The Potassium/Argon method for dating is widely used in the field. The assumptions that are used to base the technique is pretty well accepted by the majority in mainstream science. What would it take to cause a question in the minds of the scientific community concerning Potassium/Argon dates because of creationary concerns? This is a tough question to answer.
Maybe, an easier question might be: What questions do we need to explain in order to start understanding potassium/argon dating from a creationary viewpoint? There are three basic questions that Creationist need to answer.
The first question is hard to answer. It is like trying to cause the whole scientific community to distrust Potassium/Argon dates because of creationary concerns. The best we can probably have is an alternate explanation for Potassium/Argon dates. The 2nd and 3rd questions are what need to be answered so that a creationary short age chronology can become a plausible alternate explanation for those who have an open mind in this area of research.
We can start answering this question by showing that many dates actually do not fit.
We have noted the filtered data aspect of what is published in scientific journals (See Potassium-Argon Dating I). Many times, evolutionists only present the data that agrees with evolutionary thinking. This selectivity in the way samples are reported in publications is common place because of the assumptions that the researchers believe to be true with no alternative positions.
It is probably assumed that samples having dates which are too young according for the evolutionary theory, have come from rocks which have probably lost Argon since the time the rock was reset, or set to zero. So these samples are considered to be unsuitable for dating and they are discarded. Since the long age scenario is thought to be true with no alternative positions. Why pursue a matter that will only waste time and money?
There is another type of selectivity which I have not discussed in these web pages. There is a selectivity in the type of samples that scientists use in their work. Hornblende and biotite are especially looked at favorably because the dates, these kinds of rocks produce, agree with evolutionary thought. They are thought to fully reset or set to zero, and then they do a good job at keeping the trapped Argon in the rock.
Other rocks, such as potassium minerals in evaporites, which are not used by evolutionists because they produce younger ages. It is thought to leak Argon Gas and is also thought to re-crystallize below 100o C. However there is evidence that this is not the case (Fechtig H, Kalbitzer S: The diffusion of argon in potassium-bearing solids. in Potassium-Argon Dating. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1966, pp. 63-103). While Potassium minerals do not give young dates, they are much younger than what is expected in main stream science.
It is always possible that rather than leaking Argon since the clock has been reset, The reseting process itself might be the major problem. This problem would especially be real if the reseting rock is in some lower layer, below the surface of the ground, or even under water. The hornblende and biotite rocks might just be in conditions where they incorporate large amounts of Argon instead of loosing Argon.
These possibilities need to be pursued if a Creationary explanation is to become a plausible alternate explanation.
Why is there a gradation of Potassium/Argon dates from old to younger dates as we go up in the Geologic column? This is a problem that many Creationists have wondered about. Many Creationists try to invalidate radiometric dating all together. However there must be a reason why the gradation of dates exist. Dr Giem (see references below), in his book suggests three possible reasons why the gradation of dates exist. Here they are:
It would seem to me that the above explanations are both believable and reasonable. So it would seem that a creationary model would also be believable. The following Story illustrates how these possible explanations may relate to real-life examples. The data used by evolutionists may indeed have alternative explanations.
To better understand how to solve the problem with K/Ar dates, lets look at a different kind of way that rocks are studied. Lets look at the chemistry of the rocks (geochemistry). Why is geochemistry (rock chemistry) so important? To better understand, lets look at a cooking example.
I like making lentil soup, in addition, I like to try different kinds of spices and herbs. I am always trying to experiment. One time I might use more Oregano. Another time, I might use a lot of sweet basil. Often I will make large batches then I package them in large freezer bags that I put in the freezer. Now all I have to do when its time to eat is to open one of the bags and put it in a pan to defrost.
The bags of the different batches of lentil soup are all in the same pile in the freezer, but it is not very hard for me to tell which batch it is that I am eating. If there is a lot of Oregano, I know that it is the first batch. On the other hand, if there is a lot of sweet basil, I know that it is the second batch. If it is real salty, I know it is that batch that I put way too much salt. So I can easily tell which batch it is by just finding out what is in the soup itself.
The same is true for volcanoes. Scientists can tell which volcano a rock came from by looking at the chemicals inside the rock. A volcano acts like a big cooking pot. Within the magna chamber of a volcano, the molten lava gets mixed together much like the lentil soup in my cooking pot. In the lentil soup example we were just looking for the taste of a few herbs to tell which batch it was from. However, when we look at volcanic rocks, the scientist looks at quite a number of different chemicals at the same time to tell which volcano it came from.
Now when a volcano blows its top and lava starts to flow from the mountain, the chemicals that were in the big volcano are now recorded in the rock flows. All the rocks that are from that same volcanic flow will have the same amounts of a variety of chemicals. So, a scientist can look at all the measurements from a specific flow, and he can see that all the rocks from that same flow have the same amounts of each of the trace elements that was measured.
