Debunking Creationism: "Radiometric Dating Is Unreliable!"


Thumbnail photos: Waiting For The Word/Flickr; rodoluca/Wikimedia Commons


The young-earth creationist belief that the Earth is 6,000 years old massively contradicts the scientific conclusion that it's actually 4.5 billion years old. In order to maintain this belief of theirs, creationists obviously need to call into question the trustworthiness of the dating methods used by scientists to establish the age of the Earth. As you will learn here, none of the arguments or evidence used by creationists to support their position seriously calls into question the reliability of radiometric dating. In fact, there is a very sound basis for believing that these dating methods provide accurate results. 

(And I have to say, I'm excited about this project, because I finally have an opportunity to speak about dating and actually know what I'm talking about!)

Before we jump into the specific arguments made by creationists, let's begin by first establishing the veracity of radiometric dating. The most important point to make and understand is that there isn't just one dating method used in isolation; instead, there are a variety of dating techniques that are used—all of which serve as checks on one another and all of which yield the same results. When multiple, independent lines of evidence arrive at the exact same conclusion, that is a very strong indicator that the conclusion is valid.

As Glenn J. Kuban writes on,


". . . these [radiometric dating] methods provide largely consistent results for the ages of various rock strata throughout the geologic column, which correlate well with non-radiometric dating methods, including cores, varves, dendrochronology, and others."


Brent Darlymple, writing for the National Center for Science Education, gives several great examples of different dating methods yielding the exact same date. As he writes,


"There are 3 important things to know about the [meteorite] ages in Table 1. The first is that each meteorite was dated by more than one laboratory — Allende by 2 laboratories, Guarena by 2 laboratories, and St Severin by four laboratories. This pretty much eliminates any significant laboratory biases or any major analytical mistakes. The second thing is that some of the results have been repeated using the same technique, which is another check against analytical errors. The third is that all three meteorites were dated by more than one method — two methods each for Allende and Guarena, and four methods for St Severin. This is extremely powerful verification of the validity of both the theory and practice of radiometric dating. . . . they all give the same result to within a few percent."


And as we can see here on the table, the dates for the St Severin meteorite range from 4.38 to 4.55 billion years. 

Let's look at another example: determining the date of the K-T asteroid impact. As Darlymple continues,


". . . the K-T impact produced tektites, which are small glass spherules that form from rock that is instantaneously melted by a large impact . . . Scientists from the US Geological Survey were the first to obtain radiometric ages for the tektites and laboratories in Berkeley, Stanford, Canada, and France soon followed suit. The results from all of the laboratories were remarkably consistent with the measured ages ranging only from 64.4 to 65.1 Ma. 

Numerous thin beds of volcanic ash occur within . . . coals just centimeters above the K-T boundary . . . Ash beds from each of these coals have been dated by 40Ar/39Ar, K-Ar, Rb-Sr, and U-Pb methods in several laboratories in the US and Canada.

. . . the radiometric age measurements, 187 of them, were made on 3 different minerals and on glass by 3 distinctly different dating methods . . . each involving different elements with different half-lives. Furthermore, the dating was done in 6 different laboratories and the materials were collected from 5 different locations in the Western Hemisphere. And yet the results are the same within analytical error. If radiometric dating didn’t work then such beautifully consistent results would not be possible."


I could not have said it better myself. (Who am I kidding: of course I could have said it better. Nonetheless, great job Mr. Darlymple.)

As we can see here in Table 2 from his paper, the ages arrived at by all of these different dating methods are nearly identical, ranging from 63.7 million years ago to 66.0 million years ago. 

These examples make absolutely clear that anybody who describes radiometric dating as unreliable has no idea what they're talking about. How could all of these independent dating methods be wrong in the exact same way? Think about how stupefyingly unlikely that would be.

Imagine, by analogy, that a murder suspect is being questioned by detectives. They say to him: 

"Look, the surveillance footage clearly shows you stabbing the guy. Not only that, but your DNA was found at the crime scene, 14 witnesses saw you stab him, a text message from your phone reads 'Just stabbed this guy at the gas station, lol,' and you just wrote us a confession letter five minutes ago!

"Nope, those are all lies, and I don't trust any of that." 

