EXCERPT One of the most controversial topics in the debate over origins is the age of the Earth. Geochronology, the science of dating the age of our planet and its major events, is less precise than most people might believe.
One of the most controversial topics in the debate over origins is the age of the Earth. Geochronology, the science of dating the age of our planet and its major events, is less precise than most people might believe. One of the most important geological and biological events in Earth’s history was the massive extinction that ended nearly all life at the end of the Permian Period and paved the way for the dinosaurs at the dawn of the Triassic Period. The timing of this event, known as P-T, has been a recent source of heated controversy among geochronologists.
According to the September 17 2004 issue of the journal Science, “A new, apparently improved, way to date the greatest mass extinction…fails to resolve geochronologists’ long-running differences” (Kerr 2004: 1705). The journal reported that nailing down the time of the Permian-Triassic (P-T) extinction has revealed problems in the often competitive business of geochronology. P-T daters must draw their conclusions from vanishingly small isotopic remains of radioactive decay. For years, different laboratories using uranium-lead radiometric dating—the gold standard of geochronology—have been getting entirely different ages for the P-T extinction (Ibid).
Roland Mundil of the Berkeley Geochronology Center in California and his colleagues have used a new method of preparing samples for uranium-lead dating, and have arrived at a date older than previously thought, but Michael Villeneuve of the Geological Survey of Canada in Ottawa cautions that “all dates are interpretations….It [i.e., Mundil’s dating method] needs a bit more proving out” (Ibid).
Indeed, geochronologist Samuel Bowring of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology analyzed zircons from layers of volcanic ash that were laid down during the P-T event and got a more recent date. Mundil, however, rejects Bowring’s conclusion. According to the article in Science,….
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