The wide use of radiocarbon dates in determining the approximate age of specimens is evidence of the acceptance that scientists and archeologists have of both the laboratory process as well as the assumptions needed in producing the numbers generated. The reason why Radiocarbon dates are viewed so positively is that the answers seem to be consistent with what is expected to occur by those who think in terms of time as being longer than what the Bible presents as the history of our world.
Archeologists and scientists are dependent on the use of dating methods to ascertain the approximate age of an artifact or ruin he or she finds. The archeologist or scientist assumes that the date they receive is generally correct. However, dating mechanisms have their own set of assumptions that need to be realized.
Is the prevalent view held by the majority of scientists the only plausible way of approaching the problems of time? If the Creation/Flood scenario as indicated by the Bible is correct, then any age significantly over 6000 years would have to be incorrect. Yet Carbon dates, for example, can theoretically go back to possibly 50,000 - 70,000 years or more using the development of accelerator mass spectrometry. That is an order of magnitude of difference! How can these dates be made to agree with each other?
This page is dedicated to looking at the assumptions that are made in radiocarbon age determinations. A distinctly Creation/Flood perspective will be taken and the assumptions needed for what ever position taken will be discussed; However, the alternative assumptions held by long age scientists will also be included.
But first, I will discuss the basics of Carbon 14 dating.
Carbon 14 is an isotope of Carbon. Simply put, we could substitute the word isotope with variety. It would mean the same thing; Carbon 14 is a variety of Carbon. So, Carbon 14 must be a specific variety of Carbon that has specific characteristics.
What is Carbon? Carbon is an atom having 6 protons and 6 electrons, however different isotopes of carbon have different numbers of neutrons. Notice in the first diagram below that eight different isotopes of Carbon is illustrated. Three of the Carbon isotopes (C12, C13, and C14) are found in nature. The rest of the Carbon isotopes (C9, C10, C11, C15, and C16) are only produced in the laboratory.
To the left side of each C (C is the symbol for Carbon) are two numbers, the bottom number indicates the Atomic Number or the number of protons in the nucleus. Since all the atoms are Carbon, they should all have an Atomic Number of 6. The top number is the Mass Number for each Isotope. The Mass Number for any Isotope is the addition of all the protons and neutrons in the nucleus. Looking at the first isotope in the chart, Carbon 9 has 9 (protons + neutrons). Remember that the Atomic Number (the bottom number) indicates the number of protons. So simple arithmetic should tell us the number of neutrons. Carbon 9 has 3 neutrons. Carbon 10 would have 4 neutrons and Carbon 11 would have 5 neutrons, and so on.
What should catch your attention is the nature of the various Carbon Isotopes. Only two of the Carbon Isotopes are stable (C12 and C13). They constitute essentially 100% of the Carbon in our world, although C12 is obviously much more common (99%). All the other Carbon Isotopes are unstable and they degrade into something else. Notice that the farther away the Mass Number gets from 12-13, the faster they break down (The blue numbers indicate half-lives, the time it takes for one half of the atoms in a sample to break down.). So the farther the Carbon is from the norm, the more unstable it is.
C9, C10, and C11 have too few neutrons so when they breakdown, they release a positron which effectively turns a proton into a neutron. The opposite occurs with C14, C15, and C16. They have too many neutrons so they breakdown, releasing a beta particle which effectively converts a neutron into a proton. Thus the breakdown of radioactive atoms is a self-corrective process; those Isotopes which have too many neutrons loose a neutron in the beta decay, and those Isotopes which have too few neutrons gain a neutron in the positron decay.
Looking specifically at Carbon 14, (The reaction box to the right) we see that it is a Beta emitter with a half life of 5730 years. When Carbon 14 emits a beta particle, the Carbon 14 atom becomes a Nitrogen 14 Atom. Looking at the Mass Number and Atomic Number of the atoms we see that the atom has lost a neutron and gained a proton. Also you will see that the Mass and Atomic Numbers in the equation are equal on both sides of the equation.
Since half-life has been introduced, lets explore it a little.
Radioactive atoms are unstable so they decay into a something else. The rate that atoms decay or break down is not constant. The rate changes and it is dependent on how many radioactive atoms are in a sample.
If all radioactive atoms have the same chance of breaking down we might expect that the more atoms present, the more atoms would be breaking down at any one time. This is exactly what happens.
However something interesting happens. It doesn't matter how much radioactive material we start with, if we stick with the same radioisotope, such as Carbon 14, it will always take the same amount of time for one half of the radioactive material to turn into something else. It's a first ordered reaction which means that it doesn't matter how much material we start with, we always will have the same half-live. So we will have half of what we started with when that half-life is reached.
The Half-life is defined as the amount of time required for one-half of a sample to decay to a new substance. For Carbon 14 it is always 5730 years. For Carbon 15 it is always 2.25 seconds. For Uranium 238 it is always 4,500,000,000 years. Each different isotope has a different half-life but the half-life of each specific isotope stays constant and as far as we can tell, it never changes.
The Chart (left or above) shows what happens to one gram of Carbon over a greater amount of time than just one half-life. The effect is compounded. After one half-life there is 1/2 present, but after two half-lives 1/2 of 1/2 (or 1/4) is present, and after three half-lives 1/2 of 1/2 of 1/2 (or 1/8) is present, and so on. So as we count the half-lives in time we see the amount C14 decline from the original gram of material to 1/2 gram, to 1/4 gram, to 1/8 gram, to 1/16 gram, etc. The loss of C14 is high initially but than slows down thus allowing the half-life rule to work throughout the whole time period. Every 5730 years, half of the C14 is lost.
For your information, some Carbon 14 labs will now endeavor to date things as far back as far as 75,000 years ago. Of course an extra fee is required to try to measure such small levels of Carbon 14 radiation.
A lot of interesting things happen in the upper atmosphere of our world. Much of the high energy photons of the electromagnetic spectrum is filtered out by the time light gets to the surface of the earth: However, in the extreme upper atmosphere there are photons striking the atmosphere of such high energy that they initiate reactions of molecules or even change the nature of atoms themselves.