This is basically what the young-earth creationist is doing when they carelessly discount all of these independent lines of evidence. If these dating methods were inaccurate, you would expect to see wildly divergent results, with some techniques yielding one date, other techniques yielding another—it would just be total chaos. Yet what we actually see is perfect consistency.

Given these facts, why do creationists distrust radiometric dating? One reason is that the half-lives of some elements vary under certain circumstances. Important to understand, however, is that in almost all cases, to my knowledge, this variance is very minor and doesn't even apply to the elements used in radiometric dating—certainly not to a degree that calls into question its accuracy. As Wikipedia writes,


"A small number of mostly light nuclides are affected. . . . In 7Be, a difference of 0.9% has been observed between half-lives in metallic and insulating environments."


And as we read on,


"The radioactive decay rates of nuclides used in radiometric dating have not been observed to vary since their rates were directly measurable, at least within limits of accuracy. This is despite experiments that attempt to change decay rates."


It's funny to watch creationists point out the variance of certain decay rates—as if they're the first ones to figure this out or something, as if the experts in the field who use these dating methods have never considered the possibility of variance or other sources of inaccuracy, and when the creationist points out this possibility, the scientists are just dumbstruck by the brilliance of this point. No, nobody knows more about potential sources of error in radiometric dating than the people who regularly use these dating methods.

I always find it amusing when ignorant laymen try to lecture scientists about their own field of expertise. I'm reminded of a recent episode of Star Talk where they had a climatologist on as a guest. She noted that climate-change deniers will argue against global warming by pointing out that climate has varied in the past, and she was like: "Yeah, we know: We're the ones that told you this." 

Something similar is going on here with radiometric dating: The experts who study this topic extensively point out that sometimes, slight variability is observed in the decay rates of certain elements; creationists seize upon this and they're like: "Aha! What do ya think about this?", and the scientists are like: "Uh, we're actually well aware of this. In fact, that's actually my research that you're citing." 

Creationists will also argue that several scientific findings prove that radiometric dating is unreliable. One such finding is that the age of rocks known through observation doesn't actually match up with the radiometrically dated age of rocks. We're told the following in a YouTube video posted by Genesis Apologetics:


"Radiometric dating has never been validated against the absolute, known ages of rocks. Let us explain. Consider Mount St Helens: This volcano erupted in the 1980s, giving scientists the opportunity to date the rocks that were formed from the eruption. The results? Five different ages, all between 350,000 and 2.8 million years old—for rocks that we know were less than 30 years old!" 


It sounds like pretty powerful evidence when you first hear about it, but the obvious question that needs to be asked is: How trustworthy is the science behind these findings? It turns out that this research is deeply flawed. Kevin R. Henke published a devastating critique of this research on the aptly-named One crucial mistake that these creationists made was using the wrong equipment to date their sample. As Henke writes,


". . . personnel at Geochron Laboratories . . . performed the K-Ar dating for Austin et al. . . . their website clearly stated in a footnote that their equipment could not accurately date rocks that are younger than about 2 million years old.

. . . With less advanced equipment, 'memory effects' can be a problem with very young samples . . . That is, very tiny amounts of argon contaminants from previous analyses may remain within the equipment, which precludes accurate dates for very young samples.  For older samples, which contain more 40Ar, the contamination is diluted and has insignificant effects.

. . . Because all but one of the dates [measured by Austin et al] . . . are below the 2 million year lower dating limit established by Geochron Laboratories, the dates may be nothing more than contamination artifacts from the mass spectrometer at Geochron Laboratories."


This alone completely destroys  the credibility of this study, but believe it or not, there are further methodological shortcomings that could also contribute to their findings. Henke points out that:


". . . somewhat older xenoliths (foreign rocks) and xenocrysts (foreign minerals . . . ) from the surrounding rocks may have been incorporated into the melt as it rose to the Earth's surface.

. . . Austin's descriptions in the following statements clearly indicate that he FAILED to adequately separate the phenocrysts and possible xenocrysts from the volcanic glass.  Austin admits:


. . . a K-Ar date on such an impure 'fraction' would be meaningless and a waste of time and money."


So as we can see, there's no good reason to believe that this Mount St Helens rock-age data proves anything more than the incompetency of creationist researchers. I think I actually have an idea of what went wrong here: these creationists, at the outset of their study, had a very good plan in place for how to conduct rigorous analysis on this question; in the course of their research, however, they ended up dropping this plan into the volcano, so they just said "Fuck it" and decided to wing it from that point on.

