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Bible Q

How do you account for human remains that are dated to be at least 50,000 years old?

The difficulty here is that the date of Adam can be calculated from genealogical information in the Bible to be approximately 6000 years ago, or possibly a little longer. So human remains that are much older than that cannot have been descendants of Adam.

There are three major views that attempt to account for this discrepancy.

One view is that there were other people on earth in addition to Adam’s descendants, and the very old human remains are from the same line as these other people. Those who follow this view often point out the “other” people hinted at in Genesis 4. (The hints are: who was Cain afraid of? who did Cain and his siblings marry? and which people began to worship the Lord?) Under this interpretation, it must be explained how Adam can be said to be “the first” man, but that is a different subject.

Another view is that such human remains arise from an “earlier creation” about which we know very little. There are many possible ways to formulate such a view, but a key element is usually that any earlier humans were not ancestors of Adam or any currently living people. In this view, Adam is the first of “currently living people”. Perhaps there was some time period between when the earlier humans and Adam lived.

A third view is that there are no human remains so old, and scientists are simply mistaken in their dating.

6 Replies to “How do you account for human remains that are dated to be at least 50,000 years old?”

  1. A fourth possibility is that the dates given in the Bible are not quite subject to such literal interpretation as the 6000 yr figure requires.

    And a note on the third: at face value, the Bible description of physical conditions prior to the flood are *very* different somehow. We don’t know how different, or what changed, but adherents to the third view often propose that these hypothetical changes invalidate the existing dating methods.

    A note on the second view: this was once widely held, but as our knowledge of evolutionary history has grown, it has become less popular on the basis that it doesn’t explain what is observed.

  2. The first question to be asked is how exact is the 50,000 years, as the third view implies and as Grahame mentioned. Radiometric dating is generally used to determine the age of very old things, and all such dating requires certain assumptions to be made in order to interpret the results.
    1) The initial amounts of the isotopes
    2) That the decay rates are constant
    3) The sample has remained in a closed system

    Since we are looking at the ratio between the original (parent) isotope and the amount that has decayed (changing to the daughter isotope), any extra amount of daughter isotope existing in the material (often assumed to be zero) will result in an incorrectly older measurement interpretation.

    Similarly, if the decay rate was in any way faster in the past than it is today, the interpretation of the results will be again incorrectly older. There is good evidence to show that decay rates may not have been constant, and in the laboratory, decay rates have been increased up to 1 billion times.

    Finally, if any daughter isotopes have been introduced to the sample via other means than decay, the results will again be skewed towards an older interpretation.

    Radiometric dating has been used to date rocks of known age, and has been wildly inaccurate due to the reasons above. Lava flows created in the last century (e.g Mt St Helens in 1980) have been dated at 0.3 million to 2.8 million years old.

    Alternatively C14 dating of diamonds, which are extremely resistant to contamination, and thought to be between 1 and 3 billion years old, has given a maximum age of just over 50,000 years. With a half-life of 5730 years, there should certainly be no C14 left even if the diamonds were ‘only’ 1 million years old.

    As such, it would be quite scientifically valid to question the 50,000 year old date assigned to these remains.

    In fact mitochondrial DNA evidence suggests that all people on earth are descended from a single human female. This “Mitochondrial Eve” was originally though to be 200,000 years old, but a recent (1997) study showed a much faster mutation rate for mitochondrial which possibly dates her at about 6,000-6,500 years old.

  3. Matt, there is no doubt about whether radio-isotope dating works: it has been shown to be consistent an enormous number of times. C-14 dating of diamonds is obviously inappropriate because the half-life of C-14 is not comparable to the age of the diamond; I can’t comment on what you have heard about Mt St Helens or mitochondrial Eve.

    Even if the dates are substantially wrong, there is no question that remains are old enough to cause difficulty for a “young earth” cosmology.

  4. 1) The initial amounts of the isotopes
    2) That the decay rates are constant
    3) The sample has remained in a closed system

    These are precisely the questions asked by people who have spent decades studying the subject. The decay constants have been measured in the laboratory to be remarkably contant. There have been only tiny differences observed. If it is assumed (with zero evidence) that the decay constants were vastly different 6,000 years ago, then the consequences of that need to be dealt with. The amount of energy released would have been enough to completely destroy the earth.

    The methods used assume a constant decay rate, but make no such assumptions about the the initial amount of daughter isotope and possible intrusion of other material. Not surprisingly scientists who spend their lives studying the subject have actually thought about this. Some of the methods used actually can calculate the initial daughter isotope. There are mathematical methods that are used to tell whether the rock samples have been a closed system since the rocks formed.

  5. Matt – I found your example of diamond interesting as it almost eliminates contamination from external sources. Do you have a source reference for this example?

    Russell – Radiometric dating would appear to be reliable and reproducible, however, there are a number of asumptions one has to accept with every element.
    For carbon 14, which comes from N14 when acted on by a particular wave from the sun – how do we know this has always been constant. (we do not) or that the level of C14 has forever been constant. Is its concentration in our atmosphere increasing or falling over time. (Who knows?)
    “Critique of Radio metric Dating” by Harold Slusher raises many difficuties for those accept the scientist’s conclusions to the age of the earth.

  6. Human history only below 20000 years old. Prove? Look at our calendar. Now 2014 ad, jesus live about 0-50 bc. Now calculate that. Between jesus and moses about 3000 years old history, between moses and adam is about 5000 year old history. And adam is the first human. All know that. Plus, plus minus below 20000 years old human history.