Ultraviolet light is responsible for initiating chemical reactions through a process called photodissociation. Molecules are torn apart by the energy of the ultraviolet photon. Once the atoms are separated they can then come back together again; possibly, the atoms can form different combinations, thus allowing new molecules to be produced. Ozone is produced in this way, it is produced by the photodissociation of Oxygen. Oxygen is produced from the photodissociation of water. Some have judged that as much as 25% of the Oxygen in our world could come from reactions occurring in the upper atmosphere.
If this large production of Oxygen in the upper atmosphere is a reality, then the reducing atmosphere postulated by evolutionists to allow for the generation of biological molecules, would be in jeopardy. It is interesting to note that the rocks in the precambrian contain metal oxides. The rocks are not found in a reduced state.
Cosmic rays, which contain even higher levels of energy than ultraviolet light, cause some of the atoms in the upper atmosphere to fly apart into pieces. Neutrons that come from these fragmented molecules run into other molecules. When a neutron collides into a Nitrogen 14 atom, the Nitrogen 14 turns into Carbon 14 (A proton is also produced in the reaction as can be seen in the graphic to the left.). So in this reaction, a neutron is captured by the Nitrogen Atom and a proton is released. Thus in the Nitrogen Atom, a proton is effectively converted into a neutron, which allows a Carbon to be produced.
Two other reactions (Oxygen 17 reacting with neutrons, and He 4 reacting with Carbon 13) both produce Carbon 14, but with much smaller yields. It has been estimated that about 21 pounds of Carbon 14 is produced every year in the upper atmosphere.
So in addition to Carbon 12 and Carbon 13, which are both naturally occurring, Carbon 14 is also naturally occurring in our world. However, unlike both Carbon 12 and 13, Carbon 14 is unstable. The only reason why Carbon 14 continues to be found on Earth is because of its continued production in the upper atmosphere.
If Carbon 14 is being produced in the upper atmosphere by cosmic ray bombardment at a constant rate, then carbon 14 must be accumulating in the world. Well, that would be the case if Carbon 14 wasn't unstable and degrading just as fast. It turns out that the production and degradation of Carbon 14 is going on at the same rate. The two reactions are at equilibium or nearly at equilibrium.
This Carbon 14/Nitrogen 14 equilibrium does not only exist in the upper atmosphere where Carbon 14 is produced. Winds cause the Carbon 14 to be carried throughout the world. In addition most of the Carbon 14 reacts with Oxygen to produce atmospheric CO2. Because CO2 gets incorporated into trees and plants, the plants also possess the same levels of Carbon 14 as in the atmosphere. The food that we eat is also contaminated with the same level of Carbon 14. So essentially the whole Biosphere contains Carbon 14 at the same equilibrium concentration. This equilibrium is true for most of the Biosphere except for marine environments. More will be said on this later.
Any animal or plant will contain the Biosphere level of Carbon 14. We for example ingest food containing Carbon 14 and we also defecate wastes containing Carbon 14. In addition Carbon 14 is also reconverting back into Nitrogen 14 in our bodies. Only when one dies is this process disrupted. At death there is no further ingestion of Carbon 14, so the Carbon 14 concentration will slowly decrease as individual Carbon 14 atoms degrade back into Nitrogen 14 atoms.
If it can be assumed that the concentration of Carbon 14 has always been at equilibrium at the same level as it is today, or we are able to produce radiocarbon calibration curves which would determine fluctuations in the C14 Concentration through time; then, we can use this assumption to determine how long ago a specimen was separated from the dynamic Biosphere.
(We will simplify the problem by not using any of the calibration curves. So for the sake of our discussion, we will assume that C14 concentration in the atmosphere has always been the same through time.)
Any animal or plant, continually exchanges organic molecules (Carbon containing molecules) with the environment. So all living organisms will contain the Biosphere level of Carbon 14. However, once an organism dies, and is somehow buried, the exchange of Carbon stops. As a consequence, the level of Carbon 14 in the buried carcass decreases according to the rate at which Carbon 14 degrades into Nitrogen 14 within the body.
When Scientists uncover fossils and other artifacts that contain Carbon, they can determine how long that sample was buried by determining the amount of Carbon 14 that has been lost since it was buried in the ground. They know the level of Carbon 14 in the Biosphere (assuming it hasn't changed), and they can measure the level of Carbon 14 in the specimen so what they do is determine the difference. That difference represents the loss in Carbon 14 that the specimen experienced while it was in the ground. Now all the scientist has to do is determine how many half-lives the loss represents. The number of half-lives will then give a number showing how long the sample was isolated from the biosphere. Below is a graph showing the loss that four different specimens would experience before being recovered for measurement.
Looking at the chart above, Sample D has 1/2 the radioactive Carbon 14 that was expected if that sample was part of the Biosphere. 1/2 the normal level of Carbon 14 indicates that Sample D has been buried for one half-life or 5730 years.
Sample C has 1/4 the radioactive Carbon 14 which indicates that it has been buried for two half-lives or 11460 years. Sample B has 1/8 the radioactive Carbon 14 indicating that it was buried for three half-lives or 17190 years. Finally, Sample A has 1/128 the radioactive Carbon 14 indicating that it was buried for seven half-lives or 40110 years.
In real life there are fluctuations in the Biosphere Carbon 14 levels through time that must be accounted for in the calculation. Also all Carbon 14 dates must be in reference to the total amount of Carbon (Carbon 12) found in the sample. The normal ratio of Carbon 14 to Carbon 12 as found in our present Biosphere is: 1 to 848,000,000,000. The radiation is actually quite small. There are only 13.6 disintegrations per gram of Carbon per min. Any loss of Carbon 14 would result in much smaller ratios and disintegrations of Carbon 14 atoms. One gram of carbon that originally averaged 13.6 disintegrations per minute, would average only 0.00166 disintegrations per minute after 13 half-lives (75,000 years). That is the same as 0.0996 disintegrations per hour or 2.39 disintegrations per day!
It is amazing how such small levels of radiation can be detected. But with the nuclear accelerator mass spectrometry technique which directly counts C14 atoms, it is still possible to detect samples that have undergone as many as 13 half-lives (75,000 years) of Carbon 14 degradation.
