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Thread: Let's talk about carbon dating.

  1. #1 Let's talk about carbon dating. 
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    Hello everyone. I'm not incredibly scientifically literate, but am attempting to change that. I always knew the principles behind different methods of radiometric dating made sense, but never bothered to really look into the workings of the methods in detail. I come from a Christian background, and my family is basically young-earth creationist (which I don't know if I ever believed, but once I learned about evolution and radiometric dating in school tons of doubt was cast upon my belief in Christianity as a whole). Anyway, I was trying to explain carbon dating to my mom the other day, how basically it's so simple it can't really be denied. It's simple math.
    And yes I realize there are other methods of dating that go back in time much further than carbon dating, but I have decided to hone in on this method first.
    So how exactly is C14 formed in the atmosphere? I know cosmic rays hit nitrogen atoms and convert them to C14, but how exactly does this happen at a subatomic level? Also, what is the relation of C14 to carbon dioxide? Is the carbon atom in carbon dioxide C14? (It can't be right? C14 is way too rare...)
    Also, could you guys explain to me in simple terms what a radioactive isotope is? Maybe also explain in simple terms what beta decay is?

    My mom's objection to carbon dating was "Well how do they know that it takes 5700 years for carbon 14 to decay back into nitrogen?" I honestly didn't know the exact answer to this, but I figure it's more simple mathematics. I said I would find out exactly how it is determined, however.


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    Most of the CO2 will consist of 12C carbon atoms but a small fraction will have 14C atoms in the molecule (the fraction being determined by the abundance of 14C compared to 12C - this number is known but I don't know what it is off the top of my head).
    It's also used by climatologists to determine how much CO2 is recirculating within the biosphere - influenced strongly by the annual take up and release by deciduous plants - and how much is from combustion of the much older carbon in the fossils we burn.


    Last edited by adelady; July 19th, 2013 at 11:10 AM. Reason: typo
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    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    It is possible that your mother may object that "how can they measure something that takes 5,700 years ot happen in a laboratory over only a few days or weeks?"

    If she does you can point out to her that if we could not make measurements with that accuracy and precision we would not have GPS, micro-electronics, the inter-net and a host of other devices and inventions that our society relies on.

    Also, wlecome to the forum.
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    Centurion: Let me approach your problem from a different direction: Christianity and Science are 100% compatible. Young earth creationism is however not compatible with science, nor with is it compatible with Christianity, at least not as christianity is understood by 90% of those who call themselves Christians. If you were raised as a creationist it is very possible that you were not raised as a Christian and know very little about Christianity. Creationism is based on the very mistaken and borderline idlatrous idea that the Bible is inerrant and must be believed to be true in the most literal and concrete sense. This is an idea rejected by all the main stream Christian groups; Catholics, Orthadox, and 90% of Protestant flavors. It is an Idea that those groups have formally rejected for at least the past 500 years. So rest easy, you can trust science without rejecting Christianity. What you will have to give up is the idolatrous idea of an inerrant, literally true Bible.
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    I don't mind carbon dating. So long as she stays away from the oxygen twins. They're trouble.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    I don't mind carbon dating. So long as she stays away from the oxygen twins. They're trouble.
    They can be a bit suffocating when they get together.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    I don't mind carbon dating. So long as she stays away from the oxygen twins. They're trouble.
    They can be a bit suffocating when they get together.
    What I can't stand is when two oxygens have a three-way with a carbon, or another oxygen. If I get too much of it, it makes me so made I'm blue in the face.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    It is possible that your mother may object that "how can they measure something that takes 5,700 years ot happen in a laboratory over only a few days or weeks?"

    If she does you can point out to her that if we could not make measurements with that accuracy and precision we would not have GPS, micro-electronics, the inter-net and a host of other devices and inventions that our society relies on.

    Also, wlecome to the forum.
    But in fact, the measurement of long-lived radioisotopes would pose a challenge, if one had to rely only on observing the rate of change of radioactivity with time and plotting a graph. So Centurion's mother has a point, if this is her problem.

    It appears in fact (I had to look this up) that there is another method, which uses a known quantity of the radioisotope, i.e. a known number of atoms, and then measures the rate at which they are decaying. This enables one to calculate the intrinsic probability of an individual atom decaying in unit time, and hence allows the half life to be calculated, without relying on change over time.

