More Problems with Carbon-14 and Old-Earth Assumptions

A triceratops thigh bone being sawed in order to prepare it for carbon dating. (click for credit)

As I have noted previously, it’s a wonderful time to be a young-earth creationist. All sorts of interesting data are being uncovered that challenge the supposedly “rock-solid” idea that the earth is billions of years old. One of the more recent developments is the carbon dating of bones and other carbon-containing materials that are supposedly millions of years old. Carbon dating uses the radioactive decay of carbon-14 into nitrogen-14, which currently has a half-life of 5,730 years. This means that in old-earth terminology, carbon-14 decays “quickly.” Thus, if a bone (or some other material that is made of carbon) is really millions of years old and hasn’t been contaminated, you wouldn’t expect to find any carbon-14 in it. The carbon-14 should have long since decayed to the point where it is no longer detectable, even with the best scientific instruments we have today.

However, creation scientists have carbon-dated fossils, diamonds, and coal that are all supposed to be millions of years old. Nevertheless, they all have detectable amounts of carbon-14 in them. For example, this study shows detectable levels of carbon-14 in a range of carbon-containing materials that are supposedly 1-500 million years old. Surprisingly, the study includes diamonds from several different locations! Another study showed that fossil ammonites and wood from a lower Cretaceous formation, which is supposed to be 112-120 million years old, also have detectable levels of carbon-14 in them. If these studies are accurate, they show that there is something wrong with the old-earth view: Either carbon dating is not the reliable tool it is thought to be for “recent” dating, or the fossils and materials that are supposed to be millions of years old are not really that old. Of course, both options could also be true.

While these studies use several different samples, they represent the work of only a few scientists. As a result, it is always possible that they are not as reliable as they seem. However, as time has gone on, more people have been looking for carbon-14 in carbon-containing materials that are supposed to be millions of years old, and the results are becoming more and more convincing. The most recent set of studies was presented at the joint meeting of the Asia Oceanic Geosciences Society and the American Geophysical Union (AOGS–AGU) that was held on August 13-17, 2012 in Singapore.

The 15-minute presentation, which you can watch here, was given by Dr. Thomas Seiler, a German physicist. In it, he reports on the carbon dating of dinosaur bones, other megafauna (such as mammoths), and plants. In all cases, these materials are supposed to be millions of years old, but they all have detectable levels of carbon-14 in them. This is in agreement with the two studies mentioned above, strengthening the overall case.

Of course, one possible explanation for these results is contamination. It is possible that “modern” carbon has infiltrated into all these samples, and that’s what is being detected. In his presentation, however, Dr. Seiler gives several lines of argument that tend to cast doubt on such an explanation. First, all the standard treatment used to make a fossil ready for carbon dating was done, which is supposed to get rid of contamination. Second, in some cases, they were examining actual proteins, such as collagen. If “modern” carbon contaminated these fossils, it would enter them as collagen! Third, there are some chemicals (like humic acid) that are common contaminants, and it was confirmed that the treatment done on the samples removed those contaminants. Fourth, the amount of carbon in the vicinity of the fossil decreased as you moved away from the fossil. This indicates carbon was “leaking out” of the fossil, not moving into it.

However, I thought the most striking argument he made against the contamination explanation was his last. He showed a graph that ordered the samples according to their amount of carbon-14, and he showed that they naturally separate into four distinct groups. The plants were all in the group that had the lowest level of carbon-14, while the dinosaurs and megafauna formed three other groups. This kind of structure would not be expected in data that come from contamination.

Do I think these data “seal the deal?” Certainly not. They strengthen the case for a discord between carbon-14 dating and old-earth thinking, but they are by no means conclusive. Even combined with the previous studies, for example, the specimens represent only a small fraction of what is available to measure. Also, until there is some explanation for the trends in the data, such as the grouping I mentioned above, there is always the possibility of an alternative explanation.

Despite my caution, I can say two things for sure about these data. First, they are completely unexpected in any old-earth paradigm. If nothing else, then, that should give all old-earth scientists something to think about. More importantly, the data are obviously threatening to some old-earth scientists, as the talk has actually been removed from the meeting’s official program! According to this source:

Since dinosaurs are thought to be over 65 million years old, the news is stunning. And more than some can tolerate. After the AOGS-AGU conference in Singapore, the abstract was removed from the conference website by two chairmen because they could not accept the findings. Unwilling to challenge the data openly, they erased the report from public view without a word to the authors or even to the AOGS officers, until after an investigation. It won’t be restored.

While I can’t confirm the details in the quote above, you can see for yourself that the presentation was removed. Here is a screen shot of the old program. However, if you go to the official site, you can see that the talk has been removed. Just go to the grid for Wednesday and double-click on “BG02” at the bottom of the fourth column. This was the session that contained the presentation. Notice that the presentation numbers go from “4” to “6,” skipping “5,” which was the presentation on carbon-14 in dinosaur bones.

