A Christian response to radiometric dating
Published: 21 September 2007 (GMT+10)
What is a Christian to make of radioactive dating? Isn’t the evidence for millions of years of earth history overwhelming?
For more than ten years now a paper by Roger Wiens entitled ‘Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective’ has been saying that radio-isotopic dating is absolutely reliable and the earth is definitely millions of years old. Wiens, a physicist employed by the Space & Atmospheric Sciences Group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, presents his paper as a long and detailed tutorial on the theory behind radioactive dating. It’s available on the web via the American Scientific Affiliation, a fellowship of Christians in science. To those who have not encountered the topic before the paper can seem very convincing.
The problem is that the Bible plainly says that the world was created by God in six days. That is clear to anyone who reads it for the first time. Furthermore, from the detailed chronologies given, we know that creation happened about 4,000 years before Christ. That was the orthodox view of the Christian church for 1,800 years. Even the pioneers of modern science such as Newton, Kepler, Steno, Hooke, Burnet and Whiston believed that the Bible recorded accurate history and they used it as a starting point for their scientific thinking.
Wiens’s article promoting an old earth is often cited within Christian circles.1 Interestingly, it is also cited by secularists and skeptics, especially when targeting Christians about the reliability of the Bible and the claims of the Gospel.2 Their strategy, it seems, is that if they can convince Christians that the earth is billions of years old then they have discredited the other claims of the Bible.
When anyone says that the Bible does not mean what it says we need to think long and hard. We should not accept something simply because of a person’s credentials but check it out for ourselves against Scripture. Once Christians start to abandon the Bible as their authority they run into trouble.
Geologist Dr Tasman Walker has gone through Roger Wiens paper in detail, answering each claim point by point. He explains how scientists work out the age of things, and reveals some inside limitations on the theories behind the enterprise, as well as the way it works in practice. The facts he presents are simple and obvious, but not generally known.
Walker shows that the Bible can be trusted, just as it is written, without any reservation. He illustrates how the idea of millions of years is not based on scientific measurements but on subjective philosophical interpretations.
- For example, Wiens paper is made available on the website of the American Scientific Affiliation, a ‘fellowship of Christians in science’, and by Reasons to Believe, the interdenominational Christian organization of Dr Hugh Ross which argues that ‘progressive’ creation over millions of years is consistent with the Bible. Return to Text.
- For example, on the Talk Origins website, a site that is aggressively anti-creation and anti-Christian and by the Department of Geology of Colby College, a liberal arts college, Maine. Return to Text.