Mike's Origins Resources: A PhD Creationist's view of science, origins, and the future hope of the human race; by looking at Creation Science, Biblical Evidence, and Prophecy Molecular History Research Center

Carbon 14 Dating

Not my area of expertise but I am extremely interested in it.
Don't take what is on this page as a scientific endeavor
I am only looking at the evidence and then reporting what I have found to you.

Page 3 of 8

    Page 1

    • Introduction
    • What is Carbon 14?

    Page 2

    • How is Carbon produced?
    • Carbon 14 is in equilibrium
    • How is Carbon 14 used to date specimens and artifacts?

    Page 3

    • Limitations of the Historical Sciences
    • Carbon 14 Dating is based on Assumptions
    • The Assumptions used in Carbon 14 Dating
    • Has the C-14/C-12 ratio (equilibrium) always been constant?

    Page 4

    • Factors that could have affected past C-14 levels
      • World Carbon Inventory
      • Cosmic Ray Intensity
      • Geomagnetic Field Intensity
      • Water Content of the Outer Atmosphere

    Page 5

    • Is there any Data That Would Support the Above Assumptions of a global flood?
      • Anomalous fossil C-14 Dates
      • C-14 Age Profile of Ancient Sediment and Peat Accumulations

    Page 6

      • Does Coal have a residual level of C-14 left from before the Flood?
        • How Easy Is The Difference To Detect?
        • Contamination

    Page 7

        • What is the Source of This "Contamination"?
    • References

    Page 8

    • Recent Developments
      • Carbon-14 Content of Fossil Carbon by Paul Giem
        (Origins No. 51:6-30, 2001)

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Limitations of the Historical Sciences

In any kind of a historical science, assumptions have to be made in the assessing of historical dates. Because it is assumed that man, for example, has ascended over a long period of time, researchers would automatically want to lengthen the amount of time indicated by the artifacts uncovered in archeological digs. They are looking for answers that would fit their present model. I am not trying to say that they are falsifying their data. On the contrary they wouldn't need to falsify anything. Historical data can be so inconclusive that a host of positions is possible from almost any set of data that is collected.

Man is thought to have progressed through a long period of prehistory (cave man's experience) before some sort of civilization is started. Only after civilization begins can we begin to gather some sort of data from the discovery of the artifacts that are found (Pieces of pottery, etc.). The artifacts according to today's traditional thinking should be slowly progressing in complexity as it is thought that man is progressing in his abilities and ideas that he uses.

If man is thought to have progressed over long periods of time, even within the later civilization phase of his existence, than surely as the artifacts are recovered from archaeological sites, the theories and ideas developed will reflect the scientist's own original thinking. This is how science normally works. They normally work within a fairly well defined set of theories that have become a paradigm. A paradigm is a theory that is so well accepted that no one seriously questions it. This way of doing science is most prominent when the evidence is fragmentary at best.

Assumptions throughout the scientific process are extremely important because they must hold the facts together. Only when specific data comes that either substantiates or falsifies the previously held assumption, can it be known if the thinking was originally correct. Unfortunately, with fragmentary data, the artifact that might falsify a theory is extremely hard in coming or it could easily be overlooked. So the problem must be solved by a host of assumptions that will probably never be tested.

There is also the danger that good data could be thrown out because it doesn't fit with established thinking. For instance, I am told that there are sometimes found in the same level both "early" forms and "modern" forms of man. Because of what is considered to be an impossibility, the modern forms are assumed to have been examples of intrusions. The modern form is considered to have been buried much later in spite of the fact that the specimens are found in the same level.

The areas of science, which are the most successful, which the public notices, are the amazing discoveries in medicine, biology, space exploration, and the like. These are the areas that deal with the here and now. If an experiment is conducted and the information needed to answer the problem is not forthcoming, then another experiment can be designed to answer the problem. The process can continue until some answer to the problem is understood. The problem is only limited by money, ingenuity, and the technical difficulties that have to be surmounted.

In addition to the above limitations of science, historical science is limited by the fragmentary nature of the artifacts it is able to find. In effect, the accuracy of ideas is limited by the assumptions chosen by the researchers.

Carbon 14 Dating is based on Assumptions

Carbon 14 dating is not based on irrefutable data alone. It has as its basis of understanding, various assumptions which concern the conditions of the Earth tens of thousands of years ago. These assumptions were originated within an atmosphere of long age preexisting ideas. Scientists almost never look for indicators in nature that might speak of a very young age for the world's history. Why would they? Most scientists do not believe that the short chronology of the Bible has any validity at all and most would consider it counterproductive to pursue such a course of investigation. If in fact such an answer were found, it would be quickly dismissed. It would be assumed that there was something wrong with the idea or the data, and a new scenario would be sought.

