Arguments against carbon dating

Answers to Creationist Attacks on Carbon Dating | NCSE

arguments against carbon dating

The field of radiocarbon dating has become a technical one far removed from the naive simplicity which characterized its initial introduction by Libby in the late. Carbon 14 is used for this example: which was put out by Dr. Hovind. . Believe it or not, a number of creationist attacks against radiometric decay rates are. Whenever the worldview of evolution is questioned, the topic of carbon dating always comes up. Here is how carbon dating works and the.

But that assumes that the amount of carbon in the atmosphere was constant — any variation would speed up or slow down the clock. The clock was initially calibrated by dating objects of known age such as Egyptian mummies and bread from Pompeii; work that won Willard Libby the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Various geologic, atmospheric and solar processes can influence atmospheric carbon levels. Since the s, scientists have started accounting for the variations by calibrating the clock against the known ages of tree rings.

As a rule, carbon dates are younger than calendar dates: The problem, says Bronk Ramsey, is that tree rings provide a direct record that only goes as far back as about 14, years. Marine records, such as corals, have been used to push farther back in time, but these are less robust because levels of carbon in the atmosphere and the ocean are not identical and tend shift with changes in ocean circulation.

Two distinct sediment layers have formed in the lake every summer and winter over tens of thousands of years. The researchers collected roughly metre core samples from the lake and painstakingly counted the layers to come up with a direct record stretching back 52, years.

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Take the extinction of Neanderthals, which occurred in western Europe less than 30, years ago. Other species of trees corroborate the work that Ferguson did with bristlecone pines. Before his work, the tree-ring sequence of the sequoias had been worked out back to BC. The archaeological ring sequence had been worked out back to 59 BC.

The limber pine sequence had been worked out back to 25 BC. The radiocarbon dates and tree-ring dates of these other trees agree with those Ferguson got from the bristlecone pine.

But even if he had had no other trees with which to work except the bristlecone pines, that evidence alone would have allowed him to determine the tree-ring chronology back to BC. See Renfrew for more details. So, creationists who complain about double rings in their attempts to disprove C dating are actually grasping at straws. If the Flood of Noah occurred around BC, as some creationists claim, then all the bristlecone pines would have to be less than five thousand years old.

This would mean that eighty-two hundred years worth of tree rings had to form in five thousand years, which would mean that one-third of all the bristlecone pine rings would have to be extra rings. Creationists are forced into accepting such outlandish conclusions as these in order to jam the facts of nature into the time frame upon which their "scientific" creation model is based.

Barnes has claimed that the earth's magnetic field is decaying exponentially with a half-life of fourteen hundred years.

arguments against carbon dating

Not only does he consider this proof that the earth can be no older than ten thousand years but he also points out that a greater magnetic strength in the past would reduce C dates. Now if the magnetic field several thousand years ago was indeed many times stronger than it is today, there would have been less cosmic radiation entering the atmosphere back then and less C would have been produced.

Therefore, any C dates taken from objects of that time period would be too high. How do you answer him?

arguments against carbon dating

Like Cook, Barnes looks at only part of the evidence. What he ignores is the great body of archaeological and geological data showing that the strength of the magnetic field has been fluctuating up and down for thousands of years and that it has reversed polarity many times in the geological past.

So, when Barnes extrapolates ten thousand years into the past, he concludes that the magnetic field was nineteen times stronger in BC than it is today, when, actually, it was only half as intense then as now. This means that radiocarbon ages of objects from that time period will be too young, just as we saw from the bristlecone pine evidence.

But how does one know that the magnetic field has fluctuated and reversed polarity? Aren't these just excuses scientists give in order to neutralize Barnes's claims? The evidence for fluctuations and reversals of the magnetic field is quite solid.

Bucha, a Czech geophysicist, has used archaeological artifacts made of baked clay to determine the strength of the earth's magnetic field when they were manufactured. He found that the earth's magnetic field was 1. See Bailey, Renfrew, and Encyclopedia Britannica for details.

In other words, it rose in intensity from 0.