You have to ask yourself why some old-earth scientists are afraid of letting other scientists see these data. I think that speaks volumes.

45 thoughts on “More Problems with Carbon-14 and Old-Earth Assumptions”

  1. Sent this one to my Spanish teacher. I don’t know if he will actually read it, but I can still bother him about it. Unfortunately, he avoids these debates on the basis that he took biology too long ago to present a reasonable argument. How else do you prove that there is a God, discounting his example of a million dollars appearing in a Swiss bank account in his name, except by the witness of creation (Romans 1)? Thank you for providing easily understandable articles that use actual facts to question evolution.

  2. Well, if the carbon-14 dating are not accurate, how could Helioseismology [1][2] strongly agree with the radiometric dates found for the oldest meteorites ?

    Citing Wikipedia:
    “Forty or so different dating techniques have been utilized to date, working on a wide variety of materials. Dates for the same sample using these different techniques are in very close agreement on the age of the material.”


    1. Christian, helioseismology is not correlated with carbon-14 dating in any way. It gives an age of the sun of roughly 4.6 billion years, which is well beyond the limit of carbon-14 dating. You might also want to investigate this issue using more than Wikipedia, because it is simply not true that dates for the same sample using different techniques are in close agreement with one another. That might be true for some samples, but it is not a general rule. For example, dating of Grand Canyon rocks shows significant disagreement among the methods, precambrian amphibolites show similar discordance, as does the diabase sill at Bass Rapids. Also, this study as well as the others mentioned in the post show dramatic discordance between carbon-14 dating and the other methods used to indicate that the samples studied are millions of years old.

  3. Well… not those ones, I mean jr. high/ some highschool books and I really like them! (: my mom won’t let me do biology yet because I’d have to do them again in high school for credit because we go through a school and attend an isp. But if I could I would! Since I completed six through eighth grade science I’ve been reading your blog for science. Can you recommend any other sites that have experiments?

    1. Christian, I don’t do anything with Wikipedia. I have heard too much about the “editing wars” that occur there. I encourage people to check lots of resources, as no single resource is completely reliable.

  4. My professors won’t even allow Wikipedia references!

    Interesting article Dr Wile, thank you.

  5. You are, of course, completely confusing two completely separate issues. The Bible says it all in a nutshell. “Of old thou hast laid the foundations of the earth”, and, “We are but of yesterday”. The earth is obviously old — so what? And Man is obviously young, and did not descend from an ape-like creature. Even some heathens do not think we have apes for grandfathers. The idea is ludicrous. C14 (as you well know) has nothing to do with the age of the earth. Some lab.’s don’t give it better than 50,000 yrs reach into the past. It has always had problems and upsets and can only be relied upon for dating items younger than the older Egyptian pyramids. Personally, I roll over and yawn when they come up with yet another ape-like ancestor so many hundreds of thousands of years old. I suspect they have a fixation with bestiality of some sort. Ape-think. Their dating is totally sus..

    I don’t roll over and yawn when I read GENESIS 1&2. Someone here wishes to say the Bible gives us 24hr days of creation? Does it matter one wit? If it is important, then explain how in 12 hours of daylight, the following happened: Flowering, fruiting vegetation grew up from zilch and the Garden was created; All land animals came into existence; Adam was created, put to sleep, Eve was made from a tissue culture (rib); Adam & Eve were instructed by God; Adam named all the animals etc etc. DO hard line 24hr creationists actually read the Bible?

    People deduced the earth is old a thousand years before
    radiometric dating was invented. Nothing is at stake when we try to date the earth. And the Bible itself says that all complex life existed in some mysterious way on Day 5. Including land animals. Therefore the Bible demands some sort of staged revelation. Only, heathens have distorted science and truth.

    1. Philip, I am not confusing any issues, however, you seem to be confusing the meaning of a passage of Scripture, as you are quoting Job 8:9 waaaaaaay out of context. Here is what Job 8:8-10 says:

      Please inquire of past generations, And consider the things searched out by their fathers. For we are only of yesterday and know nothing, Because our days on earth are as a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you, And bring forth words from their minds?

      As you can plainly see, this passage is not talking about how old the human species is. It is talking about how short an individual’s lifespan is. Because of our short lifespan, we need to learn from the generations that came before us.

      I agree that an old earth can be consistent with the Bible, but so can a young earth. Thus, I tend to look at science to answer the question of how old the earth is, and the balance of science indicates that the earth is young.

      You are correct that carbon-14 is not used to date the age of the earth, but it does relate to the age of the earth. After all, if they are correct, these carbon-14 measurements tell us one of three things: (1) The materials that are supposed to be millions of years old are not millions of years old. (2) The carbon-14 dating system is not accurate at all. (3) Both 1 and 2. That’s the point of the post.

