Welcome back to my confessions! I am attempting to explain to an incredulous world why I, or anyone for that matter, would take the stance that the world was created withing six calendar days only 6,000 years ago. As I near the end, I am taking a look at one of the forms of radio dating methods which is tremendously popular- in the sense that people refer to it on Facebook or Twitter when trying to explain to you how stupid you are for believing the Bible- and yet vastly misunderstood- in the sense that those people manage to prove that they don’t understand how C14 dating works. It’s kind of ironic. It’s like being told you are ignorant of modern sports because you fail to realize that the goalie uses his ice skates to kick the basketball into the end-zone to score points. When faced with that kind of attack on your intellect, what can you say?
Let’s start with C14. What is it? The C stands for Carbon, which is a vital element found in all living things. The 14 stands for it’s weight, which is due to its having discovered Chipotle burritos and not acting with self control. Oh, wait, no, that’s me. The 14 stands for it’s weight because it is a heavy version of Carbon which usually weighs 12, but it’s picked up a few extra neutrons over the holidays.
As with all radioactive decay, the heavier element is less stable, and so breaks down over time until it’s all Nitrogen 14 (N-14). The half life of C14 is about 6000 years, meaning that half of it will break down from C14 to N14 in about 6000 years. Of course, like the previous radio dating methods discussed last time, the C14 dating method is flawed at the start because it shares the same untestable starting assumptions: 1. The rate of decay is constant, 2. We know the amount of parent (C14) to daughter (C12) in the starting conditions, and 3. Nothing has added or removed C14 except the radioactive decay process.
Where as most radio dating methods can only be used on volcanic rock, C14 can only be used on things which were once alive- plants and animals. You can’t use most radio dating methods to date fossils directly, or even the rocks those fossils are found in. What about C14? Yes! You can use this method of dating to test dinosaur bones and other remains, because they were once alive. But here’s the punchline:
C14 is no good for ANYTHING past 50,000 years old. Why? Because after 50,000 years, there should be no more C14 left. (Read this to learn why) It will all have decayed away. But (Musical sting representing a dramatic reveal…) we find it in dinosaur remains.
UH OH! Dinosaurs are supposed to have gone extinct 65 MILLION years ago, but we find C14 in them? If this method is to be believed, then dinosaurs were still alive less than 50,000 years ago! Let me give you a visual. You have a ruler one inch long. It measures the distance from you to the dinosaurs, but we’re told the dinosaurs are 108 feet away. Or if you’re into sports, we’re told the dinosaurs went extinct on the far side of an NBA basketball court, but we measure them being as far away as the in-bounds line is wide. Need another one? I can do this all day. How about, we find the dinosaurs within a mile from the Statue of Liberty, when we are told they are as far away, at LEAST, as Lincoln Nebraska. Are you seeing the difference?
Here’s why this example is important. People all the time be saying, “Are you stupid? Carbon 14 dating PROVES the dinosaurs are MILLIONS of years old!” No, really, people say this kind of thing all the time. What I hear is, “I don’t understand Carbon Dating! And now I’ll use my ignorance to prove you wrong!” I’m never sure what to say.
But maybe I’ll let some other people say a few things about this tool of science;
“Why do geologists and archeologists still spend their scarce money on costly radiocarbon determinations? They do so because occasional dates appear to be useful. While the method cannot be counted on to give good, unequivocal results, the number do impress people, and save them the trouble of thinking excessively. Expressed in what look like precise calendar years, figures seem somehow better … ‘Absolute’ dates determined by a laboratory carry a lot of weight, and are extremely helpful in bolstering weak arguments.
“No matter how ‘useful’ it is, though, the radiocarbon method is still not capable of yielding accurate and reliable results. There are gross discrepancies, the chronology is uneven and relative, and the accepted dates are actually selected dates. This whole bless thing is nothing but 13th-century alchemy, and it all depends upon which funny paper you read.”
–Robert E. Lee, “Radiocarbon: ages in error”. Anthropological Journal of Canada, vol.19(3), 1981, pp.9-29. Reprinted in the Creation Research Society Quarterly, vol. 19(2), September 1982, pp. 117-127 (quotes from pp. 123 and 125)
“It may come as a shock to some, but fewer than 50 percent of the radiocarbon dates from geological and archaeological samples in northeastern North America have been adopted as ‘acceptable’ by investigators.”
—*J. Ogden III, “The Use and Abuse of Radiocarbon,” in Annals of the New York Academy of Science, Vol. 288, 1977, pp. 167-173.
And finally, the reason why this method is used at all when it is so unreliable boils down to simple cherry picking. To cherry pick your deep time dates, you need options from which to pick:
“Professor Brew, briefly summarized a common attitude among archaeologists toward it, as follows: ‘If a C-14 date supports our theories, we put it in the main text. If it does not entirely contradict them, we put it in a footnote. And if it is completely ‘out-of-date,’ we just drop it.”
—*T. Save-Soderbergh and *Ingrid U. Olsson, “C-14 Dating and Egyptian Chronology,” Radiocarbon Variations and Absolute Chronology, ed. *Ingrid U. Olsson (1970), p. 35 [also in *Pensee, 3(1): 44].
Where does this leave proponents of deep time? Like all the other methods, C14 fails to prove anything to be really old. First off, because it isn’t meant to. It’s a short measuring stick for time compared to the millions and billions of years which are being looked for. Worst than that, it actually proves that so many things ALLEGED to be super old, are not. Not only do we find carbon 14 still in dinosaur remains, but we find it in coal beds supposedly tens to hundreds of MILLIONS of years old, and even in diamonds which we’re told are hundreds of millions to BILLIONS of years old. Carbon 14 dating, if it tells us anything, tells us that there is nothing on earth older than 50,000 years old. So deep time fails, but 6,000 years fits well within that 50,000 year limit with time to spare. Maybe we need to give Genesis a second look. And as always, thanks for letting me be your Rent-A-Friend.