11/04 - Scott writes ...
Mr. Niednagel - Lets go and take samples from different layers of the geologic column. We'll label them so we know where the samples came from. We'll then send the samples to a radiological dating facility and ask them to put the samples in order from oldest to youngest. Once they tell us their results, we'll compare to the actual locations from where they were taken. Will they be able to do it? If not why? ... If you believe that dating is a 'false' science, it should be no big deal to make such a wager.
Well, I always appreciate your spunky questions, Scott. To begin with, you're only kidding yourself if you think any dating facility will date any rocks sent in with no questions asked. I welcome you to try it. No offense taken, but I think your understanding of the process is a little skewed from reality.
Great precautions are taken when dating a rock sample, as contamination is a significant threat that all scientists fear. They MUST know where the sample came from, and also take into account the index fossils. If radiometric dating were as foolproof as it appears you mistakenly think they are, index fossils would be a thing of the past. Rather, they're KEY, and any scientist will readily concur.
And remember, only igneous rocks are "dateable," not sedimentary. So if you ever find the money to pay for samples to be dated (which, to my knowledge, runs between $15k-$30k), make sure you submit the correct type of rock.
So, in answer to your wager, yes, I would gladly take on the bet. I echo the words of Derek Ager, who quoted in New Scientist (vol 100, p. 425), "Certainly such studies give dates in terms of millions of years, with huge margins of error, but this is an exceedingly crude instrument with which to measure our strata, and I can think of no occasion when it has been put to an immediate practical use."
In fact, let's submit a sample from the 300 year-old eruption of Mt. Rangitoto in New Zealand. Such was already done, and gave a potassium-argon dating of 485,000 years (see FAQ for sources). Truly, Scott, do you really think that you can just submit any rock and it can be correctly dated error free? If so, you're not only disagreeing with me, you're disagreeing with qualified scientists. Dating methods rely heavily on the geologic column and index fossils. Altogether, it's a three-ring-circus.
In any case, I'll gladly take on the bet if the opportunity ever presents itself.
Thanks for writing,
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