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An age range is assigned for a particular layer based on our absolute dating methods, then the artifacts that are discovered within this layer are assigned an age range, and anything else compared to this artifact is assigned a range based on the range that was assigned to the artifact it was being compared to. Far from being exact or reliable, it is open to major error.
(Think all the way back to that periodic table in Chemistry class.) Some variations of the elements are unstable and over time they decay and turn into a different element (a process called radioactive decay).
The original element is called the “parent” element and the resulting element is called the “daughter” element.
To find the age of a particular rock, scientists first measure the amount of parent and daughter elements it contains, then apply the rate of decay for the particular element being measured (known as a “half life”).
There are a whole lot of people out there (probably the majority) that believe, unequivocally, that scientists are capable of dating rocks, fossils, and the earth with a reasonable amount of certainty. It’s what we’re taught in school and the evidence that is presented to us seems unarguable.
So, when we hear of alternate views- such as young earth creation in which the earth is somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000 years old based on Biblical chronologies- it sounds completely ridiculous to us.
Since many people believe the science is concrete (I’ve even heard the belief in a young earth compared to a belief in a flat earth- ouch!