He tends to explain them using examples from Astronomy. Learning a logical fallacy is one thing, but sometimes spotting them in various domains can be difficult. It’s nice to see where such fallacies creep up, giving one a better ability to spot them.

    Comment by karl — April 29, 2010 @ 6:55 am | Reply

  4. If Young Earth Creationists are right then shouldn’t we find some human remains that pre-date some dinosaur reamains regardless of the dating method?

    Where there have been mass burials of dinosaurs due to earthquakes or tsunamis, for example, shouldn’t we sometimes find fossilised humans that were buried at the same time as the fossilised dinosaurs?

    Doesn’t the fossil-record entirely refute Young Earth Creationism?

    Doesn’t the existence of oil, coal and even diamonds entirely refute Young Earth Creationism?

    Comment by himnextdoor — September 27, 2011 @ 8:59 am | Reply

    • In order:

      No, not necessarily. The creationist position is that most fossil-bearing layers were laid down during the Flood. For theological and practical reasons, human fossils are not expected in Flood sediments, so already almost all dinosaur fossils are older than all expected human remains. Post-Flood dinosaurs are unlikely to be fossilized due to the lack of appropriate conditions and their apparent extinction, while the human population both actively buries their dead and continues to increase in numbers. It is therefore possible, but still not very likely, especially given that few, if any, dinosaur remains are likely to be dated by any method likely to give numbers small enough.

      Only if the humans were living in the same place at the same time as the dinosaurs AND not smart or fast enough to flee and/or be rescued from the disaster.

      Creationists believe the fossil record supports the Flood hypothesis and refutes evolution, so they would certainly say “no”. The book “Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No!” is a bit dated, but the basic concepts are all there, I understand.

      Oil, coal, and diamonds have all been produced on a timescale of weeks or less. Surely you’ve heard of conversion plants that make oil from offal in hours? Artificial diamonds can be made in minutes with high enough temperature and pressure. And all tested samples have been found to contain C-14, strangely enough.

      Comment by Webster — August 25, 2015 @ 12:55 pm | Reply

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