In any kind of a historical science, assumptions have to be made in the assessing of historical dates. Because it is assumed that man, for example, has ascended over a long period of time, researchers would automatically want to lengthen the amount of time indicated by the artifacts uncovered in archeological digs. They are looking for answers that would fit their present model. I am not trying to say that they are falsifying their data. On the contrary they wouldn't need to falsify anything. Historical data can be so inconclusive that a host of positions is possible from almost any set of data that is collected.
Man is thought to have progressed through a long period of prehistory (cave man's experience) before some sort of civilization is started. Only after civilization begins can we begin to gather some sort of data from the discovery of the artifacts that are found (Pieces of pottery, etc.). The artifacts according to today's traditional thinking should be slowly progressing in complexity as it is thought that man is progressing in his abilities and ideas that he uses.
If man is thought to have progressed over long periods of time, even within the later civilization phase of his existence, than surely as the artifacts are recovered from archaeological sites, the theories and ideas developed will reflect the scientist's own original thinking. This is how science normally works. They normally work within a fairly well defined set of theories that have become a paradigm. A paradigm is a theory that is so well accepted that no one seriously questions it. This way of doing science is most prominent when the evidence is fragmentary at best.
Assumptions throughout the scientific process are extremely important because they must hold the facts together. Only when specific data comes that either substantiates or falsifies the previously held assumption, can it be known if the thinking was originally correct. Unfortunately, with fragmentary data, the artifact that might falsify a theory is extremely hard in coming or it could easily be overlooked. So the problem must be solved by a host of assumptions that will probably never be tested.
There is also the danger that good data could be thrown out because it doesn't fit with established thinking. For instance, I am told that there are sometimes found in the same level both "early" forms and "modern" forms of man. Because of what is considered to be an impossibility, the modern forms are assumed to have been examples of intrusions. The modern form is considered to have been buried much later in spite of the fact that the specimens are found in the same level.
The areas of science, which are the most successful, which the public notices, are the amazing discoveries in medicine, biology, space exploration, and the like. These are the areas that deal with the here and now. If an experiment is conducted and the information needed to answer the problem is not forthcoming, then another experiment can be designed to answer the problem. The process can continue until some answer to the problem is understood. The problem is only limited by money, ingenuity, and the technical difficulties that have to be surmounted.
In addition to the above limitations of science, historical science is limited by the fragmentary nature of the artifacts it is able to find. In effect, the accuracy of ideas is limited by the assumptions chosen by the researchers.
Carbon 14 dating is not based on irrefutable data alone. It has as its basis of understanding, various assumptions which concern the conditions of the Earth tens of thousands of years ago. These assumptions were originated within an atmosphere of long age preexisting ideas. Scientists almost never look for indicators in nature that might speak of a very young age for the world's history. Why would they? Most scientists do not believe that the short chronology of the Bible has any validity at all and most would consider it counterproductive to pursue such a course of investigation. If in fact such an answer were found, it would be quickly dismissed. It would be assumed that there was something wrong with the idea or the data, and a new scenario would be sought.
On this web page I want to discuss a possible scenario that would allow Carbon 14 dates to indicate a short age chronology. Such a discussion might never be allowed in normal scientific circles because of the assumptions they choose to believe as being true. There is such a strong consensus of opinion on Carbon 14 dating and other similar topics that deal with the history of the Earth that alternative viewpoints are probably viewed as being counterproductive.
Before we start, lets look at the specific Carbon 14 dating assumptions.
Some have suggested that the rate of decay of C-14 has changed in the past, however the evidence is very strong that as far as we know, the half-live has never changed. So the first assumption is fairly strong.
The third assumption is also reasonable. If an animal or plant is living on the surface of the Earth, it will be taking in food or CO2, thus there should be a full exchange of carbon with the environment.
The fifth assumption is one that scientists are doing their best to fulfill. We should also be able to make this assumption. However, machine background has become a very important factor to consider. It will be explored later on this web page.
The fourth assumption will be discussed at the very end of this page since it becomes a very real possibility when the second assumption is questioned.
The second assumption; however, is a different situation. It is entirely possible that the C-14/C-12 ratio in the Biosphere (the equilibrium) has not always remained constant. Most of the remainder of this web page is dedicated to exploring the possibility that the ratio could have been much less in the past.
What most hold to be true is a uniformitarian view, which specifies long ages with relatively little change. It is true that many now think that the evidence screams for catastrophe after catastrophe in the past, but most believe that the factors which would effect Carbon 14 dating has not been radically affected.
The chart on the left shows two scenarios depicting how the C14 equilibrium could have changed in the past. Scenario A represents the long age position which assumes that little or no change to the C14 equilibrium has occurred over time. The line does have a trend showing a slightly higher Carbon 14 concentration in the past. The Bristlecone Pine dendrachronology by Ferguson is what suggests the trend shown in scenario A.
Scenario B represents what would have to have occurred to the C14 equilibrium to allow specimens only four or five thousand years old to give Carbon dates of 40,000 to 60,000 years.
There is presently no way to determine what the C14 level was before the flood. At the time of the flood we have the evidence recorded in the fossils that were buried in the flood. Before the flood, all we have is conjecture. The dotted line is an anemic endeavor to illustrate what could have happened before the flood.
There are two basic ways that could have caused such a drastic change in the C14 equilibrium. Both involve the global flood and they describe how the world might have been different before the flood.
One; The production of Carbon 14 in the upper atmosphere could have been much lower before the flood than today. We will look at the various possibilities that could have contributed to a lowered production of C14 a little later.
Two; There could have been a much larger reserve of normally nonradioactive Carbon in the Biosphere. Remember, Carbon 14 measurements are always made in reference to the presence of Carbon 12. It is the ratio of Carbon 14 to Carbon 12 that we want to find for dating purposes. So we can either decrease the original ratio of Carbon 14 to Carbon 12 by decreasing the production of Carbon 14 (which was the first option) or by increasing the Carbon 12 concentration. Both actions would lower the original equilibrium ratio of Carbon 14 / Carbon 12.
A good analogy might be the making of Christmas cookies. If red cookies are made, red dye is added to the cookie dough to make the cookies red. If the first batch of cookies is too red, the next cookie batch can be made less red by either reducing the amount of dye used or by using more cookie dough.
