Coyne provides a summary outline of the fossilization process and an introduction to radioisotope dating methods for estimating the age of rocks (radiometric dating of meteorites also allows us to estimate the age of our solar system as being approximately 4.6 billion years old).
Although the time at which any individual atom will decay cannot be forecast, the time in which any given percentage of a sample will decay can be calculated to varying degrees of accuracy.
Given isotopes are useful for dating over a range from a fraction of their half life to about four or five times their half life.
Symbolically, the process of radioactive decay can be expressed by the following differential equation, where N is the quantity of decaying nuclei and k is a positive number called the exponential decay constant.
The meaning of this equation is that the rate of change of the number of nuclei over time is proportional only to the number of nuclei.
Radiometric dating — through processes similar to those outlined in the example problem above — frequently reveals that rocks, fossils, etc.
This depends on the decay of uranium-237 and uranium-238 to isotopes of lead.
Due to the long half-life of uranium it is not suitable for short time periods, such as most archaeological purposes, but it can date the oldest rocks on earth.
YEC biblical literalists are necessarily bound to the dogmatic religions conclusion that the Earth is of a certain age based on a particular literal interpretation of the Genesis creation myth.
They tie themselves in logical knots trying to reconcile the results of radiometric dating with the unwavering belief that the Earth was created ex nihilo about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.