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(Radioactivity and the Age of The Earth):

Analysis and Evaluation of Radiometric Dating

RATE - cover of popular book spacer gif
What is RATE?  "Scientists associated with the Institute for Creation Research have finished an eight-year research project known as RATE, or Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth" and they claim that "the team of seven creation scientists have discovered incredible physical evidence that supports what the Bible says about the young age of the earth." (from ICR's homepage for RATE)   /   For an overview of RATE you can read descriptions, by young-earth creationists, of Thousands not Billions (conference), Thousands not Billions (Radioisotope Age Dating Set, with popular-level book, study guide, two DVDs), Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (technical-level book), and a free presentation (video or powerpoint).
spacer gifRATE - cover of technical book  

You can explore educational web-resources that explain the principles of radiometric dating in the homepage for AGE OF THE EARTH — SCIENCE where you'll see different perspectives (conventional and young-earth) on the reliability of scientific conclusions about the earth's age.

• In an 8-part series during May-June 2007, Randy Isaac (executive director of the American Scientific Affiliation) outlined principles of Integrity in Science regarding (if you read the blog entries chronologically from bottom to top) Scientific Methodology, Skepticism in Science, Fraud, Phases of Science, Removing Unconscious Bias, Nine Lives of Offbeat Ideas, and Age of the Earth;  the final part explains why he "is concerned primarily with the integrity of the reporting of the work [by RATE] rather than the claims themselves" in Assessing the RATE Project where he reviews RATE's book, Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, Volume 2.  His review (June 2007) was followed (in March 2008) by a response from RATE and replies by Randy Isaac & Kirk Bertsche.  The 4-part dialog (essay review, response, and replies) is in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, the peer-reviewed journal of ASA.

An examination of RATE continues with further analyses and evaluations:

To supplement the multi-topic general articles above, the pages below focus on specific topics,
Helium Diffusion     Radiocarbon Decay     Polonium Halos     Excessive Heat     Conferences

Helium Diffusion in Zircons
• To supplement an introductory paragraph and a brief semi-technical overview in the papers above (Assessing the Rate Project and a response from RATE and replies...), Randy Isaac wrote Helium Diffusion and Retention in Zircons to describe a Standard Model (used by scientists to gather clues about the thermal history of a zircon crystal) and two models proposed by RATE: a New Creation Model (used by RATE) and Uniformitarian Model (used by nobody, since "the [uniformitarian] model has no relationship to the standard model... [or] any model used in thermochronology.")
• Helium Diffusion in Zircon: Flaws in a Young-Earth Argument, Part 1 and Part 2 by Gary Loechelt, and his associated technical paper Fenton Hill Revisited: The Retention of Helium in Zircons and the Case for Accelerated Nuclear Decay.  And you can read Gary's explanations of Helium in Zircons for Talk Rational's discussion forum about Evolution and Origins in 2010.
• In 2008, a young-earth RATE response to "six years of criticism of one part of RATE" by Russell Humphreys (Helium evidence for a young world continues to confound critics) plus two counter-responses by Gary Loechelt, Helium Diffusion in Zircon: A Response to Questions by the Rate Team and, in more detail, A Response to the RATE Team — Regarding Helium Diffusion in Zircon.   /   And in Journal of Creation, 2010, a letter by Gary Loechelt and response by Russell Humphreys;  both include references to earlier papers.
RATE-Project Claims [about Helium in Zircons] by Rodney Whitefield

Radiocarbon Decay (trace amounts of C-14 radiation)
RATE's Radiocarbon: Intrinsic or Contamination? by Kirk Bertsche, is an expansion of his reply in PSCF, which you can read above in a response from RATE and replies...

Polonium Halos in Granites
Polonium Halos and Myrmekite in Pegmatite & Granite by Lorence Collins, who also has a links-page (halos are examined in 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 14)

Excessive Heat — a Catastrophic Problem for a Catastrophic Flood
      What is the problem?  RATE acknowledges the occurrence of "more than 500 million years worth (at today’s rates) of nuclear and radioisotope decay.”  This decay occurs throughout the geological formations that, according to flood geology, were produced by the flood.  Therefore RATE must propose that almost all of this decay occurred during the one-year flood, because for some unknown reason the decay rate for some atoms (but not others) was extremely high (but only for a year, not before or after).  This amount of decay would produce an immense amount of heat quickly, in less than a year.  The results are described by Larry Vardiman, a member of RATE: "The amount of heat produced by a decay rate of a million times faster than normal during the year of the Flood could potentially vaporize the earth’s oceans, melt the crust, and obliterate the surface of the earth. (Unresolved Problems in RATE)"   Wow!  This would be a "super-catastrophic flood" producing results far beyond anything we actually observe in the geological record of the earth.
      In addition to this heat-producing radioactive decay, young-earth explanations for flood geology require other heat-producing processes — volcanic magma, limestone formation, meteor impacts, biological decay, plus more heat with any of the models (Vapor Canopy, Hydroplate, Comet, Runaway Subduction) proposed to answer the question, "Where did the Flood water come from, and where did it go?" — and these sources of heat by themselves (even if only one or a few of them occurred, even without rapid radioactive decay) would boil away all of the ocean water, and then it would take millions of years for earth to cool.
      Is there a young-earth solution?  In Assessing the RATE Project, Randy Isaac describes the current situation: "The authors admit that a young-earth position cannot be reconciled with the scientific data without assuming that exotic solutions will be discovered in the future.  No known thermodynamic process could account for the required rate of heat removal nor is there any known way to protect organisms from radiation damage. ... Yet they are so confident that these problems will be resolved that they encourage a message that the reliability of [their young-earth interpretation of] the Bible has been confirmed."
      Here are two evaluations of proposed young-earth solutions for the problem of overheating:
Flaws in a Young-Earth Cooling Mechanism by Glenn Morton & George Murphy
Nonexistence of Humphreys’ “Volume Cooling” for Terrestrial Heat Disposal by Cosmic Expansion by J. Brian Pitts

RATE Conferences
RATE Project Disproves Ancient Earth (a report from 2005) by Brad Harrub
Review of a RATE Conference (in 2007) by Steven Smith

Abundant Evidence:
radiometric dating
is not the only type of scientific support for an old earth;
instead, scientists have multiple independent confirmations for their conclusions.
You can examine the evidence-and-logic for yourself in AGE OF THE EARTH — SCIENCE.


I.O.U. — Later, this page will offer more web-resources, from supporters and critics of conventional radiometric dating.

All links were checked and fixed on March 12, 2012.

Views in the pages listed above are those of the authors,
and don't necessarily represent views of the
American Scientific Affiliation.