Now we know that rocks from a certain volcano will have what is called a specific signature of trace elements. What I mean by this is that there is a specific grouping of different chemicals found in the rock in various amounts. Collectively, all the measured amounts of all the trace elements make up a signature of trace elements that is easy to identify. Certain of the elements will be found in higher amounts. Other elements will be found in lower amounts. But these amounts all measure the same when looking at rock samples from the same volcano. These rocks are easy to distinguish from rocks that come from other volcanos, because those rocks, that come from another volcano, will have a different signature of trace elements.
This is good to know; But what happens over time? What happens when we have two volcanic flows that come from the same volcano, but there is a month of time between the two flows? Will they have the same trace element signature? The answer is yes; The mixture of trace elements will not change within a month, so the scientist will see the same signature in the rocks of the two volcanic flows separated by one month.
So, how long does it take for the mixture of trace elements in the mountain to change? It turns out that if two volcanic flows occurred within 8 months to 1 year The scientist will basically see that they have the same signature. If the time increases above one year, then the mixture of trace elements within the volcanic mountain will have changed sufficiently so that they will become different. The rocks from the two flows of the same volcano but separated by more than a year will have different signatures.
This is now getting to be extremely interesting! If two volcanic flows are shown to have the same trace element signatures, then we not only know that they came from the same volcanic mountain, but we also know that the two flows occurred within 8 to 12 months from each other.
Now lets use this information to help suggest a solution to a problem with the Columbia River Basalt in Washington State.
Through much of the center portion of the State of Washington, there is a thick group of lava rocks called the Columbia River Basalt. They cover a large area of the state, over 77,000 square miles (200,000 km2). In some places the rock is over 10,000 feet thick.
These rocks are dark and they are layered horizontally. The columbia river basalt is composed of a high number of layers. Each layer is a different volcanic flow. So the columbia river basalt group is made out of a high number of separate volcanic flows.
Both K/Ar and Ar/Ar dating were used to date the layers of the rock. The top of the columbia river basalts is dated to be 6 million years. The bottom is dated at 17.5 million years. So it is thought that the whole formation of columbia river basalt took 11 million years to get formed.
Obviously, if it took 11 million years for these basalt layers to be laid down, the Creationary model would be in trouble. In addition, there is a progression of dates. The lower rocks date older than the upper layers. The dates get progressively younger as you go from the lower layers to the upper layers. How can this phenomena be explained?
A number of years ago, a company that was looking for a place to store toxic waste, drilled a well through the columbia river basalt layers until they stopped at 10,000 feet. They never did find the bottom of the lava flows and the project failed. However, Elaine Kennedy, a geologist with Geoscience Institute, was able to talk with the geologist who was in charge of that project. Every one of the the basalt layers contained pillow basalts. That means they were all deposited underwater!
In addition, with the exception of a single volcanic flow that had some Barium in it, all the rest of the flows (10,000 feet of flows) had essentially the same geochemical trace element signatures. The geologist's said that the signatures were so homogenous, meaning that they were so much like each other that it was almost frightening.
The homogenous trace element signatures of the Columbia River basalt layers shows that all 10,000 feet of basalt was laid down within one year. This idea fits in well within the short timeframe of Creationary thought.
Also, if we remember, the research in Hawaii, that dated lava rocks which flowed out of a volcano in recent times; Most of the rock which was on the land had very young dates, as expected. However, when the flows reached the water, the dates got progressively older and older as the rocks got deeper and deeper under the water. Since all the Columbia River basalt rocks layers had pillow basalts, it means that the whole group was formed underwater!
So the K/Ar and Ar/Ar dates, rather than showing how long ago the rocks were formed; The dates are probably a measure of how deep the layers were, in the water, when they were made. The deeper a layer is in water, the less Argon gas is lost because of the increased water pressure. So, if the interpretation of the K/Ar data is understood to be mainly influenced by the decreasing hydrostatic pressure of water as more and more basalt layers are being formed, then there is no problem with the dates at all.
There is no need to have actual millions of years in time in order that the measured K/Ar dates come out in millions of years. These dates can be attributed to changes in hydrostatic pressure alone. In addition, the trace element measurements also help to show that these layers were probably laid down in a very short time of less than a year. This is an alternative interpretation that makes sense with the data!
In the North East portion of Yellowstone National Park is found one of the best petrified fossil forests in the world. When various scientists first started looking at the fossil trees they determined that it shows a succession of forests separated by volcanic flows. There are up to 65 layers of fossil trees on Specimen Creek Ridge. Each tree layer was thought to represent a separate ancient forest that was buried right where they were growing by volcanic ash or occasionally a volcanic flow. Many of the trees were actually in a vertical orientation, standing upright, just as if they grew that way.
