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The point is that not all methods are applicable to all rocks of all ages.

One of the primary functions of the dating specialist (sometimes called a geochronologist) is to select the applicable method for the particular problem to be solved, and to design the experiment in such a way that there will be checks on the reliability of the results.

My purpose here is not to review and discuss all of the dating methods in use.

Instead, I describe briefly only the three principal methods. These are the three methods most commonly used by scientists to determine the ages of rocks because they have the broadest range of applicability and are highly reliable when properly used.

The main point is that the ages of rock formations are rarely based on a single, isolated age measurement.

On the contrary, radiometric ages are verified whenever possible and practical, and are evaluated by considering other relevant data.

There were other estimates but the calculations were hotly disputed because they all were obviously flawed by uncertainties in both the initial assumptions and the data.

Unbeknownst to the scientists engaged in this controversy, however, geology was about to be profoundly affected by the same discoveries that revolutionized physics at the turn of the 20th century.

Bishop James Ussher, a 17th-century Irish cleric, for example, calculated that creation occurred in 4004 B. There were many other such estimates, but they invariably resulted in an Earth only a few thousand years old.

By the late 18th century, some naturalists had begun to look closely at the ancient rocks of the Earth.

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