By the early 1960s, most of the major radiometric dating techniques now in use had been tested and their general limitations were known.
No technique, of course, is ever completely perfected and refinement continues to this day, but for more than two decades radiometric dating methods have been used to measure reliably the ages of rocks, the Earth, meteorites, and, since 1969, the Moon.
Radiometric dating is based on the decay of long-lived radioactive isotopes that occur naturally in rocks and minerals.
These parent isotopes decay to stable daughter isotopes at rates that can be measured experimentally and are effectively constant over time regardless of physical or chemical conditions.
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.
Some of the methods have internal checks, so that the data themselves provide good evidence of reliability or lack thereof.
By the late 18th century, some naturalists had begun to look closely at the ancient rocks of the Earth.
For example, a method based on a parent isotope with a very long half-life, such as C method can only be used to determine the ages of certain types of young organic material and is useless on old granites.
Some methods work only on closed systems, whereas others work on open systems.
The K-Ar clock works primarily on igneous rocks, i.e., those that form from a rock liquid (such as lava and granite) and have simple post-formation histories.
It does not work well on sedimentary rocks because these rocks are composed of debris from older rocks.These are also the methods most commonly criticized by creation “scientists.” For additional information on these methods or on methods not covered here, the reader is referred to the books by Faul (47), Dalrymple and Lanphere (35), Doe (38), York and Farquhar (136), Faure and Powell (50), Faure (49), and Jager and Hunziker (70), as well as the article by Dalrymple (32).