This commentary article discusses the relative merits of new mathematical approaches to lichenometry. It highlights their strong reliance on complex statistics; their user unfriendliness; and their occasional mistreatment of existing lichenometric techniques. The article proposes that the success of lichenometric dating over the past 50 years has stemmed from its relative simplicity, transparency, and general field applicability. It concludes that any new techniques which ignore these principles are likely to be unjustified, unsuitable to the user community and inappropriate for the subject matter. Furthermore, the article raises a more general philosophical question: can statistical complexity and high precision in a ‘geobotanical’ dating technique, fraught with high degrees of environmental variability and inbuilt uncertainty, ever be scientifically valid?