How long is the time that has passed since the first man until now?

Prof. Dr. Âdem Tatlı

Different date ranges are put forth regarding the time that has passed since Adam, the first man, until now. Even though the date range that religious sources indicate includes a short time span as 6-7 thousand years as regards to this issue, the numbers that science and philosophy bring forth are stated as millions. Such a great difference arises due to the methods applied to determine the age of fossils. There are two sorts of methods used in such type of age determination. One of them is paleontological and the other is radioactive age determination method.

In the paleontological age determination method, the age of a rock is determined according to the type of fossils it includes. In geological eras, there are fossils which existed for short spans of time and vanished. They are called “Characteristic or key fossils” or “ Layer-determining fossils”. Judging by characteristic fossils which lived in different ages and eras, “geological columns” which display the age of each era and layer-determining fossils it includes have been formed. With the help of a characteristic fossil which might be found in an area, the age of that area is determined by looking up this geological column. However, how can it be determined which index fossil shows which age? The answer is “evolution”. That is, since it is claimed that evolution exists in the same direction on the earth, phases of evolution of an organism that lived in a certain era must provide an infallible criterion in order to define sediments stored in this era. This is the basic principle of the evolution theory.

The criterion that is necessary to move fossils to the very special place in this chronology is the claim that “life evolves from the simple to the complex”. Evolution of living organisms, though, is based upon fossil records. Evidence for the existence of evolution is fossils. Fossils are ranged in chronological order according to the evolution theory. Thus, this matter has become a strong reasoning system as a vicious circle.

Another method is age determination by means of radioactive elements. In this method, uranium, thorium and radio-carbon 14 methods are used. 

Uranium Method

This method depends on the principle of generation of lead and helium from uranium and its fellow element, thorium in their long chains of decay. Their decay time is calculated according to their half life. Half life of U238, a radioactive element, is 4,5 billion of years and half life of U235 is 0,7 billion of years and half life of Thorium ( Th232) is 14,1 billion of years. By giving off definite proportions of Helium atom, they generate lead isotopes as shown in the diagram.

In this half life,U235 decays by giving of Pb207 ( Lead 207) isotope and 7 He4. Based on lead 207 isotope which accumulated in the layer as a result of decay, the amount of uranium 235 produced through its decay and the length of time of its generation are calculated judging by the half life of U235

Criticism of Uranium Method

There are some objectionable parts in the methods of age determination depending on radioactive decay of uranium. They might be summarized as follows:

1. Uranium minerals are always found in open systems.

Since the layer consisting uranium is not in a closed system, it is exposed to external effects. For instance, uranium can easily resolve in ground water. Radon gas, an intermediate element, may easily pass inside or outside the uranium system. Henry Fauld, an expert on radioactive age determination, points out to the following regarding the issue:

In geological time, both uranium and lead translocated in shale. Detailed analysis showed appropriate ages have not been determined with these elements. Similar drawbacks are encountered in attempts of age determination of mineral ores which consist uranium and radium. It is known that different ages are found on samples taken from the same points and plenty of chemical activities took place.” 2

2. The disintegration rate of uranium might be changeable.

Since radioactive decays are controlled by atomic structure, they are not easily affected by other events. Nevertheless, factors which are able to affect atomic structures might also influence radioactive disintegration rate. The most outstanding example to this is cosmic radiation and neutrinos. Another example is free neutrinos which come out of reactors or which are generated out of various reasons. If anything which might increase the amount of these particles on the earth is to come into existence, it is sure to accelerate radioactive disintegration rates.

3. Daughter elements might have been present therein where the layer began to form. It is possible that radiogenic daughter elements which are generated by the disintegration of uranium and thorium might have been already present when these minerals began to form. It has been found today that rocks which were produced by lava flowing through the internal layers of the earth consist of both radiogenic and combined lead.

4. All of the daughter elements might not be peculiar to that layer.  All of the daughter elements which  were produced by radioactive disintegration may not remain in the same layer; other daughter elements which were produced in a different layer might have moved there. 

Radiocarbon (C14) Method

Radiocarbon is the name given to the unstable isotope  Carbon fourteen (C14). Carbon twelve (C12) is called “natural carbon” and it is not radioactive.  Radiocarbon is produced from the reactions among nitrogen-fourteen (N14) in the atmosphere, due to cosmic radiation in superior layer of atmosphere. Carbon-12 consists of six protons, six neutrons and six orbital electrons. Carbon-14, though, includes eight neutrons in the nucleus. These two extra neutrons make the atom unstable. One of these neutrons gives off a beta particle, producing a new nucleus which consists of seven protons and seven neutrons is produced. This new structure is the Nitrogen-14. Thus, the unstable Carbon-14 turns into the stable Nitrogen-14. Its half life is 5730 years.

