Date: 25 Mar 94 17:13:27 To: All Subject: Carbon 14 dating Not long ago, I read a book tit

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Date: 25 Mar 94 17:13:27 From: Duwayne Anderson To: All Subject: Carbon 14 dating From: (Duwayne Anderson) Organization: Tektronix, Inc., Redmond, OR, USA Not long ago, I read a book titled "Meditations At 10,000 Feet, A Scientist in the Mountains, by James Trefil (who, by the way -- for those keeping score, is a Physicist). On page 116 he says "People who call themselves creation scientists frequently seize on controversies like those surrounding the rate of universal expansion [of the universe] to argue that the earth was, in fact, created about the time Bishop Ussher said it was. At least they argue that the age of the earth and the universe is to be measured in thousands, rather than billions, of years. Such arguments completely ignore the fact that neither age is fixed by a single method of calculation or a single number. Rather, they are fixed by several independent analyses, which converge on one result. Dissenters also ignore the fact that even in the most controversial case, the choice is between a universe a little less than 10 billion years old and a universe 15 billion years old. Neither party to the controversy would continence a universe whose age was measured in millions (much less in thousands) of years. In this case, I'm afraid, the creationists are like someone who overhears an argument about whether a particular office is on the fifty- fifth or fifty-sixth floor of the Empire State Building and concludes that the building is only one story high." This, I think, is an excellent analogy. I once engaged a creationist in an argument about carbon 14 dating. His entire argument (if it can be called that) centered on the idea that, since carbon 14 dating requires calibration, and since many different things might result in dating errors, the method is fundamentally flawed, and he was free, therefore, to conclude that the earth was only 13,000 years old. What he failed completely to comprehend was the fact that many types of dating methods give results that are in general agreement with carbon 14 dating. Take, for example, an article in the September issue of Physics Today (another sample point for those keeping score about Physics and creationism). Carbon 14 dating of coral samples was compared with Uranium-Thorium dating. "With the new measurement capabilities, the Caltech group, joined by Frederic Taylor (University of Texas), validated the U-Th chronometer by comparing U-Th ages both with radiocarbon ages and with ages determined by counting annual growth bands in coral skeletons." The article goes on to show a plot comparing the ages of coral determined by U-Th against Carbon 14. The ages agree remarkably well until about 10,000 years BP, and are off by only about 5 or 10% clear back to 30,000 years. The plot also shows the Carbon 14 measurements plotted against ages determined from tree rings and varved sediments back to about 10,000 years BP, and all of the measurements agree very well (to within a few percent). Sure, C-14 dating has error associated with it. Sure, C-14 dating has to be calibrated. Sure, if you don't do it right, your C-14 measurements can be way off. What's the point? This is true of just about any measurement. What young-earth creationists and believers in Noachian flood mythology fail to do (I've never even seen them attempt it) is show, QUANTITATIVELY how the errors in C-14 dating can bring the oldest C-14 dates into agreement with their mythology, and why C-14 dating agrees with other, completely independent methods, such as counting the growth rings in coral. Disclaimer: Why do I have to write this? Everyone knows these are just my opinions, and that my company would never officially or unofficially endorse them. "Perhaps today's evolutionists will have the opportunity to spend eternity trying to prove their theories ... while the rest of us console ourselves by floating about the heavens in ignorant bliss." Joyce Rencher, creationist.


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank