Although I too am a Christian, I also struggle with the same
questions! I have done some research, and asked church authorities on
my own, but was I left with even more questions! With the exception of
the modern technology issue, this area of questioning has been debated
While I can?t give you THE answer, I will provide you with what I
have found. The web sites I have gathered that promote the
scientific/evolutionary aspects are from reliable and respected
sources. Please read the entire posted websites for more information.
There are two ways to measure radiocarbon: LSC (Liquid
Scintillation Counting) and Accelerator Mass Spectrometry.
?The method of 14C counting used by Libby and his co-workers
involved measuring radioactivity using modified Geiger counters. The
next development in counting technology was the conversion of sample
carbon to CO2 gas for measurement in Gas Proportional counters. In the
early 1950's, the first attempts were made to detect 14C by the Liquid
Scintillation (LS) counting method. In the 1940's, Broser and Kallman
(1947) discovered that certain organic compounds (scintillators)
fluoresced when exposed to ionising radiation. Each fluorescence event
is proportional to a radioactive decay event, and the frequency of
these events is directly proportional to the number of 14C atoms
present in the sample. A brief summary of the LS method and some of
the problems associated with the technique are given here. A more
detailed report can be found in Polach (1987). Discussion on the LS
method can be broken down into a number of topics : counting liquid,
counting vials, and the LSC method, including counting instrumentation
and potential problems associated with measurement of beta (ß)-decay
by LS counting.?
Accelerator Mass Spectrometry
?Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) is a technique for measuring
long-lived radionuclides that occur naturally in our environment. AMS
uses a particle accelerator in conjunction with ion sources, large
magnets, and detectors to separate out interferences and count single
atoms in the presence of 1x1015 (a thousand million million) stable
atoms. At PRIME Lab we measure six different cosmogenic radionuclides.
They are used for a wide variety of dating and tracing applications in
the geological and planetary sciences, archaeology, and biomedicine.
The following is a brief description of each element of the AMS system.
The ion source produces a beam of ions (atoms that carry an electrical
charge) from a few milligrams of solid material. The element is first
chemically extracted from the sample (for example, a rock, rain water,
a meteorite) then it is loaded into a copper holder and inserted into
the ion source through a vacuum lock. Atoms are sputtered from the
sample by cesium ions which are produced on a hot spherical ionizer
and focused to a small spot on the sample. Negative ions produced on
the surface of the sample are extracted from the ion source and sent
down the evacuated beam line towards the first magnet. At this point
the beam is about 10 microamps which corresponds to 1013 ions per
second (mostly the stable isotopes).?
?The AMS-facility in the Van de Graaff laboratory of Utrecht
University is based on the 6 MV tandem Van de Graaff accelerator,
which has been used originally for precision research of nuclear
spectroscopy. The accelerator has been adapted for AMS with stable
beam transmission and minimal beam loss. Precision measurements are
made with fast switching between isotope beams in an automated scheme.
Participation in intercomparison studies confirms the quoted
precision. Chemical preparation techniques have been setup to isolate
the suited chemical fractions in applications.?
?Our understanding of the shape and pattern of the history of life
depends on the accuracy of fossils and dating methods. Some critics,
particularly religious fundamentalists, argue that neither fossils nor
dating can be trusted, and that their interpretations are better.
Other critics, perhaps more familiar with the data, question certain
aspects of the quality of the fossil record and of its dating. These
skeptics do not provide scientific evidence for their views. Current
understanding of the history of life is probably close to the truth
because it is based on repeated and careful testing and consideration
?The fossil record is fundamental to an understanding of evolution.
Fossils document the order of appearance of groups and they tell us
about some of the amazing plants and animals that died out long ago.
Fossils can also show us how major crises, such as mass extinctions,
happened, and how life recovered after them. If the fossils, or the
dating of the fossils, could be shown to be inaccurate, all such
information would have to be rejected as unsafe. Geologists and
paleontologists are highly self-critical, and they have worried for
decades about these issues. Repeated, and tough, regimes of testing
have confirmed the broad accuracy of the fossils and their dating, so
we can read the history of life from the rocks with confidence.?
?Radiocarbon dating is probably the most important scientific
method used by archaeologists to date objects. It is also an
indispensable tool to researchers in other fields such as geology,
geophysics and environmental science.
Carbon usually exists as 12C atoms. Radiocarbon is the unstable
isotope 14C. It is produced by cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere,
and quickly diffuses through the atmosphere as carbon dioxide,
dissolves in the oceans and enters all living matter through
photosynthesis and the food chain.
As 14C is unstable it will eventually decay by emitting an electron or
beta particle. It reaches an equilibrium concentration in all living
matter and gives it a small natural radioactivity. The principle
behind radiocarbon dating is that when a plant or animal dies, there
is no more exchange of carbon with the atmosphere. As the 14C will
decay exponentially, we can find the age of the lifeform from the
amount of 14C it contains. This method was developed by the American
scientist Willard Libby in the 1940s, and soon attracted the attention
of scientists from many different subject areas.
Exponential decay means that the amount of 14C, and the radioactivity
it produces will drop by 50% every 'half life'. For 14C this is 5730
years. Thus the age of any material containing carbon which was once
part of the biosphere can be determined by measuring its 14C content.
To date a sample, it is necessary to determine the amount of 14C
present. One method is to measure the activity of the sample, or the
number of beta particles emitted per second. This is proportional to
the number of 14C atoms and can be measured using various methods.
Another method is accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS), which counts a
proportion of the number of 14C and 12C atoms.?
This is interesting:
?Radiocarbon dating is a reasonably reliable method for dating objects
between 300 and 30,000 years old. However it is not 100% accurate, and
there are many factors limiting its accuracy.
Samples can be contaminated by calcium carbonate (limestone) from
groundwater, and humic acids from organic matter in soil. These must
be removed by pre-treatment techniques before a sample is dated.
Sometimes the level of 14C in a sample when it died, is not the same
as the equilibrium level in the atmosphere. For example, marine
samples show lower 14C levels, as some has decayed by the time it
dissolves in the sea.
Also the level of 14C in the biosphere is not constant but has changed
in the past, so it is necessary to calibrate radiocarbon dates to
produce accurate results. This is done by comparing the
dendrochronology (tree ring) and radiocarbon dates of wood samples
from the bristlecone pine tree, which can live for more than 4000
years. As there is no carbon exchange between the rings, the 14C
content of the centre of a tree will be less than the younger wood on
?In order for carbon dating to by accurate certain foundational
assumptions must first be true. We must assume to know that the rate
at which carbon-14 decays into nitrogen-14 hasn't somehow changed
throughout the unobservable past. We must also assume to know what the
ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 was in the environment in which our
specimen lived during its lifetime. And finally, we must assume that
there hasn't been any contamination in the specimen which we are
attempting to date. Scientific research has called the first two
assumptions into question. In order to improve the accuracy of carbon
dating, we must look at why these assumptions are questionable and how
we can compensate for the uncertainties raised by our doubts.
Scientists have made progress with the second assumption by employing
the use of dendrochronology (tree-ring dating). Unfortunately the use
of dendrochronology to calibrate carbon dating is itself fraught with
uncertainties. But it is at least a start. With further research we
may be able to hone the method and increase our confidence in it.?
Carbon Dating - What Is It And How Does It Work?
This is how carbon dating works: Carbon is a naturally abundant
element found in the atmosphere, in the earth, in the oceans, and in
every living creature. C-12 is by far the most common isotope, while
only about one in a trillion carbon atoms is C-14. C-14 is produced in
the upper atmosphere when nitrogen-14 (N-14) is altered through the
effects of cosmic radiation bombardment (a proton is displaced by a
neutron effectively changing the nitrogen atom into a carbon isotope).
The new isotope is called "radiocarbon" because it is radioactive,
though it is not dangerous. It is naturally unstable and so it will
spontaneously decay back into N-14 after a period of time. It takes
about 5,730 years for half of a sample of radiocarbon to decay back
into nitrogen. It takes another 5,730 for half of the remainder to
decay, and then another 5,730 for half of what's left then to decay
and so on. The period of time that it takes for half of a sample to
decay is called a "half-life."
?Carbon Dating - The Controversy
Carbon dating is controversial for a couple of reasons. First of all,
it's predicated upon a set of questionable assumptions. We have to
assume, for example, that the rate of decay (that is, a 5,730 year
half-life) has remained constant throughout the unobservable past.
However, there is strong evidence which suggests that radioactive
decay may have been greatly accelerated in the unobservable past.1 We
must also assume that the ratio of C-12 to C-14 in the atmosphere has
remained constant throughout the unobservable past (so we can know
what the ratio was at the time of the specimen's death). And yet we
know that "radiocarbon is forming 28-37% faster than it is decaying,"2
which means it hasn't yet reached equilibrium, which means the ratio
is higher today than it was in the unobservable past. We also know
that the ratio decreased during the industrial revolution due to the
dramatic increase of CO2 produced by factories.?
How Carbon-14 works:
?As soon as a living organism dies, it stops taking in new carbon. The
ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 at the moment of death is the same as
every other living thing, but the carbon-14 decays and is not
replaced. The carbon-14 decays with its half-life of 5,700 years,
while the amount of carbon-12 remains constant in the sample. By
looking at the ratio of carbon-12 to carbon-14 in the sample and
comparing it to the ratio in a living organism, it is possible to
determine the age of a formerly living thing fairly precisely.
A formula to calculate how old a sample is by carbon-14 dating is:
t = [ ln (Nf/No) / (-0.693) ] x t1/2
where ln is the natural logarithm, Nf/No is the percent of carbon-14
in the sample compared to the amount in living tissue, and t1/2 is the
half-life of carbon-14 (5,700 years).?
?Accuracy is monitored via a unique three-way internal quality
assurance program. Random samples are routinely dated radiometrically
and then dated in TWO AMS detectors as blinds. This program ensures
all chemical operations and detectors are performing correctly. We
analyze over 4000 international and in-house standards each year in
conjunction with your samples. Logistical and chemical accuracy is
validated at each step of the analysis by a different person, who
checks all previous work before proceeding. We maintain an extensive
written Quality Assurance program that is audited each year by the
United States Geological Survey and Department of Energy. We are the
only professional radiocarbon dating laboratory that is "QA Qualified"
for work at sensitive USGS and DOE sites and we participate in all
recognized International Radiocarbon Intercalibration Studies, such as
IAEA, TIRI and FIRI.?
?Bone is second only to charcoal as a material chosen for
radiocarbon dating. It offers some advantages over charcoal. For
example, to demonstrate a secure association between bones and
artifacts is often easier than to demonstrate a definite link between
charcoal and artifacts. Indeed many studies seek to determine the time
of death of an animal, and there is no question concerning association
if the sample consists of the animal?s bone(s).
However, bone presents some special challenges, and methods of
pre-treatment for bone, antler, horn and tusk samples have undergone
profound changes during the past 50 years. Initially most laboratories
merely burned whole bones or bone fragments, retaining in the sample
both organic and inorganic carbon native to the bone, as well as any
carbonaceous contaminants that may have been present. Indeed, it was
believed, apparently by analogy with elemental charcoal, that bone was
suitable for radiocarbon dating "when heavily charred" (Rainey and
Ralph, 1959: 366). Dates on bone produced by such methods are highly
suspect. They are most likely to err on the young side, but it is not
possible to predict their reliability.
The development of chemical methods to isolate carbon from the organic
and inorganic constituents of bone was a major step forward. Berger,
Horney, and Libby (1964) published a method of extracting the organic
carbon from bone. Many laboratories adopted this method which produced
a gelatin presumed to consist mainly of collagen. This method is
called "insoluble collagen extraction" in this database. Longin (1971)
showed that collagen could be extracted in a soluble form that
permitted a greater degree of decontamination of the sample. Many
laboratories adopted Longin?s method, called "soluble collagen
extraction" in this database.?
?Since the early twentieth century scientists have found ways to
accurately measure geological time. The discovery of radioactivity in
uranium by the French physicist, Henri Becquerel, in 1896 paved the
way of measuring absolute time. Shortly after Becquerel's find, Marie
Curie, a French chemist, isolated another highly radioactive element,
radium. The realisation that radioactive materials emit rays indicated
a constant change of those materials from one element to another. The
New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford, suggested in 1905 that the
exact age of a rock could be measured by means of radioactivity. For
the first time he was able to exactly measure the age of a uranium
When Rutherford announced his findings it soon became clear that
Earth is millions of years old. These scientists and many more after
them discovered that atoms of uranium, radium and several other
radioactive materials are unstable and disintegrate spontaneously and
consistently forming atoms of different elements and emitting
radiation, a form of energy in the process. The original atom is
referred to as the parent and the following decay products are
referred to as the daughter. For example: after the neutron of a
rubidium-87atom ejects an electron, it changes into a strontium-87
atom, leaving an additional proton.?
?There are two techniques for dating in archaeological sites:
relative and absolute dating.
Relative dating stems from the idea that something is younger or older
relative to something else. In a stratigraphical context objects
closer to the surface are more recent in time relative to items deeper
in the ground. Although relative dating can work well in certain
areas, several problems arise. Rodents, for example, can create havoc
in a site by moving items from one context to another. Natural
disasters like floods can sweep away top layers of sites to other
locations. Absolute dating represents the absolute age of the sample
before the present. Historical documents and calendars can be used to
find such absolute dates; however, when working in a site without such
documents, it is hard for absolute dates to be determined.
As long as there is organic material present, radiocarbon dating is a
universal dating technique that can be applied anywhere in the world.
It is good for dating for the last 50,000 years to about 400 years ago
and can create chronologies for areas that previously lacked
calendars. In 1949, American chemist Willard Libby, who worked on the
development of the atomic bomb, published the first set of radiocarbon
dates. His radiocarbon dating technique is the most important
development in absolute dating in archaeology and remains the main
tool for dating the past 50,000 years.?
?Prior to carbon dating methods, the age of sediments deposited by
the last ice age was surmised to be about 25000 years. "Radiocarbon
dates of a layer of peat beneath the glacial sediments provided an age
of only 11,400 years."
These examples are from The Earth Through Time, 2nd Ed. by Harold L. Levin
Krane points out that future carbon dating will not be so reliable
because of changes in the carbon isotopic mix. Fossil fuels have no
carbon-14 content, and the burning of those fuels over the past 100
years has diluted the carbon-14 content. On the other hand,
atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 1960s
increased the carbon-14 content of the atmosphere. Krane suggests that
this might have doubled the concentration compared to the carbon-14
from cosmic ray production.?
Precise radiocarbon dating of Late-Glacial cooling
in mid-latitude South America
?Charcoal is a popular sample type for radiocarbon dating and can
yield reliable dates from a large number of archaeological and
geological environments. In most cases a simple acid-base-acid (ABA)
pretreatment is all that is required to remove contaminants and
provide reliable age estimates.
However, in some cases it has been demonstrated that the ABA
pretreatment does not remove all contaminants (e.g. Gillespie et al.
1992; Gillespie 1997), and the problem of ensuring the complete
removal of contaminants becomes increasingly severe as the age of the
Detecting sample contamination and verifying the reliability of the
ages produced also become more difficult as the age of the sample
increases. In practice this means that many laboratories will only
quote 14C ages to about 40 ka BP (thousands of 14C years Before
Present), with ages greater than this
generally considered to be ?infinite?, or indistinguishable from procedural blanks.
The so-called ?radiocarbon barrier? and the difficulty of ensuring
that ages are reliable at <1% modern carbon levels has limited
research in many disciplines. One such problem surrounds the timing of
human occupation of the Australian continent. Early 14C determinations
suggested that humans first arrived about 40 ka BP (the ?short?
chronology summarized in Allen and Holdaway 1995;
O?Connell and Allen 1998), whereas the advent of luminescence
techniques in the 1980s suggested that humans may have arrived at
54?60 ka BP (the ?long? chronology, Roberts et al. 1994).
The large difference in ages between the short and the long
chronologies is unlikely to be explained by any disparities resulting
from the use of 2 independent dating techniques?14C and
luminescence?representing 2 different time ?clocks? (David et al.
1997). Proponents of the ?long? chronology have
suggested that the discrepancy is likely to be due to the influence of
a small amount of contamination on the 14C dates, as contamination by
1% of modern carbon will make a ?14C-dead? sample have an apparent age
of approximately 37 ka BP (Chappell et al. 1996).
This explanation has been challenged by some archaeologists on
several grounds, including the fact that although no archaeological
14C dates beyond 40 ka BP have been measured in Australia, a
significant number of geological 14C dates beyond 40 ka BP are
reported in the literature. It has been proposed that this would not
be the case if contamination were a significant general problem (Allen
and Holdaway 1995; O?Connell and Allen 1998). Resolution of this
discrepancy is important for a refined understanding of early human
migration and colonization of the continent as well as of the
ecological effects accompanying human colonization. The production of
reliable 14C dates on old archaeological charcoal samples can assist
in this respect.?
This may be a slow download for you, but worth it!
?Ancient rocks exceeding 3.5 billion years in age are found on all
of Earth's continents. The oldest rocks on Earth found so far are the
Acasta Gneisses in northwestern Canada near Great Slave Lake (4.03 Ga)
and the Isua Supracrustal rocks in West Greenland (3.7 to 3.8 Ga), but
well-studied rocks nearly as old are also found in the Minnesota River
Valley and northern Michigan (3.5-3.7 billion years), in Swaziland
(3.4-3.5 billion years), and in Western Australia (3.4-3.6 billion
years). [See Editor's Note.]
