Most of us over forty would love to look younger than we are. Although being called a fossil certainly wouldn’t make me feel young, more and more studies are coming out with evidence that fossils are younger than we think. Dead creatures are being found that are still soft and still contain organic molecules, after supposedly millions of years have passed. These discoveries are hard to explain using a long-age view of earth’s history.
The most recent line of evidence for young fossils comes from worms. At Uppsala University in Sweden, researchers have found that the tube casings of the seabed worm Sabellidites cambriensis were still soft and flexible in rock which had been dated to 550 million years ago. The scientists say the organic compounds are original and the fossils show no evidence of mineralization. They further examined the worms and concluded the structure of the fossil worm tube is consistent with the tubes of modern seabed worms, like beard worms.
So, the worms are still soft and flexible and they look exactly like worms today, but we’re supposed to believe they are 550 million years old? Why? Because that’s how old they must be to get the long time scale needed for evolution to have happened.
Could even one million years go by without complete deterioration of these organic compounds? Much less 550 million years?
I find it hard to believe. How do the scientists themselves explain this supposedly incredible preservation?
They don’t. To them, it remains a mystery.
But if the rocks are much younger than millions of years, then there is no mystery. So, why not go with the simplest explanation?
At this point, you might be asking, why are researchers finding this stuff now and not thirty years ago?
The answer is two-fold: 1) researchers today have better equipment to test for these organic molecules, and 2) they are just now looking for them. To some extent, these discoveries could have been made thirty years ago, but scientists didn’t think this type of preservation was possible.
The sad truth is that you won’t find what you don’t seek.
What do you think? Is this unexplainable? How far would this kind of evidence go to convince you of the young age of fossils?
References: Catchpoole, David. “Seabed worm fossils still soft after 500 million years?” Creation 36(4), 2014, p. 22-23.
Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jsjgeology/15114114118/”>jsj1771</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>
Why talk about a stuffy topic like radiometric age-dating? The answer is that people are using it to claim the earth is billions of years old and if I’m going to believe something huge like that, then I want to know where that number comes from.
Last week we defined radiometric age-dating and discovered there are two types: 1) radiocarbon dating (done only on organic material that is a few thousand years old) and 2) radioisotope age-dating (done on volcanic deposits using elements like argon, lead, and strontium). If you missed this post or want a review of it, click here. This week we’ll build on the post from last week and talk about the assumptions inherent in radiometric age-dating. I just realized how much this intro paragraph sounds like a textbook—sorry. If my geo-girl persona comes out too much in the rest of this, leave me a comment and ask me to explain in places where I might confuse you.
To get numbers in the millions or billions, scientists make some assumptions and then measure the amount of isotopes in the rock sample. Therefore, those assumptions are vital to getting a good number that you can have faith in. Reasonable assumptions might lead to a reasonable answer, but unreasonable assumptions lead to junk. I will leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions about the reasonableness of the assumptions for radiometric age-dating, but I can confidently say they are unproven assumptions. This means there is no way to know for sure if they are reasonable. Although scientists may state it like a fact that the earth is billions of years old, it really is only their opinion.
These assumptions are:
1) No daughter element was present when the rock formed (a parent radioactive element decays into a daughter element, i.e. potassium 40 decays into argon 40)
2) The decay rate of the parent element is constant
3) No alteration from groundwater or weathering has occurred in the rock
4) No daughter element has been added to the rock since formation
The first assumption has actually been proven false in the case of argon 40 (the daughter product of potassium 40). Rock samples from fresh lava show significant amounts of argon 40 already present. This explains why several rocks with known eruption dates (meaning we can say for certain they are young) have dated as millions of years old. Similar issues have occurred in rocks dated using other elements like strontium and uranium. If radiometric dating methods worked for rocks of known age, then it would validate the method. Instead, proving this assumption false, proves the entire method false. If we can’t trust the results for rocks whose dates we know, then why would we trust it for unknown rocks?
On to the decay rate. Scientists have measured the decay rates of these isotopes in the laboratory with precision. What we know is that the decay rates have measured as constant since we’ve been measuring them. Does this mean they have been constant in the distant past, even millions of years ago? Maybe, but maybe not. Some scientists think we have reason to doubt constant decay rates based on small amounts of helium which have leaked out of old uranium-lead-dated granite crystals (see reference below for more on this).
For the sake of brevity in this post, I’m going to lump 3 & 4 together because they have the same inherent problem—the earth is not a closed system. Fluids and gases are always at work in the subsurface. While scientists can look for evidence of alteration on the rock, and sometimes we can find it, the absence of alteration doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Is it reasonable to conclude that nothing has changed in these rocks in supposedly millions of years?
All radiometric age-dating methods are based on these same four assumptions. Certainly they are unverifiable, but what do you think? Are they reasonable?
References: “Radiometric Dating: Problems with the Assumptions.” Dr. Andrew Snelling. (https://answersingenesis.org/geology/radiometric-dating/radiometric-dating-problems-with-the-assumptions/)
Many of you have probably heard the assertion that radiometric age-dating has proven the earth is old, somewhere around 4.6 billion years old. A bunch of scientists believe this, but there are those who don’t and I happen to be one of them. Some will say my belief on the age of the earth is based on the Bible and this is partly true. I believe the Bible and what it says about the origin of the earth (which also gives clues to its age), but if you read the A Little More About Me page on my blog, you’ll see that I also believe you can be a saved Christian without believing in a young earth.
After I became a Christian, I believed in an old earth for many years. I trusted the scientists who told me the earth was old. Surely, they wouldn’t base these dates on faulty, unproven methods. I had faith in them—until I actually investigated the evidence.