      Do you really think that young-earth creationists haven’t considered the events of day 3 and day 6? If so, you really need to actually read some young-earth material. Here are a couple of articles to get you started:

      An Overview of Day-Age’s Errors

      How could Adam Have Named All The Animals in a Single Day

      I agree that nothing is at stake when we date the earth. That’s why I look at the scientific evidence with an open mind and come to the conclusion that the earth is young.

  6. Philip, I would also gently suggest that the order of creation may have been different from the order of God’s providence for His creation in the present. And is it any more unreasonable to believe that the almighty, eternal God of the universe could have created all that exists in six days than it is to believe that a man was born of a virgin and rose from the dead?

  7. Hi there. I’d heard your name around the blogosphere for quite some time, but never stopped by. While doing some research for an upcoming project critical of the New Atheists, I stumbled across your posts and I must say, your young-Earth work is interesting (in a good way). Are you aware of any substantive critiques of said work? I’m curious to hear what the “real evolutionists” make of these perplexing data you present.

    I know that many evolutionists are fond of saying that all the evidence supports old-Earth, and that anyone who disagrees is an anti-science loon. I’ve never felt this was the case, and here you are, another piece of data confirming my suspicion.


    1. Thanks, CL. If you are asking about critiques of this specific issue, the general view is that most of these results are from contamination, but some other results (such as those found in diamonds) are part of the inherent background that exists in the technique. Here is a good example of the standard reply to such data. As I say in this post, the data certainly don’t behave as you would expect if the results were from contamination, and the background argument doesn’t fly, either, as the values change from sample to sample. Background should be fairly uniform, at least when the measurements are done using the same facility.

  8. @cl You said “While doing some research for an upcoming project critical of the New Atheists”

    Sounds really interesting, are you able to share any specifics? Is it for an article on your website?

  9. “These are schools that have signed our Statement of Faith and uphold a young-earth view of Creation.” Quoting Ken Ham.

    Mr Ham is going around the world, preaching that the illuminati are those who subscribe to a young earth and that there is no room anywhere in GENESIS for the very procedure I mention in my post, above. H.M. Morris, young earth creationist, found the sincerity to point out that GENESIS does create all complex life Day 5, and modifies it in some mysterious way for its appearance on Day 6. That is staged revelation. Another word for it is, possibly, ‘evolution’. Mr. Ham consigns all ‘evolution’ to the trash can — and conveniently ignores the implications of a literal reading of GENESIS. So which 24hr dayers are we supposed to believe?

    1. Philip, I honestly can’t imagine Henry Morris saying that. You’ll need to back that claim up with a reference or two. Also, you are quite wrong when you claim, “Mr. Ham consigns all ‘evolution’ to the trash can.” Ham points out again and again that God created archetypal kinds of creatures, and that those creatures then adapted within their genomes to produce the myriad of creatures we see today. For example, according to his website:

      The change that is evident in the fossil record is the result of change by natural selection within the created kinds. Dogs have become different types of dogs, but have never produced anything other than dogs…there was likely one pair of the dog kind aboard the Ark. As they stepped out into the environment, the process of speciation began. In the last 4,300 years natural selection has acted on the genetic variation produced by breeding to produce the different varieties of dogs we see around the world today.

      That’s evolution, but it is evolution within the created kinds.

      In answer to your question, “So which 24hr dayers are we supposed to believe?” I say none of them, not even me. I encourage all Christians to investigate the Scriptures and the science for themselves. That’s one reason I have this blog – to help Christians learn the science related to creation.

  10. Wow; it’s no wonder that the chairmen at the Singapore conference want to cover this discovery up. If even a small number of dinosaur bones are less than 100,000 old, it throws a monkey wrench into the whole evolutionary timeline. You know, I watched your 2009 debate with Dr. Martin, Dr. Wile, and he seemed unshakably certain that modern dating methods were accurate. I wonder if he’s still so certain today, in the face of data like this?

    1. Keith, I recently debated him again, and he was just as unshakably certain. He even said that there are no contradictions in radiometric dating. When I brought up the measurements I linked in the second paragraph of this post, all he said was, “It’s clear that Dr. Wile and I read different things.”

  11. H.M.Morris, the hydro engineer or whatever he is/was, wrote a commentary on GENESIS — rather large book, hard cover, widely disseminated. I read it years ago but possess no copy at this moment. To his credit, he did mention the pre-existence of species before their appearance — as stated in black and white in GENESIS 2:4&5, and (as he noted in his commentary) as implied in some mysterious way by GENESIS 1:20 and other verses. I cannot remember his wording but I have a vague recollection of his suggestion of God creating some sort of essence of various life-forms on one day, then realizing those life-forms the next.

    Which of course is a stunning claim but the Bible says what it says and like other commentators (such as Augustine) he was big enough to say that he did not understand it. Questions such as these — and GENESIS has quite a few — relegate the length of the day question to the trivial. Hidden in the text of GENESIS and other parts of the Bible is a science thread of massive proportions and significance.