These ancient rocks have been dated by a number of radiometric dating
methods and the consistency of the results give scientists confidence
that the ages are correct to within a few percent. An interesting
feature of these ancient rocks is that they are not from any sort of
"primordial crust" but are lava flows and sediments deposited in
shallow water, an indication that Earth history began well before
these rocks were deposited. In Western Australia, single zircon
crystals found in younger sedimentary rocks have radiometric ages of
as much as 4.3 billion years, making these tiny crystals the oldest
materials to be found on Earth so far. The source rocks for these
zircon crystals have not yet been found. The ages measured for Earth's
oldest rocks and oldest crystals show that the Earth is at least 4.3
billion years in age but do not reveal the exact age of Earth's
?Carbon-14 dating is the standard method used by scientists to
determine the age of certain fossilized remains. As scientists will
often claim something to be millions or billions of years old (ages
that do not conform to the Biblical account of the age of the earth),
Christians are often left wondering about the accuracy of the
carbon-14 method. The truth is, carbon-14 dating (or radiocarbon
dating, as it?s also called) is not a precise dating method in many
cases, due to faulty assumptions and other limitations on this
?New-earth creationists obviously cannot accept the accuracy of the
C-14 dating method. For example:
Scientists have dated a female figurine commonly called the Venus of
Willendorf or the Woman of Willendorf to 24,000 to 22,000 BCE. They
were unable to date the object directly since it is made from oolitic
limestone. However, they were able to date many objects found with the
object in the same archaeological layer of the Willendorf deposit. 4
They have dated wooden residue from the remains of bonfires at up to
the limit of the C-14 dating method, which is about 50,000 BCE.
Creation scientists cannot accept these dates as accurate since they
believe that the world was created sometime between 4000 and 8000 BCE.
Since the accuracy of the Bible cannot be questioned, C-14 dating must
contain massive errors -- by as much as a factor of five. Similarly,
other radiometric measurements which do not use carbon, have dated
rocks in northern Quebec, Canada, at almost four billion years old. 5
They must be in error by a factor of at least 400,000 times.?
?ChristianAnswers.net states: "Outside the range of recorded history,
calibration of the 14C clock is not possible."
This was true back in the 1950s. A team of researchers, headed by
Willard F. Libby calibrated the C-14 measuring technique by comparing
the measured age of samples from ancient Egypt with their known date.
For example, they tested a piece of wood from Pharaoh Zoser's tomb
with the known tomb date, which was known to be circa 2700 to 2600
BCE. The agreement was excellent. Since then, extended calibration
checks have been made using U.S. bristlecone pine, German and Irish
oak, and other species of trees. That work pushed the calibration back
well beyond recorded history to 10,000 BP (years before the present.)
Other correlations have extended that to 26,000 years BP. It may
eventually go back as far as 45,000 years. 6 The Earth's magnetic
field has been decreasing. This will increase the level of cosmic rays
in the upper atmosphere, generate more C-14, and upset the C-14 dating
?First of all, to avoid confusion, it is necessary to understand
that carbon dating can only be use to date geologically young, 35k -
50k years, carbon containing substances (Lepper, 1992; Whitelaw,
1993). Having said this the next critical point to understand is the
inconsistency of atmospheric C-14 levels throughout Earth?s history.
Carbon-14 is produced primarily by solar radiation in Earth?s upper
atmosphere (Morris, 1978). This radiation activity converts
nitrogen-14, the most plentiful atmospheric gas, to carbon-14 (Morris,
1978). The C-14 then begins a slow decay process back to N-14 with a
half-life of 5,730 years (Hamblin, 1992). If this radiation system
were left unaltered the ratio of production to decay would eventually
reach a state of equilibrium (Morris, 1978). The current atmospheric
levels of radioactive carbon, however, are not in equalibrium (Schell,
1967; Stuiver, 1967; Suess, 1967; Morris, 1978; Whitelaw, 1993;
Morris, 1998), but are in fact out of balance. The SPR is
approximately 18% greater than the SDR (Whitelaw, 1993).
In addition to the modern imbalance there has also been a slow but
steady decrease in the amount of atmospheric C-14 since about 10,000
BP (before present) (Schell, 1967). This decrease was discovered by
correlating C-14 proportions in objects of known historical age, tree
rings and artifacts tied to specific historical events (Suess, 1967).
