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On the surface, radiometric dating methods appear to give powerful support to the statement that life has existed on the earth for hundreds of millions, even billions, of years.We are told that these methods are accurate to a few percent, and that there are many different methods.I believe that there is a great need for this information to be made known, so I am making this article available in the hopes that it will enlighten others who are considering these questions.Even the creationist accounts that I have read do not adequately treat these issues.Since there doesn't seem to be any systematic error that could cause so many methods to agree with each other so often, it seems that there is no other rational conclusion than to accept these dates as accurate.However, this causes a problem for those who believe based on the Bible that life has only existed on the earth for a few thousand years, since fossils are found in rocks that are dated to be over 500 million years old by radiometric methods, and some fossils are found in rocks that are dated to be billions of years old.Since Cambrian and later rocks are largely sedimentary and igneous (volcanic) rocks are found in Cambrian and later strata, if these rocks are really 550 million years old, then life must also be at least 550 million years old.
Uranium decays to lead by a complex series of steps. Thus we obtain K-Ar dating, U-Pb dating, and Rb-Sr dating, three of the most common methods.
For isochrons, which we will discuss later, the conditions are different.
If these conditions are not satisfied, the error can be arbitrarily large.
Assuming we start out with pure parent, as time passes, more and more daughter will be produced. A ratio of infinity (that is, all daughter and no parent) means an age of essentially infinity.
By measuring the ratio of daughter to parent, we can measure how old the sample is. Each radioactive element has a half-life, which tells how long it takes for half of the element to decay.