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by John N. Clayton

The Nature of Dating Techniques

We are not just interested in what the stories are that the fossils have to tell us, but we are also interested in when those stories took place. When we find a plant-eating dinosaur with a Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex) tooth imbedded in its hip bone, we would like to date the bite. There are several problems in embarking on this subject. One of them is the question of uniformitarianism discussed earlier. How long did it take to produce the Grand Canyon? I have a commercial filmstrip that I was given by the school system to show in my classroom that makes the calculation this way: it assumes that the Canyon was produced by the Colorado River eroding down through an uplifted plateau. At the present time, the Colorado River is eroding about one half a foot every 1,000 years. That means it takes 2,000 years to erode each foot of rock. If there is 6,000 feet of rock missing and it takes 2,000 years for each foot, then obviously the time to erode the Canyon is 6,000 feet times 2,000 thousand years per foot or 12,000,000 years.

What assumptions are made in this calculation? The reader might wish to stop and write down the ones they see. First of all, we have to assume that the Colorado River did in fact cause the Canyon. It is undoubtedly one agent, but not the only agent. The whole Canyon is a monocline (a fold) which affects the erosion rate. There are literally hundreds of faults in the canyon which changes the ease of erosion. The rock types in the Canyon vary with some being softer than others and thus are easier to erode. The volume of water in the Colorado River is certainly not constant and, before the dams were built on it, certainly had greater cutting ability. There have been lava flows which dammed up the river and made a lake which would profoundly alter the rocks in the area. The list of assumptions that have to be made goes on and on — all of which would alter the calculated age of the Canyon. All dating methods have similar assumptions and are based on uniformitarianism. There have been creationists who have attempted to compare erosion rates on Mount St. Helens to the Grand Canyon, but St. Helens is a volcano. Volcanic rocks are much easier to erode than sedimentary rocks, so assumptions are being made in the creationist camp that are as bad as those incorporated by those attaching long ages to the production of the Canyon.

There are some dating methods which are better than others and some that have fewer assumptions than others. In polar areas, there is an interesting phenomena associated with snowfall. In the winter it snows, and in the summer it does not snow. It never gets very warm in many areas during the summer, however, and the accumulation of snow from the previous winter does not melt. It snows again the next winter so the snow piles up on the last snow and the next summer it does not melt again. The total pile of snow gets higher and higher, and the snow gets fused into ice. During the summer months when the snow does not melt, it does get covered with summer debris — insects, dust, pollen, and a variety of plant material. This means that there are lines in the snow and ice that can be looked at with a microscope and the lines can be counted like the growth rings on a tree. This is a method that is much different than some of the others we have mentioned. There are over 500 methods of dating used by scientists, historians, archeologists, and chemists. When more than one of these methods are used, they usually give similar results, and none of them give an age to man or to life as small as 10,000 years.



©1998, 2015 by John N. Clayton. All rights reserved.