Are “Prehistoric” Dates Absolute?

Al_HikesAZ / / CC BY-NC

Many people believe that the existence of dinosaurs is a problem for Bible believing creationists, but that’s only because they don’t realize the dating of dinosaurs is within the realm of historical science—meaning it is based upon man’s opinions and biases and not provable, operational science.

For example, Dr. John D. Morris in his book The Young Earth, gives an excellent illustration of the method many scientists use to date rocks and fossils.  He uses the classroom setting where a student brings a sedimentary rock (limestone) containing a fossil to his professor and requests the professor date it.  The professor indicates that it is entirely possible to date this specific rock because of a fossil that is preserved in it.  He then goes over and picks up a huge invertebrate paleontology book, locates the fossil in the book that closest resembles the fossil in the rock and proceeds to give the rock a date—640 million years.  Did he use some extremely accurate scientific method or experiment to arrive at this date?  No, he didn’t.  Actually, he didn’t date the rock at all.  He dated the fossil, and he dated the fossil by the chart contained in the invertebrate paleontology text.  So the question to ask is, “Where did the author of the paleontology book get this prehistoric date of 640 million years for that specific fossil that dated the rock?”  The answer: Darwin’s theory.  The invertebrate paleontology text, which was written using Darwin’s theory, is considered the expert source in dating the fossil.  Then the fossil dates the rock, which is then used to “prove” Darwin’s theory true (Morris 13).

Do you see the circular reasoning here?  Any time you start with a specific theory as being true, and then date an object according to that theory, the date obtained would have to fit into the framework of that theory.  There’s no other option.  You guaranteed the outcome before you ever started by using that specific theory.

Now let’s suppose that the rock was organic material instead of sedimentary.  How would the professor date a piece of organic material such as hardened lava?  In today’s laboratory organic material is dated by measuring the ratios of radioactive isotopes in the rocks.  Once known, these ratios can be plugged into a set of mathematical equations which will supposedly give the absolute age of that material.  The problem is, if you date the organic material with all four of the current methods (uranium-lead method, potassium-argon method, rubidium-strontium model test, samarium-neodymium test), you will likely come back with four extremely different ages.  The results of these four tests can vary by hundreds of millions of years.  So which of the four ages is the absolute age?  It will depend upon where the rock was dug up and what fossils were found nearby.  If there are any fossils found near it, once again the invertebrate paleontology book (Darwin’s theory) is used to date that fossil.  The organic test that fits the closest to the date recorded in the paleontology text is called the absolute age.  The other three test results are thrown out due to “some kind of unknown contamination.” So how do we know the fourth test was not also contaminated?

“But what about carbon-14 dating?” you ask. Isn’t that a proven method of dating historical objects? Dr. John Morris also tells the story of once talking with a famous archeologist from the University of Pennsylvania who had discovered an ancient tomb with wooden timbers in the country of Turkey.  When Morris asked if he had sent some timber samples off for dating through the carbon-14 method, he was shocked by his reply.  The famous archeologist said of course, but then claimed he would “never believe anything that came back from a carbon-14 lab.  Nor was he aware of any archeologist in the world who would accept such dates.  If the date happened to agree with what he knew was historically accurate, then the data would be published; if not, it would be ignored.  He was obliged to carbon-date artifacts to keep his grant money coming in, and so he always did, but he did not trust the method or its results” (Morris 65).

In both instances, with the sedimentary and organic rock, it was a theory that gave the supposed absolute age of the object or seriously flawed testing methods. Therefore, the dating of these great creatures by no means fits into the realm of true, operational, testable science, and by placing them into their proper setting (historical science) there is no longer a problem between the Bible, early man and dinosaurs.


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