Carbon Dating

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

Aldous Huxley

The following is taken from Creation Science Evangelisim – Seminar Notebook by Dr. Kent Hovind

Whenever the worldview of evolution is questioned, this topic always comes up.  Let me first explain how carbon dating works and then show you the assumptions it is based on.  Radiation from the sun strikes the atmosphere of the earth all day long.  This energy converts about 21 pounds of nitrogen into radioactive carbon 14.  This radioactive carbon 14 slowly decays back to normal, stable nitrogen.  Extensive laboratory testing has shown that about half of the C-14 molecules will decay in 5730 years.  This is called half-life.  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 40,000 years old.  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.  The amount of carbon 14 in the atmosphere today (about .0000765%), is assumed there would be the same amount found in living plants or animals since the plants breath CO2 and animals eat plants.  Carbon 14 is the radioactive version of carbon.

Since sunlight causes the formation of C-14 in the atmosphere, and normal radioactive decay takes it out, there must be a point where the formation rate and the decay rate equalizes.  This is called the point of equilibrium.  Let me illustrate: If you were trying to fill a barrel with water but there were holes drilled up the side of the barrel, as you filled the barrel it would begin leaking out the holes.  At some point you would be putting it in and it would be leaking out at the same rate.  You will not be able to fill the barrel past this point of equilibrium.  In the same way the C-14 is being formed and decaying simultaneously.  A freshly created earth would require about 30,000 years for the amount of C-14 in the atmosphere to reach this point of equilibrium because it would leak out as it is being filled.  Tests indicate that the earth has still not reached equilibrium. There is more C-14 in the atmosphere now than there was 40 years ago.  This would prove the earth is not yet 30,000 years old!  This also means that plants and animals that lived in the past had less C-14 in them than do plants and animals today.  Just this one fact totally upsets data obtained by C-14 dating.

The carbon in the atmosphere normally combines with oxygen to make carbon dioxide (CO2).  Plants breathe CO2 and make it part of their tissue.  Animals eat the plants and make it part of their tissue.  A very small percentage of the carbon plants take in is radioactive C-14.  When a plant or animal dies it stops taking in air and food so it should not be able to get any new C-14.  The C-14 in the plant or animal will begin to decay back to normal nitrogen.  The older an object is, the less carbon-14 it contains.  One gram of carbon from living plant material causes a Geiger counter to click 16 times per minute as the C-14 decays.  A sample that causes 8 clicks per minute would be 5,730 years old (the sample has gone through one half life) and so on.

Although this technique looks good at first, carbon-14 dating rests on two assumptions.  They are, obviously, assuming the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere has always been constant, and its rate of decay has always been constant.  Neither of these assumptions is provable or reasonable.  An illustration may help:  Imagine you found a candle burning in a room, and you wanted to determine how long it was burning before you found it.  You could measure the present height of the candle (say, seven inches) and the rate of burn (say an inch per hour).  In order to find the length of time since the candle was lit we would be forced to make some assumptions.  We would, obviously, have to assume that the candle has always burned at the same rate, and assumes an initial height of the candle.  The answer changes based on the assumptions.  Similarly, scientists do not know that the carbon-14 decay rate has been constant.  They do not know that the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere is constant.  Present testing shows the amount of C-14 in the atmosphere has been increasing since it was first measured in the 1950’s.  This may be tied in to the declining strength of the magnetic field.

In addition to the above assumptions, dating methods are all subject to the geologic column date to verify their accuracy.  If a date obtained by radiometric dating does not match the assumed age from the geologic column the radiometric date will be rejected.  The so-called geologic column was developed in the early 1800’s over a century before there were any radiometric dating methods.  “Apart from very ‘modern’ examples, which are really archaeology, , I can think of no cases of radioactive decay being used to date fossils.” Ager, Derek V., “Fossil Frustrations,” New Scientist, vol. 100 (November 10, 1983), p 425.  Laboratories will not carbon date dinosaur bones (even frozen ones which could easily be carbon dated) because dinosaurs are supposed to have lived 70 million years ago according to the fictitious geologic column.  An object’s supposed place on the geologic column determines the method used to date it.  There are about 7 or 8 radioactive elements that are used today to try to date objects.  Each one has a different half-life and a different range of ages it is suppose to be used for. No dating method cited by evolutionists is unbiased.

A few examples of wild dates by radiometric dating:

Shells from living snails were carbon dated as being 27,000 years old.  Science vol. 224, 1984, pp.58-61

Living mollusk shells were dated up to 2300 years old.  Science vol. 141, 1963, pp.634-637

A freshly killed seal was carbon dated as having died 1300 years ago!  Antarctic Journal vol. 6, Sept-Oct. 1971, p211

“One part of the Vollosovitch mammoth carbon dated at 29,500 years and another part at 44,000.”  Troy L. Pewe, “Quaternary Strigraphic Nomencature in Uniglaciated Central Alaska,” Geologic Survey Professional Paper 832 (U.S. Gov. Printing Office, 1975) p. 30

“Structure, metamorphism, sedimentary reworking, and other complications have to be considered.  Radiometric dating would not have been feasible if the geologic column had not been erected first.” J.E. O’Rourke, “Pragmatism vs. Materialism in Stratigraphy,” American Jouranl of Science, vol. 276 (January, 1976), p. 54