Is the Earth 4.5 Billion Years Old?

by Laurence D Smart B.Sc.Agr., Dip.Ed., Grad.Dip.Ed



[Free to print and distribute. Copy must be in full.]


Radioecologist Alexander Williams searched the scientific literature for the truth to this question.


Who is Alex Williams?

Alex spent 16 years conducting research at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation's nuclear reactor plant at Lucas Heights, Sydney. He also co-authored the textbook "The Environmental Behaviour of Radium" (International Atomic Energy Agency Technical Report #310, Vienna, 1990).


What did Alex Find in the Scientific Literature?

(A) In 1956 Clare Patterson established that the earth was 4.55 Byr old.

(G. Faure "Principles of Isotope Geology" (2nd ed), John Wiley & Sons: New York, 1986; M.E. Bickford, et al "Geology Today", CRM Books: Del Mar (USA), 1973)

(1) Patterson analysed the lead isotope contents of three stone and two iron meteorites, plus one sample of ocean sediment. The results were plotted on a graph and the 5 points formed an isochron (a straight line). Patterson concluded from this that the age of the earth was the same as the age of the meteorites, which were calculated to be 4.55 Byr old. [C. Patterson, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Vol. 10, p:232 1956]


The lead isochron for ocean sediment and meteorites. The slope indicating an age of 4.54 0.07 Byr

(after fig 1, C. Patterson, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Vol. 10, p:232 1956)


(2) However, Patterson should not have used a single specimen of ocean sediment as it was not a representative sample of the all the world's ocean sediments. "Deep sea sediment contains lead whose isotopic composition varies regionally and not all of them fit the meteorite isochron as well as the sample analysed by Patterson." [Faure p:312]

(3) Gale, Arden & Hutchinson also analysed the lead isotope ratios of meteorite, but they came up with a totally different result to Patterson. When they used Patterson's reasoning on their own results they came up with a negative age for the earth.

(4) In their report they described Patterson's analysis as "naive", and concluded that "the whole of the classical interpretation of the meteorite lead isotope data is in doubt, and the radiometric estimates of the age of the Earth are placed in jeopardy". [Nature, Vol. 240, p:56-57 1972]

(5) Despite Patterson's error in using a single sample which perfectly fitted the results, Gale's report, and further research showing that plotted points do not lie in a straight line, 4.5 Byr has remained the age of the earth because other radiometric tests have supported it.


(B) The oldest rock crystals have been radiometrically dated at 4.3 Byr, confirming that the age of Earth is around 4.5 Byr old. (Nature, Vol. 321, p:766-769 1986)

 (1) Compston and Pidgeon used uranium/uranium (U/U) concordia and uranium/thorium (U/Th) concordia methods to date 140 zircon crystals. From their analysis, just one of these crystals gave an age of 4.3 Byr. [Nature, Vol. 321, p:766-769 1986]

(2) "The 'concordia' method is based on the idea that if the parent/daughter ratios agree (are concordant) in any one crystal then it suggests that none of the contents have leaked away and the crystal has been in a closed system. If so, then the indicated date is a reliable one." [CEN Tech. J. 6(1) 1992 p:3]

(3) It should be noted that all the zircons came from the same rock type, and before commencing their tests, the scientists were unable to separate the crystals into age groups based on colour or size.

(4) In the study, nearly all the zircon crystals were leaky according to the U/Th tests. Actually, the crystal with the oldest age was one of the leakiest.

(5) The leakiness discovered while examining the thorium-232 decay chain showed that the crystals could not have been in a closed system. Yet because uranium-235 tests on the same crystals were concordant, the researchers regarded them as coming from a closed system and accepted their U/U derived ages as accurate.

(6) The tests showed that more than 5% of the crystals were leaky. This means that the sample was outside the 5% limit of error, and none of the results could be accepted as accurate. Accepting any of these results means that there is a strong probability that it happened by chance. The acceptance of this data then produces a type II error - saying something is so, when it isn't.

(7) Compston & Pidgeon ignored the large number of leaky crystals and concentrated on the 'best' results. Some of these were not perfect, so an imaginary correction factor called 'lead loss' was invented to explain the deviation. "The old zircons first formed at ~4,300 Myr, then lost lead during one or more early events ..... lead loss also occurred recently." [Nature, Vol. 321, p:766-769 1986]

(8) "Note that the only evidence for 'lead loss' is the results themselves - posterior reasoning again!" [CEN Tech. J. 6(1) 1992 p:3]

(9) Lead loss is a safer way to explain deviant results, rather than through uranium gain - uranium gain is an anathema in radiodating. Note, that radon gas leakage is also a possibility.

