Truth in the Text Part IV – How Old are the Dinosaurs?
I promise I’ll write more about dinosaurs soon. For now, let’s talk about how ages are established for their bones. How do we estimate a triceratops skeleton at 68 million years old?
If you remember from Part III, Carbon-14 (C14) dating is only good for dating samples up to about 50,000 years. Dinosaurs are believed to have died out millions of years ago, so routine sampling for Carbon makes no sense to many scientists. After 50,000 -100,000 years, all the Carbon originally in the animal is gone.
These men and women aren’t trying to hide anything by not assessing the C14 levels. Based on their assumptions about the age of the earth (see Truth in the Text Part I), their research methods are sound. They will use a Parent-daughter isotope that decays much slower, allowing ages to be assessed beyond 50,000 years. The Uranium/Potassium isotope is the one of choice, assessing ages into the millions of years. Unfortunately, there isn’t any in the dinosaur bones.
Q: So how do scientists estimate when dinosaurs roamed the earth?
A: Dinosaurs are found in sedimentary rock as fossils (more on fossils below). Neither the rock layer they are in, nor the remains themselves contain the Uranium /Potassium isotopes needed for radiometric dating. Scientists rely on neighboring igneous rock, formed from cooling lava. The lava flows above and below the dinosaur are Uranium/Potassium dated, then the animal’s age is approximated between those brackets of time. For dinosaurs, we get results between 65-220 million years.
That’s really old. How do scientists believing in a young, 6,000 year old earth explain this?
This takes us back to Part III and the assumptions that affect the interpretation of radiometric dating. The same problem applies to Uranium/Potassium testing of igneous rock as it did for Carbon/Lead. We don’t know what the original, pre-flood concentrations were. Knowing the magnetic field is in decay, some scientists assume the field was stronger when those lava layers were formed. This means there was less radioactive Uranium in the atmosphere, so a lower starting concentration in the newly forming lava. The incorrect assumption regarding the Parent to Daughter ratio subsequently inflates the age of the rock layers, in turn inflating the age of the dinosaurs. (Part III explains this in more detail).
The Big Question: Putting 2 and 2 together, shouldn’t there be Carbon in the dinosaur bones after all? If they are less than 6,000 years old, and Carbon is testable for 50,000 years…?
Answer: Yes and No. We need a little science review on fossilization to explain.
Fossilization of Bones
We all know that dead things disintegrate, or are scavenged or destroyed in natural disasters, yet we find enormous dinosaur skeletons, some intact and in the midst of an activity. That’s because the bones we find aren’t exactly the bone the beast was born with. They have mostly become fossilized.
How it occurs:
The dinosaur must be buried rapidly for fossilization to occur, such as in the sediment of flood waters. Then it’s a function of conditions, not time. The soft parts of the animal still decay, but bones (and horns, shells, and teeth), if not crushed, may remain intact. Minerals in the ground water seep into the tiny pores of the bone and harden. This can occur in a few weeks time. Some of the original boney substance may remain but is incorporated into the mineral solution. The resulting fossil preserves the original shape with amazing detail. It doesn’t preserve all the original cell material.
Scientists need to Carbon date bones that aren’t completely fossilized, those containing original organic material.
Is that possible? No, not after millions of years.
How about after a few thousand years? Amazingly, Yes!
In 2005 a report came out describing a T-rex thigh bone containing intact blood vessels and red blood cells. Wow! That’s the most dramatic example I could find, but not the only one. There are dinosaur bones out there with organic material. Their C14 tests reveal ages in the 20,000 to 30,000 age range.
Wait! I thought the earth was only 6,000 years old????
Again, the overestimation problem (Part III). The 20-30000 years is not a problem to creation scientists with this taken into consideration. What is key is the fact that there is Carbon present, meaning the bones are less than 50,000 – 100,000 years old. This in no where near 65-220 million years, the time since the great lizards supposedly died out.
Another interesting find is the presence of C14 in diamonds, thought to be billions of years old, and in coal, 300 million years old. In fact, Carbon-14is found in all the geologic rock layers. The earth is not billions of years old, after all, just like God told us.
Summary: Anything over 100,000 years will not contain Carbon-14. Carbon-14 has been found in dinosaur bones, diamonds, fossil fuels, and all geologic rock layers. Therefore: The earth and all it contains is less than 100,000 years old.
Yes, at times samples have been contaminated and there are always unknown variables, but overall, Carbon Dating supports a young earth.
Whew! Are you sick of Carbon yet? I added a couple bonus topics below if your inner science nerd is begging for more. Next month? Maybe all about dinosaurs or I might take a tangent to discuss the nephilim of Genesis.
THANKS for reading! Comments welcome….
Bonus Topic 1: The Shroud of Turin
The linen fabric reported to have covered Jesus in the tomb has been Carbon dated, but the sample fibers came from a mended area, not the primary linen fibers. They dated to about 1300 A.D. It has not been re-tested, so its age is still an unknown.
Bonus Topic 2: Why did Methuselah get so many birthday parties?
Methuselah was 969 when he died. He is the oldest man recorded in the Bible. There may have been others with longer life spans. His grandson, Noah, lived to 950, his son Shem to 600, his son to 438. In Abraham’s day men were down to around 170 years. Today the average life expectancy is under 80 years. What changed?
Some scientists believe the flood was catastrophic to the earth in many ways, and one was the weakening of our protective magnetic shield. The geologic upheaval allowed more cosmic rays to enter our atmosphere. The resulting formation of radioactive isotopes affected all living things. Genetic mutation increased, limiting the vitality of post-flood generations.