We will first start by looking at the possibility that there was originally more dough. Having more dough in the red cookie analogy would mean having more nonradioactive Carbon in the world before the flood. Greater amounts of normal Carbon (Carbon 12 and Carbon 13) would effectively dilute the radioactive Carbon 14 thus giving much older ages for fossils when assuming an essentially nonchanging C14/N14 equilibrium in the biosphere over time. The fossils buried in the flood only 4300 years ago contained much less Carbon 14 than would be expected today (In the analogy, the redness in the cookie dough would be diluted by excess dough).
|World Carbon Inventory
|Units given in 1012metric tons
|Available coal and oil
|Total "fossil" organic
|Living organisms on land
|Dead organic material on land
|Living organisms in the ocean
|Dead organic material in the ocean
|Dissolved in the ocean surface layer
|Dissolved in deep ocean
|Total Contemporary Biosphere Carbon
|Total Fossil Carbon
|Ratio of fossil organic to present organic (NO Fossil Carbonates)
|(6820 + 39.03) / 39.03 =
|176 = 27.46
|Ratio of fossil carbon to present organic (All Fossil Carbonates)
|(20,000 + 39.03) / 39.03 =
|513 = 29.00
|Uncertainties in the inventory estimates make the exponents
of 2 uncertain by as much as possibly +- 2 (9.00 +- 2)
Data taken from Origin By Design by Harold Coffin
(look at bottom of web page for reference)
World Carbon Inventory
If we start comparing the total Carbon in today's Biosphere with fossil Carbon we see that the possibility does exists that there has been a loss of total Carbon in the world. The world before the flood could have been much more lush with a greater abundance of life than we have today.
Looking at the World Carbon Inventory chart at the right, we can see that the amount of carbon in the living world today is much less than what Carbon is buried in the geologic column. Today, there is around 39 trillion metric tons of Carbon in the Biosphere; However, there is around 6,820 trillion metric tons of Carbon that is buried in the form of coal, oil, and fossils.
If all the Carbon found in the geologic column was buried in the Universal Flood at the time of Noah, then all the Carbon (in the form of fossils, coal, and oil) was part of the living world at one time. Everything must have been living at the same time. Looking at the numbers, there was at least 176 times the living matter we have now, before the flood. So the world must have been much richer in animals, plants, trees, fish, algae, etc. before the global flood.
There is another possibility. Some of the buried carbonates could also have been part of the biosphere before the flood. Sedimentary carbonates are a huge block of Carbon to consider, as much as 20,000 trillion metric tons of sedimentary carbonates are found in the geologic column. If all the carbonates were part of the biosphere; than, there would have been 513 times the living matter we have now, before the flood.
Were sedimentary carbonates part of the Biosphere before the flood? I'm not educated enough to say. Some say that maybe one sixth of the carbonates were part of the Biosphere before the flood. In any case 176 and 513 times the carbon now present on this Earth can help account for seven to nine half-lives of Carbon 14.
Being more conservative with the sedimentary carbonate question, we can entertain the possibility of accounting for 7.5 to 8 half-lives of Carbon 14. Using the figure of 8 half-lives would necessitate the incorporation of around 1/6 of the sedimentary carbonates into the preflood Biosphere.
So if it is assumed that the global flood occurred and that all sediments were buried within a short period of a year, than it seems that most of the Carbon that was part of the Biosphere before the global flood was actually buried in the sediments in the form of coal, oil, fossils, and possibly some of the carbonates. What we have today is only a small fraction of the resources before the flood.
If 1/6 of the carbonates are accounted as being part of the Biosphere before the flood, then the simple change in the amount of Carbon during the global flood can account for the dates. On the other hand if the carbonates are not included in the calculation than some other additional factor(s) are needed to allow the data to fit while having the samples being only 4300 or years old.
Now lets look at what additional factors may have contributed in explaining the C14 dates of fossils. These factors all affect the production of C 14 in the upper atmosphere. In the Christmas cookie analogy, these factors are the red dye.
Cosmic Ray Intensity
Looking at the moon rocks and meteorites, we can see that the present cosmic ray intensity hasn't changed for quite some time. There are twenty or so radioactive elements in moon rocks that are produced by the constant cosmic ray bombardment. The more intense the bombardment of cosmic rays, the higher the concentration of radioactive elements in the rocks.
There is an equilibrium that has been established. The cosmic ray bombardment produces the radioactive elements and the half-time degradation process (the breaking down of the radioactive atoms) reduces the number of radioactive elements. It is seen that the Cosmic Ray intensity has not changed over a long period of time since the number of radioactive elements is in equilibrium with the present rate of cosmic ray bombardment.
So we can not expect much help from an actual change in cosmic ray intensity. If the rate were to change by a factor of 2, the C14 time scale would shift only one half-live (5730 years).
Geomagnetic Field Intensity
The stronger the geomagnetic field is around the Earth, the less of the cosmic rays that actually reach the atmosphere. So if in the past, the geomagnetic field was much stronger, than we would expect a smaller production of C14 in the upper atmosphere.
It would take an increase of 11 times for the field to decrease the C14 production rate to 1/4 of today's levels. It would take an increase of 100 for the field to decrease the C14 production to zero.
We might expect that the geomagnetic field was stronger in the past since ionizing radiation is extremely harmful. However we don't even know the mechanism that produces the geomagnetic field in the first place, so it is difficult to predict what the change might have been in the past.
By many, the factor of 11 times seems to be a conservative figure. If the geomagnetic field was 11 times stronger than today then, as stated, the production of C14 would have been 1/4 of today's level. That would account for two half-lives of C14, or 11,460 years.
Water Content of the Outer Atmosphere
The waters both above and below the firmament have been a popular explanation among Creationist to explain the change in C14 levels in the past. Water acts to shield N14 of the neutrons produced by the cosmic rays.
We know that the world was very different before the flood. There was no rain and the Earth was watered by a mist. We also know that there were rivers and streams as well. Since there was no rain, much of the water must have transversed under the ground in a system that could have watered the roots of plants, maybe even helped to regulate the temperature. Who knows what the systems that God made were like?