    Mr. Ham & co. just haven’t got a clue. They aren’t even fiddling at the edges. You think they will attempt to answer these questions? Try them. I did. Unlike yourself, they have decided how it all happened. GENESIS is merely a sidekick! Augustine and the Church Fathers were dim!

    I will tell you one person the whole crew will not debate. A man with an open Bible. Because God’s wisdom is above Man’s wisdom. Which all goes to show how dumb the Darwinists must be!

    1. Philip, the book to which you refer is The Genesis Record. I have read it, and Morris says no such thing. In fact, he discusses Genesis 2:4 as the beginning of a second narrative that describes the same creation that was described in Genesis 1. Unlike the first narrative, however, the second narrative focuses on man. Thus, in his own words, “The narrative then skips the work of the fourth and fifth days of creation and proceeds immediately to man himself.” (p. 85) There is simply no way to construe his words to even imply that species existed before their appearance or that they existed in essence before being realized.

      Yes, Ham and Co. have answered such questions (here and here, for example). And yes, they debate people with open Bibles all the time (see here and here, for example). And no, Genesis is not a “sidekick” for them. Like the old-earth creationists, they take Genesis very seriously, and they use it as their primary source of information regarding creation.

      I am not sure why you dislike Ham and Morris, but please stop making false accusations against them. If you continue to make such accusations, I will stop approving your comments. If you read my blog, you will see that Ham and I don’t always agree. Nevertheless, I don’t have any patience for anyone who makes false accusations against my brothers and sisters in Christ.

  12. Thanks for the response, Dr. Wile. Sorry to press as I imagine you’re busy, but I already assumed many / most critics would haphazardly lob the “contamination” hypothesis around. But then, the burden of production would seemingly fall to them. Have any of them responded to your arguments that contamination is an unlikely hypothesis in explaining this data? It strikes me as less than satisfactory, not to mention less than scientific, to just reply that all these results are “probably contamination.” Any further thoughts are much appreciated!


    No, it’s not an article on my site, it’s an entirely new site. If you want more info, visit my blog and shoot me a comment with your email (unless of course you’re the “jason” who already reads over there, in which case we’ve already got an email dialog going).


    1. Do not apologize for “pressing,” cl. I like my blog to be interactive. Honestly, the only other explanations I have gotten for these data are ineptitude and nefariousness. In other words, some think that these crazy young-earth creationists are either incapable of doing the field work and analysis properly or they are faking the results in an attempt to win people to their position. Obviously, I disagree with both of those arguments as well. I have looked at the work carefully, and I see no indication of either.

      Now please realize that the vast majority of people who are familiar with radiometric dating probably don’t even know about such results. Consequently, it is not clear that the best minds have been focused on the issue. The two papers I linked in the second paragraph are found only in the creationist literature, which is not exactly widely read. Given the fact that this presentation was wiped from the program once it was given, I doubt that such results will get into the mainstream scientific literature any time soon. It will happen eventually, however, since science is inherently self-correcting. Unfortunately, it took a couple thousand years for the mainstream scientific community to give up on spontaneous generation in all its forms. Thus, I suspect it will take a while before the mainstream journals are willing to evaluate this issue fairly.

  13. Dr. Wile,

    I guess science really does proceed one funeral at a time, eh?

    At any rate, thank you for your hard work and research. You’ve rekindled my interest in this debate. I added your blog to my blog roll and intend to write an article summarizing your research, as time allows. I hope you don’t mind 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, cl. I am quite happy that you have added my blog to your blogroll, and I look forward to reading the article you write.

  14. H.M. Morris, 1994, ‘A scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings’ (that’s the subtitle) BakerBook House, etc. (I just now drove 24k to get this book from a neighbour.)
    Pages 70 &71. Quoting commentary on Gen. 1:24&25: ”It is noteworthy that the record says that God ‘made’ … these land animals, whereas he was said to have ‘created’ …. the air and sea animals. It would seem, if anything, that the land animals were of a higher order than the others and therefore they should have taken a higher category of divine activity.”

    My note on Morris’s note. I read this commentary something like fifteen years ago and was shocked to find the author by implication placing himself above the great men of God and eminent scholars who brought to us the Holy Scriptures as we have them. He repeatedly, glibly dismisses time-honoured translations from the Hebrew in favour of his own Johnny-come-lately notions. Example, quote, p. 68: “The waters did not ‘bring forth’, as mistranslated in the Authorized Version.” But having helped himself to whatever he deemed to be allowable ’poetic licence’, he could not carry off a complete removal of the literal meaning of verses such as 1:20 & 1:24. As I have said previously, to his credit, he acknowledges that the Bible is saying at 1:20 that a momentous action, translated, ‘created’, was involved in the origin of all complex life. That is the inescapable meaning. To his credit, he acknowledges a difficulty with his approach to the text. Land animals are obviously as complex or more complex than aquatic life. Having kept rather quiet about the fact that the text actually implies that all land animals were created along with aquatic forms on Day 5, he then, to his credit, tries to reconcile his simplistic account of creation, with the Creator’s account. His explanation is novel and non-literalist. The “soul principle”. I think I mentioned the word, “essence”. I used that term because I remembered this Bible commentary of 15 years ago and I did not find it easy to apply the term, “soul”, in my entry, above.

