Absolute and relative fossil dating

Results from different techniques, often measured in rival labs, continually confirm each other.

Some critics, particularly religious fundamentalists, argue that neither fossils nor dating can be trusted, and that their interpretations are better.There are two basic approaches: relative age dating, and absolute age dating.Here is an easy-to understand analogy for your students: relative age dating is like saying that your grandfather is older than you.The methods are all based on radioactive decay: The first radiometric dates, generated about 1920, showed that the Earth was hundreds of millions, or billions, of years old.Since then, geologists have made many tens of thousands of radiometric age determinations, and they have refined the earlier estimates.

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All these labors have not led to a single unexpected finding such as a human fossil from the time of the dinosaurs, or a Jurassic dinosaur in the same rocks as Silurian trilobites.

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