what is relative dating and radiometric dating

Sandra Sellers, 26 years old


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If, in the year AD , you had asked an educated European how old the planet Earth was and to recount its history he would have said that it was about years old and that its ancient history was given by the biblical account in Genesis. If you asked the same question of an educated European in AD you would have received a quite different answer. He would have answered that the Earth was ancient, that there had not been a Noachian flood, and that the species of life had not been fixed over the history of Earth. In short, Genesis was an allegory and not literal history. The story of this great change in the conception of the history of Earth is not a simple one. The chronicle of this great change can be broken into five periods;. The era of speculative cosmogonies ran from AD

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Until the 18th century, this question was principally in the hands of theologians, who based their calculations on biblical chronology. Bishop James Ussher, a 17th-century Irish cleric, for example, calculated that creation occurred in B. There were many other such estimates, but they invariably resulted in an Earth only a few thousand years old. By the late 18th century, some naturalists had begun to look closely at the ancient rocks of the Earth.
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Radiocarbon dating is a method that provides objective age estimates for carbon-based materials that originated from living organisms. The impact of the radiocarbon dating technique on modern man has made it one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century. Archaeology and other human sciences use radiocarbon dating to prove or disprove theories. Over the years, carbon 14 dating has also found applications in geology, hydrology, geophysics, atmospheric science, oceanography, paleoclimatology and even biomedicine. Radiocarbon, or carbon 14, is an isotope of the element carbon that is unstable and weakly radioactive. The stable isotopes are carbon 12 and carbon Carbon 14 is continually being formed in the upper atmosphere by the effect of cosmic ray neutrons on nitrogen 14 atoms. It is rapidly oxidized in air to form carbon dioxide and enters the global carbon cycle.

Carbon dating is used to determine the age of biological artifacts up to 50, years old. This technique is widely used on recent artifacts, but educators and students alike should note that this technique will not work on older fossils like those of the dinosaurs alleged to be millions of years old. This technique is not restricted to bones; it can also be used on cloth, wood and plant fibers. Carbon dating has been used successfully on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Minoan ruins and tombs of the pharaohs among other things. Carbon is a radioactive isotope of carbon. The half-life of carbon is approximately 5, years. The short half-life of carbon means it cannot be used to date fossils that are allegedly extremely old, e. The question should be whether or not carbon can be used to date any artifacts at all?

Smith is known as the Father of English Geology. Oxford Library. Our understanding of the shape and pattern of the history of life depends on the accuracy of fossils and dating methods. Some critics, particularly religious fundamentalists, argue that neither fossils nor dating can be trusted, and that their interpretations are better. Other critics, perhaps more familiar with the data, question certain aspects of the quality of the fossil record and of its dating. These skeptics do not provide scientific evidence for their views. Current understanding of the history of life is probably close to the truth because it is based on repeated and careful testing and consideration of data. The rejection of the validity of fossils and of dating by religious fundamentalists creates a problem for them:.