    Quoting again, p.71. “The reason for this apparent anomaly undoubtedly is that the act of creation … was that of “every living soul”, not only of sea and air creatures. Since this “soul” principle was created on the fifth day, there was no need to mention it again on the sixth day. The formation of land creatures merely involved new types of organization of materials already in existence, including the nephesh [Hebrew, life, my insert] as well as the physical elements…….”

    Everything in my entries above stands, as does the Holy Word of God.

    1. Philip, I don’t know if you are intentionally trying to mischaracterize Dr. Morris or simply don’t understand what he wrote. However, I will not let such a “quote-mined” mischaracterization stand. Let me give my readers the ENTIRE quote:

      It is noteworthy that the record says that God “made” (Hebrew asah) these land animals; whereas He was said to have “created” (bara) the air and sea animals. It would seem, if anything, that the land animals were of a higher order than the others and therefore they should have taken a higher category of divine activity.

      The reason for this apparent anomaly undoubtedly is that the act of creation (verse 21) was that of “every living soul,” not only of sea and air creatures. Since this “soul” principle was created on the fifth day, there was no need to mention it again on the sixth day. The formation of land creatures merely involved new types of organization of materials already in existence, including the nephesh as well as the physical elements. There was no intrinsic difference in the actual “making” of land animals from that of the marine animals or, for that matter, of the making of plants. All involved the same fundamental biochemical structure and reproductive mechanisms.

      The land animals made during the early part of the sixth day are categorized as “cattle, creeping things, and beasts of the earth.” This description is evidently intended to be comprehensive, in so far as land animals are concerned. Very likely, the term “cattle” refers to domesticable animals, “beasts of the earth” refers to large wild animals, and “creeping things” refers to all animals that crawl or creep close to the surface of the ground. This classification has no correlation with the arbitrary system of man-made taxonomy (amphibians, reptiles, mammals, insects), but is a more natural system based on the relation of the animals to man’s interests. Thus the term “beasts of the earth” includes the large mammals such as lions and elephants, and probably also the large extinct reptiles known as dinosaurs. “Creeping things” includes the insects and smaller reptiles, and probably also most amphibians and many small mammals (e.g., moles, rats; note Leviticus 11:29–31). All three categories of land animals were made simultaneously, as is evident from the inverted order of listing in verses 24 and 25. Once again, it is obvious that there is not the slightest correlation with the imaginary evolutionary order (that is, insects, then amphibians, then reptiles, then all mammals). As a matter of fact, evolution places insects, amphibians, and land reptiles all before the birds that Genesis says were made the day before.

      There was no evolutionary struggle for existence among these animals either, for “God saw that it was good.” Neither could one kind evolve into a different kind, because God made each category “after his kind.” All these land animals were said to have been “brought forth” from the earth, or ground. That is, their bodies were composed of the same elements as the earth; and when they died, they would go back to the earth. They also all had “souls,” because they were said to be “living creatures” (nephesh again). In this respect, they were like air and water animals (Genesis 1:21) and also like man (Genesis 2:7).

      Anyone who reads this full quote will see that Morris is not saying anything close to what you are trying to claim he says. What he is saying is that the principle of nephesh life had been created on day 5. Since it is one of the “elements” of any animal (according to Morris), God now had all the physical and non-physical components necessary for making animals, so all He had to do was rearrange them to make new kinds of animals. This is why he specifically says (and you conveniently left out of your quote), “There was no intrinsic difference in the actual “making” of land animals from that of the marine animals or, for that matter, of the making of plants. All involved the same fundamental biochemical structure and reproductive mechanisms.” This in no way implies that all complex animals were created on the fifth day and that they were then “realized” on the sixth day, as you said. In the end, Morris just says that all the necessary components were made on day 5, and all that had to be done on day 6 was to rearranged them to make completely new animals.

      As a chemist, I can start with one set of component chemicals and make several completely different molecules. Suppose I assemble chemicals A, B, C, and D on day 5 and use them to make molecule Y that same day. Then on day 6, I come in and use those same chemicals to make molecule Z. There is simply no way to claim that molecule Z somehow existed on day 5 but just wasn’t “realized” until the next day. The molecule Z didn’t exist until day 6 when I used chemicals A, B, C, and D to make it. The fact that molecules Y and Z are made from the same components does not affect when they came into existence. This is what Dr. Morris is saying. A new necessary component (nephesh life) was made on day 5. God used that component (and other components He had made previously) to bring some animals into existence on day 5. He then used those same components to bring other animals into existence on day 6. The fact that the components existed on day 5 has no bearing on the fact that land animals didn’t exist (in any way) until day 6.