    Interesting.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sealeaf View Post
    Centurion: Let me approach your problem from a different direction: Christianity and Science are 100% compatible. Young earth creationism is however not compatible with science, nor with is it compatible with Christianity, at least not as christianity is understood by 90% of those who call themselves Christians. If you were raised as a creationist it is very possible that you were not raised as a Christian and know very little about Christianity. Creationism is based on the very mistaken and borderline idlatrous idea that the Bible is inerrant and must be believed to be true in the most literal and concrete sense. This is an idea rejected by all the main stream Christian groups; Catholics, Orthadox, and 90% of Protestant flavors. It is an Idea that those groups have formally rejected for at least the past 500 years. So rest easy, you can trust science without rejecting Christianity. What you will have to give up is the idolatrous idea of an inerrant, literally true Bible.
    %100, no. God exists, disagrees. Earth flood, disagrees. Talking bushes on fire, disagrees. Pillars of fire, disagrees. Mystical healing, disagrees. Earthquake following Jesus's death, disagrees. Lion's den incident, disagrees. Goliath, disagrees. Angels, disagrees. Sodom/Gamorha turned to salt, disagrees. Birthing after 100 years, disagrees. Humans living nearly 1,000 years, disagrees. Parting waters, disagrees. Construction of ark, possible, but incredibly unlikely. Jonah being ingested and living, disagrees. Non chronologically correct order of creation, disagrees. Strength from long hair, disagrees. Construction of woman from rib, disagrees. Genesis of human species via two individuals without evolution, disagrees. Friendly carnivores in Eden, disagrees. Two animals of each species on ark, statistically impossible. Jesus's time in the desert without starving/dehydrating to death, disagrees. Jericho walls crumbling from music, disagrees. The "beast" described in Job, disagrees. The list goes on.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by shlunka View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Sealeaf View Post
    Centurion: Let me approach your problem from a different direction: Christianity and Science are 100% compatible. Young earth creationism is however not compatible with science, nor with is it compatible with Christianity, at least not as christianity is understood by 90% of those who call themselves Christians. If you were raised as a creationist it is very possible that you were not raised as a Christian and know very little about Christianity. Creationism is based on the very mistaken and borderline idlatrous idea that the Bible is inerrant and must be believed to be true in the most literal and concrete sense. This is an idea rejected by all the main stream Christian groups; Catholics, Orthadox, and 90% of Protestant flavors. It is an Idea that those groups have formally rejected for at least the past 500 years. So rest easy, you can trust science without rejecting Christianity. What you will have to give up is the idolatrous idea of an inerrant, literally true Bible.
    %100, no. God exists, disagrees. Earth flood, disagrees. Talking bushes on fire, disagrees. Pillars of fire, disagrees. Mystical healing, disagrees. Earthquake following Jesus's death, disagrees. Lion's den incident, disagrees. Goliath, disagrees. Angels, disagrees. Sodom/Gamorha turned to salt, disagrees. Birthing after 100 years, disagrees. Humans living nearly 1,000 years, disagrees. Parting waters, disagrees. Construction of ark, possible, but incredibly unlikely. Jonah being ingested and living, disagrees. Non chronologically correct order of creation, disagrees. Strength from long hair, disagrees. Construction of woman from rib, disagrees. Genesis of human species via two individuals without evolution, disagrees. Friendly carnivores in Eden, disagrees. Two animals of each species on ark, statistically impossible. Jesus's time in the desert without starving/dehydrating to death, disagrees. Jericho walls crumbling from music, disagrees. The "beast" described in Job, disagrees. The list goes on.
    Yes, this list, from the (Jewish) Old Testament, goes on, certainly.

    The core of Christianity however is found in the New Testament, which supersedes the Old.

    Sealeaf's simple point, as I understand it, is that the majority of Christians are well aware, and have been for centuries, that the OT has to be interpreted as a literary and historically mixed text, not as a scientifically accurate account, all of which must be taken literally. In fact Augustine of Hippo realised this, back in 400AD!
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    Hello all! New the forum. . . I would like to pose a question on carbon dating and any other form for that matter.

    I'm not coming from the accuracy approach - I'm coming from the line of possession side. Is it possible for the material we are dating to not be of this planet? Rocks and other material - could they be part of the material that made up what ever was before the big bang?? We assume these pieces of stuff were here all along - what if they just ended up here. And the fact that they are in layers as they are - could that just be the result of passing through an area in our orbit that had yet to be cleared of debry from the bang??? I mean - 13.4 billion years ago bang - 4.5 billion years ago Earth. That's a mightly long time for stuff to gather here.

    We assume everything found here is from here - is it possible it's not and just ended up here as the planet formed?

    I am a Christian - and believe all the genesis says about the Earth forming - because my God is the all mighty. Man can't do the scientifically impossible - with God all things are possible. But I'm not here to argue the merits of Godly beliefs.

