These are also the methods most commonly criticized by creation “scientists.” For additional information on these methods or on methods not covered here, the reader is referred to the books by Faul (47), Dalrymple and Lanphere (35), Doe (38), York and Farquhar (136), Faure and Powell (50), Faure (49), and Jager and Hunziker (70), as well as the article by Dalrymple (32).
The K-Ar method is probably the most widely used radiometric dating technique available to geologists.
It is based on the radioactivity of Ar, however, is an inert gas that escapes easily from rocks when they are heated but is trapped within the crystal structures of many minerals after a rock cools. This correction can be made very accurately and has no appreciable effect on the calculated age unless the atmospheric argon is a very large proportion of the total argon in the analysis.
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Some of the methods have internal checks, so that the data themselves provide good evidence of reliability or lack thereof.
Commonly, a radiometric age is checked by other evidence, such as the relative order of rock units as observed in the field, age measurements based on other decay schemes, or ages on several samples from the same rock unit.
Bishop James Ussher, a 17th-century Irish cleric, for example, calculated that creation occurred in 4004 B. There were many other such estimates, but they invariably resulted in an Earth only a few thousand years old.
By the late 18th century, some naturalists had begun to look closely at the ancient rocks of the Earth.
Radiometric dating is based on the decay of long-lived radioactive isotopes that occur naturally in rocks and minerals.
These parent isotopes decay to stable daughter isotopes at rates that can be measured experimentally and are effectively constant over time regardless of physical or chemical conditions.
he question of the ages of the Earth and its rock formations and features has fascinated philosophers, theologians, and scientists for centuries, primarily because the answers put our lives in temporal perspective.
Until the 18th century, this question was principally in the hands of theologians, who based their calculations on biblical chronology.
The point is that not all methods are applicable to all rocks of all ages.
One of the primary functions of the dating specialist (sometimes called a geochronologist) is to select the applicable method for the particular problem to be solved, and to design the experiment in such a way that there will be checks on the reliability of the results.
James Hutton, a physician-farmer and one of the founders of the science of geology, wrote in 1788, “The result, therefore, of our present inquiry is, that we find no vestige of a beginning, — no prospect of an end.” Although this may now sound like an overstatement, it nicely expresses the tremendous intellectual leap required when geologic time was finally and forever severed from the artificial limits imposed by the length of the human lifetime.