      Nothing from your previous comment stands. You mischaracterized what Morris says, and more importantly, you made false accusations against Ham and Co. by claiming they don’t debate people with open Bibles and view Genesis as a “sidekick.” You have now added new false accusations in this comment, claiming that Morris dismisses time-honored Hebrew traditions and is attempting to remove the literal meaning of Genesis. False accusations do not help your case, Philip. They only show the world that you don’t have the evidence to back up what you are trying to say. They also are the best way to have your comments sent to the trash bin in the future.

  15. Just a side note from your previous comment, Dr. Wile. When you mention how Dr. Morris used the Hebrew words to say that land animals were reorganized from the biochemistry of sea animals and flying creatures, it sounds slightly like the book of Genesis is making the case of homology, a science used for evolution now used for creationism.

    Is that the case or have I not fully understood Morris’ words?

    1. Jacob, I think Dr. Morris’s view could be used as a creationist explanation for homology: the biochemistry and structures in organisms are similar because they arise from a common Designer rearranging the same basic elements. Obviously, you don’t need Dr. Morris’s view to explain homology – things with a common designer will have similarities even if the Designer made each thing from scratch. However, it does serve as one possible creationist explanation.

  16. “Either carbon dating is not the reliable tool it is thought to be for “recent” dating, or the fossils and materials that are supposed to be millions of years old are not really that old. Of course, both options could also be true.”

    There are additional options. One of these you addressed, and that is the issue of contamination. Dr. Seiler and the RATE authors (and you) believe they have successfully ruled out this possibility, but other Christian researchers (e.g. K Bertsche, RATE’s Radiocarbon: Instrinsic or Contamination?, ) give evidence that points towards contamination and/or background radiation detection. According to Bertsche, an AMS radiocarbon expert, “A sample originally containing absolutely no radiocarbon will still give a nonzero measurement from [laboratory contamination and background measurements].” In regards to diamond, he states “The radiocarbon detected in natural, unprocessed diamond measurements seems to be nothing more than instrument background.”

    One should not be surprised that very old carbon-containing geological substances—coal, bones, diamonds—would contain at least some carbon-14. Organic-rich substances or layers in sedimentary rocks promote the reduction and deposition of uranium. This uranium emits neutrons, which can cause the same nuclear reaction that transforms nitrogen-14 into carbon-14 in the atmosphere. This almost certainly contributes some radiocarbon to bones and coal; the effect should be orders of magnitude less for diamond.

    This increased concentration of uranium around organic substances also explains why, in Dr. Seiler’s presentation, C-14 decreases with distance from a fossil.

    Contamination, background radiation, and induced nuclear reactions can certainly be used to answer some of the YEC carbon-14 claims, and perhaps all of them. At best, the RATE data is ambiguous and should be used by YECs with caution. More likely, this is just another faulty YEC argument.

    1. Kevin, you probably ought to make it a practice to read the previous comments before commenting yourself. I posted the very same link in response to cl’s question. As I pointed out then, the data simply do not behave like contamination or background. Contamination would not form the patterns seen in the data, and background should be constant for a given instrument. As a result, no matter how desperate a person is, neither of those explanations work.

      Your uranium explanation doesn’t work, either. If uranium was involved in producing new carbon-14, there should be a pattern related to the supposed age of the rock in which the sample was found. The older the rock, the longer the uranium has been producing new carbon-14, so the more carbon-14 there should be. However, a large section of the talk is devoted to the fact that this is most certainly not the case. If you think that there is some magical steady state reached in which the uranium produces new carbon-14 just as quickly as old carbon-14 decays, then there should be no difference in the level of carbon-14 in the samples. That’s not the case, either.

      In science, we look at the patterns found in the data, and the patterns tell us that contamination, background, and uranium are not feasible explanations for what has been observed. At best, these are desperate attempts to explain around the data, and they are probably just another set of faulty OEC arguments.

  17. Dr. Wile,

    In response to your comment October 6, 2012 at 10:54 am and the preceding comment that prompted it: I agree. I’ve always thought of it in programming terms. When I write a program, then desire to write another program, I often invoke code from the first program to create the second. It’s an efficient process, and I would expect God to operate using this same principle of efficiency. If you view the source code of the different websites I’ve created over several years, you’ll notice these recurring code snippets, a sort of “digital homology” if you will. Does the fact of code re-usage—analogous to Darwin’s homologous resemblance—necessarily entail the conclusion that one website “randomly mutated” into the others? Not at all. Rather, the fact of re-usage is precisely what we would expect from a supra-intelligent Creator creating with respect for efficiency.

    Though there most certainly is a fact of the matter one way or the other, it’s all in the color of our lenses. Evolutionists view the evidence through Darwin-colored glasses, then attempt to usurp the evidence as supportive exclusively of their preferred metaphysical conclusion. But, if I may invoke that great genius Sherlock Holmes:

    Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing… It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different… There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.

    He who has ears, let them hear!

  18. Jay,

    I did read the pertinent parts of the discussion; I just didn’t follow the link.

