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 4 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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Factors that could have affected past C-14 levels

World Carbon Inventory
Units given in 1012metric tons
Atmosphere 0.670 Available coal and oil .0010.000
Freshwater 0.330 Total "fossil" organic 6,820.000
Living organisms on land 0.833 Sedimentary carbonates 13,180.0000
Dead organic material on land 0.700 .000 .000
Living organisms in the ocean 00.0015 .000 .000
Dead organic material in the ocean 1.000 .000 .000
Dissolved in the ocean surface layer 0.500 .000 .000
Dissolved in deep ocean 35.0000 .000 .000
Total Contemporary Biosphere Carbon 39.0340 Total Fossil Carbon 20,000
.
Ratio of fossil organic to present organic (NO Fossil Carbonates)
(6820 + 39.03) / 39.03 = 176 = 27.46
Ratio of fossil carbon to present organic (All Fossil Carbonates)
(20,000 + 39.03) / 39.03 = 513 = 29.00
Uncertainties in the inventory estimates make the exponents
of 2 uncertain by as much as possibly +- 2 (9.00 +- 2)
Data taken from Origin By Design by Harold Coffin
(look at bottom of web page for reference)

World Carbon Inventory

If we start comparing the total Carbon in today's Biosphere with fossil Carbon we see that the possibility does exists that there has been a loss of total Carbon in the world. The world before the flood could have been much more lush with a greater abundance of life than we have today.

Looking at the World Carbon Inventory chart at the right, we can see that the amount of carbon in the living world today is much less than what Carbon is buried in the geologic column. Today, there is around 39 trillion metric tons of Carbon in the Biosphere; However, there is around 6,820 trillion metric tons of Carbon that is buried in the form of coal, oil, and fossils.

If all the Carbon found in the geologic column was buried in the Universal Flood at the time of Noah, then all the Carbon (in the form of fossils, coal, and oil) was part of the living world at one time. Everything must have been living at the same time. Looking at the numbers, there was at least 176 times the living matter we have now, before the flood. So the world must have been much richer in animals, plants, trees, fish, algae, etc. before the global flood.

There is another possibility. Some of the buried carbonates could also have been part of the biosphere before the flood. Sedimentary carbonates are a huge block of Carbon to consider, as much as 20,000 trillion metric tons of sedimentary carbonates are found in the geologic column. If all the carbonates were part of the biosphere; than, there would have been 513 times the living matter we have now, before the flood.

Were sedimentary carbonates part of the Biosphere before the flood? I'm not educated enough to say. Some say that maybe one sixth of the carbonates were part of the Biosphere before the flood. In any case 176 and 513 times the carbon now present on this Earth can help account for seven to nine half-lives of Carbon 14.

Being more conservative with the sedimentary carbonate question, we can entertain the possibility of accounting for 7.5 to 8 half-lives of Carbon 14. Using the figure of 8 half-lives would necessitate the incorporation of around 1/6 of the sedimentary carbonates into the preflood Biosphere.

So if it is assumed that the global flood occurred and that all sediments were buried within a short period of a year, than it seems that most of the Carbon that was part of the Biosphere before the global flood was actually buried in the sediments in the form of coal, oil, fossils, and possibly some of the carbonates. What we have today is only a small fraction of the resources before the flood.

If 1/6 of the carbonates are accounted as being part of the Biosphere before the flood, then the simple change in the amount of Carbon during the global flood can account for the dates. On the other hand if the carbonates are not included in the calculation than some other additional factor(s) are needed to allow the data to fit while having the samples being only 4300 or years old.

Now lets look at what additional factors may have contributed in explaining the C14 dates of fossils. These factors all affect the production of C 14 in the upper atmosphere. In the Christmas cookie analogy, these factors are the red dye.

Cosmic Ray Intensity

Looking at the moon rocks and meteorites, we can see that the present cosmic ray intensity hasn't changed for quite some time. There are twenty or so radioactive elements in moon rocks that are produced by the constant cosmic ray bombardment. The more intense the bombardment of cosmic rays, the higher the concentration of radioactive elements in the rocks.

There is an equilibrium that has been established. The cosmic ray bombardment produces the radioactive elements and the half-time degradation process (the breaking down of the radioactive atoms) reduces the number of radioactive elements. It is seen that the Cosmic Ray intensity has not changed over a long period of time since the number of radioactive elements is in equilibrium with the present rate of cosmic ray bombardment.

So we can not expect much help from an actual change in cosmic ray intensity. If the rate were to change by a factor of 2, the C14 time scale would shift only one half-live (5730 years).

