Deep Time and Radiometric Dating

Natural history museums are steeped in deep time. Everywhere you look—sometimes on each wall of a museum—the idea of millions of years and evolution combine to explain the origin of all life on Earth. Random chance propels it through the magic machines of natural selection and mutations over millions of years, turning slimy organisms into worms, then tadpole-like creatures that branch into fish that eventually crawl onto land and turn into shrew-like mammals, then apes, and finally humans.

This special combo of deep time plus evolution conveniently leaves out the need for a creator—especially the God of the Bible. This way, people aren’t obligated to live by a certain moral code or lawgiver to whom they must give an account. It also removes the idea of an afterlife, like heaven or hell. Interestingly, the Bible predicted this would happen, with mankind denying a recent, supernatural Creation of a world that was later judged by a Global Flood (see 2 Peter 3:3–7):

Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the Earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and Earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

It’s curious how the very two most monumental events of Biblical history just happen to be the exact two things that museums deny so strongly today: a recent, supernatural Creation and a global Flood that is obviously responsible for most of the billions of fossils buried in Earth’s layers.

Romans 1 forecasted how people would replace the recognition and worship of the supernatural Creator with worship of created things like “four-footed animals and creeping things”… as if they were our creators (by way of being our ancestors). And this is exactly what’s happening at museums, with tall idols blatantly giving such testament (see Figure 99).

Figure 99. The Mammal-to-Man Mockery (forecasted by Romans 1 and 2 Peter 3).[i]

You see, this is completely opposite to the Bible. This belief in deep time plus evolution circumvents the need for a Divine Creator who spoke creation into existence with forethought and intention, and leaves mankind on their own, doing and saying whatever they want in this life, and not responsible for the next. It is the ticket that releases them—at least, so they think—from God and His rules.

The Bible, on the other hand, provides a stark contrast to these ideas. We have clear genealogies in Genesis, which are even repeated in the New Testament, that go all the way back to Adam—the first man who was breathed into existence by God. He was made from the dust of the Earth in the image of God, not evolved from some ape-like creature. Adam named everything, and Adam and Eve were given charge to be stewards over the Earth.

Less than 2,000 years later,[ii] Earth was flooded because of our human rebellion, and all land-based life on Earth was wiped out, except those on the Ark. This happens to be about the same time even secular historians admit that human writing disappears from the face of the Earth. A strange “coincidence,” no doubt! It’s fascinating that when observational science, rather than historical science which requires vast inference, is used to investigate things like the creation of humans that the data actually lines up with the recent Biblical account.

Mitochondrial DNA mutations, for example, point to the recent, spontaneous creation of the first woman about 6,500 years ago—and this is even drawn from multiple secular studies![iii] This coincides with the recent Creation based on the Genesis account. They’ve also identified a massive DNA variety expansion that coincides with the Bible’s Tower of Babel dispersion.[iv] Even without these evidences, the information and packaging of DNA alone should convince one of a divine Creator.

With this, let’s take a look at the mechanics of radiometric dating and its assumptions. The typical idea of deep time presented in museums begins with a 4.5 billion year-old Earth, early life forms evolving about 3.7 billion years ago, dinosaurs living between about 220 and 65 million years ago, and the human line starting to branch off several million years ago. Where do they get these ages? It’s based mostly on radiometric dating, which calculates how quickly unstable atoms—such as uranium—change into stable atoms, such as lead; a decay process they believe starts when igneous rocks are formed.

So, what’s wrong with these methods? Well, for starters, we can’t go back in time to watch these rocks form or check the decay rates of these atoms over time. We can only observe what the decay rate is today based on laboratory studies. We don’t know what the decay rate might have been in the past, or might have been under different Earth conditions. The decay rate has to be assumed, along with the starting amount of the parent element, like uranium, and the starting amount of the daughter element, like lead. We also have to assume that the dating system is closed, without contaminations impacting the outcomes. But since we can’t go back in time to test these assumptions, we have to assume them to be true when radiometric dating is used. And if these major assumptions are not correct, then the ages we get from the results are also not correct.

But there is a way to test the assumptions of radiometric dating: we can take rocks that were formed from a volcanic eruption—rocks that people actually watched form that are pegged to a certain time in recorded history—and then date those rocks. If the assumptions hold up, the radiometric “age” of those rocks should be the same as the “known” age of the rock—the age we can know for sure because people actually watched the rock form. If the radiometric age of the rock is the same as the known age of the rock based on when people watched it form, it would validate the assumptions in the analyses, giving credibility to the results.

