Coral reefs are too old to be young!

I can add little to this excellent piece. however variable growth rate may be, total height divided by maximum growth rate gives a *lower limit* the age, which is enough to refute the Young Earth creationist. There was at one time hope that fine structure of coral growth bands would give information about the lengths of the day and the month in the Proterozoic, but because laboratory studies showed these structures to be sensitive to accidents of time and tide, their place has now been taken by rhythmites, variations in the fine structure of the annual banding of sediments (Proterozoic and Precambrian day and month lengths are now studied using rhythmites, fine structure in the annual banding of sediments; Williams, Reviews of Geophysics 38, 1, 2000).  234U-230Th dating is one of the best methods available for carbonate rocks in the 10,000 year range, and the creationist claim that decay rates could have been different in the past ignores the fact, known since 1928, that these rates are the inevitable consequence of time-dependent quantum mechanics and the fundamental constants of nature.

Age of Rocks

Corals are among the most valuable indicators of past climate conditions, due to their sensitivity to water depth, temperature, and acidity. We can infer from the age and depth of ancient reefs, for example, how global sea level has varied in response to past intervals of warming and cooling. Since reefs are formed by organisms secreting calcite, moreover, their isotopic and elemental chemistry is directly related to the temperature and salinity of the water in which they lived. But best of all, reefs form in the tropics (30°S – 30°N), which means that the researchers studying them do so while scuba diving in warm seas along pristine beaches. Perhaps it’s time for a career change?

Despite that corals can provide a wealth of information to geologists and climatologists studying the past, these data are useful only if we know the precise age of the sample! How then do we date…

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About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on September 10, 2015, in Climate, Creationism, Science and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I wonder whether it would be worthwhile to produce apps which would do the math for some of these ways of determining ages greater than 10,000 years. One could, for example, show how changing assumptions will not resolve the problem in favor of YEC. Lots of people are put off by any calculations, so letting a computer do the math would be helpful.


    • I don’t think this would help. You can’t do the math without having the data, and the publication that gives the data usually does the calculation, with error bars. The “assumptions” that the creationist question are more basic; how do we know that radioactive decay rates are constant and whether there has been any gain or loss of the relevant isotopes, and how we correct for fluctuations in the rate of formation of 14C. And then, when we answer those questions, which do indeed deserve answers, they just ignore us and carry right on objecting.


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