The idea they had was this: One forests grows up and gets destroyed by volcanic ash or occasionally a volcanic flow. Than a second forests grows on top of that volcanic flow before it gets destroyed by a second volcanic event. This happens up to 65 times.
It was thought that each forest might take 500 to 1000 years to form. For a forest to develop, it would take a bit of time for new soil to form, some have thought that the soil would take maybe 300 years to develop. Since the trees had 300 to 500 rings, it was thought that it would take as much as 500 years or more for the forest to mature. Having a series of 65 successionary forests might take a minimum of 40,000 or 50,000 years. Much more time than is allowed by the creation/flood model.
Dr. Harold Coffin saw the research, the tree layers, and the trees; and he thought the evidence was a problem that creationists needed to solve. So he decided he would look at the problem himself. He devoted virtually a life time to research the Yellowstone fossil forest from a creation/flood perspective. He proposed an alternate theory, that the trees were transported into position from some other position underwater. They did not grow up where they presently are located. Rather, flood waters helped to transport the trees from their original growing position to where they are now resting.
A few years ago Dr Coffin published the results of his many years of research a small booklet called: Special Edition: The Yellowstone Petrified "Forests". Obviously, it is on the internet, so take a look at his paper.
Dr. Webster studied the trace element geochemistry of the series of ash layers that separate the 65 tree layers in Dr. Coffin's research. He looked at the whole series of ash layers that exist in the sequence, and he took samples from each ash layer.
He found that all the ash layers could be divided up into four groups. There were four different trace element mixtures or signatures that went through the whole sequence of ash layers. That would mean that there are four different sources for the ash. Four different volcanos that were erupting during the time that the trees were being transported by water to Specimen Ridge. Dr. Webster has identified three of the four volcanic sources.
In addition, these ash layers (intermixed with the tree layers) are found on more than just Specimen Creek Ridge. The successionary sequence of mixtures, on the different hills matched. So the sequence is real for the area.
These four different trace element signatures do not change throughout the whole series of forests. According to the other data mentioned on this page, all of these layers must have been laid down within a short period of time. Less than 8 months to a year. A very short time period.
This trace element research has sealed it for the yellowstone fossil forest. The park service has acknowledged that they agree that the trees were transported in. The geologic community that is aware of this work has also acknowledged the fact that the trees were transported in.
In addition, when geologists go to the site, they see the evidence very clearly that these layers are really lahars! A lahar is a rapidly flowing volcanic mud-flow or debris flow. Water mixed with volcanic material and anything else like trees, mud, and big boulders. So geologists know when they go to the site that the trees did not grow in place. They were brought in to their final resting place by a series of lahars.
Looking at K-Ar dating again. In the first page, Potassium-Argon Dating I, we found that when modern lava flows were dated, the flows that had foreign material mixed with the molten rock, produced a date that is older than the actual known date when the rock actually flowed. So, the fact that the yellowstone fossil forest layers were actually produced by lahars, it should suggest to us a mechanism for producing much older K/Ar dates that what should be found.
Dr. Webster is preparing his paper for publication. When it is published, it will be reported to you on this web page.
Scientific Theology by Paul A. L. Giem, Pub. 1997 by La Sierra University Press Riverside, Ca 92515: ISBN 0-944450-25-3: Library of Congress Cat. Card No. 96-070866
Kennedy, E. G., Notes taken from a Creationary talk she presented at Walla Walla College in College Place Washington, circa 1994; It covered K/Ar dating and mineral trace elements of volcanic flows.
Coffin, H. G., Kennedy, E. G. Catastrophism in the Pacific Northwest: A Geoscience Research Institute Field Guide Geoscience Reports - Summer 1997, No. 24.
Coffin, H. G. Special Edition: The Yellowstone Petrified "Forests" Origins - 24(1):2-44 (1997).Webster, C. L. Research on trace element geochemistry is in progress.
Origin By Design by Harold G. Coffin with Robert H. Brown, Pub. 1983 by Review and Herald Publishing Association
Creation - Accident or Design? by Harold G. Coffin (Chapters on dating by Robert H. Brown), Pub. 1969 by Review and Herald Publishing Association
Brown, R. H., Radioisotope Age Modified from Geoscience Reports - Spring 1996, No. 20:1-3.
Brown, R. H., How Solid is a Radioisotope Age of a Rock? Origins 10(2):93-95, 1983
Brown, R. H., Radiometric Age and the Traditional Hebrew-Christian View of Time Origins 4(2):68-75, 1977
Webster, C. L. Jr., Radioisotope Age, Part II: Genesis and Time: What Radiometric Dating Tells Us Geoscience Reports - Fall 1996, No. 21:1-6.
Clausen, B. L., Radioisotope Age, Part III: Time in Science and the Bible Geoscience Reports - Spring 1997, No. 22:1-5.