Geologic Dating and Assumptions

Assumptions. We have them in religion and in science. Both sides are pots calling the kettle black. Face it, we all make assumptions. Let me list a few. We say the Bible was inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16) and tell people to believe it by faith, without any additional explanation. Though the Bible makes this claim of inspiration, is it backed up? Is there evidence? Sure, but is it proof?

On the other hand, science says the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and aging. That is a claim. Is their evidence? Sure, but is it proof? Science has used several methods to determine the age of the Earth and living things. We look at the current processes, calculate their rates of deposition, erosion, or disintegrations, and then back calculate. Using Niagara Falls for example, the falls erode approximately 1-foot a year and have cut a canyon 6.8 miles long; thus using this dating method the river has been cutting for almost 35,000 years. Today, geologists estimate the fall’s origin to be about 10,000 years, because now they use higher flow rates.

We have improved dating the earth and living things by using C-14/C-12 and U/Th dating, but there are still assumptions. It doesn’t matter what method is used, every decay-type dating method has to assume they know the ratio of parent to daughter products when the clock starts ticking. If the ratio is wrong, the results will be wrong. Let’s look at C-14/C-12. After the above-ground nuclear tests and WWII, the concentration of C-14 in the atmosphere about doubled. Today it is much closer to the theoretical 1950 standard, but it still has to be corrected for. If a similar event occurred in the past, one we couldn’t measure, we would not be able to recalibrate; we would not be able to accurately date the material. For radio-dating to work, we have to assume nothing has happened to affect the equilibrium.

The Bible claims that several events may have drastically altered the environment in the past, events that could have changed the concentrations of C-14, uranium, and other radioactive elements; and if so, we would have no idea of their original concentrations. After the act of creation and after Adam and Eve sinned, God left our planet to pretty much fend for itself, and when He left, the world was greatly changed. It’s possible that elements started to age and decay along with the rest of the Earth. Two thousand years later, the Bible records a dramatic flood where the fountains of the deep exploded and rain fell in torrents for months. Massive, worldwide changes were recorded. Could these events have affected the concentrations of these radioactive particles?

Using the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim model, if in the beginning, let’s say 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, there were no C-14 atoms in the atmosphere to decay, and if we happened to test one of the plants Adam ate, it would show an infinite age, because there would be no C-14. It would be assumed that all the C-14 had decayed to C-12, taking 50,000 years or more. However, if C-14 had increased in the atmosphere at a linear rate, gradually, until it reached its 1950 concentration, there could be organic matter that dated 5,000 to 50,000 years old, when it was really much younger. Radioactive dating depends on the assumption that current atomic concentrations and processes are the same now as those that operated in the past.

In the late 1700’s James Hutton, a Scottish Geologist, coined the phrase, “the present is the key to the past.” This was incorporated into the concept of uniformitarianism or gradualism, and combined with Lyell and Darwin’s work, became one of the strongest pillars of evolution. But saying the present is the key to the past, is an assumption. Does the rock record support Hutton’s theory? Do modern geologists echo Hutton’s mantra? No, most geologists today think the past was not just like today.

The processes we see today are only a sliver of the possible events that could have occurred. The basalt flows of the past, like the Columbia River basalts, dwarf any lava flows we see today, even in Hawaii. The river channels of the past, like the Grand Coolie and Grand Canyon, are giants compared to the scrawny rivers of today. There were thousands of glaciers and thousands of volcanoes in the past which dwarf those we see today. No, the world we see today is not the key to the past. If scientists hold tightly to uniformitarianism, they are standing on unsupported assumptions.

As Christians we need to point out to our geologist and biologist friends that their belief in an old Earth, at the expense of believing in the Bible, is built on assumptions; and we need to realize that our beliefs have assumptions. We just have to show them the solid basis of our assumptions. There are facts and data to support what we believe to be true. All scripture that is inspired of God is profitable, we just need to show how profitable it is, and show how the Bible is supported by archaeology and history. And consider the following video clips on the Missoula Floods, then ask yourself, is the present the key to the past?


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