Most of the claims for an old earth are based on radiometric age-dating. When I looked into the science behind it, I was surprised at the assumptions and lack of accuracy involved in this technique. Because of this, and also because the technique itself is loaded with complex terms, any one of which could intimidate a non-scientist from investigating it themselves, I wanted to do a blog series on radiometric age-dating. These next few posts will be somewhat technical, but I encourage you to stick with me. I have faith that you are smart enough to understand this subject and can make a decision for yourself about whether these methods work.
First, before we can pick radiometric age-dating apart, you need to know what it is. Simply put, radiometric age-dating calculates an age by measuring the amount of decay of a parent radioactive isotope into its daughter element (as a ratio) using the known decay rate. In other words, the parent isotope turns into the daughter isotope at a certain rate, so how much daughter element is in a rock tells us how long the parent isotope has been decaying, if certain assumptions are met.
Radiometric age-dating uses four large assumptions that may or may not be valid: 1) no daughter element was present when the rock formed, 2) the decay rate of the parent element is constant, 3) no alteration from groundwater or weathering has occurred in the rock, and 4) no daughter element has been added to the rock since formation. Rock units are not a closed system, so these are some pretty major assumptions, which I will deal with more in the next several posts.
For now, I want to go over the difference between radiocarbon dating (not used for dating the earth) and other types of radiometric age-dating because many people believe they are the same. Radiocarbon dating is used to date once living things, not rocks, and is pretty accurate when used for the recent past. Living things are constantly absorbing Carbon-14 from the atmosphere. When they die, they no longer absorb this radioactive isotope and it begins to decay into Nitrogen-14. If you know the ratio of C-14 to the stable form Carbon-12 in the atmosphere, then you can get an age based on the decay rate and how the ratio has changed. The reason it’s not used to date the earth is because C-14 has a half-life of 5,720 years (which means half of it decays in this amount of time). With this half-life, the amount of C-14 becomes too small to measure at around a 100,000 years. Therefore, radiocarbon dating is used to date artifacts made out of wood or the bones of animals, but not rocks. If anyone says to you that radiocarbon dating has proven the earth is billions of years old, they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Okay, on to the other types of radiometric age-dating, the ones that are put forth as a claim for an old earth. These methods also use ratios of parent material to daughter material to determine an age and are subject to the same assumptions detailed above. The radioactive elements used in these methods have half-lives in the billions of years, such as Rubidium-87 (which decays into Strontium-87), Uranium-238 (which decays into Lead-206), and Potassium-40 (which decays into Argon-40). Most of these dating methods are used on igneous rocks (like basalt or ash), although some metamorphic rocks are used, as well. These are the dating methods I’ll discuss in more detail next week.
Whew! I hope you made it through this post without a headache (if not, then it’s a good thing we’re stopping here for the week). I know this information can be technical, but I think it’s important to understand the methods before trying to make a decision about whether they work. To that end, we’ll talk more about the assumptions that go along with these methods and why they might cause problems in the data, in the post next Wednesday.
Any questions? Please leave your questions as comments or even leave just a comment.
For more information on radiometric age-dating, see: https://answersingenesis.org/geology/radiometric-dating/does-radiometric-dating-prove-the-earth-is-old/
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ID 19038214 © Andrey Troitskiy | Dreamstime.com
Dinosaurs Rock! Literally, all the dinosaurs we are ever going to know are rock–their remains have turned to stone. Or have they?
Turns out, some specimens aren’t completely fossilized. Yes, the bones of some dinosaur fossils aren’t as rocky as we once thought.
In 2005, Dr. Mary Schweitzer, a molecular paleontologist at North Carolina State, found soft tissue preserved inside the femur of a T-Rex. This soft tissue included a stretchy matrix, later identified as collagen, and cells shaped like red blood cells. It was a shocking scientific find, considering the bones were supposed to be 65 million years old.
You might ask, why hasn’t anyone found soft tissue before? The answer is simple. Nobody looked. Scientific thought over the centuries has been that fossils are all rock. And because scientists didn’t believe there would be any soft tissue inside their fossils, why destroy the fossils looking for it?
Scientists have this image of being unbiased observers, but I can tell you from experience, scientists are not immune to the same herd mentality which affects so many people. And the effect can be magnified by the way our scientists decide what to research. If you’re seeking funding for something no one believes exists, then you’ll have a hard time getting any money. This means that, out of self-preservation, you will move toward a research subject you know will bring funding. So you don’t get to reserch what you want, you research what benefactors are willing to pay for. Sound very scientific to you?
Back to Dr. Schweitzer. She only found the soft tissue inside the T-rex femur because paleontologists in the field had to break it to transport it off site. When the bones came to the lab, she thought they had a cadaverous smell. This caused her to look at them under a microscope where she found what looked like red blood cells. Later, she found the stretchy collagen after dissolving away the surrounding fossilized material.
Since her initial discovery, Dr. Schweitzer has spent a lot of time trying to understand how the soft tissue could have been preserved for so long. Recently, she released research which indicates the iron in the T-rex’s blood could have caused the unusual preservation. In laboratory conditions, she has demonstrated that red blood vessels soaked in a hemoglobin solution were preserved for two years, while red blood vessels soaked in water degraded within days. Is this really what we’re considering science these days? Dr. Schweitzer can make the conclusion that soft tissue is preserved by iron for 65 million years because it was preserved for 2 years in her lab?
Paleontologists are desperate to show how this soft tissue could have survived intact because they can’t explain it using an old-earth time frame. They’d rather hunt for extreme methods of preservation than consider revising their assumptions about the age of the earth. I don’t think even formaldehyde could preserve something for millions of years. Do you?