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 5 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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Is there any Data That Would
Support the Above Assumptions
of a global flood?

If the C-14 concentration in our Biosphere dramatically increased after the flood, as portrayed in the above graph by the solid blue line, then we should see some direct indication of it in the world around us. On the other hand, it must be realized that anomalous younger or older dates are often removed from publication because the investigators hold in very high regard the long age uniformitarian assumptions used by the majority of scientist in the world today.

Ariel Roth, in his book Origins, Linking Science and Scripture shows an example where the anomalous younger dates were removed from later publications. Originally, a series of C-14 dates were made in progressively deeper organic soil layers in New ZealandŐs South Island sediments. The sequence was 9,900, 12,000, 27,200, 17,300, and 15,650 carbon-14 years. A later publication removed the obviously anomalous younger 17,300 and 15,650 measurements. Both papers are listed in the bottom of this web page.

This kind of "purification" of the data is done openly and with honest motives because of their faith in the vast knowledge base of scientific study that supports the idea of long age uniformitarianism and Evolutionary thought.

So it is possible that much of the clues that could have indicated a rapid shift in Biosphere C-14 are not found in the published data. But we do have some evidence that can support the assumptions needed for a short age chronology.

Let's explore three different lines of reasoning that uses data to support the alternative view of a global flood. Some of the information represents research that is currently being conducted. They are as following:

  1. Anomalous fossil C-14 Dates.
  2. C-14 Age Profile of Ancient Sediment and Peat Accumulations.
  3. Does Coal have a residual level of C-14 left from before the Flood?

1. Anomalous fossil C-14 Dates

Some time back, Robert Brown, found some interesting examples of anomalous C-14 dates. They are illustrated in the graphic below.

If an animal is living during a time when Carbon-14 levels are rising rapidly, we might expect different portions of the animals body to have different levels of Carbon-14. This would make sense since an animal is always incorporating new carbon in the growing process. Areas of the body which grow faster would exhibit the higher levels of Carbon-14 of the later life of the animal. Areas of the body which grow more slowly or have stopped growing should exhibit the lower levels of Carbon-14 when the animal was younger. Hair grows fairly fast, so we might expect the Carbon-14 levels to be especially high.

The examples to the left show the kinds of differences we might expect. At least these examples suggest the possibility of a fairly unstable concentration of Carbon-14 in the Biosphere.

Unfortunately Carbon-14 dates are not as simple as they may seem to be. Often so called odd dates are determined from specimens that the actual age is known. One reason for this is the "reservoir effect". The reservoir effect is a situation where the local environment where a specimen is living is less than the normal level of Carbon-14 for the Biosphere at large.

Ariel Roth, comments in his book Origins, Linking Science and Scripture that most living marine specimens from the world's oceans date at least several hundred years old. Also, some aquatic mosses now living in Iceland date around 6,000 to 8,000 years old. In Nevada, living snails give apparent ages of 27,000 years old.

(These older dates for currently living organisms bring to mind an interesting difference between the Creation/flood paradigm and the long age/evolution paradigm. If the global flood occurred four or so thousand years ago, we might not expect all of the Biosphere to be at equilibrium. C-14 concentrations in the marine environment may not equal the C-14 concentrations in the rest of the Biosphere because the equilibrium may not be reached yet. The example in Iceland is because of hot vents which force a local lowering of the C-14 concentration.)

There are other kinds of problems with Carbon-14 dates such as the exchange of C-14 atoms with other carbon atoms. Marine shells in Hawaii show younger dates if preserved in volcanic ash instead of limestone. The original references for this data is also at the end of this web page.

So we would be hard pressed to say that the differences in the dates that we see in these fossils are fully due to a rapidly increasing C-14 concentration. However, who is to say that the increasing C-14 in the biosphere wasn't a factor? In addition, it is possible that the C-14 concentrations are not fully at equilibrium. Obviously we need better evidence. More work needs to be done on this problem.


2. C-14 Age Profile of Ancient Sediment and Peat Accumulations.

For the most part, the profile or gradient of C-14 concentrations in ancient sediment and peat accumulations agree with a short-age chronology position. Looking at the graph to the right we see a straight line with three possible starting points. Two of the possibilities force the straight line to curve in the initial portion of the line.

For constant real-time accumulation of ancient sediments; The B-type profile is what we would expect to find if the C-14 concentration in the Biosphere was constant during the time the sediments were formed. This linear gradient is possible only if no compaction takes place or if the compaction is taken into account.

The A-type profile is what would be expected if the C-14 concentration in the early Biosphere was higher than expected.

The C-type profile is what would be expected if the C-14 concentration was initially much lower than what is seen in today's Biosphere. The C-type profile is of course what would be expected with the global flood.

All three profile types appear in ancient sediments and peat accumulations; However, close to two thirds of all profile data in the literature are of the C-type. Dr. Robert Brown who originally looked at the data, suggests that: "we may interpret this as indicating that the C-14 concentration was lower during initial sedimentation and peat growth in ancient time".

Dr. Brown also saw that some of the sediment exhibited a more rapid early stage than was found in the later stages. He saw that this more rapid early sediment development could easily account for the various A-type and B-type profiles found in the literature.

When the early development is compensated for, the graph usually will straighten out or even reverse into a C-type profile.

Dr. Brown concludes that: "This early rapid development is what might be expected during a period of cool pluviatile climate, particularly when vegetation is being reestablished" (after the flood).

I believe that the profiles produced by ancient sediments and peat accumulation fit nicely within the constraints of a Creation/global flood paradigm. This particular line of evidence is more complicated than I am addressing it. For further study, look at Dr. R. H. Brown's work in the references below.


Rampart Cave in the grand wash cliffs of the lower end of the Grand Canyon is an extreme example of a C-type profile sediment. There is approximately 127 cm of animal dung, mainly from the American three-toed sloth.

As can be seen from the graph to the right, the C-14 concentration increasingly decreases in the deeper sediments. The remainder of the sediments beyond 100 cm in depth is at infinite age.

If we look at the steeper portion of the plot (around 100 cm into the sediments) and calculate how much dung there is using the whole floor of the cave, we find that there is less than 1/5000 mm (millimeter) of dung per radiocarbon year. That is less than one good sized bowl movement per year. Not reasonable since there is evidence of sloth family living in the cave through the years.

If we look at the higher sediments (0 to 60 cm), we find that there is about 1/9 mm of dung per radiocarbon year. Still not enough but it is better that the other portion of the graph.

On the other hand, if we take the whole system and compress the time into maybe a 1000 year time span, we would see approximately 1.4 mm of dung per radiocarbon year. This would be very reasonable and it would fit into the time allowed by the Genesis chronology.

The American three-toed sloth disappeared from the scene when man appeared in North America. Easily a case of overhunting. Sloths became extinct because they are slow and they provided a ready meal.

I believe the example of Rampart Cave fits very nicely within the constraints of the Creation/global flood paradigm. By the way the Geoscience Institute publishes Origins where much of R. H. Brown's work has been published. The Institute has their own free web site (no user fees). Geoscience Research Institute


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