More examples of similar such discrepancies are cited in a lecture given by creationist Andrew Snelling. During his lecture, he shows this slide which features five examples of the known ages of rocks not matching up with the dated ages of rocks.

Notice that four of the examples show a radiometric age of less than half a million years with the fifth example showing an age of about 1.5 million years. These dates are perfectly in line with the dates we saw in the Mount St Helens study; so perhaps the explanation is, yet again, residual equipment contamination, or foreign rock intrusion? Rather than the dating techniques being flawed, perhaps it's this research that's flawed?

Snelling says the following in his lecture


"If a recent lava flow, a recent eruption, where we know the true age of the rock from observation or historical evidence gets the answer wrong using the Potassium-Argon method, how can we trust them on ancient rocks when we don't have the historical documentation? The answer is we can't." 


Or maybe we can if we simply use the correct equipment and remove foreign particles from the sample to minimize contamination?

And recall that, as Henke pointed out, this problem of equipment contamination is unique to younger rocks; if we're dealing with rocks that are hundreds of millions of years old, the trace amounts of leftover argon adding a million years or so to the sample is going to have only the tiniest effect on the dated age of the rock. Let's say the rock is 300 million years old and the trace argon makes it appear 301 million years old; relatively speaking, on a geological timescale, this difference is so minor as to be virtually inconsequential.

By the way, I love the potted plants that Snelling has on stage in front of him.

"Hey, you ready to start the lecture?", "Yeah, hang on: Let me just get my five potted plants to bring out in front of me."

I don't know why, but I kinda like it. It really livens the place up. And why just stop at plants, while we're at it? Why not have a tortoise or a cockatoo just sort of hanging out on stage with you when you give your lecture? This is the future of public speaking, ladies and gentlemen.

Further evidence of radiometric dating's unreliability is presented by potted-plant aficionado Andrew Snelling in an article entitled "Radioisotope Dating of Grand Canyon Rocks: Another Devastating Failure for Long-Age Geology." There, he writes the following


"Twenty-seven Brahma amphibolite samples were collected from various Inner Gorge outcrops

. . . The model K-Ar ages for each of the samples ranged from 405.1±10 Ma to 2574.2±73 Ma. Furthermore, the seven samples from the small amphibolite unit near Clear Creek, which should all be the same age because they belong to the same metamorphosed basalt lava flow, yielded K-Ar model ages ranging from 1060.4±28 Ma to 2574.2±73 Ma."


So basically, samples from one section of rock yielded wildly divergent results. Greg Neyman of Old Earth Ministries—a Christian organization, I might add—points out the very simple problem underlying this study:


". . . the dates for the Brahma come from the overlying and underlying formations because the dates for the Brahma formation are unreliable . . . after all, metamorphic rocks are not easy to date.  So, what do the [creationist researchers do?] . . . they take 27 samples from a formation that they know in advance will give them bad dates."


So what the creationist is doing here is misapplying these dating techniques and then saying: "See! I told you we couldn't trust these dating techniques." This would be like taking a bag of marijuana, rubbing some of it on your skin, and being like: "See, dude? I told you this stuff doesn't get you high." No, the only reason it's not getting you high is because you're not using it correctly. Try tearing out a page from your Bible and rolling a joint with that shit, and then come and talk to me.

"Another Devastating Failure For Long-Age Geology?" More like another example of a creationist who doesn't know what the fuck they're doing—or worse, does know what they're doing and is being intentionally dishonest.

Creationists will also point to examples where freshly killed animals are carbon-dated as being thousands of years old—thus, we're told, these dating methods cannot be trusted. For example, we read on that: 


"Living mollusk shells were dated up to 2,300 years old. 

A freshly killed seal was carbon dated as having died 1,300 years ago."


Regarding the mollusk shells, Christopher Gregory Weber writes the following in the Creation Evolution Journal:


"[This finding] does discredit the C-14 dating of freshwater mussels, but that's about all. Kieth and Anderson show considerable evidence that the mussels acquired much of their carbon from the limestone of the waters they lived in and from some very old humus as well. Carbon from these sources is very low in C-14 because these sources are so old and have not been mixed with fresh carbon from the air. Thus, a freshly killed mussel has far less C-14 than a freshly killed something else, which is why the C-14 dating method makes freshwater mussels seem older than they really are. When dating wood there is no such problem because wood gets its carbon straight from the air, complete with a full dose of C-14."