(10) "According to Faure, lead-loss explanations can be developed in as many stages as are needed to explain the results. This means that the research worker is able to 'massage' the data, using nothing more than posterior reasoning, until he finds a result that is consistent with his prior expectations." [CEN Tech. J. 6(1) 1992 p:3] - and who is going to argue? This type of reasoning only serves to entrench the status quo that the earth is 4.5 Byr old.

(11) "A similar weakness is inherent in the wide variety of isotope dating methods that a worker has to choose from. If one method gives unsatisfactory results he can just discard those results and use another method until he finds the result that satisfies his prior expectations. This is not objective science." [CEN Tech. J. 6(1) 1992 p:3-4]

(12) It would be good if the ages of rocks could be calculated by comparing readings with rocks of known age. But "in earth-age studies there are no standards of known age to calibrate against, only results from other equally fallible isotope methods." [CEN Tech. J. 6(1) 1992 p:4]


(C) Diamonds extracted from rocks in Zaire have been dated at 6 Byr old using K-Ar dating. (Nature, Vol. 334, p:607-609 1988)

(1) Remember, K/Ar dating has been shown by careful experimentation to be completely erroneous. [CEN Tech. J. Vol. 10, No. 3, p:335-343 1996]

(2) This age of 6 Byr was an enigma as the earth was believed to be only 4.5 Byr old. The researchers (Podosek, Pier, Nitoh, Zashu and Ozima) decided that their date must be wrong and rejected it, even though they found no fault with the dating method. Actually, "if the date had not been contradicted by the 'known' age of the earth they would have accepted it as valid." [CEN Tech. J. 6(1) 1992 p:4]

(3) Another team lead by Ozima re-examined the diamonds and accounted for the 'wrong' age. They stated that the diamonds were not in a closed system, which had allowed argon-40 to soak into the crystals from the mantle fluids, giving the erroneous age. [Nature, Vol. 337, p:226-229 1989]

(4) Notice that the scientists challenged the accuracy of the radiodating method only after they didn't get the results that they expected. "This illustrates how it is impossible to tell, from the isotope information alone, when the dates are right and when they are wrong. In fact this is exactly what we would expect from a method which relies so heavily on posterior reasoning." [CEN Tech. J. 6(1) 1992 p:4]

(5) "If such 'science' was carried out in a field related to human health the perpetrators would be sued for malpractice and deregistered from their professional association." [CEN Tech. J. 6(1) 1992 p:4]

(6) "The papers by Compston and Pidgeon and by Podosek et al. turned out to be real gems because they laid out their data and their reasoning for critics to scrutinize. The majority of [other] authors simply said that they used a particular isotope dating method and reported their final results. All the data 'massaging' is hidden. And the world is no wiser." [CEN Tech. J. 6(1) 1992 p:4]


Has Radiometric Dating Proved Scientifically that the Earth is 4.5 Byr Old?


Alex didn't think so.

(1) The above findings show that at the fundamental level, where the age of the earth is derived and substantiated, there are huge problems. Data massaging, the biased selection of results, the use of unsound statistical techniques, the lack experiment repetition, and the blatant use of selective (non-representative) samples, all combine to remove our confidence in the findings.

(2) Besides this, the reasoning behind the 4.5 Byr age for the earth has its roots in the preconceived idea that Earth has to be about that old to fit into the evolutionary theory for the formation of the solar system. The above experiments show a determined effort to produce results that confirm this hypothesis.

(3) Despite the fact that other radiometric tests confirm the age of the earth at 4.5 Byr, we are left with doubts as to the authenticity of these findings. Without going over the fine details of each experiment, for which the details are not available to us (or anyone else), we can't verify their accuracy. Not that we would have the scientific or technical skills to do it any way. So, we are left with having to trust the word of the experimenters.

(4) All radiometric 'proofs' are based on fallible isotope methods and cannot be used to find the true age of the earth. They are only guesstimations.

(5) Of course, the usual reply given to people who question the validity of this type of evolutionary research is exemplified by the response that Alex got when he questioned these tests - "Well there have been many other results that confirm 4.5 billion years as the right age so it doesn't matter if the original result was wrong." [CEN Tech. J. 6(1) 1992 p:4]




SOURCE - CEN Technical Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, p:2-5 1992