Re: [Fwd:More radiometric dating problems!]

Glenn Morton (
Wed, 10 Dec 1997 20:20:53 -0600

Hi Adrian,

At 09:52 AM 12/10/97 -0800, Adrian Teo' freind wrote:

>Andrew Snelling (a PhD geologist) recently published the results of a
>study (Creation Ex Nihlo vol. 20 no. 1) on the application of
>radiometric dating to the Crinum coal mine in central Queensland,
>When drilling, miners found pieces of wood 21 meters down entombed in a
>basalt (hardened lava) flow. The wood was in 3 states: ash, charred and
>in-tact. The came from trees that were still growing since an imprint of
>a leaf was also discovered in the basalt. The local geological context
>makes the basalt flow approx 30 million years old, if you accept the
>standard model. Since the trees were entombed in the lava, they also
>must be approx. 30 million years old. Also what apparently looked like
>tree roots were found in the siltstone below the basalt, which suggests
>the trees were rooted in the siltstone and thus growing on a land
>surface that was then covered by basalt lava. The siltstone belongs to
>the Permiam German Creek coal measures, conventionally believed to be
>255 million years old.

Before everyone gets excited about this, I would like to ask a few questions
and raise a few issues. I have not read this article, but will see if a
friend can get me a copy. The questions I would like to ask about this are:

1. How was the wood preserved in the basalt. Kilauea basalt flows come out
of the ground at 2100 degrees F. (Volcanoes (Time-Life Books, 1982), p. 131)
Trees caught in the path of the lava burn. The stumps, if they are buried
and removed from the air are then subjected to a 2100 degree temperature.
This is high enough to melt stainless steel. I can not imagine that wood,
subjected to this type of temperature would be able to come out of it either
charred or in tact. It simply should be obliterated.
I would point people to the photos at

of the Hawaii volcanoes which show no trees sticking up out of the basalt.

Secondly, was a stump found with roots in it going into the underlying
siltstone. Finding roots in the lower layer does not mean ipso facto that
those roots belong to the wood Snelling is dating.

Thirdly, I would note that tree roots are notorious for wedging into
crevaces in rocks. One must be careful to check that the lava conforms to
the shape of the wood. If the wood were the roots of trees that had wedged
into this basalt before it was was buried.

>Samples of the wood were collected and sent to Geochron Labs in the USA
>and the ANS Lab at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology
>Organisation (ANSTO) near Sydney. Neither lab was told exactly where the
>samples came from to ensure there would be no resultant bias and both
>labs use the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) technique for
>radiocarbon analyses which is supposedly more sensitive. Geochron is a
>commercial company and ANSTO is a major research lab.
>Basalt samples from the outcrop of the drill core were sent to the AMDEL
>lab in Adelaide Australia and Geochron for K-Ar dating and basalt
>samples from the drill core were also sent to Geochron.
>The labs' staff (all PhD scientists) had no problem calculating
>radiocarbon ages and when questioned were readily insistent that the
>results were within the detection limits with one exception (although
>the other lab did get a valid age from this sample), and therefore
>provided quotable finite ages. They also pointed to the almost identical
>delta C13 results which are consistent with carbon being organic carbon
>from wood and indicating no possibility of contamination. The results
>obtained indicated an age of around 44,000-45,000 years for the wood
>encased in the basalt retrieved from the drill core.

I would point out that the radiocarbon date is at the very oldest age at
which something can be dated even by the AMS technique. (See Stringer and
Gamble, In Search of the Neanderthals, (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1993),
p. 59

Today's Science News has a statement that a charcoal that was dated,
"exceeds the limit of carbon dating, which goes back about 40,000 years."
At this limit, the most one can say is that the object is more than 40,000
years old. While there have been some claims for an ability to use C14 to
date older objects, apparently most archeologists don't feel secure about
it. One cannot conclude that it is 44,000 years old.

I would say that Snelling is interpreting the radioactive dates erroneously.

>However, the results from the K-Ar dating, which are also staunchly
>defended by the lab staff (again PhD scientists), indicate an age of
>around 45 million years.
>So we have a couple of problems:
>1. Dates of the basalt and the wood should be the same but they are
>orders of magnitude apart.
>2. If the basalt is 45 million years old as the geological context
>and the radiometric dates suggest then so must the wood be 45 million
>years old. However, it would not be possible to get a valid radiocarbon
>age from wood that is this old.
>So here we have another clear cut example of the unreliability of
>radiometric dating methods. It also refutes the claims of some on this
>list who insist that the various dating methods all agree and that the
>error margins are comparatively small and that my previous examples were
>from years ago and that radiometric dating practices and methods have
>advanced so much since then.

Not totally clear cut yet.


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