What about the freshly killed seal? As Talk Origins writes,


"This is the well-known reservoir effect . . . The seals feed off of animals that live in a nutrient-rich upwelling zone. The water that is upwelling has been traveling along the [ocean] bottom for a few thousand years before surfacing. The carbon dioxide in it came from the atmosphere before the water sank. Thus, the carbon in the sea water is a couple of thousand years 'old' from when it was in the atmosphere, and its radiocarbon content reflects this time."


Once again, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this discrepancy, and this doesn't justify a wholesale dismissal of radiometric dating. Notice a pattern here? 

Now you might be saying at this point: If we can't use these dating methods on certain types of rock or animal, it seems to me that they're just not trustworthy. Understand that nobody is saying radiometric dating works perfectly in every conceivable set of circumstances; as with almost every tool in science, there are certain limitations to radiometric dating—and nobody understands these limitations better than the scientists who use these dating techniques. As they write on Talk Origins,


"Contrary to creationist propaganda, limitations of a tool do not invalidate the tool."


By analogy, diagnostic tools in medicine will sometimes generate false positives, where the test results inaccurately indicate that a person has a disease that they don't actually have. This doesn't therefore make these tools completely worthless; it just means that sometimes, they get it wrong—but when properly applied, the techniques will give us the correct answer the vast majority of the time.

The next example is much more tantalizing because it purportedly shows two wildly divergent dates taken from the exact same animal. What could possibly explain this? Eric Hovind, writing for, quotes a study which writes the following


“One part of the Vollosovitch mammoth carbon dated at 29,500 years and another part at 44,000.”


One problem with this quote: It doesn't appear to actually exist—much like God, I might add! Nowhere does the cited study appear to contain this particular sentence. As Adam Benton writes on,


"First, the information on mammoth dates is presented in a table. This means that the direct quote given . . . is a pure fabrication. No part of the article goes 'one part of the Vollosovitch mammoth…', it’s all a table.

Secondly, none of the radiocarbon dates for mammoths given in that table are 44,000 or 29,500. So not only is the quote a fabrication but the information contained in it is too. . . . How wrong can a single sentence be?"


As we can see here in the table from the study, the two references to mammoths provide one date of 32,700 years for the first one, and 21,300 years for the other. There is no indication whatsoever that these two dates are referring to the same mammoth; in fact, quite the opposite is the case. One is referred to as a baby mammoth, while the other is simply referred to as a mammoth; one is described as being potentially contaminated by glycerine, while the other is not. On top of that, the two samples were collected years apart!—with one being collected in 1948, and the other being collected in 1951.

And note that these dates are presented in this table on page 30 of the study—the specific page referenced by Eric Hovind as the source of this quote—so what is going on here? Did somebody along the line misread this study, misrepresent its findings, and has this inaccuracy just been passed along from creationist to creationist like a game of telephone? Why is a person as prominent as Eric Hovind not making sure that his references actually support what he claims they do? Perhaps he's just too busy polluting the internet with his mental diarrhea to do a bit of research and reading? 

Arguably the magnum opus of creationist efforts to refute radiometric dating is what's known as the RATE project, short for Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth. Among their many vaunted "findings" are the following, described on


"Recent research [by the RATE group] has produced evidence of accelerated rates of decay at some point (or points) in the past. Creation scientists suggest that there are two possible times that God supernaturally intervened on a global scale—during Creation Week and the Flood. It is not unreasonable to assume that God used the energy of accelerated radioactive decay to initiate and drive the major geologic changes in the earth that accompanied the Flood."


"It is not unreasonable" to assume this? This is some of the most unreasonable shit I've ever heard! 

Even from a religious standpoint this makes no sense: What does this say about the idea of a perfect God with a perfect creation plan? What was wrong with his original decay rate? Why did he not create it right the first time around? Did he just screw up and suddenly realize, 2,000 years in: "Ahh, fuck! I knew I was forgetting something!" This isn't some stoned jerkoff going to the grocery store here; this is the all-knowing, perfect, creator of the universe, so why the alteration? Why the second-guessing of himself?