But did you know that these types of studies have already been done, and radiometric dating missed the known ages of rocks by millions and millions of years? Several studies have been done on rocks around the world to try to validate radiometric dating, and it fails all the time! Here is a short list:

Table 2: Young Volcanic Rocks with Really Old Radiometric Ages.[v]

The oldest real age of these recent volcanic rocks is less than 500 years. People witnessed and described the molten lava solidify into most of these rocks just decades ago. Many of these were only about 10 years old. And yet radiometric dating gives ages from 340,000 to more than 22,800,000 years.

Notice that in each of the studies shown in Table 2, the radiometric age of the rocks far exceeds the actual, known ages of the rock by millions and millions of years. The last row in Table 2 reveals an example that even happened in the recent past when Mount Saint Helens erupted in the 1980s and produced all kinds of volcanic material, including a rock called “dacite,” that was sent in for radiometric dating. The results? This 10-year-old rock showed “ages” from 340,000 to 2,800,000 years—all for a rock that we know was only about 10 years old.[vi]

While radiometric dating can be useful for estimating the relative ages of rocks or ash layers, like which layers were laid down first, the absolute ages will always be elusive, and will typically exceed the known ages by millions of years. They can also never be verified because we cannot go back in time. The Bible is clear that God spoke Creation into existence—with all the planets spiraling through the universe in perfect order to sustain life on Earth. The oxygen levels, magnetic fields, days, nights, seasons, and temperatures are all perfectly calibrated to sustain life on Earth—and it all had to be here at the same time for everything to work.

[i] Image credit: Author, Washington DC Natural History Museum.

[ii] The Biblical timelines that rely on the 17th-century chronology formulated by Bishop James Ussher place Creation at 4,004 BC and the Flood at 2,348 BC. Some recent research into the copyist differences in the early Masoretic and early Septuagint texts place the Flood around 2,518 BC based on the Masoretic text and between 3,168 BC and 3,298 BC based on the Septuagint (and other early texts), with Creation as early as 5,554 BC. These differences, however, can be settled by comparing multiple texts to reveal the perfect nature of the original writings which were “written through man by God” without error. These issues have been discussed in papers from three leading creation ministries. See, for example: Brian Thomas, “Two date range options for Noah’s Flood,” Journal of Creation 31(1) (2017); Henry B. Smith Jr., “Methuselah’s Begetting Age in Genesis 5:25 and the Primeval Chronology of the Septuagint: A Closer Look at the Textual and Historical Evidence,” Answers Research Journal 10 (2017): 169–179. Answers in Genesis: (November 5, 2018); and Lita Cosner and Robert Carter, “Textual Traditions and Biblical Chronology,” Journal of Creation 29 (2) 2015.

[iii] Jeanson, N. T., “Recent, Functionally Diverse Origin for Mitochondrial Genes from ~2700 Metazoan Species,” Answers Research Journal 6 (2013): 467–501; Parsons, T.J., et al., “A High Observed Substitution Rate in the Human Mitochondrial DNA Control Region,” Nature Genetics 15 (1997): 363–368; Gibbons, A. “Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock,” Science 279 (1998): 28–29.

[iv] Tennessen, J. A., et al., “Evolution and Functional Impact of Rare Coding Variation from Deep Sequencing of Human Exomes,” Science 337 (6090) (2012): 64–69; Fu, W., et al., “Analysis of 6,515 Exomes Reveals the Recent Origin of Most Human Protein-coding Variants,” Nature 493 (7431) (2013): 216–220.

[v] Data compiled and modified after Snelling (1998): Snelling, Andrew. “The Cause of Anomalous Potassium-Argon ‘Ages’ for Recent Andesite Flows at Mt. Ngauruhoe, New Zealand, and the Implications for Potassium-argon Dating,” in Robert E. Walsh (ed.), Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Creationism (1998): 503–525. See also: Snelling, Andrew A., “Excess Argon”: The “Archilles’ Heel” of Potassium-Argon and Argon-Argon “Dating” of Volcanic Rocks. Institute for Creation Research. Accessed February 3, 2016; Austin, Steve. “Excess argon within mineral concentrates from the new dacite lava dome at Mount St Helens volcano,” J. Creation 10 (3) (1996): 335–343 (see:, February 3, 2016).

[vi] Thomas, Brian. “Monuments of Catastrophe from Mount St. Helens.” Posted June 30, 2015. Institute for Creation Research. Accessed September 23, 2020; Austin, Steven A. “Excess Argon within Mineral Concentrates from the New Dacite Lava Dome at Mount St. Helens Volcano.” Institute for Creation Research. Accessed September 23, 2020.