Carbon dating , also known as radiocarbon dating, is a scientific procedure used to date organic matter. It depends upon the radioactive decay of carbon 14 C , an unstable isotope of carbon which is continually synthesized in the upper atmosphere by cosmic rays. Plants take up atmospheric 14 C for as long as they live, through the process of photosynthesis. Animals take up atmospheric 14 C indirectly, by eating plants or by eating other animals that eat plants. Measuring the proportion of 14 C as opposed to 12 C remaining in a sample then tells us how long ago the sample stopped taking up 14 C — in other words, how long ago the thing died.
Carbon dating has a certain margin of error, usually depending on the age and material of the sample used. Carbon has a half-life of about years, so researchers use the process to date biological samples up to about 60, years in the past. Beyond that timespan, the amount of the original 14 C remaining is so small that it cannot be reliably distinguished from 14 C formed by irradiation of nitrogen by neutrons from the spontaneous fission of uranium, present in trace quantities almost everywhere.
For older samples, other dating methods must be used. The level of atmospheric 14 C is not constant. Atmospheric 14 C varies over decades due to the sunspot cycle, and over millennia due to changes in the earth's magnetic field. On a shorter timescale, humans also affect the amount of atmospheric 14 C through combustion of fossil fuels and above-ground testing of the largely defensive weapon of the thermonuclear bomb.
Creation Worldview Ministries: Carbon Dating Technique Does Not Work!
Therefore dates must be calibrated based on 14 C levels in samples of known ages. Radiometric dating in general, of course, poses a huge problem for people who believe that the universe is odd years old. They all start with similar flaws, but Carbon has more than the rest. Many different processes of change may be used as clocks to measure time, but for such a clock or timer to be reliable it must meet the following six criteria. The time units must be meaningful and readable.
The timer must be sensitive enough to measure the interval in question. We must know when the timer was started. We must not only know when the timer was started, but what the reading on the timer was when it started. The timer must run at a uniform rate.
The timer must not have been disturbed or reset. It must be one continuous event. None of the known Radiometric Dating Technologies met these six criteria. Libby at the University of Chicago in Recent, that is, for an evolutionist. Carbon is a radioactive isotope of Carbon. As they say on Star Trek, we are all carbon based units. Then, in another 5, years, a second decay period would occur, leaving one quarter of a pound.
The process would continue, halving the amount left every 5, years until, theoretically, nothing remained of the original pound. This bombardment causes a nuclear reaction to take place. The Carbon produced by this process is then converted into carbon dioxide, just as normal Carbon becomes carbon dioxide. The Carbon Dioxide is then utilized by plants during their normal metabolism. Animals and humans who eat these plants take the Carbon into their systems just as they would Carbon Dioxide.
After death, the Carbon would decay and the ratio of the two isotopes would change. Evolutionists then claim to determine the amount of time since the death of the organism by measuring the current ratio. The lower the amount of Carbon, the longer it has been since death occurred. The theoretical limit of the usefulness of Carbon dating would only be 50, years. This would be the amount of time it would take for nine half-lives, and after that there would not be enough left to measure accurately. There is no instrument on earth that can detect Carbon in a specimen that is supposedly older than 18 half-lives.
This amounts to a calculated age of , years. There are, however, many false assumptions that must be made in order to derive Carbon dates and the knowledge of these false assumptions demonstrates the uselessness in this other-wise supposedly useful method. First, one must assume that the decay rate of Carbon has remained constant and not varied over the years.
This is an unwarranted assumption. There is ample evidence to prove that quite the opposite is true. Experiments done with the radioactive isotopes of Uranium and Iron have shown that rates not only do vary, but can, in fact, be altered by changing the environment surrounding the samples.
Second, there is the assumption that the formation of Carbon has been constant throughout the years. This, too, is a totally unwarranted view for two reasons. The Industrial Revolution caused a significant increase in the amount of Carbon in the atmosphere through the burning of coal. In addition, the initiation of atomic bomb testing on July 16, , and the subsequent above ground testing between and , caused a rise in neutrons which in turn increased Carbon concentrations around the world. In a similar way, solar cosmic radiation fluctuates and would cause a fluctuation in the amount Carbon being produced at any one time.
Volcanoes produce large amounts of Carbon Dioxide which do not contain initial amounts of Carbon Third, the assumption is made that the concentrations of Carbon and Carbon have remained constant in the atmosphere. Besides the aforementioned items, the amount of cosmic radiation in the past, and in particular the amount reaching the atmosphere, may have been dramatically different. If one were to believe the Bible, the earth was surrounded by a layer of water vapor between Creation and the Flood.
If this water vapor did exist in the past, then it would have effectively shielded the atmosphere from much of the cosmic radiation. This shielding would have drastically reduced the amount of Carbon produced. In high school biology courses they often teach about the inevitable failures of closed systems by taking an aquarium and placing snails, plants and a bowl of water inside; then sealing the aquarium so that no air may get in or out.