Why even bother with changing the decay rate—and why change it in such a way that creates the perfect misimpression that the earth and universe is much older than it actually is? What could this be if not a massive campaign of deliberate, divine misinformation? 

And let's be clear about something: The only reason they're positing accelerated rates of decay is to try to square their holy book with the world around them. Young-earth creationists believe, on the basis of what they read in the Bible, that the Earth is 6,000 years old; this is the core reason that they try to undermine the validity of radiometric dating and this is why they go to the absurd length of positing accelerated rates of radiometric decay. They see the contradiction and conclude that the radiometric dating methods must be the problem—not their holy book—and they have this completely backwards.

Answers In Genesis writes that:


". . . there is no way to prove that the decay rate was not different at some point in the past."


The creationist has to commit themself to much more than this statement, however: they're not just saying: "Well, perhaps it's possible that the decay rate varied in the past";  since they believe the Earth is 6,000 years old, what they're really saying is: "The decay rate necessarily must have varied in the past—and must have varied in a manner consistent with a 6,000 year old Earth." 

This is a pretty obvious case of trying to torture and contort the data into agreeing with your preconceived conclusions—as opposed to simply basing your conclusions off of whatever it is that the evidence shows. 

Richard Dawkins points out the flawed nature of this logic in his book The Greatest Show On Earth:


"What if the present very slow rate of decay of potassium-40 has only been in operation since Noah's flood? . . . The special pleading in such claims is glaring. Why on Earth should the laws of physics change, just like that, so massively and so conveniently? And it glares even more when you have to make mutually adjusted special pleading claims for each one of the clocks separately."

Source: p. 106–107, The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution, by Richard Dawkins. 2009.


Even if we humor the creationist and imagine that something like this happened, more problems immediately dogpile onto the heap of stupidity before us. Jeff Zweerink outlines one of these problems on,


"Squeezing billions of years’ (at today’s rates) worth of radioactive decay into a few days or even a year would likely produce so much heat . . . as to vaporize Earth’s surface and sterilize all life."


Another related problem is described by Randy Isaac in Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith:


"The second unresolved problem cited in the [RATE] book is the radiation problem. How did Noah and his passengers survive a year in which radioactivity was one million times greater than it is today? No known solution exists, they state. Nevertheless, 'The RATE group is confident that these issues will be solved . . . '"


In the absence of the Biblical creation story, no sane scientist would even consider such an idea. 

But let's give the creationists some credit here: it's not all just fanciful speculation they're engaged in. In fact, the RATE group claims to have scientific support for their views on accelerated decay rates, and at the very least, we can say this is a step up for creationists, because their usual research methodology consists of little more than reading the Bible and lamenting about sin. 

One piece of evidence cited is the detection of ancient carbon-14. As we read on Answers In Genesis,


"Other important findings of the RATE project include detecting carbon-14 in coal and diamonds. If these substances were really millions or billions of years old respectively, there should be no carbon-14 left in them. Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years. With the most accurate mass spectrometers, the oldest calculated age of items containing carbon-14 is about 80,000 years. 

Diamonds are assumed to be many billions of years old and should contain no detectable carbon-14 as it would have all decayed to nitrogen-14 long ago. The same is true of coal which was supposedly deposited hundreds of millions of years ago, according to the evolutionary model. The presence of carbon-14 in these materials clearly supports the idea of a young earth as described by the Bible."


Whenever we're confronted with an amazing claim like this, we should always ask ourselves: Could there be an alternative explanation for these findings? In the case of carbon-14 in coal and diamonds, the answer is a firm "yes." As Randy Isaac continues:


"It is known that there are many subtle sources of C-14 such as contamination, microbial action, and some nuclear interactions. For example, neutrons from uranium decay can produce C-14 from nitrogen impurities. The authors declare that since they used extraordinary care in handling the samples and are studying diamond, no extraneous source is possible. However, it is virtually impossible to eliminate such sources and chronologists discount the reliability of C-14 dating if the concentration is below approximately 0.5 percent."


So much for that piece of evidence! 

