Relative geologic dating and numerical geologic dating radionuclide dating


The example used here contrasts sharply with the way conventional scientific dating methods are characterized by some critics (for example, refer to discussion in "Common Creationist Criticisms of Mainstream Dating Methods" in the Age of the Earth FAQ and Isochron Dating FAQ).

Initially, the students are asked to develop physical clues to put themselves in order from youngest to oldest (exposing the inferences we make unconsciously about people's ages), and this will be refined/modified using a list of current events from an appropriate historical period that more and more of the students will remember, depending on their age (among other variables).

Absolute age is introduced by having the students order themselves by birth decade, year, month, and day, and comparing the absolute age order to the order worked out in the relative-dating exercise, with a discussion of dating precision and accuracy.

Because of continual refinement, none of the values depicted in this diagram should be considered definitive, even though some have not changed significantly in a long time and are very well constrained (e.g., the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary has been at 65 -1 Ma for decades, and has been tested innumerable times, with almost all dates somewhere between 64 and 66 million years).

The overall duration and relative length of these large geologic intervals is unlikely to change much, but the precise numbers may "wiggle" a bit as a result of new data.

The units commonly used for geologic age are mega-annum (Ma) for millions of years, giga-annum (Ga) for billions of years, and kiloannum (ka) ka for thousands of years.