The idea is that snails produce carbon dioxide which is utilized by the plants, the plants produce oxygen which utilized by the snails.
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In theory the cycle will continue indefinitely. In like manner, there is really no such thing as a closed system in nature. In nature, all systems are open regardless of what evolutionists say in protest. Even a sealed aquarium has sunlight, X-rays, Gamma Rays, ultra-violet light, etc. Thus, this assumption is false. Sixth, there are differences in the Phenotype and Genotype of plants and animals which can cause significant variation in the amount of C found in the body of a specific organism.
As no two people have exactly the same DNA, individual plants and animals vary in their physical and genetic makeup. These variations cause individual organisms to absorb or reject Carbon at different rates. Seventh, the amount of Carbon in the atmosphere is increasing significantly at this time. A substantial body of scientific research exists to show that Carbon is not in a state of equilibrium; rather the production rate is significantly higher than the decay rate. This fact drives us to two highly significant points.
First, the earth must be young, less than , years old and perfectly in accord with it being only 6, years old. Thus, while the Carbon Dating Technique is thought to have a useful upper limit reaching out to 50, years it may be seen that the method is based on many false assumptions. Carbon decays to a zero amount in , supposed years after its production. It is incapable of yielding dates in the millions of years. Therefore, it is labeled a short term radiometric dating technique.
This is not the end, but merely the start of a long list of things that demonstrate the total uselessness of the Carbon method. What are the other considerations that must be factored into the Carbon method and which demonstrate that it is useless? Wood and stone from one structure may have been moved and reused in a later structure in a higher stratum.
This was a common practice in the ancient world. We stick the garden hose in and turn it on full blast. The water coming out of the hose is analogous to the continuous production of carbon atoms in the upper atmosphere. The barrel represents the earth's atmosphere in which the carbon accumulates. The water leaking out the sides of the barrel represents the loss mainly by radioactive decay of the atmosphere's supply of carbon Now, the fuller that barrel gets the more water is going to leak out the thoroughly perforated sides, just as more carbon will decay if you have more of it around.
Finally, when the water reaches a certain level in the barrel, the amount of water going into the barrel is equal to the amount leaking out the perforated sides. We say that the input and output of water is in equilibrium. The water level just sits there even though the hose is going full blast. The barrel is made deep enough so that we don't have to worry about water overflowing the rim.
Henry Morris argued that if we started filling up our empty barrel it would take 30, years to reach the equilibrium point. Thus, he concluded, if our Earth were older than 30, years the. That is, the equilibrium point should have long since been reached given the present rate of carbon production and the old age of the earth. The next step in Henry Morris' argument was to show that the water level in our barrel analogy was not in equilibrium, that considerably more water was coming in than leaking out.
To that end, he quoted some authorities, including Richard Lingenfelter. Having accomplished that, Morris concluded that the barrel was still in the process of being filled up and that, given the present rate of water coming in and leaking out, the filling process began only 10, years ago. It's a great argument except for one, little thing. The water is not coming out of the hose at a steady rate as our model assumed!
Sometimes it slows down to a trickle so that much more water is leaking out the barrel than is coming in; sometimes it goes full blast so that a lot more water is coming into the barrel than is leaking out. Thus, the mere fact that the present rate of water coming in exceeds that of the water leaking out cannot be extrapolated back to a starting time. And, that destroys the entire argument. Lingenfelter's paper was written in , before the cycles of C variation we described had been fully documented.
The point is that fluctuations in the rate of C production mean that at times the production rate will exceed the decay rate, while at other times the decay rate will be the larger. Lingenfelter actually attributed the discrepancy between the production and decay rates to possible variations in the earth's magnetic field, a conclusion which would have ruined Morris's argument. Henry Morris chose not to mention that portion of the paper! Creationists don't want their readers to be distracted with problems like that -- unless the cat is already out of the bag and something has to be said. Tree-ring dating see Topic 27 gives us a wonderful check on the radiocarbon dating method for the last years.
That is, we can use carbon dating on a given tree-ring the year sequence having been assembled from the overlapping tree-ring patterns of living and dead trees and compare the resulting age with the tree-ring date. A study of the deviations from the accurate tree-ring dating sequence shows that the earth's magnetic field has an important effect on carbon production. When the dipole moment is strong, carbon production is suppressed below normal; when it is weak, carbon production is boosted above normal.
What the magnetic field does is to partially shield the earth from cosmic rays which produce carbon high in the atmosphere. Contrary to creationist Barnes' totally discredited claims, which I've covered in Topic 11 , the earth's magnetic field dipole moment has, indeed, increased and decreased over time. Strahler presents a graph of the earth's dipole moment going back years. The curve is roughly fitted to mean values determined about every to 1, years The curve is roughly degrees out of phase with the C curve.