On this web page I want to discuss a possible scenario that would allow Carbon 14 dates to indicate a short age chronology. Such a discussion might never be allowed in normal scientific circles because of the assumptions they choose to believe as being true. There is such a strong consensus of opinion on Carbon 14 dating and other similar topics that deal with the history of the Earth that alternative viewpoints are probably viewed as being counterproductive.

The Assumptions used in Carbon 14 Dating

Before we start, lets look at the specific Carbon 14 dating assumptions.

  1. The rate of C-14 decay (half-life) has always been the same.
  2. The C-14/C-12 ratio in the Biosphere (equilibrium) has remained constant.
  3. The specimen was in equilibrium with the Biosphere when buried.
  4. The specimen had not gained any carbon since it was buried.
  5. Today, we can measure the correct C-14/C-12 ratio in the specimen.

Some have suggested that the rate of decay of C-14 has changed in the past, however the evidence is very strong that as far as we know, the half-live has never changed. So the first assumption is fairly strong.

The third assumption is also reasonable. If an animal or plant is living on the surface of the Earth, it will be taking in food or CO2, thus there should be a full exchange of carbon with the environment.

The fifth assumption is one that scientists are doing their best to fulfill. We should also be able to make this assumption. However, machine background has become a very important factor to consider. It will be explored later on this web page.

The fourth assumption will be discussed at the very end of this page since it becomes a very real possibility when the second assumption is questioned.

The second assumption; however, is a different situation. It is entirely possible that the C-14/C-12 ratio in the Biosphere (the equilibrium) has not always remained constant. Most of the remainder of this web page is dedicated to exploring the possibility that the ratio could have been much less in the past.

Has the C-14/C-12 ratio (equilibrium) always been constant?

What most hold to be true is a uniformitarian view, which specifies long ages with relatively little change. It is true that many now think that the evidence screams for catastrophe after catastrophe in the past, but most believe that the factors which would effect Carbon 14 dating has not been radically affected.

The chart on the left shows two scenarios depicting how the C14 equilibrium could have changed in the past. Scenario A represents the long age position which assumes that little or no change to the C14 equilibrium has occurred over time. The line does have a trend showing a slightly higher Carbon 14 concentration in the past. The Bristlecone Pine dendrachronology by Ferguson is what suggests the trend shown in scenario A.

Scenario B represents what would have to have occurred to the C14 equilibrium to allow specimens only four or five thousand years old to give Carbon dates of 40,000 to 60,000 years.

There is presently no way to determine what the C14 level was before the flood. At the time of the flood we have the evidence recorded in the fossils that were buried in the flood. Before the flood, all we have is conjecture. The dotted line is an anemic endeavor to illustrate what could have happened before the flood.

There are two basic ways that could have caused such a drastic change in the C14 equilibrium. Both involve the global flood and they describe how the world might have been different before the flood.

One; The production of Carbon 14 in the upper atmosphere could have been much lower before the flood than today. We will look at the various possibilities that could have contributed to a lowered production of C14 a little later.

Two; There could have been a much larger reserve of normally nonradioactive Carbon in the Biosphere. Remember, Carbon 14 measurements are always made in reference to the presence of Carbon 12. It is the ratio of Carbon 14 to Carbon 12 that we want to find for dating purposes. So we can either decrease the original ratio of Carbon 14 to Carbon 12 by decreasing the production of Carbon 14 (which was the first option) or by increasing the Carbon 12 concentration. Both actions would lower the original equilibrium ratio of Carbon 14 / Carbon 12.

A good analogy might be the making of Christmas cookies. If red cookies are made, red dye is added to the cookie dough to make the cookies red. If the first batch of cookies is too red, the next cookie batch can be made less red by either reducing the amount of dye used or by using more cookie dough.

We will first start by looking at the possibility that there was originally more dough. Having more dough in the red cookie analogy would mean having more nonradioactive Carbon in the world before the flood. Greater amounts of normal Carbon (Carbon 12 and Carbon 13) would effectively dilute the radioactive Carbon 14 thus giving much older ages for fossils when assuming an essentially nonchanging C14/N14 equilibrium in the biosphere over time. The fossils buried in the flood only 4300 years ago contained much less Carbon 14 than would be expected today (In the analogy, the redness in the cookie dough would be diluted by excess dough).

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Mike's Origins Resources: A PhD Creationist's view of science, origins, and the future hope of the human race; by looking at Creation Science, Biblical Evidence, and Prophecy Molecular History Research Center

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Copyright 1998 - 2021 by Michael Brown all rights reserved
Officially posted September 25, 1998
last revised February 24, 2021