There is a problem; however, If we assume that there was sufficient water to lower the C14 production to the point that the Carbon 14 dates would agree with the flood dates, then we have too much water to deal with. The amount of water needed to account for all the change we need would be an equivalent of two miles or so of solid water. How would it stay up there! Also remember Adam and his family could see the stars. If that much water was above him, he would not have been able to see any of the starts. Even the sun would have been hard to see. We know that the original world as described in the Bible was very different than today; but, is having so much water necessary or even possible in the original world before the flood?
Possibly, there could have been a small contributing factor to reduce C14 by having additional water in the upper atmosphere. But, it would not be a major contributer at all.
The global flood acting on the four factors discussed above (World Carbon Inventory, Cosmic Ray Intensity, Geomagnetic Field Intensity, and Water) most likely have changed the C14 concentration very rapidly following the flood. The graph on the left is designed to correlate the natural loss of C14 contained in a sample with possible times when the sample could have been buried.
The red curved line indicates the loss of Carbon 14 over time once the specimen is buried. One can trace the red line from either the blue line or the dotted blue line to determine how the Carbon 14 loss would proceed.
The two places where the red curved line crosses the solid or dotted blue line represent the two possible interpretations showing when the sample could have been buried.
A. If long age uniformitarian views are assumed then the blue dotted line refers to the Carbon 14 concentration over time. The only way to account for a sample that has 1/512 the present C14 level, is to say that the sample actually has been buried for 9 half-lives (51,570 years). Point A indicates the time that the sample was buried 51,570 years ago. The red line indicates the rate of Carbon 14 loss over time for the full 9 half-lives.
B. If the global flood is assumed with all its affects, then the solid blue line, which dramatically changes over time, indicates the Carbon 14 concentration of the Biosphere over time. We would be able to say that the sample isn't old but is actually quite young. This view rests on the possibility that the starting concentration of the sample was much less than today's expected concentration. In the graph we see that at the time of the flood, around 4300 years ago, the concentration of C14 in the atmosphere could have been at the same level that would be expected if the sample was actually buried 51570 years ago. Point B indicates the time that the sample was buried, around 4300 years ago. The red line indicates the rate of Carbon 14 loss over time for less than one half-live.
Both interpretations, either starting from point A or from point B, give the same amount of Carbon 14 in a sample taken from the ground today. Just measuring the concentration of C-14 in the sample does not help us. We are unable to determine which of the two possibilities is the correct one.
As is seen in this example, assumptions are extremely important in trying to interpret what has happened in the past. Unfortunately it is not easy to determine what assumptions are correct. When dealing with scientific problems, all we can hope to do is to choose the assumptions that is most probable.
This breaks down to simple beliefs. Most will make assumptions in their work that is in accordance to their convictions, be they religious, speculative, or based on scientific theory. Most scientists choose to assume the views held by the majority of their colleagues in the scientific community. I choose instead to assume that the Bible is a good tool for determining what has happened in the past. I do this because of my relationship with Jesus Christ. Why did I ever become a creationist? outlines how I became convicted that the Bible gives a correct view of history and the future. In addition, I see that the physical data seen in the natural world can agree with the Biblical story if certain assumptions are taken. Science and The Bible can agree with each other.
If the C-14 concentration in our Biosphere dramatically increased after the flood, as portrayed in the above graph by the solid blue line, then we should see some direct indication of it in the world around us. On the other hand, it must be realized that anomalous younger or older dates are often removed from publication because the investigators hold in very high regard the long age uniformitarian assumptions used by the majority of scientist in the world today.
Ariel Roth, in his book Origins, Linking Science and Scripture shows an example where the anomalous younger dates were removed from later publications. Originally, a series of C-14 dates were made in progressively deeper organic soil layers in New ZealandŐs South Island sediments. The sequence was 9,900, 12,000, 27,200, 17,300, and 15,650 carbon-14 years. A later publication removed the obviously anomalous younger 17,300 and 15,650 measurements. Both papers are listed in the bottom of this web page.
This kind of "purification" of the data is done openly and with honest motives because of their faith in the vast knowledge base of scientific study that supports the idea of long age uniformitarianism and Evolutionary thought.
So it is possible that much of the clues that could have indicated a rapid shift in Biosphere C-14 are not found in the published data. But we do have some evidence that can support the assumptions needed for a short age chronology.
Let's explore three different lines of reasoning that uses data to support the alternative view of a global flood. Some of the information represents research that is currently being conducted. They are as following:
1. Anomalous fossil C-14 Dates
Some time back, Robert Brown, found some interesting examples of anomalous C-14 dates. They are illustrated in the graphic below.
If an animal is living during a time when Carbon-14 levels are rising rapidly, we might expect different portions of the animals body to have different levels of Carbon-14. This would make sense since an animal is always incorporating new carbon in the growing process. Areas of the body which grow faster would exhibit the higher levels of Carbon-14 of the later life of the animal. Areas of the body which grow more slowly or have stopped growing should exhibit the lower levels of Carbon-14 when the animal was younger. Hair grows fairly fast, so we might expect the Carbon-14 levels to be especially high.
The examples to the left show the kinds of differences we might expect. At least these examples suggest the possibility of a fairly unstable concentration of Carbon-14 in the Biosphere.
Unfortunately Carbon-14 dates are not as simple as they may seem to be. Often so called odd dates are determined from specimens that the actual age is known. One reason for this is the "reservoir effect". The reservoir effect is a situation where the local environment where a specimen is living is less than the normal level of Carbon-14 for the Biosphere at large.
Ariel Roth, comments in his book Origins, Linking Science and Scripture that most living marine specimens from the world's oceans date at least several hundred years old. Also, some aquatic mosses now living in Iceland date around 6,000 to 8,000 years old. In Nevada, living snails give apparent ages of 27,000 years old.
(These older dates for currently living organisms bring to mind an interesting difference between the Creation/flood paradigm and the long age/evolution paradigm. If the global flood occurred four or so thousand years ago, we might not expect all of the Biosphere to be at equilibrium. C-14 concentrations in the marine environment may not equal the C-14 concentrations in the rest of the Biosphere because the equilibrium may not be reached yet. The example in Iceland is because of hot vents which force a local lowering of the C-14 concentration.)
