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Evolution and Carbon-14 Dating

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

According to evolutionary scientists, radiocarbon dating (also known as carbon-14 dating) is totally ineffective in measuring time when dealing with millions of years. In his 2000 book, Genes, People, and Languages, renowned Stanford University geneticist Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, in a discussion on the theory of human evolution, commented on radiocarbon dating, stating: “The most crucial dates in modern human evolution are unfortunately beyond the range of the radiocarbon method, which has a limit of about 40,000 years” (p. 61, emp. added). Staunch evolutionist Richard Dawkins also dealt with the limitations of radiocarbon dating a few years ago in his highly touted book, The Blind Watchmaker. He was even more critical of this dating method than was Cavalli-Sforza, saying:

Different kinds of radioactive decay-based geological stopwatches run at different rates. The radiocarbon stopwatch buzzes round at a great rate, so fast that, after some thousands of years, its spring is almost wound down and the watch is no longer reliable. It is useful for dating organic material on the archaeological/historical timescale where we are dealing in hundreds or a few thousands of years, but it is no good for the evolutionary timescale where we are dealing in millions of years (1986, p. 226 emp. added).

Both evolutionists and creationists stand in agreement that radiocarbon dating, which can be used only to date organic samples, is totally ineffective in measuring the alleged millions or billions of years of the evolutionary timetable. [In truth, even when dating things that are relatively young, carbon-14 dating is imperfect and based upon certain unprovable assumptions (see Major, 1993).] If radiocarbon dating can measure only items that are thousands of years old, why should evolutionists even consider using this dating method on anything that they already believe to be millions of years old? Creationists would like to see evolutionists apply this method to items believed to be millions of years old, because it might help convince evolutionists that coal, diamonds, fossils, etc. are not millions of years old, but only thousands of years old.

Consider that in recent years “readily detectable amounts of carbon-14” in materials evolutionists suppose are millions of years old “have been the rule rather than the exception” (DeYoung, 2005, p. 49). When geophysicist John Baumgardner and colleagues obtained 10 coal samples from the U.S. Department of Energy Coal Sample Bank, one of the leading radiocarbon laboratories in the world tested the samples for traces of carbon. The coal samples were analyzed using the modern accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) method. If the coal were really many millions of years old (as evolutionists suggest), no traces of carbon-14 should have been found. “[A]ny carbon-containing materials that are truly older than 100,000 years should be ‘carbon-14 dead’ with C-14 levels below detection limits” (DeYoung, p. 49). But, in fact, traces of carbon-14 were found. “[A] residue of carbon-14 atoms was found in all ten samples.... The amounts of C-14 in coal are found to average 0.25 percent of that in the atmosphere today” (DeYoung, p. 53). Diamonds assumed to be hundreds of millions of years old were also tested—12 in all. Once again, traces of C-14 were found in every sample (see DeYoung, pp. 45-62).

In June of 1990, Hugh Miller submitted two dinosaur bone fragments to the Department of Geosciences at the University in Tucson, Arizona for carbon-14 analysis. One fragment was from an unidentified dinosaur. The other was from an Allosaurus excavated by James Hall near Grand Junction, Colorado in 1989. Miller submitted the samples without disclosing the identity of the bones. (Had the scientists known the samples actually were from dinosaurs, they would not have bothered dating them, since it is assumed dinosaurs lived millions of years ago—outside the limits of radiocarbon dating.) Interestingly, the C-14 analysis indicated that the bones were from 10,000-16,000 years old—a far cry from their alleged 60-million-year-old age (see Dahmer, et al., 1990, pp. 371-374).

What is C-14 doing in coal, diamonds, and dinosaur fossils, if these objects are really many millions of years old? Richard Dawkins declared that C-14 dating “is useful for dating organic material on the archaeological/historical timescale where we are dealing in hundreds or a few thousands of years,” not millions of years (1986, p. 226, emp. added). Yet, “readily detectable amounts of carbon-14,” even in coal, diamonds, and various fossils, “have been the rule rather than the exception” in recent years (DeYoung, 2005, p. 49). Why? Evolutionists assert that the specimens in every case must have been contaminated by outside carbon. After all, everyone “knows” coal is millions of years old, right? Using C-14 dating on specimens already believed to be only hundreds or a few thousands of years old is considered acceptable. Scientists expect to find carbon in samples they perceive as young. But, if specimens believed to be millions of years old are tested (e.g., coal), and found to have carbon traces, then they “must” have been contaminated. Or so we are told.

Informed creation scientists, like members of the RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth) team, contend that the modern “AMS measurements carefully eliminate all possible sources of carbon contamination. These include any trace of C-14 which has possibly entered the samples in recent history, or C-14 introduction during sample preparation and analysis” (DeYoung, 2005, p. 50). Whereas “unexpected carbon-14 was initially assumed to be a result of contamination..., as this problem was aggressively explored, it was realized that most of the carbon-14 was inherent to the samples being measured” (p. 49).

The fact is, significant traces of carbon have been detected in samples that “should not” contain carbon. Since evolutionists are unwilling to adjust their million/billion-year timetable, they are forced to conclude that radiocarbon dating is always faulty when it comes up with young dates (measured in hundreds or thousands of years) for assumed old specimens (supposedly millions of years old). Do you see anything wrong with this picture? The fact is, coal, diamonds, and dinosaur fossils containing traces of carbon is no surprise. One would expect to find such if the biblical accounts of Creation and the Flood are true.

REFERENCES

Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi (2000), Genes, Peoples, and Languages (New York: North Point Press).

Dahmer, Lionel, D. Kouznetsov, et al. (1990), “Report on Chemical Analysis and Further Dating of Dinosaur Bones and Dinosaur Petroglyphs,” Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism, ed. Robert E. Walsh and Christopher L. Brooks (Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship).

Dawkins, Richard (1986), The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W.W. Norton).

DeYoung, Don (2005), Thousands...Not Billions (Green Forest, AR: Master Books).

Major, Trevor (1993), “Dating in Archaeology: Radiocarbon & Tree-Ring Dating,” Apologetics Press, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2019.




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