Our understanding of the shape and pattern of the history of life depends on the accuracy of fossils and dating methods.
Some critics, particularly religious fundamentalists, argue that neither fossils nor dating can be trusted, and that their interpretations are better.
The methods work because radioactive elements are unstable, and they are always trying to move to a more stable state. This process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by releasing radiation is called radioactive decay.
Learn about half-life and how it is used in different dating methods, such as uranium-lead dating and radiocarbon dating, in this video lesson. As we age, our hair turns gray, our skin wrinkles and our gait slows.Other critics, perhaps more familiar with the data, question certain aspects of the quality of the fossil record and of its dating.These skeptics do not provide scientific evidence for their views.New discoveries have filled in the gaps, and shown us in unimaginable detail the shape of the great ‘tree of life’.Darwin and his contemporaries could never have imagined the improvements in resolution of stratigraphy that have come since 1859, nor guessed what fossils were to be found in the southern continents, nor predicted the huge increase in the number of amateur and professional paleontologists worldwide.Many Christians have been led to distrust radiometric dating and are completely unaware of the great number of laboratory measurements that have shown these methods to be consistent.