[Fwd: Re: Some Comments on Radiometric dating.]

From: Jim Armstrong (jarmstro@qwest.net)
Date: Wed Jan 22 2003 - 22:10:22 EST

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    don't want to belabor this point, but it is not the case that "when
    you have a theory, all it takes is one occasion to falsify it." That is
    true of formal logic systems where there is a direct chain of logical
    conclusions from the starting postulates. However, it is not necessarily
    the case with more complex natural systems. If a "theory" works for the
    vast majority of cases, and has so for a considerable time, the
    probability is just plain high that an anomaly is just a case that is
    not well understood, and not a denial of the theory. That does not
    preclude an invalidation, just makes it less likely. Indeed, some
    annoying and persistent anomalies have led to refinements of theory
    (that's the whole history of astronomy and quantum physics); but it does
    mean that one has to make an awfully good case to overcome the theory in
    place. And, the key word here is refinement, seldom an invalidation -
    that is the pattern. Just as a practical matter, making that case is
    relatively easy when the new insight helps beneficially refine the
    technologies and processes in resource exploration (just for example);
    less easy when it is a theological position that hinges on the matter. JimA

    allenroy wrote:

    > Jim Armstrong ( jarmstro@qwest.net
    > ) Wrote:
    > I'm not a geologist, and I take your word on the evident age inversion.
    > But I have this observation. It seems, even somewhat implicit in your
    > description, that there is a backdrop of a substantial body of data
    > correlating geological layers and ordering of radiometrically determined
    > ages (by more than one technique as I faintly recall) that has resulted
    > in radiometric aging being broadly accepted tool for age determination.
    > The geologic dynamics of the Earth are certainly complex, and it is not
    > unusual to find a small number of anomalies in even well-understood
    > systems with this degree of complexity.
    > **The problem is, when you have a theory, all it takes is one occasion
    > to falsify it. At that point, the theory needs to be modified or
    > rejected. Radiometric dating has never been modified although
    > falsified many times. The assumptions have never been modified to fit
    > reality. Instead, the blame for the falsification is put on Nature.
    > The theory always holds true, but it is Nature that messes with the
    > results. Woodmorappe calls this the fallacy of CDMBN [Credit Dating
    > Method (for ostensible successes); Blame Nature (for failures)]. (The
    > Mythology of Modern Dating Methods, 1999, pg. 2)
    > It is only after dates have been computed and found to be not what was
    > expected that either the raw data is modified according to speculation
    > on why the data was 'incorrect' or the computed dates are rejected
    > due to issues like I pointed out.
    > You appear to feel that the anomalies such as you describe occur in
    > sufficient numbers to overcome the large amount of data that correlated
    > well enough to allow radiometric dating to be broadly accepted by so
    > many earth scientists. Further, you suggest that the biases of a pretty
    > substantial number of scientists compromised enough of the data
    > underlying the acceptance of radiometric dating so as to invalidate the
    > technique. I have a bit of a problem with that. It seems to me like
    > radiometric dating has been vetted by too many people, over too long a
    > period, by too many alternative processes, and through too many
    > noncontradictory findings to easily set it aside in the presence of one
    > or a small number (I am guessing) of anomalous configurations like the
    > Uinkaret. That is not to say that the Uinkaret should be ignored (and I
    > bet it isn't!), because it has the potential to teach us when understood
    > (part of your message). But it seems to me that the weight of this
    > relatively isolated finding is not sufficiently persuasive to discard
    > the conclusions drawn from the much larger body of samplings and
    > correlations requisite to the general acceptance of radiometric dating.
    > Is this something more than anomaly?
    > In the same book, Woodmorappe discusses two other fallacies which keep
    > radiometric dating alive -- ATM (Appeal to Marginalization) and ATT
    > (Appeal to Technicalities). ATM is what you are referring to here.
    > The significance of contrary evidence is belittled as rare or occuring
    > only under limited circumstances. After all, there is so much "good"
    > evidence how could it be wrong? Right? There are so many people who
    > accept Isotopic dating, they couldn't be wrong? Right?
    > I recommend reading Woodmorappe's book "The Mythology of Modern Dating
    > Methods" whether you agree with him or not. He deals in detail with
    > the very questions you are raising. Your local university library
    > probably has the book. If not, any library can "interlibrary loan"
    > the book for you.
    > Allem

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