    I'm here because a recent discussion with a young friend of mine took me down a road that makes me believe far less in evolution - as we believe it to be today. The whole molecule to man issue in evolution. That brought me to the question on dating.

    So again - is it possible - the radiational decay (or what ever form of measuer we are making) started before the rock ever resided on this planet??
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    The big bang started in a hot dense state with no matter as we would recognise it (the whole question of "before the big bang" is dubious anyway).

    As far as I know, the formation of planets is reasonably well understood. A small amount of material has fallen to Earth since it formed, such as most of the water on the planet and some meteorites. But such rocks are obviously of extraterrestrial origin. And they were all formed at the same time as the rest of the solar system.
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    Quote Originally Posted by krceynar View Post
    Hello all! New the forum. . . I would like to pose a question on carbon dating and any other form for that matter.

    I'm not coming from the accuracy approach - I'm coming from the line of possession side. Is it possible for the material we are dating to not be of this planet? Rocks and other material - could they be part of the material that made up what ever was before the big bang?? We assume these pieces of stuff were here all along - what if they just ended up here. And the fact that they are in layers as they are - could that just be the result of passing through an area in our orbit that had yet to be cleared of debry from the bang??? I mean - 13.4 billion years ago bang - 4.5 billion years ago Earth. That's a mightly long time for stuff to gather here.

    We assume everything found here is from here - is it possible it's not and just ended up here as the planet formed?

    I am a Christian - and believe all the genesis says about the Earth forming - because my God is the all mighty. Man can't do the scientifically impossible - with God all things are possible. But I'm not here to argue the merits of Godly beliefs.

    I'm here because a recent discussion with a young friend of mine took me down a road that makes me believe far less in evolution - as we believe it to be today. The whole molecule to man issue in evolution. That brought me to the question on dating.

    So again - is it possible - the radiational decay (or what ever form of measuer we are making) started before the rock ever resided on this planet??
    See also Strange's reply.

    Yes, certainly one would expect radioactive decay to start from the moment atoms of a radioisotope are first created. But it is important to understand that the technique of radiometric dating, which is the subject of this thread, depends on determining at what point in history atoms of a radioisotope became fixed in the material being examined. In the case of C14, carbon is fixed from the air by photosynthesis when plants grow. This will include a certain ratio of the radioisotope C14 to the more common stable isotope C12. When plants die and are turned into plant-based materials, or are eaten and turned into animal-based materials, there is no more carbon exchange with the atmosphere. So the C14 gradually decays, but the C12, being stable, doesn't. So the degree to which the C14:C12 ratio is below that in the atmosphere tells you how long ago the plants involved died.

    The same goes for other forms of radiometric dating, but making different appropriate assumptions about the process that caused the elements to become fixed (no longer being exchanged with their surroundings). Dating rocks does not use C14, needless to say, as rocks are not exchanging carbon with the atmosphere as plants do. Also the half life of C14 is far too short to be useful on a geological timescale.

    But you are right to imply that indeed the whole technique relies on having a hypothesis for the process that allowed the element in question to exchange with the surroundings, and what then caused that process to cease.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by krceynar View Post
    I am a Christian - and believe all the genesis says about the Earth forming - because my God is the all mighty.
    If you are going to be a biblical literalist, then you shouldn't be talking about the big bang. Or much science at all really.

    I'm here because a recent discussion with a young friend of mine took me down a road that makes me believe far less in evolution
    That is only possible if you choose to ignore evidence. I imagine your god would be a bit pissed off with you ignoring bits of her creation just because they conflict with your mistaken interpretation of a badly translated copy of a man-made collection politically-selected of books. Hey, why should I care: it's your hell. Hope you enjoy it.

    The whole molecule to man issue in evolution.
    I have no idea what that means.

    So again - is it possible - the radiational decay (or what ever form of measuer we are making) started before the rock ever resided on this planet??
    Yes. But that has nothing to do with carbon dating. Carbon 14 is continually formed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by krceynar View Post
    because my God is the all mighty
    Allegedly.

    Man can't do the scientifically impossible - with God all things are possible. But I'm not here to argue the merits of Godly beliefs.
    And there's the big flaw.
    Either
    A) what science discovers is rational and correct, or,
    B) what your god has presented us with - and the senses/ intellect he's given us to interpret that evidence - is a big lie.

    In short if you believe then there's no point you asking question about science, UNLESS you're prepared to face the possibility that you'll end up questioning, and eventually rejecting, that belief.
    This doesn't appear to be the case given a number of your statements...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    The whole molecule to man issue in evolution.
    I have no idea what that means.