There are other kinds of problems with Carbon-14 dates such as the exchange of C-14 atoms with other carbon atoms. Marine shells in Hawaii show younger dates if preserved in volcanic ash instead of limestone. The original references for this data is also at the end of this web page.
So we would be hard pressed to say that the differences in the dates that we see in these fossils are fully due to a rapidly increasing C-14 concentration. However, who is to say that the increasing C-14 in the biosphere wasn't a factor? In addition, it is possible that the C-14 concentrations are not fully at equilibrium. Obviously we need better evidence. More work needs to be done on this problem.
2. C-14 Age Profile of Ancient Sediment and Peat Accumulations.
For the most part, the profile or gradient of C-14 concentrations in ancient sediment and peat accumulations agree with a short-age chronology position. Looking at the graph to the right we see a straight line with three possible starting points. Two of the possibilities force the straight line to curve in the initial portion of the line.
For constant real-time accumulation of ancient sediments; The B-type profile is what we would expect to find if the C-14 concentration in the Biosphere was constant during the time the sediments were formed. This linear gradient is possible only if no compaction takes place or if the compaction is taken into account.
The A-type profile is what would be expected if the C-14 concentration in the early Biosphere was higher than expected.
The C-type profile is what would be expected if the C-14 concentration was initially much lower than what is seen in today's Biosphere. The C-type profile is of course what would be expected with the global flood.
All three profile types appear in ancient sediments and peat accumulations; However, close to two thirds of all profile data in the literature are of the C-type. Dr. Robert Brown who originally looked at the data, suggests that: "we may interpret this as indicating that the C-14 concentration was lower during initial sedimentation and peat growth in ancient time".
Dr. Brown also saw that some of the sediment exhibited a more rapid early stage than was found in the later stages. He saw that this more rapid early sediment development could easily account for the various A-type and B-type profiles found in the literature.
When the early development is compensated for, the graph usually will straighten out or even reverse into a C-type profile.
Dr. Brown concludes that: "This early rapid development is what might be expected during a period of cool pluviatile climate, particularly when vegetation is being reestablished" (after the flood).
I believe that the profiles produced by ancient sediments and peat accumulation fit nicely within the constraints of a Creation/global flood paradigm. This particular line of evidence is more complicated than I am addressing it. For further study, look at Dr. R. H. Brown's work in the references below.
Rampart Cave in the grand wash cliffs of the lower end of the Grand Canyon is an extreme example of a C-type profile sediment. There is approximately 127 cm of animal dung, mainly from the American three-toed sloth.
As can be seen from the graph to the right, the C-14 concentration increasingly decreases in the deeper sediments. The remainder of the sediments beyond 100 cm in depth is at infinite age.
If we look at the steeper portion of the plot (around 100 cm into the sediments) and calculate how much dung there is using the whole floor of the cave, we find that there is less than 1/5000 mm (millimeter) of dung per radiocarbon year. That is less than one good sized bowl movement per year. Not reasonable since there is evidence of sloth family living in the cave through the years.
If we look at the higher sediments (0 to 60 cm), we find that there is about 1/9 mm of dung per radiocarbon year. Still not enough but it is better that the other portion of the graph.
On the other hand, if we take the whole system and compress the time into maybe a 1000 year time span, we would see approximately 1.4 mm of dung per radiocarbon year. This would be very reasonable and it would fit into the time allowed by the Genesis chronology.
The American three-toed sloth disappeared from the scene when man appeared in North America. Easily a case of overhunting. Sloths became extinct because they are slow and they provided a ready meal.
I believe the example of Rampart Cave fits very nicely within the constraints of the Creation/global flood paradigm. By the way the Geoscience Institute publishes Origins where much of R. H. Brown's work has been published. The Institute has their own free web site (no user fees). Geoscience Research Institute
3. Does Coal have a residual level of C-14 left from before the Flood?
Does coal have residual C-14? This question is of extreme interests to Creationists because it is felt by many that this question will help determine whether Creationism itself is viable as a scientific theory.
In the Creation model, all the layers of the geologic column were laid down 4350 years ago in the global flood. Also, taking into account the dilution effect of the antediluvian world, the Carbon ratio at the time of burial was maybe 1:300 of today's C-14/C-12 equilibrium of the Biosphere. So, The creationists predict that fossil carbon should have residual C-14 of maybe 1:500 of today's C-14/C-12 equilibrium of the Biosphere. A ratio of 1:500 would give fossil carbon an apparent age of approximately 50,000 years.
Lets see the Creation model visually. Looking at the graph to the left we see a red exponentially curved line which shows what would happen to the C-14 level in a fossil sample that was buried for 9 half-lives, approximately 51,570 years ago. The large A indicates the starting point, indicating when the fossil was buried, assuming no change in the C-14 level.
Instead of having the sample buried for 51,570 years, the Creation/Global Flood model dictates that the sample was buried a short while ago while only its apparent age is 51,570 years old. This apparent age is a product of the carbon ratio of the sample when it was buried. At burial, the sample contained maybe 1:300 of today's C-14/C-12 Biospheric equilibrium.
Looking at the graph to the left, if we follow the red exponentially curved line from the time of today, (starting on the right side of graph) we intersect the flood model C-14 level (1:300 of today's C-14/C-12 level) approximately 4350 years ago. This intersection, labeled by the large B, indicates the time of the burial when the global flood destroyed the whole Earth.
NOTE: This date can vary depending upon the Biblical Manuscript that is used. This web page uses the Massoretic text as its prime source. Click the following link to see a comparison of the different Ancient Biblical Manuscripts.
In the Evolution model, all the layers of the geologic column were laid down over approximately 600 million years. Most of the fossils and coal is thought to have been present several hundred million years ago.
Dr. Paul Giem in his book Scientific Theology (listed below in the references) has worked out the math for predicting what C-14 would be present after just one million years: "If we started with the entire earth's mass being C-14, within 1 million years all of the C-14 would have decayed to N-14 except for 1 atom, and that one atom would have a roughly 99% chance of decaying." So, the Evolutions must predict that fossil carbon should have absolutely no residual C-14 in organic fossils.