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Even before the bristlecone pine calibration of C dating was worked out by Ferguson, Bucha predicted that this change in the magnetic field would make radiocarbon dates too young. This idea [that the fluctuating magnetic field affects influx of cosmic rays, which in turn affects C formation rates] has been taken up by the Czech geophysicist, V.

Bucha, who has been able to determine, using samples of baked clay from archeological sites, what the intensity of the earth's magnetic field was at the time in question. Even before the tree-ring calibration data were available to them, he and the archeologist, Evzen Neustupny, were able to suggest how much this would affect the radiocarbon dates.

There is a good correlation between the strength of the earth's magnetic field as determined by Bucha and the deviation of the atmospheric radiocarbon concentration from its normal value as indicated by the tree-ring radiocarbon work. As for the question of polarity reversals, plate tectonics can teach us much.

It is a fact that new oceanic crust continually forms at the mid-oceanic ridges and spreads away from those ridges in opposite directions.

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When lava at the ridges hardens, it keeps a trace of the magnetism of the earth's magnetic field. Therefore, every time the magnetic field reverses itself, bands of paleomagnetism of reversed polarity show up on the ocean floor alternated with bands of normal polarity.

These bands are thousands of kilometers long, they vary in width, they lie parallel, and the bands on either side of any given ridge form mirror images of each other. Thus it can be demonstrated that the magnetic field of the earth has reversed itself dozens of times throughout earth history. Barnes, writing inought to have known better than to quote the gropings and guesses of authors of the early sixties in an effort to debunk magnetic reversals.

Before plate tectonics and continental drift became established in the mid-sixties, the known evidence for magnetic reversals was rather scanty, and geophysicists often tried to invent ingenious mechanisms with which to account for this evidence rather than believe in magnetic reversals.

However, bysea floor spreading and magnetic reversals had been documented to the satisfaction of almost the entire scientific community. Yet, instead of seriously attempting to rebut them with up-to-date evidence, Barnes merely quoted the old guesses of authors who wrote before the facts were known. But, in spite of Barnes, paleomagnetism on the sea floor conclusively proves that the magnetic field of the earth oscillates in waves and even reverses itself on occasion.

Can one argue against Carbon Dating?

It has not been decaying exponentially as Barnes maintains. Does outside archaeological evidence confirm theC dating method? When we know the age of a sample through archaeology or historical sources, the C method as corrected by bristlecone pines agrees with the age within the known margin of error.

For instance, Egyptian artifacts can be dated both historically and by radiocarbon, and the results agree. At first, archaeologists used to complain that the C method must be wrong, because it conflicted with well-established archaeological dates; but, as Renfrew has detailed, the archaeological dates were often based on false assumptions.

One such assumption was that the megalith builders of western Europe learned the idea of megaliths from the Near-Eastern civilizations.

As a result, archaeologists believed that the Western megalith-building cultures had to be younger than the Near Eastern civilizations. Many archaeologists were skeptical when Ferguson's calibration with bristlecone pines was first published, because, according to his method, radiocarbon dates of the Western megaliths showed them to be much older than their Near-Eastern counterparts.

However, as Renfrew demonstrated, the similarities between these Eastern and Western cultures are so superficial that - page 29 - the megalith builders of western Europe invented the idea of megaliths independently of the Near East.

arguments against carbon dating

So, in the end, external evidence reconciles with and often confirms even controversial C dates. One of the most striking examples of different dating methods confirming each other is Stonehenge.

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C dates show that Stonehenge was gradually built over the period from BC to BC, long before the Druids, who claimed Stonehenge as their creation, came to England. Hawkins calculated with a computer what the heavens were like back in the second millennium BC, accounting for the precession of the equinoxes, and found that Stonehenge had many significant alignments with various extreme positions of the sun and moon for example, the hellstone marked the point where the sun rose on the first day of summer.

Stonehenge fits the heavens as they were almost four thousand years ago, not as they are today, thereby cross-verifying the C dates. What specifically does C dating show that creates problems for the creation model? C dates show that the last glaciation started to subside around twenty thousand years ago.

But the young-earth creationists at ICR and elsewhere insist that, if an ice age occurred, it must have come and gone far less than ten thousand years ago, sometime after Noah's flood.