    It refers to this:

    (taken from TalkOrigins)
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    Wow. . . A fire storm. Thanks for the reply's though. I am interested in how most say it's possible. Sorry for the simplistic example - when I roll a big snow ball for a snow man - all over my yard - it builds layers and each layer represents where in my yard that material is picked up. If I were to cut that snow ball in half - I would think it would look much like the layers of Earth. You know except the heat and all.

    I didn't mean to introduce an huge arguement here so I will bow out but thanks for the reply's - again just needed to hear if it was possible.

    I also appreciate the breakdown on the carbon dating - made me realize I was in the wrong part of this forum.

    I came here to learn and I appreciate the sincere reply's - the emotional responses I can do with-out.
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    Quote Originally Posted by krceynar View Post
    I came here to learn and I appreciate the sincere reply's - the emotional responses I can do with-out.
    Yeah, maybe you're confusing your own emotions for "sincerity".
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    Quote Originally Posted by krceynar View Post
    Wow. . . A fire storm.
    ...- the emotional responses I can do with-out.
    Huh? That seems completely unjustified. But never mind.

    If I were to cut that snow ball in half - I would think it would look much like the layers of Earth. You know except the heat and all.
    And that last bit is really significant. The Earth isn't made up of layers of the same stuff. It is made of many different things, formed by different processes. We understand the chemical and physical processes that formed the various types of minerals that make up the crust so we can work out how, when and where they were formed.

    There is a huge amount more to geology than "it looks a bit like a snowball". If you are interested, there are plenty of people here who know a lot about it and who would be willing to help you learn.
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    First let me appologise for what ever was done to you Dywyddyr for you to be so hostile. I didn't mean to upset you so - only wanted to be able to ask questions and fill in the gaps. Really - if you can't respond constructively - I - and I'm sure there are others - would appreciate you don't reply at all. I'm not here to argue beliefs - they are too individual. I am here to learn - if you are willing to teach - I would love to hear from you - otherwise - please stop.
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    Quote Originally Posted by krceynar View Post
    Wow. . . A fire storm. Thanks for the reply's though. I am interested in how most say it's possible. Sorry for the simplistic example - when I roll a big snow ball for a snow man - all over my yard - it builds layers and each layer represents where in my yard that material is picked up. If I were to cut that snow ball in half - I would think it would look much like the layers of Earth. You know except the heat and all.

    I didn't mean to introduce an huge arguement here so I will bow out but thanks for the reply's - again just needed to hear if it was possible.

    I also appreciate the breakdown on the carbon dating - made me realize I was in the wrong part of this forum.

    I came here to learn and I appreciate the sincere reply's - the emotional responses I can do with-out.
    OK, I'm glad some of us were of help.

    But please do remember how C 14 dating works, next time you are in discussion with creationists. From what I have read and seen posted on discussion forums, many of them either do not understand it or misrepresent it. If you are a person of integrity you will try to understand the science before arguing about it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by krceynar View Post
    First let me appologise for what ever was done to you Dywyddyr for you to be so hostile. I didn't mean to upset you so - only wanted to be able to ask questions and fill in the gaps. Really - if you can't respond constructively - I - and I'm sure there are others - would appreciate you don't reply at all. I'm not here to argue beliefs - they are too individual. I am here to learn - if you are willing to teach - I would love to hear from you - otherwise - please stop.
    Don't worry, Dywyddyr is always a bit like that. Poor chap lives in Scunthorpe. But underneath that crusty exterior, there beats a heart of pure……stone, or so he would have us believe. Me, I think it is all a pose, to fend off the advances of Babe.
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    Quote Originally Posted by krceynar View Post
    First let me appologise for what ever was done to you Dywyddyr for you to be so hostile.
    1) You haven't upset me.
    2) You don't think you deserve some "hostility"? YOU bring up your belief - it wasn't necessary for that to be done in order to ask the question - and then claim it doesn't need to come into the replies.

    Really - if you can't respond constructively - I - and I'm sure there are others - would appreciate you don't reply at all.
    Constructively?
    So you don't think that the point I raised is valid?
    Either science is a worthwhile pursuit, and correct, or "god" can do whatever he likes and the results of science are invalid and are a deliberate lie by god.