    I’ll take a radiocarbon expert’s testimony about background and contamination (“A sample originally containing absolutely no radiocarbon will still give a nonzero measurement”) over the RATE groups’ explanation on this one. If the expert says all samples, even those that contain no C-14, appear to show some level of C-14, then that is the way it probably is. We are talking about measurements that are near the limits of what can be detected by the AMS method.

    You said, “If uranium was involved in producing new carbon-14, there should be a pattern related to the supposed age of the rock in which the sample was found. The older the rock, the longer the uranium has been producing new carbon-14, so the more carbon-14 there should be.” I don’t see where you are coming from on this one. There should not be a correlation between age of the samples (e.g. Cretaceous or Eocene) and the amount of carbon-14 in the samples. If the C-14 in coal and dinosaur bones is formed by the 14N(n,p)14C nuclear reaction, the amount of C-14 will be proportional to how much uranium has been in the substance over the past several thousand years, regardless of whether the sample is 100 thousand years old or 100 million years old. Virtually all radiocarbon produced over 100,000 years ago would be gone.

    If one has a uranium-containing sample of coal or bone (and again, organic substances and uranium go hand-in-hand in many geologic settings), I see no reason why a dynamic equilibrium would not be established over time, with C-14 production rates matching decay rates. Again, I am not sure what your reasoning is.

    I don’t think Dr. Seiler’s pattern where he ordered all their analyses in order of increasing pMC is compelling. The breaks in the pattern could easily be the result of differing chemical environments around minerals, plant fossils and bone fossils. If some of the measurable C-14 comes from uranium-caused reactions, and if uranium has different concentrations around minerals, plants, and bones, then this would be quite reasonable.

    The RATE team has made a case that neutron-induced production of C-14 is insignificant compared to the amount of C-14 found in these samples. I haven’t looked closely at the calculations on this, but it probably needs to be examined on a case-by-case basis. The real explanation of radiocarbon in these ancient samples is likely complex, involving more than one process.

    In science, as you said, we look at the patterns found in the data. Those patterns are readily explainable from an old-Earth perspective. In my first comment, I pointed out why C-14 should decrease with distance from fossils. In this comment, I offered an explanation for the breaks in the data presented by Dr. Seiler. These are not “desperate attempts to explain around the data” as you contend, but very reasonable explanations for the existence and distribution of radiocarbon in ancient geological settings.

    1. Kevin, I am glad that you will take the word of an expert. One of the authors on the talk, Dr. Marie-Claire van Oosterwyck, is also an expert on carbon dating. She has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry and has specialized in the study of geochronological dating methods, focusing on radiocarbon dating. According to this expert, who also actually participated in the work, contamination and background cannot explain the results. Since your expert, who hasn’t had any direct experience with these data, disagrees with this expert, who was directly involved in the study, I guess we will have to determine which expert to believe. For right now, my money is on the expert who actually participated in the study.

      You don’t seem to understand the basic physics here, so let me explain. Uranium does not emit many neutrons. That’s because only one isotope is spontaneously fissile (U-235), and it makes up only 0.7% of naturally-occurring uranium. In addition, spontaneous fission is a rare event. In fact, the number of neutrons emitted by natural uranium is well known: 59.5±3 neutrons per gram per hour. Let’s just call that 60 neutrons per gram per hour. Within one half-life of carbon-14, that means a gram of natural uranium will emit 60x5730x365.25×24 = 3,013,750,800 neutrons. That seems like a lot, doesn’t it? Let’s see how much carbon-14 they will make. Let’s say that carbon-13 preferentially absorbs the neutrons, even though it makes up only 1.1% of natural carbon, so that all the neutrons absorbed lead to a carbon-14 atom.

      How many neutrons will be absorbed? Let’s be very generous again. The easiest neutron for a nucleus to catch is a thermalized neutron. The ones coming off natural uranium are not thermalized, but let’s assume they are. The cross section (analogous to reaction probability in nuclear chemistry) for the capture of thermalized neutrons by carbon-13 is well-known. It leads to a reaction probability of about 0.005. This means even if all 3,013,750,800 neutrons were aimed at the carbon in the sample, only (0.005)*(3,013,750,800) = 15,068,754 neutrons would be captured. That means over the course of one half-life, the absolute most carbon-14 that a gram of natural uranium can produce is 15,068,754 atoms. Since there are 5.0×10^22 atoms in a one-gram sample of carbon, the carbon-14 abundance will increase by 15,068,754/5.0×10^22, or 3.0×10^-16. The amount of carbon-14 in modern carbon is 1.3×10^-12.