Geomagnetic Field Intensity

The stronger the geomagnetic field is around the Earth, the less of the cosmic rays that actually reach the atmosphere. So if in the past, the geomagnetic field was much stronger, than we would expect a smaller production of C14 in the upper atmosphere.

It would take an increase of 11 times for the field to decrease the C14 production rate to 1/4 of today's levels. It would take an increase of 100 for the field to decrease the C14 production to zero.

We might expect that the geomagnetic field was stronger in the past since ionizing radiation is extremely harmful. However we don't even know the mechanism that produces the geomagnetic field in the first place, so it is difficult to predict what the change might have been in the past.

By many, the factor of 11 times seems to be a conservative figure. If the geomagnetic field was 11 times stronger than today then, as stated, the production of C14 would have been 1/4 of today's level. That would account for two half-lives of C14, or 11,460 years.

Water Content of the Outer Atmosphere

The waters both above and below the firmament have been a popular explanation among Creationist to explain the change in C14 levels in the past. Water acts to shield N14 of the neutrons produced by the cosmic rays.

We know that the world was very different before the flood. There was no rain and the Earth was watered by a mist. We also know that there were rivers and streams as well. Since there was no rain, much of the water must have transversed under the ground in a system that could have watered the roots of plants, maybe even helped to regulate the temperature. Who knows what the systems that God made were like?

There is a problem; however, If we assume that there was sufficient water to lower the C14 production to the point that the Carbon 14 dates would agree with the flood dates, then we have too much water to deal with. The amount of water needed to account for all the change we need would be an equivalent of two miles or so of solid water. How would it stay up there! Also remember Adam and his family could see the stars. If that much water was above him, he would not have been able to see any of the starts. Even the sun would have been hard to see. We know that the original world as described in the Bible was very different than today; but, is having so much water necessary or even possible in the original world before the flood?

Possibly, there could have been a small contributing factor to reduce C14 by having additional water in the upper atmosphere. But, it would not be a major contributer at all.


The global flood acting on the four factors discussed above (World Carbon Inventory, Cosmic Ray Intensity, Geomagnetic Field Intensity, and Water) most likely have changed the C14 concentration very rapidly following the flood. The graph on the left is designed to correlate the natural loss of C14 contained in a sample with possible times when the sample could have been buried.

The red curved line indicates the loss of Carbon 14 over time once the specimen is buried. One can trace the red line from either the blue line or the dotted blue line to determine how the Carbon 14 loss would proceed.

The two places where the red curved line crosses the solid or dotted blue line represent the two possible interpretations showing when the sample could have been buried.

A. If long age uniformitarian views are assumed then the blue dotted line refers to the Carbon 14 concentration over time. The only way to account for a sample that has 1/512 the present C14 level, is to say that the sample actually has been buried for 9 half-lives (51,570 years). Point A indicates the time that the sample was buried 51,570 years ago. The red line indicates the rate of Carbon 14 loss over time for the full 9 half-lives.

B. If the global flood is assumed with all its affects, then the solid blue line, which dramatically changes over time, indicates the Carbon 14 concentration of the Biosphere over time. We would be able to say that the sample isn't old but is actually quite young. This view rests on the possibility that the starting concentration of the sample was much less than today's expected concentration. In the graph we see that at the time of the flood, around 4300 years ago, the concentration of C14 in the atmosphere could have been at the same level that would be expected if the sample was actually buried 51570 years ago. Point B indicates the time that the sample was buried, around 4300 years ago. The red line indicates the rate of Carbon 14 loss over time for less than one half-live.

Both interpretations, either starting from point A or from point B, give the same amount of Carbon 14 in a sample taken from the ground today. Just measuring the concentration of C-14 in the sample does not help us. We are unable to determine which of the two possibilities is the correct one.

As is seen in this example, assumptions are extremely important in trying to interpret what has happened in the past. Unfortunately it is not easy to determine what assumptions are correct. When dealing with scientific problems, all we can hope to do is to choose the assumptions that is most probable.

This breaks down to simple beliefs. Most will make assumptions in their work that is in accordance to their convictions, be they religious, speculative, or based on scientific theory. Most scientists choose to assume the views held by the majority of their colleagues in the scientific community. I choose instead to assume that the Bible is a good tool for determining what has happened in the past. I do this because of my relationship with Jesus Christ. Why did I ever become a creationist? outlines how I became convicted that the Bible gives a correct view of history and the future. In addition, I see that the physical data seen in the natural world can agree with the Biblical story if certain assumptions are taken. Science and The Bible can agree with each other.


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Copyright 1998 - 2014 by Michael Brown all rights reserved
Officially posted September 25, 1998
last revised January 1, 2014