The RATE group also points to helium in zircon crystals as proof of accelerated rates of decay. (And yes, believe it or not, "zircon crystals" are a real thing. They sound like the fuel for a spaceship in a science-fiction novel or something!) Answers In Genesis writes the following


"Evidence for the period of accelerated decay is found in zircon crystals. Zircon crystals in granite contain radioactive uranium-238, which decays into lead over time. As the uranium decays, helium is produced in the crystals. Helium escapes from the crystals at a known, measurable rate. If those rocks were over a billion years old, as evolutionists claim, the helium should have leaked out of the rock. The presence of lots of helium in the crystals is evidence in support of a young earth."


The diffusion chemistry expert Gary Loechelt has outlined a number of problems with their research methodology in an article on


"The RATE team used a prior estimate by Robert Gentry for the total amount of helium produced from nuclear decay. However, Gentry’s own calculation was off by a factor of over three. Once this error was corrected, the fraction of helium remaining in the zircon samples dropped considerably.

. . . the RATE researchers used a constant temperature profile over time in their model. In contrast, I used a geologically reconstructed thermal history that was highly non-uniform over time.

. . . the RATE researchers used a simple kinetic model in their diffusion study. This type of model ignores the possibility that helium atoms behave differently depending upon their location in the crystal, with atoms in the vicinity of defects moving more readily than those that are in the bulk crystal. Instead, I incorporated a multi-domain diffusion model which takes this effect into account.

. . . What is the consequence of all these corrections? . . . the revised old-earth model agrees well with the measured helium retention data."


Even if the creationists were correct about the levels of helium, however, this wouldn't prove accelerated decay rates, because as Randy Isaac points out, uranium-helium dating is no longer used or recommended by experts in the field: 


". . . the diffusion rate of noble gases in minerals is so complex both theoretically and experimentally that helium concentrations are not considered by geochronologists to be reliable for any dating implications."


Not only do the scientific findings of the RATE group fall flat, but their general approach to science is also an embarrassment—which is not a surprise when you consider that they're young-earth creationists. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't trust a young-earth creationist to make me a ham sandwich—let alone perform scientific research on as complex a subject as radiometric dating.

As we read on Wikipedia,


"The [RATE] project has . . . been criticized by geologist Kevin Henke for, among other things, using faulty standard deviations, misidentifying rock samples, and correcting 'typographical errors' in other researchers' data without providing any evidence that such corrections were warranted."


One thing we can say in praise of the RATE group is that they actually do take peer review very seriously. As Randy Isaac writes,


"The first chapter [of the RATE report] is an introduction and provides an overview of the RATE program. . . . An appendix to this chapter, written by Henry Morris Jr., defines guidelines for peer review. Criteria for selecting reviewers include, whenever possible, those who are in agreement with the biblical viewpoint of the researcher."


So basically, these creationists' idea of peer review is intentionally selecting reviewers who already agree with the conclusion that they're setting out to demonstrate in their research. This is the exact opposite of how science—and rational inquiry, generally—should be done: You should be seeking out the strongest challengers to test your ideas—not the most deferential supporters.

A user on Reddit who has since deleted his account made a great point about the general approach taken by creationists towards radiometric dating. As this mystery user put it


". . . ask the creationist what their preferred technique of dating fossils is. They don't have one. The creationist technique is to simply discredit any finding or result that threatens their beliefs, all while refusing to provide any convincing or scientifically valid evidence for their own theories."


Whoever you are, great point. 

It's also worth pointing out that even if creationists were correct when they argue that radiometric and other datings methods are unreliable, all this would demonstrate is that we simply don't know what the age of the Earth is—not that it's 6,000 years old. What if the dating methods are inaccurate, but it turns out that the Earth is actually 50 billion years old, and the creationists are thus even further away from the correct date than we previously thought? If all we're showing is that the dating methods can't be trusted, this doesn't prove that  one particular date is therefore correct.

Contrary to what creationists argue, radiometric dating methods are very reliable. This becomes crystal clear when multiple different dating techniques provide the exact same answer. Yes, there are specific circumstances where the tools give us the wrong answer—but the experts in the field are well aware of these limitations. And finally, none of the evidence pointed to by creationists actually proves their case; instead, their evidence is usually the product of either scientific incompetency or just a general ignorance of how to properly use these techniques.

These dating methods will continue to provide accurate results going forward while creationists will continue to embarrass themselves by maintaining that the Earth is 6,000 years old in the face of all the evidence.