Carbon-14 which is generated in the atmosphere is immediately oxidized as CO2 and spreads to the air, water and to living organisms. Normally the ratio of radioactive carbon dioxide and non-radioactive carbon dioxide ( C14/C12)  in the air is fixed and it is accepted that 100 years should pass so that this fixed rate can be reached.

The ratio of C14/C12  in living organisms should be fixed as well. The equality of this ratio does not change as long as the organism is alive. However, when the organism dies, the ratio of C14 to C12 decreases gradually since the organism cannot take CO2 in from the air any longer. When this decreasing ratio strikes ½, the length of time from the death of that organism must be 5730 years because the half life of C14 is 5730 years. In five half lives, in other words, in around 29 thousand years, only 1/32 of the original amount of radiocarbon is to be emitted. Radiocarbon method can only be used to determine the ages around 80 thousand years at most. For older materials, uranium method is applied. 

Criticism of Radiocarbon method

Radiocarbon method is based on some assumptions. Here are the  opposed points:

1.  A number of living systems do not have the standard ratio of  C14/C12.. Carbon-14 method is based on the theory which claims that when all living organisms die, they include a standard ratio of C14/C12 . Nevertheless, many samples did not display this ratio. For example, with this method, age of living mollusks was determined to be 2300 years old. Such ratio shows that the environment the organism is in includes higher amount of C14 than expected and therefore, there is an exchange of carbon between the organism and the environment.

2. Radiocarbon might not decrease at a stable rate in each organism.

Radiocarbon disintegration is influenced by environmental radioactivity, especially free neutrons and cosmic radiation and their disintegration rates change as a result.

3. The rate of natural carbon might have been different in the past.

In the past, the vegetation was either more or less than it is now. The ratio of C14/C12, therefore, is to be higher or lower. For this reason, the radiocarbon age of the materials of these periods is to be measured older or younger than the true age. This matter is the same for the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If volcanoes had emitted carbon dioxide in the past, in this case, the amount of carbon dioxide at that time  should be different than it is now.

4. The rate of radiocarbon might not have reached a stable condition. It is assumed that the ratio of C14/C12 reaches a stable condition in a certain length of time. In other words, the amount of C14 in the atmosphere is equal to the amount of C14 disintegrated on the earth. For this reason, the incoming and outgoing amount of C14 needs to be equal. However, there are some things which prove that this is not always in this way. In the same way, it is stated that the measurable amount of radiocarbon generated in a year on the earth is 25 % more than the amount of disintegrated radiocarbon. 

A general assessment on geological and archaeological dating methods 

Both radioactive method and other methods applied in geological and archaeological dating are not at the expected sensitivity since they are based on several assumptions and predictions. For this reason, some doubts arise on the correctness of ages determined. However, as there are similar errors in age-determination of every material, findings are important in terms of being approximate ages rather than exact ages. For example, material A, which is found to be at 150 million years of age, is three times older than the material B, which is found to be 50 million years old. That is to say that, if material B is 5 thousand years old indeed, then, the material A should be at 15 thousand years old.

There are no other alternatives for the methods mentioned above.

This might be said for the past of man:

From religious sources, it is understood that it has been 6 or 7 thousand years since Adam (pbuh). On the other hand, the date which is thought to be the first time man appeared on the earth, depending on fossils is several million years before now. The reason why the fossil ages are so high is because the methods applied include considerable margin of error. 

[1> Morrıs, H. and Parker,G.E. What is Creation Science? Master Book Publishers. California. 1982. Trns. Â.Tatlı, Keha,E., Marangoz, C., Solak, K. and Ha­senekoğlu, İ.  Yaratılış Modeli. Millî E. Bakanlığı Basımevi. Ankara. 1985.

2 Fault, H. Age of Rocs, Planets and Stars. NewYork. McGraw-Hill  Book. Co. Inc. 1966, p.61.

3 Kıeth, M.S. and Anderso, G.M. Radiocarbon Dating: Fictitious Tesults with  Mollusc Shells. Science, August, 16. A. 634, 1963; Libby,W.F.Radiocarbon Dating. Universty of Chicago Press.1955, p.7;Lingelfelter, R. E. Production of C-14 by Cosmic & Ray Neutrons. Reviews of Geographics. 1963, Vol. 1. p.51;37. Suess, H.E. Secular Vanations in the Cosmic Ray Pro­duced Carbon-14 in the Atmosphere and their In­terpretations. Journal of Geophysical Research. 1965, Vol.7. p.594. 

4 For more information; Tatlı, A. Evrim ve Yaratılış. Nesil Yayınları. İstanbul, 2007.

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