From the Creationary perspective, the factor that allows for the presence of residual C-14 in organic fossils, is the recent aspect of its burial in the Creation/Global Flood model. The C-14 has not had sufficient time to fully decay into Nitrogen-14 as is predicted by the Evolutionary model.
How Easy Is The Difference To Detect?
The major problem with most methods is that the background radiation is high, swamping the C-14 radiation. The several types of background radiation needs to be controlled in different ways. Neutrons coming in from all directions are absorbed by the presence of paraffin or boric acid. Radon gas is eliminated by time. Radon has a short half-life, so the sample is held until the Radon is eliminated. Another problem is the ever present bombardment of cosmic rays. Cosmic rays are either shielded against with steel or lead, or the use of an anticoincidence detector, which allows them to be electronically ignored, is used.
Using all of the shielding methods, the gas decay or liquid scintillation counting of C-14 can give dates as old as maybe 30,000 years old (radiocarbon years) or 1/40 of the present C-14/C-12 ratio.
Some have expanded the range to maybe 50,000 radiocarbon years or 1/500 of the present C-14/C-12 ratio, by using special shielding deep underground and long counting periods. Unfortunately, large samples containing 5 to 10 grams of Carbon are need. To do one of these expanded range counts, it often takes samples of bones as large as half a kilogram.
In the late 1970s, it was suggested by a few groups that C-14 determinations might be done using a Tandem Accelerator Mass Spectrometer to measure C-14 at much lower levels than is possible with normal methods. In this method C-14 atoms are transformed into negative carbon ions enabling individual C-14 atoms in a sample to be counted. This process, according to many, would eliminate most or all of the background problems associated with the normal methods of determinating C-14 concentrations.
Predictions as to how far back the Tandem Accelerator Mass Spectrometer might allow them to go in radiocarbon years ranged from 50,000 - 60,000 to over 100,000 radiocarbon years. So now for the first time the presence of a residual C-14 in fossilized carbon, that the Creation model predicts, can be tested.
In testing the Tandem Accelerator Mass Spectrometer, a major problem appeared. Normally as in any test with decay counting, background counts must be made. Usually fossil carbon is used for the background count since it is assumed that the fossil carbon is anywhere between 60 and 600 million years old and therefore cannot possibly have any C-14 left.
R.H. Brown reported in Origins 1988(15), p. 39-43 that "infinite age" samples of fossil carbon are being reported in the literature as having C-14 ages in the 40,000-year range. The laboratories doing this research are from Europe, Canada, and the USA (Brown et al. 1983; Jull et al. 1986; Beukens, Gurfinkel, and Lee 1986; Grootes et al. 1986; and Bonani et al. 1986).
"Contamination from our present Biosphere" was the most widely used interpretation to explain the presence of these "unexpected results".
In addition Radiocarbon (Vol. 29, No. 3, 1987) contains two different reports that attempted to explore the limits of this "contamination". The first group, from Simon Frazer University in British Columbia (Vogel, Nelson and Southon 1987) measured 43 samples of anthracite (coal) from Pennsylvania, USA, that had been given the best known pretreatment to remove contamination by modern carbon. The sizes of the samples ranged from 0.5 to 20 milligrams. They all yielded around 43,000-year C-14 dates, regardless of the sample size.
They associated this 43,000-year age limit to machine background and contamination during sample preparation.
The second group, from the University of Toronto in Ontario (Gurfinkel 1987) stated that "One of the major problems encountered in this study was the apparent presence of C-14 contamination in samples that were assumed dead . . . it could not be assumed that even the oldest samples were necessarily C-14 free (p. 342).
Gurfinkel, went through a meticulous process using graphite, calcite, limestone and anthracite samples to come up with her conclusion. All she could say is that "infinite age" samples should be expected to have "contamination" giving dates as recent as 43,000 years, which is similar to what the Simon Frazer University group obtained.
As more and more groups looked at this problem, it has become common knowledge that there is a wall at about 50,000 C-14 years that is not passed in practice. Such a wall of "contamination" is exactly what the Creation/Global flood model predicts, and the 50,000 C-14 year figure is well within the limits that I have explored earlier in this web page.
The presence of this "contamination", other than it being some anomaly, such as a machine background problem or even sample contamination during sample preparation; It is definitely not what the evolution model predicts at all. These samples should be void of any C-14 atoms period. After all, the samples should be hundreds of million years old!
What is the Source of This "Contamination"?
If we assume that the "contamination" is somehow a product of the counting process, we could than narrow the possibilities down to two :
|Comparison of C-14 Age Samples
without a sample
|60,000 - 73,000
| >90,000 or no counts
in a 30 minute run
|63,500 +- 2,000
|56,000 +- 1,500
prepared slightly less carefully
|58,590 - 65,840
|54,000 - 64,000
| C-12 from the Faraday
cup of the Accelerator
"Infinite" Age Sample
Anthracite, bone, calcite,
Graphite, limestone, shell, wood
|40,000 - 52,000
| "Infinite" Age Sample
Anthracite coal, marble
|"up to 52,000"
| Data taken from R. H. Brown; Implications of C-14 Age
Vs Depth Profile CharacteristicsOrigins 15:19-29
(which uses the following paper as its source
|Data taken from Scientific Theology by Paul Giem
(which uses the following paper as its source
Schmidt et al. Nucl Instr and Meth 1987;B29:97-9)
Looking at the data to the left, we see the results of two research groups trying to grapple with the source of the contamination. Both groups measure high background counts. Yet, they consistently measure "infinite" age fossil carbon samples only in the 40,000 - 52,000 age range. In addition other sources of carbon do yield ages older than the "infinite" age fossil carbon samples.
Because of the fact that other types of Carbon as well as the background, give counts indicating the presence of much lower levels of C-14 (giving longer ages); We can safely make the point that neither the possibility of sample contamination nor machine background is adequate to explain the source of the C-14 in the "infinite" age fossil carbon samples.
Since the counting process does not seem to be the source of the "contamination", lets assume that the "contamination" is somehow a characteristic of the sample itself. There are three possibilities for the presence of the C-14 in the sample.