There are many theories and speculations as to why the atmospheric
C-14 imbalance exists. Creationists, for example, see it as evidence
that the Earth is actually younger than geologists believe. This claim
is based on the idea that C-14 production has not had sufficient time
to reach an equilibrium since the world came to be (Morris, 1978;
Lepper, 1992; Whitelaw, 1993; Morris, 1998). Most scientists, however,
believe that the C-14 production system experiences fluctuations and
this leads to the imbalance (Schell, 1967; Brown, 1993). Another
explanation of the imbalance is the amount of cosmic radiation, the
primary producer of C-14, fluctuates because of temporary conditions
such as solar flares or solar wind (Schell, 1967; Brown, 1993). A
decrease in the Earth?s geomagnetic field is also thought to be a
possible contributor to C-14 production rates because the magnetic
field influences the amount of cosmic radiation penetrating the
atmosphere (Schell, 1967; Brown, 1993). There is also a theory that
points to the recent ice age as a suspect in the C-14 imbalance
?Our planet is not more than a few thousand years old. Here are
scientific facts to prove it. Evolutionists have repeated suggested
dates, ranging from a few million years to 5 billion. But facts are
what we want, and what we have for you here. This is science vs.
evolution?a Creation-Evolution Encyclopedia, brought to you by
Creation Science Facts.?
?Nothing on earth carbon dates in the millions of years, because
the scope of carbon dating only extends a few thousand years. Willard
Libby invented the carbon dating technique in the early 1950?s. He
calculated the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere today (about
.0000765%), and assumed there would be the same amount found in living
plants or animals since the plants breathe CO2 and animals eat plants.
Carbon 14 is the radio-active version of carbon. Radiation from the
sun strikes the atmosphere of the earth all day long. This energy
produces radioactive carbon 14. This radioactive carbon 14 slowly
decays into normal, stable carbon 12. Extensive laboratory testing has
shown that about half of the C-14 molecules will decay in 5730 years.
After another 5730 years half of the remaining C-14 will decay leaving
only ¼ of the original C-14. It goes from ½ to ¼ to 1/8, etc. In
theory it would never totally disappear, but after about 5 half lives
the difference is not measurable with any degree of accuracy. This is
why most people say carbon dating is only good for objects less than
30,000 years old.?
?There are other limitations in carbon dating too. For example,
with a few exceptions, the technique can only be applied to
once-living items such as bone, leather, wood, and cloth?not, say,
rocks or metal. More importantly, though, the accuracy of carbon
dating rests on several crucial assumptions. For one thing, the rate
of carbon-14 production in the atmosphere (and thus the level of
cosmic ray activity) must have been pretty much constant for the past
several dozen millennia. Likewise, the proportion of carbon-14 to
carbon-12 in the environment must have remained fairly constant. And
in any given sample, one must be certain that contaminants from other
time periods are not present?a sometimes tricky issue.
As a matter of fact, increased hydrocarbon emissions over the past
century have greatly increased the amount of carbon-12 in the
atmosphere, while nuclear detonations during the past 50 years or so
have increased the amount of carbon-14. And at other points in
history, climatic changes and other large-scale global events have
altered the picture in other ways. So scientists performing carbon
dating routinely calibrate their findings to adjust for these known
issues, using other dating techniques (such as counting the rings on
old trees) to corroborate their findings and help them fine-tune the
?The Problem of Carbon
Author: William Tripp
It seems that much is made of, and surety placed in, radiometric
dating, normally associated with the isotope Carbon 14. Indeed, the
results of dating materials and artifacts with this method is perhaps
singularly the most compelling "evidence" for evolution?the vast
majority believing that since so many fossils have been dated far
beyond the chronology of the Bible, evolution must be true 1. In a
literal reading of the Old Testament of the Bible, the age of the
earth would be around 6 to 9 thousand years; this is obviously quite
incompatible with artifacts dated at hundreds of times such a figure.
This leads many to assume a priori that the record of the Bible cannot
be trusted at all; if it is wrong on the chronology, it is probably
wrong about many other things. It would seem that this scientific
assignment of dates is the Achilles Heel of theism.?
