Explore

Feedback archiveFeedback 2022

More questions on the dating of Mount St Helens lava dome

Published: 15 January 2022 (GMT+10)
Saint-Helensen.wikipedia.org

This feedback comes from Ethan W. of Washington state, USA, with questions on radioactive dating of Mount St Helens volcanic rock from the new lava dome. We receive many questions about radioactive dating, almost all of which have been addressed in a multitude of articles on this website, including lots of Feedback items. Nevertheless, we gave a comprehensive answer to Ethan and decided to post it here, because these questions keep coming up.

Hello! I had some questions regarding the dating of rocks at the lava dome at Mt. St. Helens. Some said that in the mass spectrometer, there would always be some leftover argon. For old samples, this would not matter, but for young samples, it could give a wildly false age. Another was that the xenocrysts may not have been thoroughly removed from the samples, which would have contaminated the samples.

Now, one group did admit that Dr. Austin found a potential weakness, but that this was already well understood in science. Phenocrysts do not show a major flaw in K-Ar dating because, while they do show errors, they are not major enough to match the scale it would take to match 6,000 years. Also, they explain that this is why more than one dating method is used, and why more than one sample from the area is used as well.

I want to ask one more thing. I know some Creationists say that the universe appears old because it is a mature creation. Does this explain all, or even most, old dates?

CMI (Australia) geologist Dr Tas Walker responded:

Hi Ethan,

Thanks for writing. You have a lot of questions about Mount St Helens dating. They, and others you have not asked, have all been dealt with in this article Countering the critics: radio-dating in rubble. Also, check the linked articles at the bottom of that article.

I’ve pasted parts of your questions below together with my response.

Some said that in the mass spectrometer, there would always be some leftover argon. For old samples, this would not matter, but for young samples, it could give a wildly false age.

This relates to the precision of the mass spectrometer. The dates are listed in the original article Radio-dating in Rubble The lava dome at Mount St Helens debunks dating methods. The precision of the instrument is indicated by the ± number in Table 1. In every case the number is much less than the ‘date’, indicating “leftover argon” was not a problem.

Another was that the xenocrysts may not have been thoroughly removed from the samples, which would have contaminated the samples.

Dr Austin carefully searched for xenocrysts and ensured they were not included. The research article by Steve Austin describes the experimental method he used.

Dr Austin found a potential weakness, but that this was already well understood in science.

The thing is that you cannot know whether the calculated date is ‘right’ unless you already know what age you are looking for. There is a process that they use for dating, the last step of which involves interpreting the result. That “potential weakness” you mention is one of the many ‘excuses’ (after-the-fact justifications) they will invoke when the results do not match their expectations. See Radioactive dating methods: Ways they make conflicting results tell the same story, which illustrates with real examples how this process works.

Phenocrysts do not show a major flaw in K-Ar dating because, while they do show errors, they are not major enough to match the scale it would take to match 6,000 years. Also, they explain that this is why more than one dating method is used, and why more than one sample from the area is used as well.

This article How dating methods work will show how this does not solve the problem. It is important to note that we are not trying to determine the age of the earth using radioactive dating. We know the age of the earth because it can be easily derived from the historical records in the Bible. We also know why radioactive dating gives wrong ages and why it cannot be relied upon. This article The dating game illustrates how the dates can keep changing depending on the method that is used and depending on whether other people working in the area agree with the new date. The article The dating game also shows how different scientists can have a major disagreement on whether to accept a new date or not.

This article The age of the earth gives lots of examples of methods that give a young age for the earth and universe. Note well the section “Can science prove the age of the earth?” This is a very important concept to understand, i.e. that it is impossible to empirically measure the age of an event in the unobserved past by making measurements in the present.

I want to ask one more thing. I know some Creationists say that the universe appears old because it is a mature creation. Does this explain all, or even most, old dates?

Yes, God created a mature creation (e.g. Adam and Eve would have looked mature when they were just one day old). But that is not why dating methods give old ages. The ages are based on assumptions. They get the old dates because they choose methods, samples, and interpretations that give the old ages they desire. See the article How dating methods work and The way it really is: little known facts about radioactive dating.

This dating game, which is what it is, is part of the narrative of the naturalist to give the impression that the published dates are objective, empirical, and true. However, it is impossible to empirically measure the date of an event in the unobserved past. To their mind there is no such thing as a wrong date. They can get any date they like depending on their assumptions and interpretation. When you read their published work, you do not appreciate all the planning and intrigue involved in their project. It is hard to see where the problems are and how that they have worked towards a particular outcome from the beginning. However, those involved in the ‘dating’ work know dates are full of assumptions. They do not hesitate to dismiss a date published by others when they do not like it. The article The dating game describes such a situation. We all need to be informed. Do not be deceived. Read widely on this issue. Remember, the Bible is the Word of God. It is reliable, accurate and trustworthy.

All the best,
Dr Tasman Walker
Scientist, Writer, Speaker
Creation Ministries International (Australia)