When a Rock Dates a Fossil

In my last two articles I talked about carbon dating (for formerly living things) and general radiometric dating (for minerals) and the problems with both methods. Now we’re going to mix the two and ask how scientists come up with dates for fossils that are supposedly much older than the maximum “age” carbon dating can measure (57,300 years). The short answer is: scientists use the rocks to date fossils they think should be very old. And that wouldn’t be such a bad thing if they didn’t also turn right around and use the “age” of the fossils to date the rocks they are found in too!

Let’s talk first about a very important idea for estimating the age of the earth: the geologic column (http://www.icr.org/article/does-geologic-column-prove-evolution). From the time of the ancient Greeks, observers saw thousands of strata (layers) in the earth and hypothesized that each layer was deposited gradually over long periods of time. The problem is that you cannot simply look at a rock and tell what layer it belongs to. Layers repeat and are often out of order. Layers vary in thickness, are frequently missing altogether, and many of the same minerals are found throughout many layers. It is also hard to look at a set of layers at one place in the world and figure out which part of the worldwide geologic column it belongs to. The practice of using fossil beds to date these rock strata started in the 19th century as a way to more accurately date the layers worldwide. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_time_scale).

Evolutionists need to believe that life evolved slowly over millions of years… This is an assumption not an observation.

Evolutionists need to believe that life evolved slowly over millions of years, and that the record of all earth’s creatures is now preserved in the layers of rocks. This is an assumption not an observation. If true, the oldest life forms would appear on the bottom of the column with successively younger things piled in the layers on top.

It is frequently true that certain types of life are found together in fossil beds, but it is a misconception to translate those groupings into “ages.” Other phenomena explain these groupings better. First, floods also tend to sort things into groupings of strata very quickly. Millions of years are not necessary to make stratified features. Just look at Mount St. Helens, where a huge canyon 1/40th the size of the Grand Canyon formed in just nine hours. Second, in a global flood that over 40 days progressively covered the earth, some types of creatures (like man and larger animals) would be able to avoid destruction longer than others (like plants and sea creatures). Those that were destroyed first were buried under the lowest layers of sediment and became fossils. Those that were best able to escape to higher ground and eventually to swim or float didn’t get buried at all, but died in the water and decayed, leaving no fossils at all.

This creationist expectation is borne out in the fossil record where 95% of fossils are bottom-dwelling marine invertebrates like clams. Less than 5% are plants, and land-dwelling invertebrate insects make up less than a quarter of one percent. All the other kinds of creatures (vertebrate animals and humans) make up the remaining tiny 1/80th percent of all known fossils. Of the tiny fraction of these fossils that are vertebrate animals and man only one out of a hundred consist of more than a single bone. Many creatures like humans and their livestock appear so seldom in the fossil record because they were able to avoid destruction the longest. So the fossil record is missing many kinds of creatures, and the ordering we see in the geologic column is not related to long ages where various types of creatures dominated.

All the different kinds (phyla) of animals have been found as fossils in the Cambrian System (the “oldest” geologic strata where animal fossils appear, Levinton, 2008). No ancestral forms can be found for these body plans where they first appear in the fossil record. Instead they appear fully formed and distinct, in better agreement with the concept of “multiple, abrupt beginnings” (creation) than with the notion of “descent from a common ancestor” (evolution).

No ancestral forms can be found in the fossil record. Each kind appears fully formed and distinct, in better agreement with creationism than evolutionism.

“Living fossils” (animals previously thought extinct millions of years ago but appearing today, like the coelacanth, the crocodile, and the ginkgo tree) pose a serious problem for this idea of dating rocks and fossils together. If a creature was supposed to have died out hundreds of millions of years ago but living specimens of identical creatures are still found today, then they should appear throughout the geological column from the point they first appeared. Instead, these creatures often appear in a fossil system that is mapped to a particular part of the geological column and do not typically appear elsewhere at all.

Evolutionists use fossils found at various layers to “calibrate” the age of rocks found in the same layer‚ except when they disagree wildly. What actually happens is that they choose the supposed age of the “oldest” fossils found to determine the age range the rocks must fall into. Similarly, they use the inflated radiometric dating of rocks to insist that fossils found nearby are very old. Only by choosing rocks and fossils that match their preconceived notions of age and ignoring those that don’t can they use the observations to tell a consistent story. This is the logical fallacy called cherry picking.

Cherry picking happens in rock dating, too. When you submit a rock sample to a lab for dating, you must include in the application the geologic layer (as partly determined by the fossils there) where you found the rock and your own guess of how old you think it is. Then, the lab can cherry pick and choose dates from the wide range produced by various radiometric methods to match your guess as closely as possible. I believe this bias happened because the “real scientists” in the field want their preconceptions to be supported, not challenged, by the lab workers.

So the upshot is this: if you’re an evolutionist, you must account for the spontaneous generation of life through purely natural processes, and the only way to convince people it could possibly happen is to invent a very old universe with a lot of time for trial and error. Then you must produce evidence for this thesis. When you find layers in the earth, you presuppose they each took millennia to deposit making earth truly ancient. Based on this assumption, when you find fossils in rock layers, you can conclude they must belong to the “age” of the rock layer they were found. By cross-correlating similar fossils from all over the world, you can make the further assumption that similar creatures lived at similar times everywhere. Then when you find a rock to date, you can turn right around and use these “well-established” dating methods to predict a date for it. As long as at least one of the radiometric dates that comes back from the lab is close enough to your prediction, you accept it and consider the date confirmed.

This is a tissue of lies we call, “circular reasoning.”

But this is a tissue of lies starts with a presumption of ancient age and continues making multiple assumptions that the starting presumption of age is correct. If you start by assuming a thing then use that assumption to prove it we call that circular reasoning. Yet the finest minds in all the world regularly commit this intellectual fallacy to preserve their “right” to exist apart from God. This is truly what Romans 1:18-22 means: people suppress their knowledge of God, proclaim themselves to be wise apart from Him, and become fools, to their own damnation. Next time we’ll talk about how fossils do (and don’t) form. It’s my contention that if evolution were true almost none of the fossils we find would have ever formed.

Hopefully, these articles are helpful to you. I would be happy to address any questions you send to [email protected]. Just give it a title about “creation” so it will go to the right person.

References and further reading:

Jeffrey S. Levinton; The Cambrian Explosion: How Do We Use the Evidence. BioScience 2008; 58 (9): 855-864. doi: 10.1641/B580912

John D. Morris, Gaps in the Geologic Column. Acts and Facts 41(2): 16. Available at: http://www.icr.org/article/gaps-geologic-column

Roger Patterson, Geologic Column. Chapter 6 in Evolution Exposed: Earth Science. Available at: https://answersingenesis.org/geology/geologic-time-scale/geologic-column/

Brian Thomas; How (Not) to Date a Fossil. Institute for Creation Research 2014. Available at: http://www.icr.org/article/8054/268

Blog by Glenn Fink
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