?Radiocarbon dating, especially using the Carbon 14 method, takes
advantage of the radioactive decay of the isotope, which is seen as a
constant. Every living thing takes in and expels Carbon 14 while it is
alive, and a static level of the element is maintained. When the
organism dies, the infusion is suspended, and the level is reduced
according to the rate of decay, known as the ?half-life.? The amount
of Carbon 14 in the artifact is measured and then compared to the
presumed static level the organism maintained while alive; the
comparison then yields the relative age of the specimen. Though this
sounds very straightforward and scientific, there are several serious
The first problem is seen in the very approach in the presumption that
must be made in the level of Carbon 14 the organism had while living.
Here we have a critical calculation that is based upon an assumption
that an organism which lived thousands of years previous, of which
there are no modern species to compare, developed a specific level of
Carbon 14 from an environment we know nothing about. If for example,
the presumption is inaccurate by only 10%, considering that it is the
rate of decay that forms the mathematical constant, the inaccuracy of
the calculation of age at the upper limit would be tens of thousands
?People who ask about carbon-14 (14C) dating usually want to know
about the radiometric1 dating methods that are claimed to give
millions and billions of years?carbon dating can only give thousands
of years. People wonder how millions of years could be squeezed into
the biblical account of history.
Clearly, such huge time periods cannot be fitted into the Bible
without compromising what the Bible says about the goodness of God and
the origin of sin, death and suffering?the reason Jesus came into the
Christians, by definition, take the statements of Jesus Christ
seriously. He said, ?But from the beginning of the creation God made
them male and female? (Mark 10:6). This only makes sense with a
time-line beginning with the creation week thousands of years ago. It
makes no sense at all if man appeared at the end of billions of
Questions for Evolutionists
?After the discovery of the radiocarbon dating method, scientists
tried to correlate their results with the dates "established" a
century before. But they have not been able to do so. Of thousands of
measurements, they have been able to correlate only three. These three
successes were enough to make the original century old fossil/strata
dating "scientific". It is on this basis that evolutionists claim that
the fossiliferous strata have been dated by radioactive minerals!?
?I just listened to a series of lectures on archaeology put out by
John Hopkins Univ. The lecturer talked at length about how inaccurate
C14 Dating is (as 'corrected' by dendrochronology). The methodology is
quite accurate, but dendrochronology supposedly shows that the C14
dates go off because of changes in the equilibrium over time, and that
the older the dates the larger the error.
Despite this she continually uses the c14 dates to create 'absolute'
chronologies. She says this is ok so long as you take into account the
correction factors from dendrochronology. (They conveniently forget to
mention that the tree ring chronology was arranged by C14 dating. The
scientists who were trying to build the chronology found the tree
rings so ambiguous that they could not decide which rings matched
which (using the bristlecone pine). So they tested some of the ring
sequences by C14 to put the sequences in the 'right' order. Once they
did that they developed the overall sequence. And this big sequence is
then used to 'correct' C14 dates. talk of circular reasoning!!!!?
?Tree-ring dating allows us to infer how the atmospheric
concentration of carbon-14 changed in the past. Some types of trees
growing at high elevations with a steady supply of moisture will
reliably add only one ring each year. In other environments, multiple
rings can be added in a year.5 A tree ring?s thickness depends on the
tree?s growing conditions, which vary from year to year. Some rings
may show frost or fire damage. By comparing sequences of ring
thicknesses in two different trees, a correspondence can sometimes be
shown. Trees of the same species that simultaneously grew within a few
hundred miles of each other may have similar patterns. Trees of
different species or trees growing in different environments have less
Claims are frequently made that wood growing today can be matched up
with some scattered pieces of dead wood so that tree-ring counts can
be extended back more than 8,600 years. This may not be correct. These
claimed ?long chronologies? begin with either living trees or dead
wood that can be accurately dated by historical methods.6 This carries
the chronology back perhaps 3,500 years. Then the more questionable
links are established based on the judgment of a tree-ring specialist.
Sometimes ?missing? rings are added.7 Each tree ring?s width varies
greatly around the tree?s circumference. Also, parts of a ring may be
dead wood. Standard statistical techniques could show how well the
dozen supposedly overlapping tree-ring sequences fit. However,
tree-ring specialists have refused to subject their judgments to these
statistical tests and would not release their data, so others can do
these statistical tests.8 Even less reliable techniques claim to be
able to calibrate carbon-14 dating back 26,000 years or more.?
?Question: "What is the age of the earth? How old is the earth?"
Answer: Given the fact that Adam was created on the sixth day of our
planet?s existence, we can determine a Biblically-based, approximate
age for the earth by looking at the chronological details of the human
race. This of course assumes that the Genesis account is accurate,
that the six days of creation described in Genesis were literal
24-hour periods, and that there were no ambiguous chronological gaps.
