Fairy tales for adults (long)

Steve Bougerolle steveb at creek-and-cowley.com
Thu Feb 13 19:43:50 PST 2003

On Thu, 2003-02-13 at 22:04, Ian Molton wrote:

> Carbon dating may not be massively accurate, but is based on a VERY
> sound, and readily observable scientific principle - that of radioactive
> decay.

Actually, that's an observation and not a principle.

> The inaccuracy is from not knowing for certain the backround levels of
> radiation and so on from VERY long ago. 

You are missing the point again, possibly deliberately.  Regardless of
how much you study the problem and how honestly you try to estimate the
answer, all useful forms of radioactive dating must ASSUME that the rate
of decay of atoms has not changed in some gross way, because we have no
measurements of radioactive decay more than about a hundred years old.

We believe that decay rates have not changed because if they did, that
would imply other changes that we would have records of (for example the
sun growing brighter or dimmer and radically changing temperatures). 
However, there are still more assumptions involved in all that.  We
proceed assuming that they are valid assumptions and we are successful,
but what does that prove?  For thousands of years people successfully
assumed that measurements of distance & time were absolute as well, but
that has been shown to be wrong.

If you analyze science from a strict logical perspective it fails
dismally.  That assumption about radioactive decay rates is one of many
that is particularly easy to criticize.  Thus, it is very possible for a
certain sort of (intelligent and educated) person to discount what
science tells him.  Try real hard to imagine yourself to be one of those
people, Ian.  The insight will be worth it, I think.

> We can get a good idea of the
> levels from comparative analysis of geological evidence around the
> world, but the exact value will never be known, as it would have varied
> over the surface of the planet.

Details which are beside the point. You will get nowhere arguing about
details because the guys who believe the 6k age don't accept all the
assumptions you are making when you choose those particular details to
debate - and there really is little answer one can give.  We don't know
much of anything about the universe and everywhere you turn in science
it is easy to find unfounded (but consistent) assumptions.  I don't
think it really bothers many scientists to admit that, so I am curious
why you guys get so worked up about it.

Let me state once again that I am a scientist and I do not at all
believe the weird 6k date people come up with for creation; I am just
playing devil's advocate because I think there's something to be gained
by doing so. But just for fun, I will say I am almost equally
unimpressed with the best scientific estimates of the age of the
universe, although their techniques are interesting.  The assumptions
involved there really pile up beyond the point of credibility and

Steve Bougerolle
Creek & Cowley Consulting


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