    Edit: and, while bringing up religion, you casually and coincidentally dismiss science - with regard to evolution (one of the BEST-supported pieces of science we have).
    This makes me question your sincerity AND how much notice you're actually going take of any answer you're given.
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    I brought up my belief simply because I feel it affects what I am willing to learn - as it has affected you as well. I don't through it out there to question science - I through it out there give perspective. I BELIEVE the pursuit of science is a necessary and good thing. I was just trying to find out if the characteristic we are measuring - carbon, radioactive decay, etc. - had to have initiated as a part of this planet - or could it have started prior to the subject of the measure ariving here. So the "age" of the object and the "age" of the planet could actually be placed in 2 different frames.
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    Quote Originally Posted by krceynar View Post
    I BELIEVE the pursuit of science is a necessary and good thing.
    Obviously while you claim to believe the "pursuit of science" is a good thing you don't actually subscribe to its findings:
    believe all the genesis says about the Earth forming
    I.e. ignoring what science says and accepting a totally un- and anti-scientific view.

    because my God is the all mighty
    Also an unscientific view.

    makes me believe far less in evolution
    And more of the same...

    Like I said: science is either correct or it's not and god is a liar.
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    I don't believe God was a scientist - and I don't believe scientists are God. I believe that science uncovers the truths that God has placed in the universe. You find what you seek. What science finds in your point of view negates God because you are seeking to. I don't seek to negate anything science has given us - I seek to figure out what God would have me find by searching. Science it the quest for truth - not the quest for what I want the truth to be.

    On the evolution vein - to move from 1 life from or kind to another - there would have to be a process by which genetic material is added so a "new" form can be. There is no such process in natural law that I have found. Please fill me in if you have one. Science is predictable and reproducable - once you have reproduced that process - I'm all in. Until then - there is a possibility that a form of creation did occur. What form isn't science its personal opinion. Until we have evidence that completes the modern day "man" to pondscum - it's as much faith based as anything else.

    I honestly didn't come here to debate that. So I'll stop now - and if someone would inform me how I can get myself removed from this forum - i will gladly do that. I have learned and I appreciate - thanks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by krceynar View Post
    What science finds in your point of view negates God because you are seeking to.
    Incorrect assumption on your part.

    I don't seek to negate anything science has given us
    Already shown to be false in my previous post.

    Science it the quest for truth
    No it's not.

    On the evolution vein - to move from 1 life from or kind to another - there would have to be a process by which genetic material is added so a "new" form can be.
    This simply shows that you don't know what evolution is.

    it's as much faith based as anything else.
    Also wrong.
    "[Dywyddyr] makes a grumpy bastard like me seem like a happy go lucky scamp" - PhDemon
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  29. #28  
    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krceynar View Post
    I believe that science uncovers the truths that God has placed in the universe.
    Good. (That is incompatible with your belief in Genesis, though.)

    On the evolution vein - to move from 1 life from or kind to another - there would have to be a process by which genetic material is added so a "new" form can be. There is no such process in natural law that I have found.
    There are two possibilities here: the mountains of evidence for evolution have been faked, and geneticists and biologists regularly lie about how things work.
    OR... you don't know very much about the subject. My money is on the latter. I hope you are open minded enough to learn.

    Until then - there is a possibility that a form of creation did occur.
    Possible. But nothing to do with evolution.

    Until we have evidence that completes the modern day "man" to pondscum - it's as much faith based as anything else.
    If you are asking for evidence for evidence for the evolution of man (and everything else) from earlier forms, then there is not shortage of it. From many different fields. So "faith" doesn't come into it at all.

    If you insist on imposing your faith on science, then you might like this approach: BioLogos: Science and faith in harmony
    Without wishing to overstate my case, everything in the observable universe definitely has its origins in Northamptonshire -- Alan Moore
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    Really guys - just trying to get out of this forum. . . Enjoyed the short time I've been here - NOT.
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    Let me help you out; when you hit a hornet's nest with a stick, the hornets don't ask for an apology first.

    You basically came onto the forum asking us a scientific question while simultaneously suggesting (via your belief in genesis) that any answer we give you is nullified because 'Goddidit'.

    Your attempt to confirm your beliefs by conversing with us was poorly veiled. You asked a question which you thought would support a young Earth idea. The people here basically read between the lines and told you that the answer you seek cannot be found here. You aren't being sincere so why should we?

    If you want a rational scientific explanation of our methods, you can certainly get that here. I could extol the virtues of radiometrics all day. You simply have to be open to the evidence presented in reality all around us.
    Strange, Dywyddyr and exchemist like this.
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  32. #31  
    Brassica oleracea Strange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krceynar View Post
    Really guys - just trying to get out of this forum. . . Enjoyed the short time I've been here - NOT.
    Maybe this is the Hell your God has planned for you because you ignored the glory of Her Creation in favour of some stories in a book.
    nnunn likes this.
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