The genealogies listed in Genesis chapters five and eleven provide the
age at which Adam and his descendants each begot the next generation
in a successive ancestral line from Adam to Abraham. By determining
where Abraham fits into history chronologically and by adding up the
ages provided in Genesis chapters five and eleven, it becomes apparent
that the Bible teaches the earth to be about 6,000 years old, give or
take a few hundred years.?
?Now we know beyond reasonable doubt that the universe of
space-time and matter had a beginning. It is now no longer reasonable
to believe that the universe has always been here. That is now an
irrational belief. Instead, we now know beyond reasonable doubt that
the physical cosmos, of matter, and of space and of time, came into
existence some time ago. At this point, it doesn't matter how long ago
that was--some estimates are 15 to 20 billion years--that is not
relevant to my concerns. What is relevant is that it is now beyond
reasonable doubt that the universe came into existence a finite period
of time ago.
This portion was from a Q & A time, following a presentation by Dr.
Moreland that was based upon his book "Love Your God With All Your
The argument is that if you take the days of Genesis as not being six
days and take them as maybe longer periods of time, then where do you
draw the line...why wouldn't the same reasoning imply that we'll
eventually have to reinterpret the virgin birth and the resurrection
Let me give you a counter-example. I doubt, sir, that you or anybody
else in the room takes the biblical passages that say that 'Jesus will
call his angels from the four corners of the earth' to teach a flat
Earth. I also doubt that anyone in here says that when the sun rises
and sets it literally means an earth-centered universe. But you must
understand that...there were times when the church interpreted the
text that taught that God--Christ will call his angels from the four
corners of the world to teach very obviously that the world has four
corners. The text says that. There is absolutely no evidence in that
text that it means anything other than four corners. You can read it
until you're blue in the face, and it says that the Earth has four
corners. Similarly, the Bible says the sun rises and sets. Now, that's
what it says. You can dance around it all you want. That's what the
text says. But there's nobody in here that believes that. No one in
here believes the earth has four corners. And so, what we've done is
taken that language and interpreted it metaphorically. Similarly, with
the rising and the setting of the sun, we treat
that...phenomenologically--we say that's the language of description;
it is not meant to be taken literally.?
?This is perhaps the most common objection of all. Creationists point
to instances where a given method produced a result that is clearly
wrong, and then argue that therefore all such dates may be ignored.
Such an argument fails on two counts:
? First, an instance where a method fails to work does not imply that
it does not ever work. The question is not whether there are
"undatable" objects, but rather whether or not all objects cannot be
dated by a given method. The fact that one wristwatch has failed to
keep time properly cannot be used as a justification for discarding
How many creationists would see the same time on five different clocks
and then feel free to ignore it? Yet, when five radiometric dating
methods agree on the age of one of the Earth's oldest rock formations
( Dalrymple 1986, p. 44 ), it is dismissed without a thought.
? Second, these arguments fail to address the fact that radiometric
dating produces results in line with "evolutionary" expectations about
95% of the time (Dalrymple 1992, personal correspondence). The claim
that the methods produce bad results essentially at random does not
explain why these "bad results" are so consistently in line with
Evolution of Life
A brief history of carbon dating
Radiometric Dating - A Christian Perspective
?Scientists have settled on the age of the earth of about 4.6 billion
years as a result of research started almost 50 years ago. This
conclusion was based upon carefully designed and conducted experiments
that compared the ratios in rock samples of parent elements to
daughter elements ( some of which would have been from radioactive
decay of the parent, some of which may have been present in the sample
at the time of formation). Since radioactive decay is known to occur
at a constant rate, the age of a rock can be determined from the ratio
of the parent element to the daughter element. The concerns about
these dating methods were exactly the same that creationists continue
to raise - presence of the daughter element at the time the rock was
formed and possible loss / gain of either the parent or daughter
element at some point in the history of the rock. For this reason, the
tests were designed to account for those possibilities.?
Other methods of dating
There you go, Man! I hope you find this information helpful in
forming your views on this controversial topic. I?m sure your
question, and my answer, will gather numerous other opinions for you
If any part of this answer is unclear, please request an Answer
Clarification and allow me to respond, before you rate . I?ll be happy
to assist you further, before you rate.
Carbon dating + accuracy
Carbon dating + reliability
Age of the earth