A sign tells her that the Tyrannosaurus Rex is millions of years old. Debunking mysterious and complicated explanations of radiometric dating can be accomplished with a simple understanding of its general principles. Wiens Bewildered, Janet watches her son gaze in awe at the dinosaur exhibit. Yet, many people challenge the accuracy of radiometric dating, and misinformation describing the various radiometric techniques abounds.But last Sunday, her Bible teacher stated emphatically that God made Earth only six thousand years ago. The age assigned to the fossils in front of her seems to contradict the creation account, and Janet’s heartbeats accelerate at the implication. Credible answers to common misconceptions about radiometric dating and a proper understanding of Scripture can help people like Janet reconcile creation accounts regarding the age of Earth.
Radiometric dating can be compared to an hourglass.
When the timepiece is turned over, sand grains fall from the top of the hourglass to the bottom.
No one can predict the moment when a particular grain will fall through the neck, but an estimate can be made for how long the whole pile of sand will take to fall.
A similar process takes place with the radioactive decay of atoms.
(For a brief science review, see sidebar and figure 1.) The timepiece that allows dating is the “radioactive” decay of certain kinds of atoms from one form into another.
Radioactive decay results from unstable combinations of protons and neutrons in the atom’s nucleus.
Though most atoms contain stable nuclei and do not decay, some types do.
When radioactive decay occurs, no one can predict which individual atoms will decay when.
But, for a large number of atoms, the number that will decay within a given time can be predicted.
The original (parent) atom changes into a daughter atom having different chemical properties.
However, one significant difference exists between radiometric dating and the hourglass design.