Feature Article - June 2008
by Do-While Jones

The Age of the Moon

Evolutionists say that the Moon is 4.43 ± 0.13 x 109 years old. Is that correct?

Last month we saw that rubidium-strontium isochron dating of the Apollo 11 moon rocks showed that the moon is 4.3 to 4.56 billion years old. That method depends upon an unwarranted assumption about the initial concentrations of rubidium and strontium isotopes. This month we want to compare that age with ages other qualified scientists found using other techniques.

The Chase

Since this article gets so technical that we might lose some readers along the way, let’s just cut to the chase while everyone is still with us.

Scientists computed the age of the Apollo 11 moon rocks 116 times using methods other than rubidium-strontium isochron dating. Of those 116 dates, only 10 of them fall in the range of 4.3 to 4.56 billion years, and 106 don’t. The non-isochron dates range from 40 million years to 8.2 billion years.

When faced with this obvious discrepancy, evolutionists sometimes backpedal by saying that although the radiometric dates may not be perfectly accurate, even 40 million years is much older than 6,000 years, so the radiometric ages still prove the Earth is old. That reasoning fails because the ages aren’t simply inaccurate—they are invalid. All of the ages were calculated using baseless assumptions about the initial concentrations of radioactive isotopes and erroneous speculation about how those concentrations changed over time. The calculated ages have nothing to do with how old the rocks are, and have everything to do with how much of each kind of isotope was in the rocks when they were formed.

The Details

Even before the Apollo 11 astronauts brought rocks back from the moon, scientists from all over the world were clamoring to get the chance to analyze them. Therefore, NASA gave many scientists the opportunity to write proposals telling how they would analyze the moon rocks if they were given the opportunity. Based on the merit of the proposals and the qualifications of the scientists, they allowed a few select scientists access to the samples. Their findings were presented at the Apollo 11 Lunar Science Conference, and the complete proceedings (335 pages) were published in the January 30, 1970, issue of Science. Nine of the papers presented at the conference deal with the age of the moon. For convenience, we have numbered those nine papers in Table 1. We will refer to those sources by number in Table 2.

Table 1. References from Science, 30 January, 1970
“The Moon Issue” dedicated to the proceedings of the Apollo 11 Lunar Science Conference
  1. Mitsunobu Tatsumoto, et al., “Age of the Moon: An Isotopic Study of Uranium-Thorium-Lead Systematics of Lunar Samples” pages 461-463.
  2. A. L. Albee, et al., “Ages, Irradiation History, and Chemical Composition of Lunar Rocks from the Sea of Tranquillity” pages 463-466.
  3. Grenville Turner, “Argon-40/Argon-39 Dating of Lunar Rock Samples” pages 466-468.
  4. Leon T. Silver, “Uranium-Thorium-Lead Isotope Relations in Lunar Materials” pages 468-471.
  5. K. Gopalan, et al., “Rubidium-Strontium, Uranium, and Thorium-Lead Dating of Lunar Material” pages 471-473.
  6. P. M. Hurley, et al., “Rubidium-Strontium Relations in Tranquillity Base Samples” pages 473-474.
  7. William Compston, et al., “Rubidium-Strontium Chronology and Chemistry of Lunar Material” pages 474-476.
  8. V. Rama Murthy, et al., “Rubidium-Strontium Age and Elemental and Isotopic Abundances of Some Trace Elements in Lunar Samples” pages 476-479.
  9. R. K. Wanless, et al., “Age Determinations and Isotopic Abundance Measurements on Lunar Samples” pages 479-480.

Table 2 shows the minimum and maximum calculated ages for every moon rock.

Table 2. Minimum and Maximum Moon Rock Ages
Sample Age (x 109) Method Source
10003 <1.0 40Ar/39Ar low temp 3
4.025 207Pb/206Pb 1
10017 < 0.25 40Ar/39Ar low temp 3
4.67 208Pb/232Th 4
10020 3.765 206Pb/238U 1
3.996 207Pb/206Pb 1
10022 < 0.75 40Ar/39Ar low temp 3
3.59 ± 0.06 40Ar/39Ar high temp 3
10024 < 0.2 40Ar/39Ar low temp 3
4.050 ± 0.7 87Sr/87Rb isochron 5
10044 < 0.8 40Ar/39Ar low temp 3
3.74 ± 0.05 40Ar/39Ar high temp 3
10045 4.17 207Pb/206Pb 4
4.17 207Pb/206Pb 4
10047 4.21 207Pb/206Pb 4
4.95 208Pb/232Th 4
10050 3.680 208Pb/232Th 1
4.051 207Pb/206Pb 1
10057 2.27 40K-40Ar unspiked 9
4.173 207Pb/206Pb 1
10060 3.365 208Pb/232Th 4
5.76 208Pb/232Th 4
10061 4.594 208Pb/232Th 1
4.710 206Pb/238U 1
10062 < 1.0 40Ar/39Ar low temp 3
3.83 ± 0.06 40Ar/39Ar high temp 3
10069 0.04 Cosmic ray exposure 2
4.9 ± 0.4 40K-40Ar feldspar glass 2
10071 3.374 208Pb/232Th 1
3.826 207Pb/206Pb 1
10072 < 0.6 40Ar/39Ar low temp 3
4.13 207Pb/206Pb 4
10084 4.31 208Pb/232Th 4
8.2 208Pb/232Th 9
10085 4.44 87Sr/87Sr 2

As you can see, the age of the same rock measured by different scientists using different techniques varied widely.