      What does all this indicate? Under the most absurdly optimistic assumptions possible, a gram of natural uranium will change the percent of modern carbon (what is measured in carbon-14 dating) in a gram of carbon by only 3.0×10^-16/1.3×10^-12*100 = 0.023%. Of course, a lot of that would decay away in 5,730 years, but let’s just ignore that as well. The percent modern carbon measured in these samples was mostly over 1%. The hadrosaur bone, for example, was in excess of 5%. So even under the most absurdly optimistic assumptions, the only possible way to build up any reasonable amount of carbon-14 is over long, long periods of time with a large amount of uranium (well over a gram of uranium for every gram of carbon). As a result, once again, you should see a direct correlation between the supposed age of the sample and the amount of carbon-14. The carbon-14 just doesn’t get produced quickly enough for it to be otherwise. However, you don’t. This shows that your uranium explanation doesn’t work. In fact, the calculations show that even under the most absurdly optimistic conditions, the amount of carbon-14 produced by natural uranium is simply too small to affect the results.

      I am not surprised that you don’t see Dr. Seiler’s pattern as compelling. However, unless you can come up with a reasonable explanation for the pattern, it is very compelling. As I have shown, your uranium explanation isn’t even close to plausible. Patterns demand explanation, and they are not what you expect from background and contamination. I know you want to believe that the patterns are explainable in an old-earth perspective, but I have shown that your attempts to do so simply don’t stand up in the light of what we know. Perhaps there is an old-earth explanation somewhere, but it has not been discussed by anyone I have read. As a result, we are left only with desperate explanations that simply don’t work.

      Until you can come up with something reasonable, I think it is best to take the data at their face value and admit that they present a problem for the old-earth view.

  19. Jay,

    I did not say that uranium was the complete answer, but part of the answer. And I have worked with fission-track dating, so I understand the mechanics of what is going on here. U-235 doesn’t produce thermal neutrons, but they will be moderated as they move through minerals so that is not a big issue.

    You accuse me of not understanding the physics, but it is the RATE scientists, with their accelerated nuclear decay, who have the physics problem. These deposits should have all melted during the Flood, but that does not stop YECs from continuing to use “desperate explanations that simply don’t work.”

    1. Kevin, as I showed, uranium can’t be any part of the answer. Its effect is too small. And yes, thermalization is a huge issue. In order to thermalize, the neutrons would have to pass through a lot of material. If you want them to be thermalized, then very few will actually hit the carbon, because the farther away the source of the neutrons, the fewer neutrons will hit the carbon. In the end, my absurdly optimistic analysis gave your explanation the most possible leeway, and it still doesn’t work.

      You clearly don’t understand the physics, as your comments have shown. The RATE scientists clearly do. After all, they are the ones who are actually looking at the data and following what the data say: that radioactive half-lives do change. Until you are willing to follow the data, Kevin, your explanations will continue to sound desperate.

      Sure, the heat produced by the accelerated decay that the data indicate has taken place is an unsolved problem. I am willing to admit that. It is too bad you are unwilling to admit the serious problems that these carbon-14 data present to the old-earth view!

  20. Dr. Wile,

    I’m just trying to follow along here, I’m not a total dunce but I do need some of this clarified in order to understand the argument fully. You wrote,

    The hadrosaur bone, for example, was in excess of 5%. So even under the most absurdly optimistic assumptions, the only possible way to build up any reasonable amount of carbon-14 is over long, long periods of time with a large amount of uranium (well over a gram of uranium for every gram of carbon).

    Hadrosaurs are purportedly anywhere from 65-145 million years old, if we limit them strictly to the Cretaceous for the sake of argument. Are you saying that the relatively negligible rate of uranium-induced c14 buildup would entail an age much older than 65-145mya for Hadrosaurs, and that, therefore, it’s much more likely these samples are recent?

    I just want to be sure I’m translating correctly 🙂

    1. Cl, the only way to be a “dunce” is to not ask a question when you are having trouble following a discussion! I am not making the argument you are suggesting.

      The main point is that natural uranium simply can’t change the carbon-14 levels in any appreciable way. It is so slow that any carbon-14 made by the process will decay away before any significant amount can accumulate. However, since Kevin is desperate enough to invoke the process, then he must understand how slowly the accumulation would take place, even under the most ideal circumstances. If uranium is part of the answer, then, the level of carbon-14 we see now should be strongly dependent on how long the carbon has been exposed to the uranium. Using old-earth reasoning, then, there should be a pattern to the amount of carbon-14: those samples that are in “older” rocks should contain more carbon-14, since they have been exposed to the uranium longer. However, that’s not what the data show. There is no pattern between the supposed age of the rock and the carbon-14 that is in the fossil. Thus, even if natural uranium can build up carbon-14 in a fossil (what we know says it can’t), the pattern we see in the data is not what you would expect from such a process.

  21. It’s not even just the C-14 data–as Dr. Wile has shown before, multiple cases of preserved biomolecules continue to be found in fossils presumed tens to hundreds of millions of years old by radiometric dating, when studies show such material should have disappeared long ago.

    So now you have two data sets profoundly contradicting one data set. The least that can be said here is that the dates derived from radiometric methods do not pass the burden of proof of reasonable doubt.

Comments are closed.