The idea [that the fluctuating magnetic field affects influx of cosmic rays, which in turn affects C formation rates] has been taken up by the Czech geophysicist, V. Bucha, who has been able to determine, using samples of baked clay from archeological sites, what the intensity of the earth's magnetic field was at the time in question. Even before the tree-ring calibration data were available to them, he and the archeologist, Evzen Neustupny, were able to suggest how much this would affect the radiocarbon dates.
Thus, at least within the last years, the earth's magnetic field has fluctuated and those fluctuations have induced fluctuations in the production of carbon to a noticeable extent. Therefore, as already noted, Dr. Hovind's claim that carbon has been slowly building up towards a 30, year equilibrium is worthless. You now have the technical reason for the failure of Morris' model. It may interest the reader to know that within this year period, where the radiocarbon method can be checked by tree-ring data, objects older than BC receive a carbon date which makes them appear younger than they really are!
An uncorrected carbon date of years for an object would actually mean that the object was years old. Seven hundred years or so is about as far as the carbon method strays from tree-ring dating on the average. Individual dates given on a correlation chart Bailey, , p. As it turns out, we have a check on the carbon production which goes back even further than years:. Evidence of past history of C concentration in the atmosphere is now available through the past 22, years, using ages of lake sediments in which organic carbon compounds are preserved.
Reporting before a conference on past climates, Professor Minze Stuiver of the University of Washington found that magnetic ages of the lake sediments remained within years of the radiocarbon ages throughout the entire period. He reported that the concentration of C in the atmosphere during that long interval did not vary by more than 10 percent Stuiver, , p.
Thus, the available evidence is sufficient to validate the radiocarbon method of age determination with an error of about 10 percent for twice as long a period as the creation scenario calls for. Yes, the atmospheric content of carbon can vary somewhat. The dipole moment of the earth's magnetic field, sunspot activity, the Suess effect, possible nearby supernova explosions, and even ocean absorption can have some effect on the carbon concentration.
However, these factors don't affect the radiocarbon dates by more than about percent, judging from the above studies. Of course, when we reach the upper limit of the method, around 40, years for the standard techniques, we should allow for much greater uncertainty as the small amounts of C remaining are much harder to measure. Tree-ring data gives us a precise correction table for carbon dates as far back as 8,, years.
The above study by Stuiver shows that the C fluctuations in the atmosphere were quite reasonable as far back as 22, years ago. The earth's magnetic field seems to have the greatest effect on C production, and there is no reason to believe that its strength was greatly different even 40, years ago. For a refutation of Barnes' argument see Topic Therefore, atmospheric variation in C production is not a serious problem for the carbon method. The evidence refutes Dr. Hovind's claim that the C content of our atmosphere is in the middle of a 30,year buildup. Thus, we can dismiss this young-earth argument.
It is painfully obvious that Dr. Hovind knows next to nothing about carbon dating! Changes in the sunspot cycle do have a noticeable, short-term effect on the rate of C production inasmuch as sunspots are associated with solar flares, which produce magnetic storms on Earth, and the condition of the earth's magnetic field does affect the number of cosmic rays reaching the earth's upper atmosphere. Carbon is produced by energetic collisions between cosmic rays and molecules of nitrogen in the upper atmosphere. Sunspots have absolutely nothing to do with the rate of C decay , which defines the half-life of that radioactive element.
Hovind has confused two completely different concepts. Quantum mechanics, that stout pillar of modern physics, which has been verified in so many different ways that I couldn't begin to list them all even if I had them at hand, gives us no theoretical reason for believing that the C rate of decay has changed or can be significantly affected by any reasonable process. We also have direct observation:. That radiocarbon ages agree so closely with tree-ring counts over at least years, when the observed magnetic effect upon the production rate of C is taken into account, suggests that the decay constant itself can be assumed to be reliable.
Since years is almost two half-lives for carbon, it's half-life being years plus or minus 40 years , we have excellent observational evidence that the decay rate is constant. We also have laboratory studies which support the constancy of all the decay rates used in radiometric dating. A great many experiments have been done in attempts to change radioactive decay rates, but these experiments have invariably failed to produce any significant changes.
It has been found, for example, that decay constants are the same at a temperature of degrees C or at a temperature of degrees C and are the same in a vacuum or under a pressure of several thousand atmospheres. Measurements of decay rates under differing gravitational and magnetic fields also have yielded negative results. Although changes in alpha and beta decay rates are theoretically possible, theory also predicts that such changes would be very small [ Emery, ] and thus would not affect dating methods.
There is a fourth type of decay that can be affected by physical and chemical conditions, though only very slightly.
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This type of decay is electron capture e. Because this type of decay involves a particle outside the nucleus, the decay rate may be affected by variations in the electron density near the nucleus of the atom. For example, the decay constant of Be-7 in different beryllium chemical compounds varies by as much as 0. The only isotope of geologic interest that undergoes e. Measurements of the decay rate of K in different substances under various conditions indicate that variations in the chemical and physical environment have no detectable effect on its e.