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The three key underlying assumptions are 1) the rate of decay of parent into daughter has remained constant throughout the unobservable past; 2) the specimen which we are examining hasn’t been contaminated in any way (that is, no parent or daughter has been added or taken away at any point during the unobservable past), and 3) we can determine how much parent and daughter were present at the beginning of the decay process – not all of the Pb206 present today necessarily came from decaying U238; Pb206 may have been part of the original constitution of the specimen.
If any of these assumptions are wrong, the method cannot accurately determine the age of a specimen.
By measuring the amount of uranium and ‘radiogenic lead’ in these crystals, one can calculate that, if the decay rate has been constant, about 1.5 billion years must have passed.
(This is consistent with the geologic ‘age’ assigned to the granites in which these zircons are found.) There is a significant amount of helium from that ‘1.5 billion years of decay’ still inside the zircons.
There still remains a lot of research to do, but, as it currently stands, the accuracy of radiometric dating remains ambiguously suspect at best.
Uranium-238 (U238), for example, is an unstable radioactive isotope which decays into Lead-206 (Pb206) naturally over time (it goes through 13 unstable intermediate stages before it finally stabilizes into Pb206).
But the Bible clearly teaches a recent creation of both the heavens and the earth, so Christians have often tried to reinterpret this doctrine to accommodate the long ages required by radioactive dating.
For those Christians who believe that Genesis (like the other historical books of the Bible) should be understood as literal history, it has therefore been necessary to show the fallacies in the so-called "scientific proofs" of an old earth.
How does the geologic timescale fit with the view of a young earth?
The dating of rocks by the radioactive decay of certain minerals is undoubtedly the main argument today for the dogma of an old earth.