Debunking carbon dating myths

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. A favorite tactic of Young-Earthers involves citing studies which show trace amounts of 14 C in coal or diamond samples, which — being millions of years old — should have no original atmospheric 14 C left. Recent studies, however, show that 14 C can form underground. The decay of uranium and thorium, among other isotopes, produces radiation which can create 14 C from 12 C. This fact is extremely inconvenient to young-earthers, and creationist literature, accordingly, usually does not mention it.

Carbon-dating skeptics deniers also claim that the inconsistency of 14 C levels in the atmosphere over the past 60, years creates causes a validity issue. However, calibration of carbon levels using tree rings and other sources keep such effects to an extremely small level.

Ironically, given how supposedly useless carbon dating is claimed to be, Creation Ministries International rests part of their " Evidences" on carbon dating being a useful method for within several thousand years. This of course contradicts claims that the Great Flood messed up how carbon was deposited, destroying their own argument.


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Less astute creationists often conflate carbon dating with other forms of radiometric dating, attempting to "disprove" the true age of dinosaur fossils by "refuting" carbon dating. This is meaningless - paleontologists do not use carbon dating to assess dinosaur fossils; dinosaurs became extinct 66 million years ago, more than a thousand times farther back than carbon dating can be used. The poetry of reality Science We must know.

Biology Chemistry Physics A view from the shoulders of giants. This carbon comprises a steady ratio of Carbon and Carbon When these plants and animals die, they cease taking in carbon. From that point forward, the amount of Carbon in materials left over from the plant or animal will decrease over time, while the amount of Carbon will remain unchanged.

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To radiocarbon date an organic material, a scientist can measure the ratio of remaining Carbon to the unchanged Carbon to see how long it has been since the material's source died. Advancing technology has allowed radiocarbon dating to become accurate to within just a few decades in many cases. Carbon dating is a brilliant way for archaeologists to take advantage of the natural ways that atoms decay.

Unfortunately, humans are on the verge of messing things up. The slow, steady process of Carbon creation in the upper atmosphere has been dwarfed in the past centuries by humans spewing carbon from fossil fuels into the air.

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Since fossil fuels are millions of years old, they no longer contain any measurable amount of Carbon Thus, as millions of tons of Carbon are pushed into the atmosphere, the steady ratio of these two isotopes is being disrupted. In a study published last year , Imperial College London physicist Heather Graven pointed out how these extra carbon emissions will skew radiocarbon dating.

Although Carbon comprises just over 1 percent of Earth's atmosphere, plants take up its larger, heavier atoms at a much lower rate than Carbon during photosynthesis. Thus Carbon is found in very low levels in the fossil fuels produced from plants and the animals that eat them. In other words, burning these fossil fuels dwarfs the atmospheric levels of Carbon, too.

Answers to Creationist Attacks on Carbon-14 Dating

By measuring whether these levels of Carbon are skewed in an object being radiocarbon dated, future scientists would be able to then know if the object's levels of Carbon have been skewed by fossil fuel emissions. Carbon from these sources is very low in C because these sources are so old and have not been mixed with fresh carbon from. Thus, a freshly killed mussel has far less C than a freshly killed something else, which is why the C 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 The creationists who quote Kieth and Anderson never tell you this, however.

A sample that is more than fifty thousand years old shouldn't have any measurable C Coal, oil, and natural gas are supposed to be millions of years old; yet creationists say that some of them contain measurable amounts of C, enough to give them C ages in the tens of thousands of years. How do you explain this? Radiocarbon dating doesn't work well on objects much older than twenty thousand years, because such objects have so little C left that their beta radiation is swamped out by the background radiation of cosmic rays and potassium K decay.

Younger objects can easily be dated, because they still emit plenty of beta radiation, enough to be measured after the background radiation has been subtracted out of the total beta radiation. However, in either case, the background beta radiation has to be compensated for, and, in the older objects, the amount of C they have left is less than the margin of error in measuring background radiation.

As Hurley points out:. Without rather special developmental work, it is not generally practicable to measure ages in excess of about twenty thousand years, because the radioactivity of the carbon becomes so slight that it is difficult to get an accurate measurement above background radiation. Cosmic rays form beta radiation all the time; this is the radiation that turns N to C in the first place. K decay also forms plenty of beta radiation. Stearns, Carroll, and Clark point out that ".

This radiation cannot be totally eliminated from the laboratory, so one could probably get a "radiocarbon" date of fifty thousand years from a pure carbon-free piece of tin.

Scientist Realizes Important Flaw in Radioactive Dating – Proslogion

However, you now know why this fact doesn't at all invalidate radiocarbon dates of objects younger than twenty thousand years and is certainly no evidence for the notion that coals and oils might be no older than fifty thousand years. Creationists such as Cook claim that cosmic radiation is now forming C in the atmosphere about one and one-third times faster than it is decaying. If we extrapolate backwards in time with the proper equations, we find that the earlier the historical period, the less C the atmosphere had. If they are right, this means all C ages greater than two or three thousand years need to be lowered drastically and that the earth can be no older than ten thousand years.

Yes, Cook is right that C is forming today faster than it's decaying. However, the amount of C has not been rising steadily as Cook maintains; instead, it has fluctuated up and down over the past ten thousand years. How do we know this? From radiocarbon dates taken from bristlecone pines.


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There are two ways of dating wood from bristlecone pines: Since the tree ring counts have reliably dated some specimens of wood all the way back to BC, one can check out the C dates against the tree-ring-count dates. Admittedly, this old wood comes from trees that have been dead for hundreds of years, but you don't have to have an 8,year-old bristlecone pine tree alive today to validly determine that sort of date. It is easy to correlate the inner rings of a younger living tree with the outer rings of an older dead tree.

The correlation is possible because, in the Southwest region of the United States, the widths of tree rings vary from year to year with the rainfall, and trees all over the Southwest have the same pattern of variations. When experts compare the tree-ring dates with the C dates, they find that radiocarbon ages before BC are really too young—not too old as Cook maintains.

For example, pieces of wood that date at about BC by tree-ring counts date at only BC by regular C dating and BC by Cook's creationist revision of C dating as we see in the article, "Dating, Relative and Absolute," in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. So, despite creationist claims, C before three thousand years ago was decaying faster than it was being formed and C dating errs on the side of making objects from before BC look too young , not too old.

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But don't trees sometimes produce more than one growth ring per year? Wouldn't that spoil the tree-ring count? If anything, the tree-ring sequence suffers far more from missing rings than from double rings. This means that the tree-ring dates would be slightly too young, not too old.

Of course, some species of tree tend to produce two or more growth rings per year. But other species produce scarcely any extra rings. Most of the tree-ring sequence is based on the bristlecone pine. This tree rarely produces even a trace of an extra ring; on the contrary, a typical bristlecone pine has up to 5 percent of its rings missing. Concerning the sequence of rings derived from the bristlecone pine, Ferguson says:.

In certain species of conifers, especially those at lower elevations or in southern latitudes, one season's growth increment may be composed of two or more flushes of growth, each of which may strongly resemble an annual ring. In the growth-ring analyses of approximately one thousand trees in the White Mountains, we have, in fact, found no more than three or four occurrences of even incipient multiple growth layers. In years of severe drought, a bristlecone pine may fail to grow a complete ring all the way around its perimeter; we may find the ring if we bore into the tree from one angle, but not from another.

Hence at least some of the missing rings can be found.

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Even so, the missing rings are a far more serious problem than any double rings. Other species of trees corroborate the work that Ferguson did with bristlecone pines. Before his work, the tree-ring sequence of the sequoias had been worked out back to BC.