Understanding Radiocarbon Dating


Laurence D Smart B.Sc.Agr., Dip.Ed., Grad.Dip.Ed

Email: laurence@unmaskingevolution.com

Webpage: www.unmaskingevolution.com

[Free to print and distribute. Copy must be in full.]


What is Carbon-14

Carbon-14 forms in the upper atmosphere from Nitrogen gas. As a result of turbulence and diffusion, about one carbon atom in every 765 billion is Carbon-14 in the lower atmosphere.



Carbon-14 enters plants as an atom in the carbon dioxide molecule and becomes part of the plant after photosynthesis. It becomes part of animals after they eat plants.


Carbon-14 in an organism decays slowly back to Nitrogen. About half the quantity decays every 5,550 years - this is called the Carbon-14 half-life.



The ratio of Carbon-14 to Carbon-12 (normal carbon) remains constant in a living organism, but in a dead organism the amount of Carbon-14 declines.



Because of this decline in C-14 after death, measuring the ratio of C-12 to C-14 can be used to calculate how long it has been an organism died. This is called radiocarbon dating, or 'Carbon' Dating for short

It is obvious from the above theory, that the radiocarbon dating technique can only estimate the age of organic material - material that was once part of a living organism.


Radiocarbon Dating isn't as Perfect as we are Led to Believe

Ages estimated by radiocarbon dating are used by evolutionists (archaeologists, palaeontologists, etc) to prove their theories about the past. Although the reports in scientific journals usually give the estimated ages with a margin of error, what makes it into press suddenly becomes accurate dates.

Carbon dating has some problems that are not generally known to the general public. Here are just a few from my book, "Unmasking Evolution - The Resource Book".

(1) Carbon-14 calculations are based on 7 assumptions, concerning the past 20-30 thousand years.

Measurements based on assumptions are guesses, not fact. [Willard F. Libby, "Radiocarbon Dating", University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1955 p:8, 10, 19-31]

(2) Examples of where C-14 dating has been shown to be erroneous:-

(i) A living water snail taken from an artesian spring in Nevada was given as assessed age of 27,000 years. Science, Vol. 224, April 6, 1984 p:58-61

(ii) Shell from living clams was 'dated' thousands of years old. Science, Vol. 141, August 16, 1963 p:634

(iii) Dried seal carcasses less than 30 years old were 'dated' as 4,600 years old. Antarctic Journal of the United States, Vol. 6, October, 1971 p:210+

(iv) A freshly killed seal was assessed at 1,300 old. Antarctic Journal of the United States, Vol. 6, October, 1971 p:210+

(v) A 15,000 year difference appeared in the assessment of samples from a single sample block of peat. [New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, Vol. 21, No. 4, 1978 p:463-466]

(3) Thirty eight laboratories worldwide carbon-dated samples of wood, peat and carbonate, and produced differing dates for similar objects of the same age. The overall finding of the comparative test was that radiocarbon dating was 'two to three times less accurate than implied by their error terms'. Ages of objects assessed by this method cannot therefore be viewed as being credible. [Nature, September 28, 1989 p:267; New Scientist, September 30, 1989 p:10]

(4) "In the light of what is known about the radiocarbon method and the way it is used, it is truly astonishing that many authors will cite agreeable determinations as 'proof' for their beliefs ... 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 blessed thing is nothing but 13th century alchemy, and it all depends upon which funny paper you read"." [Written by Robert E. Lee in his article "Radiocarbon: Ages in Error" in Anthropological Journal Of Canada, Vol. 19, No. 3, 1981 p:9]

(5) "Materials which give radiocarbon dates of tens of thousands of radiocarbon years could have true ages of many fewer calendar years." [Personal correspondence from Gerald E. Aardsma to Paul Taylor. Quoted in Paul S. Taylor, "The Illustrated Origins Answer Book" (4th. ed.) Eden Publications: Mesa (Arizona), 1992 p:59]

(6) In Dr Sheridan Bowman's book for the British Museum, "Radiocarbon Dating", it states: "Radiocarbon is not quite as straightforward as it may seem. The technique does not in fact provide true ages, and radiocarbon results must be adjusted (calibrated) to bring them into line with calendar ages". [Diggings, August, 1990 p:8]

(7) "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." [Professor Brew, quoted by T. Save-Soderbergh (Egyptologist) & Ingrid Olsson (Physicist) in "C-14 Dating and Egyptian Chronology" in Proceedings of the Twelfth Nobel Symposium, John Wiley & Sons: New York, 1970 p:35; (see also Diggings, August, 1990 p:8)]




L.D. Smart (1997), "Unmasking Evolution - The Resource Book", PO Box 175, Kippax ACT 2615