We don’t have space in the printed version of the newsletter to list all the published age measurements, but we have put the entire table on our web page. Which age is correct? None of them!

Sample 10017 was dated by five different sources with nineteen different results. Here is how one of those sources tried to spin the results.

The 40K-40Ar ages are for No. 17: whole rock, 2.45 x 109 years; the 4He age, 2.5 x 109 years [U-Th from (2)]; plagioclase, 3.2 x 109 years. For No. 44: whole rock, 3.45 x 109 years; pyroxene, 3.6 x 109 years. For No. 69: whole rock, 2.9 x 109 years. For soil: feldspar glass, 4.9 ± 0.4 x 109 years; brown glass, 1.6 x 109 years.

Comparison of mineral and rock data demonstrates gas loss. The plagioclase for No. 17 yields a much higher age than the total rock, indicating Ar loss from the fine-grained, K-rich, interstitial phases. The concordance of He and Ar ages must be fortuitous. The maximum age is equal to the Rb-Sr age, and the general pattern is compatible with the Sr results. Assuming no inheritance of Ar, the age of the brown glass fragment shows that the soil contains particles produced by events of intermediate age (~ 109 years). 1

They think that the agreement between the argon age and the helium age is “fortuitous” (dumb luck) because both are too young and can’t possibly be right. They blame the error on “gas loss.” This is funny because potassium-argon dating on Earth rocks often gives dates that are too old. The “excess argon” problem has been known since 1969. 2 We have talked about it in detail in a previous newsletter. 3 But, perhaps in 1970, it wasn’t well known to the scientists studying the moon rocks. Here’s what they said.

Abstract. Seven crystalline rock samples returned by Apollo 11 have been analyzed in detail by means of the 40Ar-39Ar dating technique. The extent of radiogenic argon loss in these samples ranges from 7 percent to >48 percent. Potassium-argon ages, corrected for the effects of this loss, cluster relatively closely around the value of 3.7 x 109 years. Most of the vulcanism associated with the formation of the Mare Tranquillitatis presumably occurred around 3.7 x 109 years ago. A major cause of the escape of gas from lunar rock is probably the impact event which ejected the rock from its place of origin to its place of discovery. Upper limits for the times at which these impact events occurred have been estimated. 4

Let’s not let that slip by unnoticed. The uncorrected potassium-argon dates were so young that they assumed almost half (48%) of the argon was lost in a speculative “impact event.” But even when they assume that the amount of argon in the rock was almost double what they actually measured, they only come up with 3.7 billion years, which still isn’t old enough.

Don’t let us put words in their mouths. Here is what they actually said.

The assumptions are made that the rock was free of argon when formed and that it has quantitatively retained 40Ar, from the decay of 40K, since that time. The assumption of quantitative argon retention is particularly inappropriate for the lunar rocks. The rocks returned to earth have been picked up loose from the surface of the moon, presumably at some distance from their place of origin. The presence of shock effects in some, if not all, of the crystalline rocks indicates that high-energy events, possibly meteorite impacts, may have transported the rocks from their place of origin to their place of discovery and it is very probable that argon loss occurred at the time of transfer. In an attempt to estimate the extent of gas loss and to apply a suitable correction to the potassium-argon age, an activation technique, the 40Ar-39Ar method, has been applied to seven of the crystalline lunar rocks. 5

If they hadn’t “known” the “true” age of the rocks is 4.4 billion years, would they have made these “corrections?” Of course not! They are just twisting the facts to fit their prejudice. But it gets better. Here’s the abstract by a different team of scientists.

Abstract. A K-Ar age of 2300 x 106 years has been determined for a sample of type A crystalline rock (57,34). The presence of an anomalously large quantity of 40Ar, in a sample of type C breccia (65,35) precluded the calculation of its K-Ar age. 6

There was so much “excess argon” in one of the moon rocks they could not even calculate the age! But the rocks they could calculate ages for had lost so much argon that they yielded an age that was slightly more than half of what it “should” have been.

Why Don’t Scientists Know This?

We’ve just scratched the surface of all the contradictory findings and fantastic rationalization regarding the ages of the moon rocks. All these discrepant moon rock ages were published in a respectable scientific journal (not a crackpot creationist magazine) nearly 40 years ago. Any dues-paying member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) can read this landmark issue of Science, so “real scientists” have no excuse for not knowing it.

Why isn’t the unreliability of radiometric dating better known by scientists? Why don’t more scientists know about the scientific failings of the theory of evolution? We thought you would never ask. Fortunately, Tim did. So we gave him an answer in this month’s email column.

Quick links to
Science Against Evolution
Home Page
Back issues of
Disclosure
(our newsletter)
Web Site
of the Month
Topical Index

Footnotes:

1 A. L. Albee, et al., Science, 30 January 1970, “Ages, Irradiation History, and Chemical Composition of Lunar Rocks from the Sea of Tranquillity” pages 463-466.
2 Disclosure, February 1997, “Exact Dating (More or Less)”
3 Disclosure, September 2001, “Danny Defends Argon Dating”
4 Grenville Turner, Science, 30 January 1970, “Argon-40/ Argon-39 Dating of Lunar Rock Samples” pages 466-468.
5 ibid.
6 R. K. Wanless, et al., Science, 30 January 1970, “Age Determinations and Isotopic Abundance Measurements on Lunar Samples” pages 479-480.