To consider a source contamination of all states of fossil carbon (coal, oil and natural gas) we would have to have a worldwide exchange involving at least 50% of the entire Biosphere with all types of fossil carbon to give the level of C-14 that we see in samples. In addition that worldwide exchange would have to be so pervasive that similar levels of C-14 would be present in all type of fossil carbon regardless of the state.
This level of contamination is hard enough to believe with oil and gas, but would be extremely incredible with coal!
In situ formation of C-14 has been ruled out by others in the field. "Subsurface production of radiocarbon is negligible (Zito et al. 1980) (Florkowski et al. 1988)
The only other possibility is the presence of residual activity. Fossil carbon would then have to be quite young. If this result holds up over time, it would mathematically eliminate the whole evolutionary time scale. There would be no possible way for the geologic column to be 60 - 600 million years old.
It must be remembered that this is still not a proof for short age. It is still possible for one of the other sources of contamination that I have eliminated, to still be the cause of having C-14 in "infinite" age fossil carbon. However, at the present time, I believe that the evidence strongly supports the Creation model.
You can be sure that this will be the subject of intense research by various Creation research groups in the future. If and when their research gets reported I will post the specific Journal so you can look up the paper yourself. I am sure that some of them will also be on the web. I will have links to those sites. Come back for any new developments.
(Starting with the Most Recent)
2. Carbon-14 Content of Fossil Carbon by Paul Giem (Origins No. 51:6-30, 2001)
Paul Giem has just published another article in the journal Origins. Paul has been looking at the possible reasons why low level C-14 is found in fossil carbon. As you have seen on this web site, the evolutionary expectation is that there should be no C-14 present in the fossil samples. You will find the material presented in this web site as a good background for his discussion of the alternate explanations as to why C-14 is present in fossil materials.
His article (I am quoting from portions of his abstract), Carbon-14, Content of Fossil Carbon reviews the theoretical basis for expecting the presence of carbon-14 in Pliocene to Cambrian carbon from certain creationist viewpoints, and for expecting its absence from a viewpoint proposing a long age of life on Earth.
He makes several conclusions in his article:
The Geoscience Research Institutewhich publishes Origins, has now made their journal available to the web. Paul's article, Carbon-14 Content of Fossil Carbon is on the web. You can view the paper for free (no user fees).
NOTE: The following chart is taken from the paper disscussed above. The chart in the paper does not show the age of the fossil material, only pmc ratios are given. To make the data easier to understand, I have added the ages of the fossils to the chart.
1. Carbon-14 Dating Models and Experimental Implications by Paul Giem (Origins Vol. 24:50-64, 1997 NOTE: Actual date of publication is March 2000.)
Paul's purpose in this article, is to suggest testable predictions that would help determine which of the models are the best choice.
His article (I am quoting from his abstract), Carbon-14 Dating Models and Experimental Implications discusses eight categories of models for converting carbon-14 dates into real time. Six of these models are based on a creation as described in Genesis and a short age of life on earth. Differences between the models are specified, especially those that are subject to experimental testing.
Such features include:
In this article, suggestions are offered for experimental projects that would resolve these uncertainties.
The Geoscience Research Institutewhich publishes Origins, has now made their journal available to the web. Paul's article, Carbon-14 Dating Models and Experimental Implications is on the web. You can view the paper for free (no user fees).
The Geoscience Research Institutewhich publishes Origins, has now made their entire journal available to the web. They have also included all the past volumes that were published. You can view these papers for free (no user fees).
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"Union Pacific Mammoth", RADIOCARBON, Vol. 8, 1966, pp. 172-173.
"Chekrovka mammoth", RADIOCARBON, Vol. 8, 1966, pp. 320-321.
"Ferguson Farm mastodon", RADIOCARBON, Vol. 10, 1968, p. 216.
Brown, R. H., "Implications of C-14 Age vs. Depth Profile Characteristics", Origins 15(1):19-29, 1988
Brown, R. H., "The Upper Limit of C-14", Origins 15(1):39-43, 1988
Brown, R. H., "Re: The Interpretation of C-14 Dates", Origins 7(1):9-11, 1980
Brown, R. H., "The Interpretation of C-14 Dates", Origins 6(1):30-44, 1979
Brown, R. H., "C-14 Age Profiles For Ancient Sediments and Peat Bogs", Origins 2(1):6-18, 1975
Brown, R. H., "Scientific Creationism and Radiocarbon Dating", PROCEEDINGS OF THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CREATIONISM, Vol. 1, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1990, pp. 43-55.
Beukens, Roelf P., Debbie M. Gurfinkel and Henry W. Lee. 1986 Progress at the Isotrace Radiocarbon Facility Radiocarbon 28(2A):229-236.
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Zito R., Donahue D.J., Davis S.N., Bentley H.W., Fritz P. 1980 Possible subsurface production of carbon-14. Geophys Res Lett 7(4):235-8
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Nelson, D. E., J. S. Vogel, J. R. Southon, and T. A. Brown. 1986. Accelerator radiocarbon dating at SFU. Radiocarbon 28(2A):215-222.
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Riggs AC. 1984. Major carbon-14 deficiency in modern snail shells from southern Nevada springs. Science 224:58-61.
Stuiver M, Braziunas TF. 1993. Modeling atmospheric C-14 influences and C-14 ages of marine samples to 10,000 B.C. Radiocarbon 35:137-189.
Keith ML, Anderson GM. 1963. Radiocarbon dating: fictitious results with mollusk shells. Science 141:634-637
Rubin M, Taylor DW. 1963. Radiocarbon activity of shells from living clams and snails. Science 141:637.
Dye T. 1994. Apparent ages of marine shells: implications for archaeological dating in Hawaii. Radiocarbon 36:51-57.
Origins: Linking Science and Scripture by Ariel A. Roth Pub 1998 by Review and Herald Publishing Association
Scientific Theology by Paul A. L. Giem, Pub. 1997 by La Sierra University Press Riverside, Ca 92515
Copyright © 1998 - 2021 by Michael Brown all rights reserved
Officially posted September 25, 1998
last revised February 24, 2021